By Terry Rogers
On December 28, 1952, the beautiful Vale Mansion, located on the corner of South Walnut and Southeast Second Street, burned while the Vale’s were away. That night, sub-freezing temperatures made it difficult for firefighters to extinguish the flames. According to reports of the fire at the time, nozzles froze and winds whipped the fire until it was out-of-control. In an act of generosity, Mr. Vale donated the land where the mansion stood before the fire to the City of Milford for the construction of City Hall.
“Because of love and affection for the City of Milford, we ask the privilege to donate to it a Public Hall for the conduct of its municipal business and the convenience of its citizens,” Mr. Vale wrote in a letter to the Mayor and City Council. “Dedicated to Robert Hill Williams and Maria Elizabeth Vale and to be called Vale-Williams Memorial City Hall.” Today, a marble monument stands outside City Hall reminding residents of the debt of gratitude the City owes to the Vale’s.
Ruby Ross Vale was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on October 19, 1874. He was the son of Joseph Griffith Vale and his wife, Sarah Ruby Eyester Vale. He attended Dickinson Preparatory School and then Dickinson College, both in Carlisle. He received a Bachelor of Philosophy in 1896.
In 1883, Peter Causey, son of Governor Peter Causey, saw a need for a private school to be located in South Milford. At the time, most of Milford’s educational institutions were in North Milford. He appointed a board of trustees to administer the Classical Academy and the school opened in 1883 with 34 students in a building behind the Presbyterian Church, a building that is now gone. Mr. George Rugg, who graduated from Amherst College, was appointed as principal while Miss Mollie Rickards was appointed assistant principal.
The school was a success and the trustees decided to lease property along Railroad Avenue which is now known as Church Street. The building is best known as the New Century Club and is now the home of the Milford Women’s Club. Several other principals served at the Academy, including William Lloyd, Alfred Arnold, William Stevens, Samuel Abbott and Robert Shloss.
In 1896, Mr. Vale came to Milford to serve as the principal of the school. Mr. Vale was an attractive man and many of the young society women in Milford were smitten with him. However, while he taught at the school, he met Maria Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of Colonel Robert C. Hill and Maria Elizabeth Causey Williams. Her grandfather was Governor Peter F. Causey. In 1898, Mr. Vale resigned from the Classical Academy, replaced by Robert E. Roe, and returned to Dickinson College to study law, earning his Bachelor and Master of Arts degree there in 1899. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1899 and became associated with the law firm of Alexander and Magill. After Mr. Alexander passed away and Mr. Magill was appointed to a seat on the bench, Mr. Vale practiced on his own.
On January 21, 1901, Ruby Ross Vale married Maria Elizabeth Williams, who was known as Elizabeth, making their home initially in Philadelphia. However, because her family still lived in Milford and because Mr. Vale had business interests in the town, they returned often. Mr. Vale became attached to the corner property owned by his in-laws.
The Vale’s had two daughters, Maria Elizabeth, who died at the age of 17, and Grace Ruby. After the death of Col. Williams, the Vale’s built an elaborate Italian-style villa on the property and eventually the family made the mansion their permanent home. Because Mr. Vale’s law practice was in Philadelphia, he lived at the Union League Club during the week, returning to Milford on weekends.
Mr. Vale published several books on the practice of law, including Elementary Principles of Pennsylvania Law and an arrangement of Laws of Negotiable Instruments and Mechanics Liens, as well as an annotation of Rules of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania which were published in 1901. He is also the author of Vale’s Digest of Pennsylvania Decisions and Vales Supplements to Pennsylvania Decisions.
At one time, Mr. Vale was suggested and voted upon by the Republican party as a candidate for United States Senator, but he declined the offer and was never a candidate. He was a director of the First National Bank of Milford where his father-in-law served as president, and counsel to the Northwestern National Bank as well as the Fox Chase Bank.
The Vale’s philanthropy was not limited to Milford. Mr. Vale served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Dickinson Board of Trustees. One of the gifts bestowed by the Vale’s was the Maria Elizabeth Vale Students’ Self Help Fund in memory of their daughter. The Vale’s left a sizable fortune when they passed away, allowing the formation of the Ruby R. Vale Foundation. In 2008, the Milford Free Public Library received a $250,000 donation from the foundation toward the capital campaign for the building expansion.
The Vale’s daughter, Grace Ruby, married Frederick B. Asche, who was the sone of the late vice-president of Standard Oil Company. The couple moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey, and were the parents of Fredric B. Jr., born in 1933, Vale, born in 1933 and Betty Ann, born in 1940. Mr. Vale died on January 2, 1961 at his oceanside apartment in Atlantic City, New Jersey and was buried in Milford.
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