Notable Women of Buffalo, New York, on the Internet..............Charles W. and Ella Portia Conger Goodyear House
Ella Portia Conger Goodyear
See also: Ella Goodyear and Her Children, by Martin Wachadlo
Photographs reprinted from
Section H, Lot 168
Ella married Charles W. Goodyear on 3/23/1876. Mr. Goodyear is a descendent of Stephan Goodyear, Deputy Governor of the New England Colony from 1641-1658. Mr. Goodyear was a prominent Buffalo Attorney who was largely responsible for the nomination of Grover Cleveland for Governor of New York.
Both Ella and Charles were personal friends of Grover and Frances Folsom Cleveland. Mr. & Mrs. Goodyear were the first friends that Grover and his new bride Frances invited to the White House.
Mrs. Goodyear was the author of Journey with Jesus. Mrs. Goodyear was a collector of fine china, glassware and art. In 1936 she donated her collection of pressed glass to the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society in Charles's name. In addition, she was a supporter of the Albright Art Gallery (now Albright-Knox Art Gallery). After Charles' death, Ella established a fund to buy works for a permanent collection at the Albright in his memory.
In 1876, Charles was married to Ella Portia Conger, who had been born in Collins Center in 1853, by Dr. Albert Tracy Chester, head of the Female Academy. The Congers had moved from Danby, Vermont, early in the century. Ella's father, Anson Griffith Conger, was a banker and a member of the legislature, the first citizen of Collins Center.
Ella attended Miss Nardin's and the Female Academy. Upon graduation she worked as a bookkeeper for her father. She was interested in singing, and traveled to New York, Brooklyn, and Washington for lessons.
In 1879 the Goodyears moved to a new house on #723 Delaware [demolished] across from Westminster, a gift from Anson. Here their children grew up.
Charles died in Buffalo in 1911. Ella survived him by twenty-nine years, dying in Buffalo in 1940 at eighty-six.
Ella had been raised a Methodist Episcopalian, turned Presbyterian upon her marriage, but joined a species of Christian Science after a successful operation for cancer in 1905. She started holding classes at #888 attended sometimes by over a hundred people. These classes continued until 1934. None of the family participated. She read the bible over and over and quoted texts at the family, but they failed to share her piety. In 1913 she published The Journey of Jesus, which went through three editions. None of her family ever seems to have read it.
Charles and Ella had four children, Conger, born in 1877; Esther Permelia, born in 1881; Charles W., Jr., born in 1883; and Bradley in 1885.
Ella Portia Conger Goodyear
By C. W. Goodyear
A white New England-type country house in the village of Collins Centre, about thirty miles from Buffalo, was the birthplace of Ella Conger on August 30, 1853. She was not one to be contented long in a rural community. Her unrest was expressed in a letter she wrote while a young girl to a friend: "I am getting most crazy for the holidays to come. Won't we have fun! You can't begin to think how I want to see you. Oh dear! there is nothing like being buried alive in the ruins of Pompeii where you can never see your friends."
The generosity of her father, a well-to-do country banker, made it possible for her to have the best education that could be had at that time and to study music. Ella attended the Buffalo Female Academy (now the Buffalo Seminary) and was graduated in 1873. Later she went to Brooklyn to study singing. Discriminating friends were lavish in their praises of her talents. Ella visualized herself behind the footlights of an opera house, bowing to the applause of enthusiastic audiences.
Instead, with her formal education completed, Ella returned to Collins Centre where she worked in her father's banking office and learned the rudiments of finance. Singing in a church choir helped to pass the time, but Ella soon became dissatisfied with life in a village. Back in Buffalo, she made her modest debut as a soprano in the quartet of St. Paul's Cathedral. Dwarfed by towering office buildings, the Cathedral still stands impressively in the downtown business section.
Marriage ended Ella's singing career. She retained an active interest in music until the later years of her life, but she sang only at informal gatherings. Her home and family crowded out her dreams as a prima donna.
When Ella was married, her father gave her as a wedding present, money to build what was then a pretentious residence at 723 Delaware Avenue, across the street from Westminster Church, in the section where the elite of Buffalo's prominent citizens were beginning to erect their homes.
During the first eight years of her marriage Ella gave birth to three sons and a daughter -- Anson Conger, Esther Permelia, Charles Waterhouse, Jr., and Bradley. With her large home and growing family, her time was full.
was never without the necessities and most of the luxuries
that make up fine living. Security marked her life but it was
not always free of difficulties and anxieties. The Civil War,
the Spanish-American War, World
War I, and the first part of World War II occurred during
her lifetime. Her three sons served overseas in the first
Great War and her worries came to a glorious ending when she
watched, from a window of the Genesee Hotel, the 106th Field
Artillery march up Main Street with Bradley
leading as commanding officer. The regiment's homecoming
from the battlefields of France received a rousing welcome
of the cheering crowds on both sides of the street.
position of Ella's husband in the community was well
established and he was a successful, prominent lawyer. But
he was beginning to realize that the legal profession never
would assure him more than a comfortable living, and Charles
Goodyear needed more than that.
1887, Charles became his brother's partner in the already
established lumber business. Frank
again had cracked under the strain of excessive work and had
gone to Europe. Charles took over, assuming the
responsibility of running a large lumber enterprise. As a
lawyer he frequently had been associated with the affairs of
corporations, so that he was not long adjusting himself to
the problems attached to his new vocation. He spent most of
his time in Pennsylvania, actively managing the business
from the logging of timber to the final processing of
that she might be with her husband as much as possible and
help him in his new business career, Ella and the children
spent several summers in an ugly frame house on a hillside
overlooking a sawmill in Austin, Pennsylvania, a typical
lumber village not unlike the Western frontier towns of
earlier days. The droning of the buzz saws in the mill, the
whistles and exhaust steam of the locomotives hauling trains
of logs, were incessant day and night. The Goodyear
youngsters galloped their ponies over hilly dirt roads and
fished for brook trout in the bubbling mountain streams.
Ella often said, years later, that the summers in
Pennsylvania were the happiest times of her life. But that,
perhaps, was in
ALL during the Gay Nineties, Charles and Frank rode on the crest of the wave. They were approaching middle age. Their business was running smoothly and profitably. Frank had a million dollars on deposit in the bank and a fortune besides in stocks and bonds, but his ambition to make still more money never lessened until the last year of his life. Already he had dreamed of another lumber operation when the supply of hemlock timber in Pennsylvania was exhausted. He knew there were almost boundless tracts of virgin yellow pine in the Deep South. The urge to build the largest sawmill in the world grew as Frank studied the glowing reports of timber cruisers in Louisiana and Mississippi.
It was the golden age, too, for Ella and Charles. The children were old enough to be left in the care of competent nurses and faithful servants. The Goodyears traveled and became more socially prominent. There were frequent trips to New York City for the theater, the opera, or to delight their epicurean appetites at noted restaurants. Ella's letters were filled with ecstatic references to Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in a Shakespearian revival; to Melba, who was appearing in grand opera as Lucia. Charles, too, wrote of a gay evening when he, Ella and Postmaster General and Mrs. Wilson S. Bissell dined at Delmonico's before seeing Weber and Fields and Lillian Russell, who were the hit on the Broadway stage for several years.
There were few places attractive to travelers that they did not visit at one time or another. On one trip through the South they boarded an antiquated boat at New Orleans which might have been one of the sternwheelers that Mark Twain piloted before the Civil War, and leisurely wound their way up the Mississippi River as far as Memphis. While on long journeys to the West Coast or across Canada, they traveled in a private railroad car with friends or with the children during summer vacations. For a lark, in 1897, they left the private car in Vancouver and took passage on a steamer through the Archipelago along the coast of British Columbia as far north as the Yukon. The rickety old boat was loaded with hopeful prospectors headed for the Klondike.
Trips abroad to continental Europe, the Mediterranean, and the British Isles became annual junkets -- sometimes with such definite objectives as the Passion Play at Oberammergau and the Paris Exhibition. In 1899, all the family went abroad. Ella and Charles thought that the children had reached ages at which they would be interested in seeing the sights of the Old World. The high spots of the trip for the two younger boys were kissing the Blarney Stone during a coaching jaunt through Ireland, climbing the Eiffel Tower and going through the morgue in Paris, boating on the Thames River, and the visit to the palatial summer home of Buffalo friends on the Isle of Wight where they were introduced to the game of cricket. Esther was bored generally except when she and her mother restocked their wardrobes in Paris while Charles took the baths in Bad Nauheim. Conger, the eldest of the Goodyear boys, had as little as possible to do with the rest of the family and was particularly annoyed with his precocious younger brothers. That summer he preferred the company of his classmates who had gone abroad after graduating in the spring from Yale.
At home in Buffalo, too, there was social life for the Goodyears. The Delaware Avenue house had been enlarged and was the scene of lavish dinner parties. Ella and Charles were the guests on several occasions of President and Mrs. Cleveland at diplomatic receptions and informal White House dinners. After one of these, Ella wrote to a friend: "After dinner we went upstairs. The President took off his dress coat and had a nice smoke as we sat around and visited. After a time, the President had calls and was excused. Just before retiring we went into our room. Mrs. Cleveland was with us and we had some ginger ale."
As the children grew older, Ella decided that the city was no place for them during summer vacations. The family spent several summers on Cape Cod, where a spacious house was rented in the Wianno colony. Horses, carriages, dogs, household effects, along with bags and baggage, were shipped from Buffalo to the Cape in railroad boxcars at the opening of the season.
home of Charles and Ella was only a short distance from Frank's
[Charles's brother] elaborate house and it [Charles &
Ella's house] was the scene of many brilliant social affairs
and family gatherings. In later years, it was not unusual
for twenty-five children and grandchildren to sit down
together at a Sunday or holiday dinner. A large garden party
on the well-manicured lawn at the rear of the house became
an annual summer event.
King Albert, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Leopold of Belgium
visited Buffalo in 1919, they were the guests of Madam
Goodyear, as Ella came to be known in the society in which
Ella treated the fifteen servants in her ménage almost like members of the family. Traditionally, they all came on Christmas day and received gifts after a buffet supper. When she died at the age of eighty-seven, six of Ella's servants had to their credit a total of one hundred and ninety-five years of faithful service.
In 1960, the Goodyear family contributed $500,000 to the university's building program to honor the memory of Ella Conger Goodyear (1853-1940). Known for her philanthropies and interest in the arts, Goodyear was the mother of Gen. Anson Conger Goodyear and the grandmother of George F. Goodyear.
In 1912, she established the Charles W. Goodyear fund at the Albright Art Gallery in memory of her late husband. A frequent visitor to the White House during the Cleveland administration, Goodyear was a lifelong friend of Carolyn Tripp Clement. See Clement Hall.
Anson Conger Goodyear served on the board of the Albright Art Gallery; he insisted that the gallery begin acquiring modern art, for which the museum later became renowned. He later moved to New York City and helped found the Museum of Modern Art.