Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chapter 24 - Henry Clinton Spaulding

In early June of 2009, my second cousin, Liz DuBois, wrote to me after she had read some of my family history stories in this blog. Liz is the granddaughter of Henrietta Spaulding, the younger sister of my grandmother, Helen Spaulding. Fortunately for our family, Liz's grandmother and later her mother were great collectors of family photographs and newspaper clippings such as wedding announcements and obituaries. Over a period of several weeks Cousin Liz was kind enough to scan and e-mail me copies of many of the photographs and newspaper clippings in the collection that she inherited. The new information that she provided inspired me to write this additional chapter about our Spaulding family ancestors to supplement what has already been written in Chapters 4 and 12 of this blog. Incidentally, Cousin Liz, is a great family geneologist in her right and I have learned a great deal from her over the past several months that we have corresponded. Thank you Liz.

The exact date of Henry Clinton Spaulding’s move from Vermont to Elmira, New York is not known for certain. What we do know is that his parents Phineas and Matilda Tichenor Spaulding are recorded in a “History of Eaton County” as having settled in 1836 in Kalamo Township in Eaton County, Michigan. Whether or not Henry’s parents lived in Chemung County, New York prior to moving to Michigan is not known but what we do know based on Henry C. Spaulding’s obituary notice in the Elmira newspaper in 1902 is that he settled in Chemung County “at a very early age.” There is also strong evidence to support the belief that Henry’s older brother, Phineas Sargent Spaulding, was a resident in Elmira for a time for his name appears in a listing of Senators and Representatives from Michigan in the “Early History of Michigan” published in 1867 and next to his name in the publication it lists his “Post Office” as Elmira, which no doubt means the location where he resided prior to moving to Michigan. Furthermore,, while not necessarily a reliable source, has Phineas S. Spaulding (Henry’s brother) marrying Maria Butler in Elmira in the year 1832 which if true suggests that the Spaulding family including 20 year old Henry Clinton Spaulding was in Chemung County as early as 1832. In 1832 Henry Spaulding would have been 20 years old which would agree with his obituary notice that he arrived in Elmira at an early age. Obviously when Phineas and Matilda Spaulding and presumably their son Phineas Sargent Spaulding and maybe some of the other Spaulding children moved to Michigan in 1836, then 24-year old Henry Clinton Spaulding elected to remain behind in the Elmira, New York area.

When Henry’s future wife, Clara Wisner, arrived in Chemung County with her family is even less clear, although I did find one Wisner family source that recorded that Henry Wisner and his family relocated to Chemung County from Orange County, New York in 1834. In 1834, Clara was only 12 years old and she was at that point obviously not the object of Henry’s affection. Unfortunately, the assumption that Clara Wisner was in Chemung County as early as 1834 is shaken somewhat by the words of Clara’s own obituary announcement in the Elmira newspaper in 1906 that states “On December 30, 1840, she was united in marriage to Henry C. Spaulding in Orange County, the newly married couple moved to this city [Elmira, Chemung, New York] the ensuing year.” If Clara, her parents, and her brothers and sisters moved to Elmira in 1834, why then did she return to Orange County for her wedding? There is no doubt that Henry was a resident in Chemung County prior to his wedding and if Clara was still living in Orange County up to the date of their 1840 marriage, it begs the question as to when and where Henry meet his future wife? I believe that the simple answer is probably the correct answer which is that Clara lived with her parents in Elmira sometime prior to 1840 where she met and fell in love with Henry Spaulding. The Wisner family with their soon-to-be son-in-law Henry Spaulding decided to return to Orange County for the marriage so that they could be with the rest of the Wisner family and their other relatives. [The above photograph of Maria Smith Wisner, Clara Wisner’s mother, was taken in 1895 shortly before her death.]

We learn a great deal about the early life and the character of Henry Clinton Spaulding from his 1902 obituary notice. We learn that he was first employed as a farm laborer and went on from there to work on the Chemung Canal as a boatman. He “worked hard and faithfully” becoming a commander of his own boat which at the time was considered a “very high position, winning his promotion and success by honesty and fidelity to duty.” Clearly Henry Spaulding, irrespective of the praises expressed in his own obituary, was an aggressive individual who was at the right place at the right time. The Chemung Canal, constructed between the years 1830 and 1833, connected Elmira via a waterway to Seneca Lake to the north and from there ultimately to the Erie Canal whose construction had been completed in 1825. At this time in our country’s history travel and commerce via waterways was the fastest and least expensive way to move people and goods from one place to another. The opening of the Chemung Canal gave the small community of Elmira the opportunity to open trade with almost the entire State of New York including the new major upstate commerce centers at Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany. Almost immediately following the opening of the canal the population of Elmira and the surrounding area experienced a rapid population expansion as Elmira became the commerce hub of the Southern Tier of New York State.

The Chemung Canal contained so many locks between Elmira and Watkins Glen that travel between these two communities took about two and one half days by barge to traverse. Conversely, passenger travel by coach on the roads between the two villages took considerably less time which resulted in the canal being used almost exclusively for hauling commodities, principally lumber, coal, and agricultural products. Henry Spaulding took advantage of an opportunity with the opening of the canal and by the year 1840 he owned and commanded his own canal barge and had earned the respected title of Captain Henry Spaulding. When Henry married Clara Wisner in December of 1840 he soon realized that if he remained the captain of his own barge, the long hours spent on the canal would keep him away from his wife and their future child. Clara announced in early 1841 that she was expecting. Henry withdrew from the canal business shortly after her announcement and opened up a lumber business that he located on the canal near East Fifth Street in Elmira. In the ensuing years his lumber business expanded greatly to include not only the sale of lumber and coal, that was hauled up from Pennsylvania, but also the manufacture and sale of millwork items such as window sash and doors as well as other millwork specialties such as trim and mouldings. The business was to become immensely profitable for the Spaulding family and provide employment for his son, and later for his grandson, and after Henry’s death in 1902, for his son-in-law, and his daughter, as well as scores of others. The H.C. Spaulding Co., Inc. was finally sold in 1948 after being in continuous operation for 107 years.

The population of Chemung County, New York in 1860 immediately preceding the Civil War was 26,917 of which approximately 8,700 of the citizens lived within the village of Elmira. In 1840, just before the opening of the H.C. Spaulding (lumber) Company, the Chemung County population was recorded to be 20,732. During the intervening years between 1840 and 1860 the population grew by 30% and during the following decade from 1860 to 1870 of which the first half of the decade our country was engulfed in the American Civil War, the population of Chemung County grew by another 30%. An even more amazing statistic is that during the peak of the Civil War, the town of Elmira had grown from a population of 8,700 in the year 1860 to a population of 16,000 in 1864 plus another “floating population” of between 10,000 to 12,000 individuals consisting primarily of Union solders and Confederate prisoners-of-war. As we can only imagine this huge increase in the population was very good for all of the businesses in Elmira including the H.C. Spaulding Co., Inc. We have very clear evidence that Henry C. Spaulding prospered as a result of the Civil War. Beginning in 1862, President Lincoln and the U.S. Congress enacted a law that created the Internal Revenue Service for the purpose of taxing American citizens to help pay for the war efforts. The IRS records for Elmira show that Henry C. Spaulding was taxed in the years 1863 through 1866 and that both he and his son, Charles H. Spaulding, earned an annual income in 1865 of $4,400. Considering that almost a century later I only earned $5,200 in my first full year of work following my college graduation in 1964, I can appreciate what a huge sum of money $4,400 must have been in the mid-1860s. The large profits from their business that generated these high incomes was due in part to very profitable government contracts awarded during the Civil War. Incidentally, the income tax during the Civil War taxed earnings up to $10,000 at a flat rate of 3% and for incomes over $10,000 at a flat rate of 5%. This income tax was repealed in 1867. The government thereafter until 1913 derived 90% of its revenues through taxes placed only on alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Things have really changed and just think how easy it would be for us today if we prepared our taxes based on a flat rate, especially a flat rate of only 3%. One other thing worth noting is that the population of Elmira peaked in the 1950s at around 50,000, and has declined to the present day population of just under 30,000. Chemung County began its decline in population in the 1970s. New York State during the period of 1990 to 2000 experienced a growth rate of only 5.48% ranking it only 42 of the 50 states in population growth and 50 of 50 states in the number of its citizens that migrated from other states during the previous five years. New York State is also one of the highest taxed states in the United States which accounts for the slowness of its population growth as well as the tremendous loss of industrial business in communities such as Elmira.

In 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War, Elmira, New York was chosen as a “main rendezvous point” and military training base in New York State due primarily to its canal and railway systems that made moving goods and soldiers into and out of the area relatively easy. It is recorded that 20,796 soldiers were gathered, trained, and dispatched from Elmira during the war with about half of that number processed during the first year of the war. By early 1864 however, the number of soldiers being processed had declined greatly as had the amount of business generated for the locals by their presence. What happened next was to make Elmira infamous for the decision was made to turn one of the original army training barracks into a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. In July 1864, the prison camp was opened. In only a matter of months the prison became overcrowded and at one point there were over 9,000 prisoners, 2,000 more than the 30 acre confinement was designed to hold. Within the enclosure were woodened barracks housing 3,873 prisoners. The rest of the prisoners were crowded into canvas tents. The winter of 1864-65 was particularly brutal especially for the almost 5,000 Confederate prisoners living in the tents and with shortages of warm clothing, food, heat, and medicine it was not surprising that many men died of exposure or to diseases such as smallpox. In total in the course of a little over one year, 12,122 Confederate soldiers were housed in the Elmira prisoner-of-war camp, that the soldier’s called “Hellmira”, and a total of 2,933 men lost their lives. This is a total loss ratio of 24.19% giving the Elmira prison the worst record of all of the Union prison camps and almost as horrific a record as the far more infamous Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia where 28.7% of the estimated 45,000 Union prisoners died. Ironically, most of the dead Confederate soldiers were buried in Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery where many of my ancestors are laid to rest including my grandparents, Charles S. Baker and Helen Spaulding, as well as Helen’s great grandfather Henry Clinton Spaulding and his family. In an article written by Michael P. Gray entitled “Elmira, A City on a Prison Camp Contract,” he lists many of the businesses in Elmira that received government contracts for supplying material to the prison. The list includes a lumber order dated March 1865 to H.C. Spaulding for 22,000 feet of lumber for use in building coffins. The coffins and the remains of the Confederate soldiers in Woodlawn Cemetery lie only a short distance from Henry Spaulding’s gravestone. [The photograph above was taken of the prisoner-of-war camp in Elmira in 1864 and shows the rows of tents that provided the only shelter for almost 5,000 prisoners during the 1864-65 winter.]

Henry and Clara Spaulding had three children, their two daughters Alice and Clara who were the good friends of Samuel Clemens’s wife, and a son, Charles Henry Spaulding who was born in 1841. Charles Henry Spaulding probably started working at his father’s lumber business at an early age and as we noted previously his income in 1865 based on his tax returns was $4,400. He would have been only 24 years old in 1865. Charles married Mary Catherine Sly in 1862. Mary Catherine was the daughter of Mathew McReynolds Sly and the granddaughter of John Sly one of the earliest settlers in the Elmira area. [The photograph to the right below was taken of Mary Catherine Sly in 1870, eight years after her marriage to Charles H. Spaulding. The painting to the left of Charles and Mary Catherine’s son Henry was completed around 1870 when Henry was around six years old] The Sly family would have been considered at the time one of Elmira’s prominent families. Charles and Mary Catherine had two children, my great grandfather Henry Clinton Spaulding, named after his grandfather, born in 1863 and Catherine Spaulding born in 1867. Considering the wealth of the Spaulding family during this period, the young couple must have lived in a large home in a good neighborhood in Elmira. Unfortunately, I have been unable to learn much about the life of Charles H. Spaulding other than he was listed as an Alderman in the 5th Ward in Elmira in years 1871 and 1872. Charles’ early death in 1875 at the age of only 34 probably accounts for the lack of information about his life. The cause of his death is unknown although he most likely died of one of the many sicknesses common in this period of our history. Catherine outlived her husband by 39 years and according to her obituary she lived for many years after the death of her husband at the family homestead built by her grandfather John Sly located at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Sly Street in Elmira. This home before it was torn down was located almost across the street from the home of her son Henry Clinton Spaulding and his wife Ella McBlain Reynolds. It was also located just up the street on Maple Avenue from the home of my grandfather Charles S Baker and the home where my father was born in 1916.

Henry Clinton Spaulding must have been devastated when his young 34-year son and business partner, Charles Henry Spaulding, died unexpectedly in 1875. Henry was 63 years old when his only son died and he was probably looking forward to turning over, if he had not done so already, the day to day running of the business to his son. Charles’ only son Henry was 11 years old when his father died although I suspect that his grandfather had already begun grooming his young grandson in the ways of their business. According to young Henry’s obituary, he graduated from school with honors and was valedictorian at the school commencement in 1883. Not unexpectedly, he joined the H.C. Spaulding Co. one week after his graduation and was given a share of the business. In 1886, young Henry married Ella McBlain Reynolds and they moved into a large fashionable home which they had built at the corner of Maple Avenue and Catherine Street across from present day Brand Park in Elmira. Their wedding announcement described the gifts received by the newlyweds and provides us a look at the affluence of the families attending the wedding. “The friends of the young people bestowed presents without stint. Four large tables were completely set with the costly silverware. Among the gifts was a solid silver tea service given by Miss Catherine Sly, a complete set of table cutlery of all descriptions, from the mother of the groom, a complete china dinner and tea-set from Mrs. H.C. Spaulding.” In 1887, my grandmother Helen Mary Spaulding was born followed two years later in 1889 by her sister, Henrietta Spaulding. Unfortunately and tragically Henry Spaulding like his father Charles, died at a young age for in April of 1889 at his Maple Avenue home he succumbed to typhoid fever. He was only 25 years old when he died leaving his grandfather H.C. Spaulding at age 75 without a male Spaulding heir to carry on with the business. He also left behind his pregnant wife Ella with one young daughter, my grandmother, aged 2. At the time of Henry’s death on April 12, 1889, Ella Spaulding was one month pregnant with their second child Henrietta, who was born eight months later on December 15, 1889. It is entirely possible that Henry was not aware that his wife was pregnant at the time of his death. [The photograph above was taken around 1893 and shows Ella Spaulding and her two young daughters, Helen Spaulding on the left, my grandmother, and Henrietta Spaulding on the right.]

One final controversy that needs to be addressed regarding the younger Henry Clinton Spaulding is the date of his birth. We have copies of two obituaries for Henry from different newspapers and both obituaries list his birth date as November of 1864, although one paper lists the 12th as his birth date and the other the 13th. To confuse matters even more, one of the newspaper states that Henry “was in his twenty-fifth year” when he died and the other newspaper seems to believe that he “was in his twenty-sixth year at the time of his death.” It is possible that they could both be right if we assume that a 1-1/2 year old child is usually described as being a one year old child but in the second year of life. The only problem here is that if Henry was 25 years old when he died (and in his twenty-six year), he must then have been born in 1863 and not 1864 as reported in his obituaries. If Henry was born in November of 1863, he would have been 25 years old when he died in April of 1889, just shy of his 26th birthday in November of 1889. If he was born in 1864 Henry would have been only 24 when he died. Furthermore, based on the dates when the 1870 and the 1880 US Census were taken and taking into account Henry’s age listed in the census records, both census confirm that Henry Spaulding had to have been born in 1863 and not 1864. While neither of the following observations offer proof as to Henry’s date of birth, it is worth noting that Henry’s wife Ella Reynolds was born in December of 1863, younger not older than her husband, and his parents were married 13 months before his birth assuming that he was born on November 12, 1863 as believed.

Henry Clinton Spaulding the elder outlived both of his sons and finally died on February 25, 1902. As it stated in his elegant obituary: “. . . all in all, a man whose life was a blessing to Elmira. His death rounds out an unusually long period of well-spent years. He goes to his rest and reward followed by the grateful recognition of his manly worth and noble example on the part of the entire citizenship of the city of his love and his home.” Henry Clinton Spaulding (1812-1902) was my 4th great grandfather on my father’s side of my family.


Walton County Winter Writers said...

Much enjoyed reading the history of Henry C.Spaulding. In the Huron County, Michigan history is an account of Bennett Haskell, whose father, N.B. Haskell was in business with Henry C. Haskell of Elmira, N.Y. I note it does not say he was associated specifically with him in the lumber business so I am curious to learn exactly what business, and if possible to learn Haskell's given names. I, as you would imagine, am related to the Haskell line.

Fred Parsons said...

For the record,in case you didn't, know Catherine Spaulding, Charles's daughter,was my grandmother. I never knew her since she died long before I was born. I,also,have had extensive communications with Liz and she has been a great help to me. I have memories of the house on Maple ave. and my cousin Alan wrote apiece in the Elmira historical society magazine years ago about the house.
You may remember me. Fred Parsons 571-510-3414