Spaulding Family - Table of Contents
Elbridge Gerry Spaulding
A research paper on his life and accomplishments
Ed Note: The subheads in green were added for ease of reading.
Portrait of E. G. Spaulding will be posted as soon as repair work is completed.
E. G. Spaulding' home at Southeast Corner of Main and Goodell Streets
"House Built by Gen. Heman B. Potter, For Many years the Home of George B. Babcock."
Spaulding continued his legal studies in the offices of Potter & Babcock.
The John S. Ganson House. Ganson was one-time law partner of E. G. Spaulding.
E. G. Spaulding family monument
E. G. Spaulding family memorial steps
Urn atop family monument symbolizes immortality
Spaulding Veterans of the Battle of Bunker Hill Cenotaph
Bunker Hill Cenotaph detail
Names of nine Spauldings at Bunker Hill
Bunker Hill Cenotaph detail
Bunker Hill Cenotaph detail
Franklin & Charlotte Spaulding
Battle of Bunker Hill: At the battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, a company of New Hampshire militia (9th Company, 3rd Regiment) was, tradition states, stationed at the rail fence, between the redoubt and the Mystic River. The captain of this company was one Levi Spaulding.
There were eight other Spauldings, relatives of Levi, who participated in the battle. One of them, Lieut. Joseph Spaulding, a Massachusetts man, was killed on his horse at the side of Col. Prescott. Another, Jonas Spaulding, also a Massachusetts man, allegedly fired the shot which killed the first enemy casualty, a lieutenant. For this firing in advance of a command, he was reprimanded by his superior officer. Two other Spaulding lieutenants, Ebenezer and Thomas, were part of Colonel Prescott's regiment. William Spaulding was wounded in the wrist, but recovered and continued to serve throughout the war. Two were privates, Eben and Uriah. Dr. John Spaulding was a surgeon. That makes eight Spauldings, plus Levi..
Levi Spaulding continued to serve throughout the war, being at the Battle of Trenton and at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-8. Later he was transferred, coming under the immediate command of General Washington, and witnessed the final surrender at Yorktown. He received a captain's pension until his death in 1825. He was twice married, and had eleven children.
(Ed. note: later in this essay, there is discussion about a cenotaph honoring the nine Spaulding veterans of the Battle of Bunker Hill, on the Spaulding lot in Buffalo's Forest Lawn Cemetery.)
Elbridge Gerry's Father: One of the eight children by his [Levi] first wife was a son, Edward Spaulding, who was too young (born in 1764) to fight at Bunker Hill but who served as a private soldier in the war from 1777 to 1781. Later, Edward Spaulding moved to Cayuga County, New York. There, on February 24, 1809, at Summer Hill, was born the youngest of his nine children.
One of Edward's earlier offspring, named Elbridge Gerry Spaulding, was born in 1802. Infant mortality being much higher in those days, this child died well before the youngest arrived. It was the fashion to name a younger child after his or her deceased older sibling, and thus this ninth child was also named Elbridge Gerry Spaulding.
Other Elbridge Gerrys: Other branches of the family, about the same time, named children Elbridge Gerry Spaulding. One was born in 1810 and survived until 1860. Another was born in 1811 and died the same year. A third was born about 1820, living to father another Elbridge Gerry Spaulding, who was born and died in 1861.
Whence arose this fascination with the name Elbridge Gerry is not known. No relationship has ever been alleged with the Elbridge Gerry of Revolutionary times. Elbridge Gerry is familiar to students of American history as one of the "XYZ" Commissioners to France in 1797, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and one-time governor of Massachusetts. As governor, he helped to enact a law in 1812 to shape electoral districts so as to favor his own party. One of these districts, thought to resemble a salamander in outline, gave rise to the term "gerrymandering". Elbridge Gerry was also elected vice-president of the United States in 1812, under James Madison, but died in office in 1814.
Elbridge Gerry Spaulding studies law: Whatever the origin of his name, our Elbridge Gerry Spaulding, born in 1809, early decided on a legal career. At age 20 he began the study of law in the office of Fitch and Dibble in Batavia. To secure income for his expenses he also taught school and acted as recording clerk in the County Clerk's office. In 1832 he continued his legal studies in the office of the Hon. Harvey Putnam in Attica, and was admitted to practice in the Court of Common Pleas in Genesee County in 1834.
Soon afterwards, in the same year, he moved to Buffalo, which had been incorporated as a city only two years earlier. Convinced of the possibilities of Buffalo's development, he was to live there for the rest of his life.
He continued his legal studies in the offices of Potter & Babcock, said to be the foremost law firm in the city at the time. Heman B. Potter, afterwards known as General Potter, had come to Buffalo in 1810, as a young college educated and practically trained lawyer. He and five others constituted the first board of trustees of the newly incorporated village of Buffalo in 1816. His son-in-law George R. Babcock was also an able lawyer, later an assemblyman and state senator.
During his association with these two men, Spaulding was admitted as an attorney of the Supreme Court in 1836, and as counselor of the Supreme Court and the Court of Chancery in 1839. Meanwhile, he formed separate partnerships with both men, but in 1844 both partnerships had been dissolved.
For two years Spaulding practiced by himself, and then (1846) persuaded John Ganson of Canandaigua to move to Buffalo and form the firm of Spaulding & Ganson, with offices in Sapling's Exchange. This lasted only four years, when Spaulding left the practice of law to engage in other fields. Ganson was a brilliant lawyer, was elected to Congress in 1862, and died in 1874, at the comparatively young age of 54.
Spaulding's First Marriage: Meanwhile, E. G. Spaulding in 1837 married Jane Antoinette Rich, daughter of Gaius B. Rich of Attica.
Bank of Attica: G. B. Rich had founded the Bank of Attica (B of A) in 1836. Spaulding was his attorney and legal adviser, and in 1842 persuaded him to move both himself and the bank to Buffalo. About half the existing banks were in receivership, listed as "Banks --(Suspended)" in the city directory for that year. Of the remainder, the B of A was the longest to survive, until it was absorbed by the Marine, and became the oldest bank in Buffalo to have a continuous existence up to the present time.
Spaulding was a substantial stockholder, officer and director. John G. Ganson (not to be confused with John Ganson, lawyer and one-time law partner of E. G. Spaulding), formerly of Batavia, was the first cashier in Buffalo, and succeeded G. B. Rich as president when the latter retired in 1850 or 1851. He in turn was succeeded by G. B. Rich's son, Andrew J., in 1855, and the latter by his son G. Barrett in 1880.
The bank was reorganized and incorporated under state banking laws in 1850, and was moved, in 1861, from its original location in Spaulding's Exchange to the southeast corner of Pearl and Seneca. Up unttil 1890, it kept its original name, which in that year was changed to the Buffalo Commercial Bank. It was absorbed by the Marine National Bank in 1902, and passed out of existence as a separate entity!
Farmers and Mechanics Bank: A second bank, and the one with which E. G. Spaulding was most closely associated throughout his career, was the Farmers and Mechanics Bank (F & M), soon to be more generally known as Spaulding's Bank. Founded in Batavia about 1840, with John S. Ganson as its president, it was brought to Buffalo in 1852 at Spaulding's instigation. At the same time he acquired most of its stock and succeeded Ganson as president. He was to remain as president and its dominating influence until a month before his death. A private bank at first, it was converted to a national bank in 1864, and finally to a state bank in 1889.
About the latter year it was moved, from its original Buffalo location in Spaulding's Exchange, to a location a few doors uptown, at 198 Main Street, between Seneca and the Terrace. A month before E. G. Sapling's death in 1897 his son Edward R. Spaulding succeeded him as president. It was an eminently successful institution, but in 1898 it was liquidated "by mutual consent." Many sources state that it became part of what was to become the Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company, but this has been proven to be incorrect. At any rate, Seth Warren was the liquidator for the bank and later agent for the Spaulding estate. Perhaps the reason for the liquidation was that neither of E. G. Sapling's sons, Edward and Samuel, nor his son-in-law, Franklin Sidway, were interested in carrying on the business. Edward shortly moved to Santa Barbara, California, where he died in 1908.
The board of directors of the F & M was small, perhaps never more than six. In 1852, besides Spaulding, it included Henry M. Kinne and Samuel F. Pratt, both of whom had married sisters of Spaulding's second wife Nancy and third wife Delia. After Franklin Sidway's marriage to Spaulding's only daughter in 1866, Sidway joined the bank as assistant cashier in January 1867, and in January 1872 became cashier. By this time (1872), Spaulding's two sons, Edward and Samuel, had reached maturity and were appointed assistant cashiers. Perhaps as early as 1873 and certainly by 1875, all three (two sons and son-in-law) were elected directors. Probably at the same time, Henry McMahon Watson, a family connection but not a relative, became a director. By at least 1882 the board consisted only of the three Spauldings, Franklin Sidway and H. M. Watson, and remained so until the end. No wonder it was called Spaulding's Bank.
Spaulding's Exchange: Both the B of A and the F & M were initially housed in the same building, at 162 Main Street. Who built this building, and when, is not known, but probably in 1844 and not later than 1848 it was acquired by E. G. Spaulding, and thereafter was always known as Spaulding's Exchange. It was a large five-story building, housing many shops and stores on the ground floor, the B of A and after 1852 also the F & M on the second floor, and lawyers' and business offices on the upper floors. In December 1851 it was completely destroyed by fire. In his typically energetic fashion, E. G. Spaulding proceeded to have it speedily rebuilt, mostly following the original plan, with improvements. Within six months of the fire, the new building was practically finished and partially occupied. It was the finest office building of its time. Eventually it was torn down to provide room for the present Memorial Auditorium.
Politics: E. G. Spaulding's political career began even before his banking career. His political affiliation, from the beginning until about 1854, was with the Whig party. In 1836 he was appointed City Clerk for a one year term. His remaining City offices, both for one year terms, were elective. He was elected alderman from the third ward, to serve for the year 1841. On the board of aldermen he was chairman of the finance committee and chairman of the executive committee. He became the Whig candidate for mayor in 1846 and was elected in March 1847 by the slim majority of 179 votes over his Democratic opponent, Isaac Sherman. His predecessor was Solomon G. Haven, a conservative Whig, who later succeeded E. G. Spaulding as a congressman.
Spaulding as Mayor
At that time, the mayor did not take office until March. In his inaugural address, Mayor Spaulding devoted the main part of his remarks to the condition of the Buffalo harbors and shipping facilities. He also alluded at length to the need for a comprehensive sewer system and to the need for proper lighting and paving of the streets, and heartily approved of the free school system.
Harbors and Shipping: The waterways around Buffalo, principally the Erie Canal and Buffalo Creek, were so clogged with traffic that at times it was impossible for a vessel to move. At least once during his tenure of office, Mayor Spaulding organized a posse of citizens, who rushed to the harbor to clear a way for departing and arriving vessels. Although Buffalo was one of the most vital of Great Lakes ports, the one nearest the eastern markets, and the western terminus of the Erie Canal, federal expenditures had been entirely inadequate. The situation was not helped by President Polk, who was opposed to all expenditures for "internal improvements", including rivers and harbors, ostensibly because of the expenses of the Mexican war. The city itself had made some improvements, notably during the administration of Mayor Samuel Wilkeson. Now, in the year 1847, it became evident that something had to be done.
Mayor Spaulding's first act, in this connection, was to urge the removal of the "Elbow", the sharp turn in Buffalo Creek where it entered the lake. The Common Council began to act on this plan, and sent out assessment notices and plans for a dock along the creek. The project encountered instant opposition, and the Council was forced to modify its plans. At this juncture, Mayor Spaulding presided at a local meeting to appoint and instruct a delegation to a harbors convention in Chicago. He appointed fifty delegates, and the convention presented recommendations to President Polk, which the latter ignored.
The next step was to call a public meeting at the Court House on June 5. There he outlined the need for the following critical improvements:
1) widening and straightening Buffalo Creek;
(2) opening a second channel to the lake from the upper harbor;
(3) digging a ship canal in the peninsula between the sea wall and the creek; and
(4) opening a ship canal to Black Rock.
He emphasized the need for these improvements by stating that, if the state and the federal government would not take on the responsibility of the project, he would be willing to be taxed to get the job done. This statement from a man who was not only wealthy but careful of his money was decisive. The State Canal Board, persuaded by the mayor, met in Buffalo on July 27, and promptly approved all that lay within their jurisdiction. Private citizens donated some of the necessary land. The state legislature appropriated $150,000 for the project. Later, when Taylor and Fillmore succeeded President Polk, federal funds loosened up, and the federal part of the plan was completed in 1850.
Sewer System: There were other important projects initiated by Mayor Spaulding during his administration. One of these was a comprehensive plan for an improved sewer system. Cholera had visited the city in 1832, and sanitation facilities were still quite primitive in 1847. The board of aldermen appointed a committee on paving, sewers and light, consisting of Oliver G. Steele, Orlando Allen and Luman K. Plimpton. The first project by the committee was a new receiving sewer on Michigan Street. Although bitterly opposed by owners of the property benefited, who were to be taxed for a large share of the cost, the project was driven through. The results were so favorable that the committee, in February 1848, presented a comprehensive plan for a complete sewer system. Ultimately, its recommendations were all carried out, and the results "should be credited to Spaulding".
Buffalo Gas Light Company: Another project was that of street lighting, which at that time was non-existent. A lamp district was set up, bids taken, oil lamps installed and put into operation. The result was a disappointment, and it was soon agreed that gas lighting was indicated. A company was tentatively formed, with a substantial financial investment by the mayor. A franchise was approved by the Common Council, and an act to incorporate introduced into the state legislature. The Buffalo Gas Light Company was incorporated in March 1848, under a new law authorizing gas light companies throughout the state. It started operations the same year. E. G. Spaulding was its largest stockholder.
Mayor Spaulding did not finish his term, for in November he was elected to the New York State assembly, and immediately resigned as mayor. Orlando Allen was appointed to fill his unexpired term, and later was elected to serve the full term the following year.
Importance as Mayor: Thus, some of the projects initiated during Spaulding's term of office were not completed until he was no longer mayor. Nevertheless, it has been said of him that: "Until the need for offshore anchorage became acute, Buffalo had a harbor equal to its needs, and it was the creation of the plan of 1847 that from this vantage point turned the tide. For his masterful handling of a situation that could easily have been resolved into hopeless wrangling over what was to be done first (and by whom?) Spaulding was to be known with Wilkeson as one of the master builders of this city."
As an assemblyman in 1848, he was soon appointed chairman of the committee on canals, a post that tied in with his interest in Buffalo navigation. Also, he was instrumental in securing an appropriation of $350,000 to begin work on the Erie and Ohio basins in Buffalo. Finally, he helped to secure passage of the act authorizing gas light companies throughout the state. The Buffalo Gas Light Company was the first company organized under this act. His stay in the assembly was not long, for in November he was elected Congressman (as a Whig) for the first time.
In Congress in 1849 and 1850 he was on the foreign relations committee. Perhaps his most important contribution in Congress was in consequence of his views against the extension of slavery. He strongly supported President Taylor's plan for the admission of California and New Mexico as free states. He was against the Compromise of 1850, particularly as it related to the adoption of the fugitive slave law and the payment of ten million dollars to Texas, even though the latter provision was for giving up Texas' claims to western lands which otherwise would have been opened to slavery. The compromise, of course, led to the break-up of the Whig party and the formation of the Republican party.
Following his first Congressional term, there was a hiatus of several years in political activity. During 1852 he arranged for the removal of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank to Buffalo and the assumption of its presidency; he purchased and moved into his final home; and his second wife and the mother of his children died. Then in 1853 he was elected treasurer of New York State for a two year term beginning January 1, 1854. As treasurer, he was an ex officio member of the Canal Board, and was instrumental in securing adoption of plans, arrangement of financing, and letting of contracts for enlargement and improvement of state canals, particularly the Erie and Oswego canals.
Republican Party: With the formation of the Republican party in 1854 he jumped into the fray in earnest. He became a founding member of the Central Committee of the party in New York State. In 1856 he ran for Congress for the second time, as the candidate of the fledgling Republican party. In a three-way contest he was defeated by the Democrat, Israel T. Hatch, who polled only 37% of the vote, against 35% for Spaulding and 28% for Solomon G. Haven. Haven, the incumbent and ex-mayor, had served in Congress continuously since Spaulding's earlier term, and now carried the banner of the American or "Know-Nothing" party. Spaulding ran again in 1858, and this time was elected, with 62% of the vote, against 38% for the incumbent, Hatch. He was re-elected in 1860, with 53% as against 47% for Solomon Haven, who had become a Democrat. He attended the Republican convention in 1860, where he was a strong supporter of Governor Seward for the presidential nomination. Nevertheless, when Seward was not nominated, he became an equally strong supporter of Lincoln.
Spaulding Supports Lincoln: He was a member of a nine-man "Republican Executive Congressional Committee" for promoting the election of Lincoln. One of his speeches supporting the Republican ticket was printed and widely distributed. A prize possession of Mrs. Martha S. Adams, a Spaulding descendant, is a letter from Lincoln to Spaulding, dated July 27, 1860.
On February 28, 1861, Spaulding gave an elaborate dinner at the National Hotel in Washington in honor of the President-elect and Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin. The guest list was impressive, including such luminaries as: Lieut. Gen. Winfield Scott, Judge David Davis (later on the Supreme Court), Charles Francis Adams, Thurlow Weed, at least five of seven members of Lincoln's first cabinet (Senators Seward and Cameron, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates and Caleb B. Smith), at least four other senators (Preston King of New York, John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, John P. Hale of New Hampshire, and Zachariah Chandler of Michigan), Senator-elect John Sherman of Ohio, and a few key congressmen.
Civil War Finances: In Congress, E. G. Spaulding was for four years a member of the Ways and Means Committee, then as now the most important of all Congressional committees. When problems arose as to the financing of the war, and in consequence of his prestige and knowledge in the banking field, he was appointed chairman of the most important subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, to prepare and introduce legislation for this purpose.
Spaulding's Book: Spaulding later wrote and published a book, in 1869, universally held to be the authority in its field, which bore on its spine the title: "Financial History of the War - Legal Tender." The title page was worded somewhat differently: "... History of the Legal Tender Paper Money issued during the Great Rebellion. Being a Loan without Interest and a National Currency." Prepared by Hon. E. G. Spaulding, Chairman, of the Sub-Committee of Ways and Means, at the Time the Act was Passed.... Buffalo: Express Printing Company, 14 East Swan Street, 1869."
The main part of the book gives in detail the history of the passage of the Legal Tender Act, with recordings of the votes at various stages, records of complete speeches on the subject, and some analyses by the writer. The work also contains accounts of other financial measures of the war, such as the $900,000,000 loan act of March 3, 1863, and the National Bank Currency bill, adopted on March 25, 1863. The latter act was originally prepared by E. G. Spaulding in 1861, but the financial emergency did not then allow the time necessary for its consideration. At the end of the book is an excellent six-page "conclusion", followed by an appendix containing further speeches and statements of E. G. Spaulding, letters to and from him, and other matter.
A second edition of this work was published in 1875, containing a 32-page introduction, and a second appendix containing many letters, particularly letters regarding the earlier edition of the work.
Civil War Finances: The subcommittee went to work. Two important loan acts were adopted in July and August of 1861. The second act contained a provision (drafted by E. a. Spaulding and Rep. Samuel Appleton) allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to deposit the proceeds of loans in the lending or other banks and to draw on them when needed. Secretary Chase unfortunately refused to avail the treasury of this provision, insisting on paying the proceeds of the loans directly to the treasury. The result was that by December 1861 the banks and the treasury were forced to suspend specie payments. The available gold in the country was simply not sufficient to meet the tremendous expenses of the war. "The Secretary, in breaking the banks, at the same time broke the sub-treasury, and both were discredited together."
Legal Tender Act: There was a financial crisis, and insufficient time to pass legislation of a permanent nature, such as new forms of taxation or the creation of a national bank. Under the circumstances, Spaulding prepared and introduced into the House of Representatives, on December 30, 1861 (two days after the suspension of specie payments), the so-called Legal Tender Act. In his speech of January 28, 1862, opening debate on the bill, Rep. Spaulding said, among other things: "The bill before us is a war measure, a measure of necessity, and not of choice." The bill authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to issue notes in the amount of $150,000,000, which were to be legal tender for the payment of all debts, public and private, and for the payment of taxes and other demands due to the United States. The notes were also to be convertible into interest-bearing bonds of the United States. In view of the urgency of the matter, action
Students and historians of the Civil War agree that it was a measure vital to the successful prosecution of the war. All agree, too, that the credit for the passage of the act should be laid on the shoulders of E. G. Spaulding, whose energy, persistence and prestige in financial matters were effectively used to convince his colleagues of the importance of the measure. The legal tender notes issued in conformance with the act were soon known as "greenbacks", because of their color. Ever since that time, Elbridge G. Spaulding has been known as the "Father of the Greenbacks".
The act, as finally adopted, contained three major provisions:
(I) authorization to issue $150,000,000 of non-interest bearing notes, to be made legal tender in the payment of all debts, public and private, except duties on imports, and in the payment of all claims and demands against the United States, except interest on its bonds and notes;
(2) authorization to issue $500,000,000 of bonds, redeemable in five years and payable in twenty years, with interest at 6 per cent; and
(3) the right of note holders under provision 1 to convert to bonds under provision 2.
Later, additional acts were passed to provide for the issuance of further amounts of $150,000,000 each of notes on July 11, 1862, and March 3, 1863. The notes soon depreciated in value, and at their lowest were worth only 35 cents on the dollar. The original intent had been that specie payments would be resumed after the war was concluded. Due to various considerations, many of them political, this was not found possible until 1879.
Out of government: Spaulding ran for Congress again in 1862, but was defeated by a small margin by John Ganson, his Democratic opponent and former law partner. After that, he returned to Buffalo to attend to his banking and other business affairs. John Ganson was a "War Democrat" and, like many other Democrats of the time, was a strong Union man, fully supporting President Lincoln in the prosecution of the war. The President continued to hold Spaulding in high regard. When Salmon P. Chase resigned as Secretary of the Treasury in June 1864, Lincoln was said to have remarked to a Buffalo friend: "If the State of New York had not been represented in the Cabinet, I should have tendered Mr. Spaulding the position of Secretary of the Treasury."
Buffalo Gas Light Company: After his return from Washington, Spaulding's principal interest, of course, was still the Farmers and Mechanics Bank ("Spaulding's Bank"). But there were other things. The Buffalo Gas Light Company, formed in 1848, was headed by his brother-in-law, Samuel F. Pratt, although E. G. Spaulding was its largest stockholder. When Pratt died in April 1872, E. G. Spaulding succeeded him as president, retaining this position until his death, when he was succeeded by his son, Edward R. Spaulding. In its early years, the BGL had no competition, but in the 70s three other companies were organized, none with any great degree of success. All four companies, in 1899, were merged into a single new company, the Buffalo Gas Company. The latter went into receivership in 1910, but continued to provide gas to the public until 1917. Ultimately its assets were acquired by the Iroquois Gas Corporation. In the field of lighting, the competition of electricity was too much.
International Bridge Company: At some time before 1870, E. G. Spaulding and E. Carleton Sprague became involved in organizing the American International Bridge Company, for the purpose of bridging the Niagara River. Either earlier or later, some Canadians had organized the Colonial International Bridge Company for the same purpose. In May 1870, principals of these two companies got together and formed the International Bridge Company. This company built the first bridge over the Niagara River, mainly for railway traffic, especially the Grand Trunk Railroad. The first locomotive crossed the new bridge late in 1873. The first president was C. J. Brydges, of Montreal. E. G. Spaulding was vice president and E. C. Sprague American counsel. The first board of directors consisted of Spaulding, Sprague, Brydges and four other Canadians. Soon afterwards, Spaulding succeeded as president.
Civic Activities: He was interested in civic activities.
- When the University of Buffalo was formed in 1846, he was a member of the original council, and was still a member when he died in 1897.
- He was a lifelong member of the Young Men's Association (later, the Buffalo Public Library), the Buffalo Historical Society (later, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society), and Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, and the Buffalo Club.
- He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, but not an active church goer.
- He was very proud of his Revolutionary ancestry, and the participation of nine members of the Spaulding family at the Battle of Bunker Hill. In 1893 he was instrumental in founding the Buffalo Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, and was its first president.
Spaulding veterans of the Battle of Bunker Hill Cenotaph: One of the most publicized actions of his life was the erection of a cenotaph honoring the nine Spaulding veterans of the Battle of Bunker Hill, on the Spaulding lot in Buffalo's Forest Lawn Cemetery . It was dedicated in an elaborate ceremony on June 17, 1875.15 A program was printed, while E. G. Spaulding himself made careful and detailed plans for the occasion, including "rain" and "shine" alternatives. A parade was scheduled, from Franklin and Church Streets to Forest Lawn, with dedication ceremonies to take place at the site of the cenotaph. When a heavy rain started, the parade was canceled in accordance with the "rain" alternative, the ceremony was shifted to the First Presbyterian Church, then at the corner of Church and Niagara Streets. Judge James Sheldon, president of the Historical Society, opened the proceedings, as chairman, with a few remarks, followed by the principal address by the Rev. Grosvenor W. Heacock. When the rain stopped, the parade was resumed, although somewhat dampened by the resumption of a light rain.
The final event of the day was an entertainment for several hundred guests at the Spaulding mansion on Main and Goodell Streets. Guests began to arrive soon after 8 P.M., with dancing "to the enlivening strains of an excellent band of music" starting at 9. The finest of champagne was graciously served, supper was announced at midnight, and festivities continued until early morning.
Forest Lawn Memorials: In the large Spaulding lot at Forest Lawn there are,
- besides the cenotaph,
- the graves of E. G. Spaulding and
- his three wives, and
- those of his two sons and
- their wives, and
- many other descendants.
- In addition, there are the graves of E. G. Spauldings's father and mother, and
- the graves of his grandfather Levi Spaulding and his wife.
In one newspaper account of the 1875 ceremony, regarding Levi Spaulding it was said: "Three years ago his remains were transferred from Plainfield, Otsego County, N. Y., to E. G. Spaulding's family lot where the monument now stands." Presumably the other ancestral remains were transferred at the same time.
One hundred years later, on June 17, 1975, the occasion was again celebrated, this time in a ceremony at the site of the cenotaph.
The following year was centennial year, and the year of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. E. G. Spaulding delivered an address there May 30, 1876, before the Bankers' Association, on the subject "One hundred years of progress in the business of banking". Later in the year, probably reluctantly, he was nominated in the Republican county convention for his old seat in Congress. He lost, in the general election in November, to Daniel N. Lockwood, the Democrat, by a margin of less than 500 votes out of almost 40,000 cast.
Speeches: E. G. Spaulding was said to have been a good public speaker.
- Two speeches delivered in 1876 were probably his last, at least of those that have been preserved in print.
- Perhaps the earliest of his preserved speeches was one delivered on the occasion of his inauguration as mayor of Buffalo in 1847.
- There were, of course, speeches in Congress, one of the earliest being one delivered on April 4, 1850, in support of President Taylor's plan for the admission of California and New Mexico as free states.
- Another was a speech in Congress, in May 1862, advocating the confiscation of rebel-owned property and the freeing of rebel-owned slaves.
- But most were on financial matters, particularly speeches in Congress on the Legal Tender Act and other Civil War financial measures.
He also wrote many letters on these financial matters, which have been published either in pamphlet form or in the press or both.
Domestic Life: Of his domestic life, it was always said that he was an exemplary father and husband. He was three times married, all of his wives being buried in the Spaulding lot at Forest Lawn. He apparently met his first wife, Jane Antoinette Rich (called Antoinette), while he was studying law in Attica. When they settled in Buffalo their first home (probably rented) was on Niagara Square. She died in 1841, childless, and the following year he married Nancy Selden Strong, of an old New England family. She was the seventh and youngest child, born in 1824, of Samuel Strong and his wife Delia Selden. After their marriage they lived in a house at 249 Washington Street, on the corner of South Division. Here were probably born their three children: Charlotte, in 1843; Edward Rich, in 1845; and Samuel Strong, in 1849. Nancy Strong Spaulding died in 1852, just after moving into his final home.
Almost two years to the day after Nancy died, he married her oldest sister Delia, whose husband Clark Robinson had just died. There were no children of this marriage, which lasted over 40 years, until her death in 1895. She was said to have been the best cake maker in Buffalo, and a great reader and compiler of scrapbooks, of which she assembled over 100 in 30 years. They were apparently destroyed in 1933, when the family house on Grand Island was demolished.
775 Main Street House: The house in which Delia and E. G. Spaulding lived for their entire married lives was at 775 Main Street. The property had earlier been part of the farm of Deacon Jabez Goodell, who about 1830 sold it to William Hollister and George Palmer jointly, each of whom planned to build their residences on the property. Hollister chose the western part, on Main Street, and Palmer the quieter and more rural eastern part, on Washington Street. Hollister built his house in 1835 or 1836, on the southeast corner of Main and Goodell. The house was called a mansion.
About 1850 or 1851 it was sold to E. G. Spaulding, who made extensive alterations. It was the scene of many festive social occasions, including
the marriage of the only Spaulding daughter, Charlotte, to Franklin Sidway in 1866, and the reception following the dedication of the Spaulding cenotaph in Forest Lawn in 1875. In later years the address
was listed as 775 Main Street. After E. G. Spaulding died, the house was soon demolished by his heirs, and a year later there was nothing on the site to indicate that a house had ever been there. The property was acquired by his Sidway heirs, and the Sidway Building erected on the site in 1906.
Grand Island Houses: About 1870, spurred on by some of his friends, E. G. Spaulding bought about 350 acres of land near the southern tip of Grand Island, and there built a large and imposing mansion, which he called "River Lawn". Lewis P. Allen, uncle of Grover Cleveland, was the first of the so-called Society of the day to build a house on the island, and E. G. Spaulding was the second. After that, it became a fashionable mecca, and numerous other houses were built.
In 1879 the socially prominent Falconwood Club, formed in 1858, built its clubhouse adjacent to the Spaulding property. E. G. Spaulding and his family spent their summers at River Lawn, and here he imported a pedigreed herd of Holstein-Friesian cattle, which was said to be one of the finest herds in western New York. A provision in E. G. Spaulding's will directed that his Grand Island property be kept in the family as long as possible.
After his death his daughter Charlotte Sidway acquired the property. She built an even larger and more elaborate mansion, with a large stable, and later her son Ralph also built a house, all on the property. Ultimately, in 1933, most of the property, including the three houses, was taken over by the state to form part of the Beaver Island State Park. The original Spaulding house and the large Sidway house were then torn down.
Spaulding's Fortune: Elbridge Gerry Spaulding was, next to Grover Cleveland and Millard Fillmore, Buffalo's most illustrious citizen of the latter half of the 19th century. It was often said that he was the wealthiest citizen of the time. His estate was appraised at $2,900,000 plus, and taxes took but a very small one per cent bite out of this. In addition, he had given to his three children, in 1895 and 1896, a total of $1,500,000;3 which would bring his wealth, only a few years before his death, to over four million dollars, a princely sum in those days.
Spaulding's Frugality: All of his obituaries, including editorials at the time of his death, emphasize that he was an astute investor, and never speculated. It was legendary that he was "careful with his money", and there are many stories that dealt with this trait.
- The best known is that he habitually stopped at a tavern on his way to his office, ordered a glass of beer for which he paid a nickel, drank half of it, and had the other half put away so that he could drink it the next day. As one historian has put it, this tale has "a ring of authenticity".
- Another story is that, on his return from his office, he would immediately remove his trousers, and sit on them in the dark so as to preserve the press.
- Another involves his grandson, S. V. R. (Renee) Spaulding, who liked to ride the horse cars (for a nickel fare), and who often used this form of transportation to visit his grandfather. One day the old man scolded him, saying: "Young man, that ride costs a nickel. You should walk."
- A quip of the day was that he was the father of the greenback because the weight of metal currency would wear out his clothes too much.
One editorial at the time of his death - editorial obituaries are notorious for their fulsome praises of the deceased - contains these rather revealing words: "His name is not conspicuously identified with munificent gifts for the benefit of any of Buffalo's religious, charitable, educational or popular institutions. He had accumulated his vast wealth by saving; he was not prone to diminish the pile by lavish donations."
In the afternoon of May 5, 1897, he died quietly, at his home on Main Street. As he was born February 24, 1809, at Summer Hill, Cayuga County, New York, he lived to be 88 years and almost 3 months old.
His three marriages:
- (1) September 5, 1837, probably at Attica, New York, to Jane Antoinette Rich, who was born September 28, 1818, probably at Attica, New York, daughter of Gaius Basset (or Barrett?) Rich and Aphia Salisbury, and who died August 6, 1841, at Buffalo;
- (2) September 5, 1842, at Buffalo, to Nancy Selden Strong, who was born February 25, 1824, probably at Windsor, Connecticut, daughter of Samuel Strong and Delia Selden, and who died May 4, 1852, at Buffalo; and
- (3) May 2 or 3 or 6, 1854, at Buffalo, to Delia Strong, who was born August 3, 1812, probably at Windsor, Connecticut, daughter of Samuel Strong and Delia Selden, and widow of Clark Robinson, and who died August 11, 1895, at Buffalo.
Children, all born at Buffalo, by Nancy Selden Strong:
1. Charlotte Spaulding. Born July 17, 1843. Married Franklin Sidway.
2. Edward Rich Spaulding. Born November 7, 1845. Married Mary Tenney Blanchard.
3. Samuel Strong Spaulding. Born June 26, 1849. Married Annie Margaret Watson.
Ed. Note: The research as reprinted above is incomplete. Missing are the Endnotes,List of Books and Articles by EGS, List of Published Letters or Statements of EGS, List of Newspaper Articles, Short Biographies of EGS in Biographical and Historical Works, and Articles on Specific Phases of EGS Activites. Anyone wishing to use these additional pages should contact the editor.
Special thanks to Buffalo Arts Commission Executive Director David Granville for making this research paper available for reprinting on the Web
Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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