HISTORY MYSTERY: Lemuel Ladd, 45th Supervisor
The attached photo of Lemuel Ladd was taken in 1953 for his candidacy for Supervisor of the Town of Clay. The election flyer stated: “Lemuel Ladd, new Republican candidate for Supervisor, a plant manager and executive since 1929, has had 11 years’ experience as Justice of the Peace and 5 years as a councilman in the Town of Clay. Able, Experienced and progressive, he will give you the best representation on the Board of Supervisors.”
Lemuel (Lem) was born in 1904 and received his grammar school education in Clay. Meanwhile, his father and two brothers were commercial fishermen in Pascagoula, Mississippi from 1908 to 1917. When they moved back to Clay, they picked up Lem and went back to Pascagoula where Lem received his high school education. He began his career as a commercial fisherman at Bay Mills Michigan with his father and three brothers. They fished summer and winter, setting gill traps, trap nets, trout lines to get mullet, lake trout, perch, northern pike and white fish. In the fall of 1924, Lem returned to Clay to stay permanently.
He started as a worker in one of the two sauerkraut factories and in 1925, he married Dorothy Coonley of Cicero. In 1927, he joined the Weller Company working in the fall and winter and doing carpentry work in the summer. By 1942, he was factory foreman and later became factory manager. One of his contributions to the operation of the sauerkraut business was his invention of a mixer and preheater. The stainless steel mixer loosened the piles of sauerkraut and the preheater heated them before packing into tin cans. Lem stated that it took him and his helpers five months to build and 1953 was the second year of its operation. It proved so economical that the company had installed a mixer in its Sandusky, Ohio plant. Some called him the Sauerkraut King of Clay.
His political career began in 1935 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy as the justice of the peace. That fall he was elected on the Republican ticket and he was reelected three more times for the post. In 1949, he was elected as a councilman. In an article after his election as Town Supervisor in 1953, Supervisor Ladd stated that he was looking forward to his new job in the fast growing Town of Clay.
He had a realistic sense of what must be accomplished in a town which had been growing at a tremendous pace during the postwar years. First on the order of business at the town board‘s special meeting on Friday, January 8 was zoning. A special committee of citizens would be appointed to study zoning in the heavy residential sections, including North Syracuse and tracts surrounding it. The board had already adopted a building code and a trailer ordinance. Also on the agenda were the study of play grounds and the change of classification of the town from Class 2 to Class 1. Ladd said he would not be in favor of it because several offices which were elective would become appointed under a Class 1.
Over 67 years have passed since that election and Clay has certainly changed and improved. Lem was around until 1972 to see them and be part of them. He passed away on September 29 and is buried in Pine Plains Cemetery, believed due to a fall from his roof.
Dorothy Heller, Historian