Webb Horton: Tannery King Kathleen Malia, Department of English, SUNY Orange “People rushed to exploit millions of acres of natural resources that could be economically brought to market for the first time.” ‐‐‐‐‐ Ron Chernow Webb Horton was born on February 24, 1826 at Colchester, Delaware County, New York. His parents were Isaac and Prudence (Wright) Knapp Horton. Web was their ninth child. Born before him were Homer (1809), Ray (1811), James (1813), Charles (1815) Esther (1817), Clarissa (1819), and Ovid (1821). Emily, the last child, was born after Webb in 1829. All lived to maturity.1 The Horton lineage was established early in America. The founding father, Barnabus Horton, came from Mousely, Leicestershire, England, with his wife Mary and small children in the 1630’s. He emigrated in the “Swallow,” and a story is told that he brought a kettle known as “Uncle Barney’s money pot” which was “filled with gold and silver.” 2 They settled into a colony which was a union of New Haven, Stamford, and Southold. Today, their gravestones can be found in the church yard of the Presbyterian Church in Southold, Long Island.3 Barnabus built a home and prospered as a farmer; he also played several political roles in the settlement’s government. Barnabus and Mary were the parents of nine children. The oldest child, Joseph, began the second generation of Webb Horton’s ancestral line. For a while, Joseph continued the life established by his father in Southold. He owned land and operated a saw mill. He married Jane Budd of Rye and eventually, they followed Jane’s father to Rye (which vacillated in the 1600’s as a colony of Connecticut or New York). With land from the Budd family, Joseph farmed and operated a saw mill. He was known for his “leadership in town affairs,” and he “was confirmed lieutenant of the train band of Rye”—the chief officer of the Rye militia. Joseph and Jane raised nine children. Their oldest son, John, continued the Webb Horton line of the third American generation. John stayed in Rye, and “after his father’s death…succeeded him as one of the prominent men of the colony.” Also, John followed his father as a “Captain” in the militia. He operated grist mills and farmed. John and Rachel (Hoit) had seven children. Their third son, Daniel, established a fourth generation. He too spent his life in Rye, operated a mill, and took on responsible government jobs. There is, for the first time, in the lineage the mention that “Daniel’s sons were all millers or tanners”—trades that employed them in 1. Byron Barnes Horton, A.M., The Ancestors and Descendants of Isaac Horton of Liberty, N.Y. (Privately Printed in an Edition of Two Hundred Fifty Copies. Warren, Pa.: The Mohr Printery, 1946.) (Byron Horton, a great‐nephew of Webb Horton was the family’s genealogist.) All Horton genealogy that follows comes from this source. 2. Frank W. Norcross, A History of the New York Swamp (New York: The Chiswick Press, 1901), 68. 3. Information about the Hortons’ settling in American can be found in Warren Hall, Pagans, Puritans and Patriots of Southold (New York: Cutchogue‐New Suffolk Historical Council, 1975).
2 the 1700’s. This early knowledge of tanning as an occupation served the ancestors well. Daniel and Hester (Lane) were the parents of eight children. It was their last child, William, then in the fifth Horton generation, whose traits inherited by his forefathers, became more pronounced. There were the ruggedness, the venture‐some spirit, and the community responsibility. For the first part of his life, he and his wife, Elizabeth Covert, stayed close to family in Cortland Manor. “Tradition asserts that William Horton ran a mill during the Revolution…as part of his military service.” Later, though, persuaded by men in his militia class,” William moved his family westward in New York to settle in the Hardenburgh Patent in Delaware County. Eventually, the men formed the town of Colchester in 1792; it was located in wild, untamed forest. “The centennial history of the county states that the first grist mill in its borders was built by William Horton and that about 7000 bushels of wheat per year were ground in it, in the early part of the nineteenth century; also, that William Horton was the leading man of this party within the township.” He received the title Honorable for his service as a Judge of Common Pleas of Delaware County. It was said that he was a “man of excellent judgment…. His wife was said to be well‐educated.” Perhaps, more important to the Horton tanners who followed was William’s occupation of tanning; he became the first tanner in Delaware County and with that move, he entered into the rich history of the tanners in the Catskills. Early with the settlement of New York, there were tanners near the bottom of Manhattan. Once they exhausted the surrounding supply of oak bark, they looked to the Catskills. In his history of the Catskills, historian Alf Evers explained that the hemlock was the favored and very plentiful tree.4 He further observed that “The tradition of making leather by soaking hides in solutions of tannin extracted from bark or other parts of plants stretches in a continuous line from the pre‐historic inhabitants of Europe to Americans of today…. Hemlock bark gave a distinctive red‐brown color to leather.”5 And “slowly the new kind of leather made its way.”6 By the end of the 1700’s the “hemlock bark was being shipped from Catskill wharves to the tanners in the Swamp….”7 However, Evers noted, “The time was approaching…when [tanners] began to “wonder if it might not be worth (their) while to ship hides to the hemlock woods rather than ship bark from the Catskills to the Swamp.”8 “The Catskills had clear streams everywhere. Lime was needed to remove hair from hides— and at the base of the Catskills lay long limestone ridges.”9 Thus, Webb Horton’s grandfather, William, became one of the early Catskill tanners of the 1800’s. “There was money in tanning, there were acres of hemlock to be cut, and the result was the growth of a vast new industry….”10 A Sullivan County historian, Mrs. James Cusator, explained, 4. Alf Evers, The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock, (New York: Doubleday, 1972), 333. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid., 334. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid. 9. Ibid. 10. Mrs. James Cusator, “Tanneries ‘Big Business’ in Old Days of County, Liberty Town,” Reprinted from The Liberty Register, May 15, 1952, 1.
3 The tanbark industry developed after “The War of 1812.” Not until then did the United States enjoy free commerce with the world. From Brazil, Argentine, and later Texas, came shiploads of hides to be converted into leather. Factories for the tanning of leather sprang up wherever there was bark to feed them. Roads suitable for heavy loads were pushed up every timbered valley, peelers went into the bark woods about May 1, peeling the hemlock as long as it would peel, then stacking the bark in cord piles to dry and to be drawn to the tanneries the following winter. Each piece of bark was four feet long and from 12 to 16 inches wide.”11 It is worthwhile to note how important the establishing of the leather business was to the United States. First of all, Alf Evers explained that “in the early years of American settlement, leather was far more generally used than it is today.”12 As American’s population grew, so did the demand for leather. Then, the Mexican War and the Civil War came, during which the need escalated. Slowly, in their early generations, the Hortons became engaged in the production of leather, as they settled into what was at the time the American frontier. William and Elizabeth raised seven children. Two daughters married into the Radeker family—a connection that continued with the Hortons. Isaac was William and Elizabeth’s six child; he was then in the Horton’s 7th American generation. Isaac married Prudence Knapp, daughter of Enoch and Esther (Wright) Knapp on January 1, 1807. Isaac too carried on in much the same way as his ancestors. “He was commissioned quartermaster in … the Delaware County Militia.” He served as “Constable,” “Commissioner,” and “Overseer of Highways and Schools,” and acted briefly as “Assessor.” He owned land. He was a member of the Baptist Church of Colchester. Still, when his ninth child Webb was only a few months old, in the spring of 1826, Isaac followed his own father’s inclination to move his entire family—this time to Liberty Falls (now Ferndale) in Sullivan County, backtracking slightly eastward. There, with the help of his older sons, “he erected the first frame house and the first grist mill. Later, he built a tannery….” 13 The Hortons were not the first tanners in the area. There were Gildersleeves, Crarys, Garritts, Smiths, and Grants—all of whom would stay connected with the Hortons through business and marriages. Cusator noted: From 1830 to 1850 the wealth of Sullivan County advanced rapidly. This county was considered the most important sole‐leather manufacturing district in the world. Without the Delaware and Hudson Canal and the New York and Erie Railroad, this development could not have been accomplished, says Quinlan…. There is an old saying “The Civil War was won on the boots tanned in Sullivan County.”14 While other New York counties made similar boasts, there is little doubt from the industry that followed that early in the 19th century, the Isaac Horton family of tanners had connected with a group of remarkably skilled tanners who were accomplished in the sole leather business. Cusator noted, “From 11. Ibid. 12. Evers, 333. 13. Cusator, 2. 14. Ibid.
4 this small beginning the tanning industry grew, bringing fame and fortune to the sons of Liberty pioneers.”15 What is known about Webb Horton as he grew in Liberty Falls comes from George Henry Decker’s “In Memoriam” written at the request of Webb’s family. Decker wrote: “Until his fifteenth year the boy Webb attended the primitive schools of his town…. His studies, while in school, were not confined to the text‐books assigned for study preparatory to recitation; but, like Lincoln, he read everything in his neighborhood.”16 He worked in the Horton General Store with his father and Ray and James, his two brothers. Eventually, he became “sole proprietor” of the store, “dealing in general merchandise.” He was “also interested with his father and brothers in their turning and flour mills…."17 Decker mentioned two trips that Webb made as a young man. The first was in 1844, when he was eighteen. He traveled to New York City “to dispose of the output of his father’s turning mill.” According to Decker, Webb used the transportation of the day: “the public stage,” to Middletown, the train to “Piermont,‐‐at that time the Eastern terminus of the road and the station nearest to New York” and then, “by barge down the Hudson.”18 At this time, the city was the manufacturing capital of the country. According to Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace in Gotham, “New York’s attractiveness was enhanced by a superior commercial infrastructure and abundant human resources—ships, wharves, storehouses, auction rooms, sailors, cartmen, dock workers…[and] financial resources second to none in the country.19 No doubt, Webb saw the potential for his own ambition, because twenty‐three years later, he too was part of this bustle of business. The second trip, taken three years later with his brother Charles, was westward, out into what was seen as “the Far West” in 1847. Moving across New York state by way of the Erie Canal, they went as far as Tonawanda and then used whatever public conveyances to get as far as Buffalo and then to Chicago. Decker observed: “These brothers had taken this long and difficult journey to inspect the country and prospect its resources.” 20 Whatever difficulties Webb and Charles encountered, they did not discourage Webb’s interest in travel. He own later journals show an inveterate traveler, who was constantly on the move. The second trip may also have created a close bond between Webb and Charles, eleven years his senior. The brothers were closely linked in business ventures throughout their lives. As Isaac’s youngest son, Webb had the advantage of learning businesses from his father as well as his older brothers. Charles, though, was particularly important because he had entered early into tanning with Nathaniel Gildersleeve and learned the business early. In 1854 Charles and Webb began building a tannery in Narrowsburg, New York. Apparently, Webb continued business in Liberty Falls for a few years, and then moved to Narrowsburg. About 1854, he became interested in the tanning business, and 15. Ibid. 16. George Henry Decker, Webb Horton: In Memoriam (Written at the request of the Webb Horton family at his death in 1908.) 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid., 9. 19. Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). 336. 20. Decker, 11.
5 for ten years it was carried on in Damascus, Wayne Co., Pennsylvania, directly across the Delaware River from Narrowsburg, where he and his wife established their first home. In the businesses his brother Charles Horton and his cousin George E. Knapp were associated with him. The firm also conducted a general store at Narrowsburg…. A few years later Mr. Knapp withdrew from the firm and Samuel Darby became a partner and the new firm continued under the name of Horton, Darby, and Co.21 A year after Webb became involved with the Damascus tannery, on August 28, 1855, in Montgomery, New York, he married Elizabeth Ann Radeker; she was seven years younger than Webb. She was a daughter of Henry and Rachel (Taylor) Radeker of Montgomery, New York22 and the cousin of his brother Ray’s wife, Martha Ann Radeker. In Damascus, Webb and Elizabeth’s three children were born: Eugene, in 1856; Junius Ray, in 1860; and Carrie Josephine in 1861. In The Flowering of the Third America, Maury Klein observed: “In their quest for riches…Americans did not hesitate to change what they did or where they lived. If the land wore out or prospects fizzled out, they packed up and moved somewhere else” 23 These “new entrepreneurs…began to emerge on the business scene and expand old industries “such as the leather trade in which the Hortons were engaged “or develop new ones…” as they would do later.24 From 1854‐1864 Webb tanned in Narrowsburg. When it became obvious that expansion of their tanneries was impossible in this area because of the dwindling supply of hemlock trees, Webb and Charles sold their interests. The two brothers considered another business venture, but Charles declined. By now, he was almost fifty, and he had two sons, Gurdon Bromley and Melvin to set up in the tanning trade. Gurdon had already found employment with the leather traders in the New York Swamp. Then, in 1867, he established the firm of G. B. Horton & Co. that was very much involved with Charles’ own interests. Webb, at thirty‐eight still had the energy and venturesome spirit of his Horton ancestors. He now looked westward to the “wild lands” across the Appalachian mountain. “In 1864 the Pennsylvania Railroad was completed and opened for traffic…. The line opened up an immense area of virtually uninhabited wilderness covered with dense forest.”25 Soon after, Jackson Schultz, a prominent New York tanning merchant, had sent his brother to build a large tannery in Wilcox, Pennsylvania. In the next town, Thomas. L. Kane, of a prominent Philadelphia family, had settled Kane, Pennsylvania, even before the Civil War and returned to establish a large lumber business. Both Schultz and Kane were familiar with President Grant and may have used his influence for railroad expansion. A couple railroad stops westward of Kane was the tiny hamlet of Sheffield, where, after some exploration, Webb, his nephew Walter, and his brother‐in‐law, John McNair, decided to build businesses. 21. Barnes, 60. 22. Decker, 14. 23. Maury Klein, The Flowering of the Third America: The Making of an Organizational Society, 1850‐1920 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1992), 34. 24. Ibid. 35. 25. Walter C. Casler, Tionesta Valley: Book No. 8 in the Series Logging Railroad Era of Lumbering in Pennsylvania (Williamsport, Pennsylvania: Lycoming Printing Company, 1973),801.
6 Walter Horton, the first son of Webb’s oldest brother Homer, was at age thirty‐two, already an experienced tanner. He had been a partner in a tanning firm in Hanover, New York. John McNair, married to Walter’s sister Elizabeth, was at age thirty‐eight, an experienced lumberman. The area that interested the men lay “mostly south of the Pennsylvania Railroad between the Allegheny and Clarion Rivers.”26 It became known as the Tionesta Valley. Sheffield sat at the juncture of Two‐Mile Run and Tionesta Creek, which ran southwest into the Allegheny River. Not until 1833 was Sheffield Township organized “as a political entity.”27 Previous to the 1800’s, Chief Cornplanter’s Iroquois Indians used the land as needed communally. Local historian William Casler described the region as “heavily timbered with hemlock, pine, and hardwoods. Hemlock composed at least seventy five percent of the forests…. Many stumps easily measured four feet or more in diameter. One hemlock of record, measured eight feet across the stump and a photo was taken showing a team of horses standing on it.” 28 Into tiny Sheffield Webb and his partners intruded their interests in much the same way as Webb’s father had done years before in Liberty Falls with plans for a few businesses. They bought up a local property, known as the Bower‘s place, and enlarged a rustic hotel into a boarding house. This property was purchased for $10,000, and the money may have been a loan from a sister of Webb. They brought laborers from their former town, as cemetery records show Liberty Falls as place of origin for several men. They bought up as much acreage as they could afford. For years after, Webb tracked down owners of land parcels to enlarge the company’s holdings. Original investments from the three partners are noted in an early Horton ledger: In 1864, Webb contributed $11,550; Walter, $4, 910, and William McNair, $3000. McNair set up a saw mill shortly after their arrival. Their investments were sufficient also to set up a country store. Webb’s cash books show May 1, 1864 as the first day of business. Local historian Bruce Smith explained that the operating of a general store in the 1860’s was not an easy job: The duties of the mercantile man in those early days of our local history were but slightly less numerous than the variety of items he carried on this shelves…. A country store was the focal point for all things that pertained to life in the community. There, groceries, dry goods, and clothing were dispensed, along with medicines and hardware. There, also, mail was posted and received, subscriptions to current periodicals accepted, and banking on a small scale was conducted. For the merchant was expected to provide cash for the circulating personal notes of his customers, often times to his own financial embarrassment.29 Indeed, Horton store ledgers and Webb’s own cash books indicate that he took on these responsibilities. For years, the cash books list the store items that Webb traveled to find, whether the merchandise was in Akron, Cleveland, Philadelphia, or New York City.
26. Ibid. 27. Bruce Smith, Historical Collections of Sheffield Township: Warren County, Pennsylvania (Warren, PA: The Mohr Printery,1943), 9. 28. Casler, 802. 29. Smith, 430.
7 While the general store and saw mill were built shortly upon the partners’ arrival, the erection of the tannery was slow. The men needed capital. Walter turned to his former partners. Horace Crary from Hanover, and the firm became Horton, Crary and Co.; it remained the parent company until the merger with United Leather in 1893. Also, at the time the Hortons came to Sheffield, J.F. Schoellkopf of Buffalo began buying property to build a tannery. Already, the Schoellkopfs were “extensively engaged in leather production and trade: in Buffalo.”30 It wasn’t long before the Hortons and Schoellhopfs were “mutually associated” and soon Horton, Crary and Co. bought half interest in the Schoellhopf’s tannery, later known as the Sheffield tannery. Smith summarized: The years from 1864‐1867 appear to have been spent in laying the groundwork of the industry, there being no record of any tannery or tannery production until the latter years. The affiliation of the Crarys and the Schoellkhopfts and Hortons appears to have given added stimulus, possibly financial, to completion of the plants.31 Perhaps, in all of Webb Horton’s lifetime, there were no more important years, in regard to his businesses. From these tanneries and the resulting spin‐offs would come most of Webb’s future fortune. The Horton tannery had a main building, 500 feet long and forty feet wide, a sweathouse, a boiler, and a dry house. It was set up to tan about 40,000 sides of leather per year. (A side was the equivalent of a cow hide cut in half.) The product was exclusively sole leather. Excepting, perhaps, the volume of production, the technique produced by Horton, Crary and Co. did not represent any radical departure from methods that had been in use since the most distant times. As a matter of fact, the primary function in any tanning process is to coagulate and harden the cellular material of the hide. In this instance the coagulating agent was the tannin extracted from hemlock bark. For some undetermined reason, one slight variation from ordinary procedure required by the company, involved grinding of the bark prior to leaching rather than chipping. Other than this, the essentials were the same as those widely accept as standard brief: water soaking of the hides, working and splitting, removing of hair, several changes of hemlock liquor for six months, and a final oiling and rolling.32 The tanning process and the Horton tannery were featured in a January 25, 1890 edition of the Harper’s Weekly; the pictures are attached to this paper.33 Gradually, relatives, in‐laws, and knowledgeable friends settled into the Sheffield tannery and other businesses. George, son of Webb’s brother Ovid, took over the management of the tanneries. Charles Siegel, C.W. Radeker, Isaac Horton, James Horton, Jerry Crary (a Civil War veteran), and Amos Lee, who opened a fashionable hotel, were among the group. Often, the men went out to open new tanneries. Sheffield historian Bruce Smith observed: 30. Ibid., 472. 31. Ibid., 473. 32. Ibid., 480. 33. “A Day in a Tannery,” Harper’s Weekly, January 25, 1890, 74‐76.
8 While most industries of the time were being amalgamated under the leadership of a single guiding genius, here we find many, who, though of diverse dispositions and temperaments exhibited to an exceptional degree the ability to get along together and unite most successfully their efforts toward a single goal. No proposition affecting the interests of the association was attempted without full consultation and general agreement.34 Even Webb Horton’s wife, Elizabeth, was instrumental in establishing the first church—a Methodist/Episcopal denomination. In her obituary, which appeared in The Middletown Daily, it was noted that she delighted to tell how all labored together that the “sparsely settled community “ might enjoy…religious privileges. Once the tannery operations and other businesses were in place and running, Webb Horton left Sheffield and moved with his family back to the east. While the Horton family’s enterprises would prove so large and so diverse that the men needed to develop their own expertise and to share investments, nevertheless, Smith pronounced Webb Horton the “guiding spirit,”35 of the group; it is unlikely that the Hortons would have accomplished so much without him. By 1868, Webb had settled with his family in Middletown, near his brother Charles, and not far from his brother Ray’s farm in Montgomery. Then, he went to Manhattan to open an office in The New York Swamp at 59 Frankfort Street; later, he moved the Horton, Crary & Co. office to 78 and 80 Gold Street. Charles’ sons, Gurdon Bromley and Melvin had opened a leather firm at 9 Ferry Street. Eventually, Webb’s son Eugene joined this company. The New York Swamp had been established with the early settlement of Manhattan. In A History of the New York Swamp, Frank W. Norcross (of The Shoe and Leather Reporter) explained that “The art of tanning was introduced in New York coeval with its settlement, first with the Dutch, then with the English.”36 Tanners settled into the southeastern area of Manhattan, near the piers of the East River. They occupied Beekman and Broad and Beaver Streets, and then, in the early 1700’s “moved from Beekman’s Swamp to the Fresh Water Pond, near Centre Street, where they were allowed to dig their tanning pits and draw water.”37 When the Pond became polluted with city debris, it was drained and filled, and the tanners moved slightly southward and settled. Over the years, as businesses moved northward in Manhattan, “Only the leather‐good traders remained in their ancient territory: the Swamp (bounded by Beekman, Gold, Frankfort, and the East River).”38 Norcross included Centre, Cliff, and Spruce Streets.39 For a while, tanneries continued in operation, but warehouses of hides and leather increased in size and in their new offices, the men became brokers as well as tanners. It was the first half of the 1800’s that ushered in the real growth of the leather business, as it kept pace with the booming businesses in New York City. Gradually, the city outpaced Philadelphia “as
34. Ibid., 481. 35. Ibid., 472. 36. Frank W. Norcross, A History of the Swamp (New York: The Chiswick Press, 1901), 1‐2. 37. Burrows and Wallace. 183. 38. Ibid., 945. 39. Norcross, 3, 35, & 40.
9 the leading port of entry in the United States.”40 The East River waterfront thrived. Overall, the city “between 1825 and 1865—became a commercial engine unlike any the world had ever seen.”41 And in the midst of this booming economy were the tanners. As the century grew, railroads from lower Manhattan sent out bales of raw hides brought into the East River piers by ships and brought back finished leather from tanneries. Tanning firms grew in sync with the increase of leather production. Sometimes, relatives were brought in; often, it was a clerk who proved his abilities. Sophisticated partnerships developed with silent investors, who often put monies into different firms. A sum of $200,000 was a common investment. American history of the 19th century has focused on singular men—capitalists, industrialists, financiers, speculators, and so on. It has ignored those men who rose to heights of success by interacting collectively. The tanners were such a group, and they concentrated their energies to turn the Swamp into a financial district to support their enterprises. A reporter from Harper’s Weekly noted: “There is no body of merchants more cordially united than the leather men. It is a body so fraternal, so democratic, so modest, that there is no assumption among them, and no one of them is more ambitious than another to be considered the great leather head.”42 In addition to their own work, tanners branched out into other enterprises. They were particularly adept at banking, many as officers of established banks or innovators of new ones. A Hide and Leather Bank serviced their own tanners. Others served in significant political roles, as mayors of New York City and Brooklyn, as state and national legislators and senators. Many supported the arts and left monies to colleges. They formed a literary group, known as the Eclectic Society. Overall, there was tremendous wealth generated by these tanners, and even in the first half of the century, it was not uncommon for tanners to leave estates in the millions.43 To some degree, the Hortons were late in establishing their businesses in the Swamp. They were an experienced tanning family who like many other tanners were from old American families. It was Charles’ son Gurdon who first entered in the Swamp in the employ of another tanning firm. It took him only a few years to organize his own. Then, Webb followed with Horton, Crary and Co. Given their heritage and their knowledge, the Hortons quickly blended with the other tanners.
Webb needed a larger market for buying hides and dealing in leather. Smith noted that While the Horton, Crary and Co. Sheffield office may have carried on some domestic commerce, the gist of the letters emanating from it indicates the chief interest to be export shipments and the handling of quotation and purchases from foreign ports, particularly South and Central America. Thousand of hides were regularly bought through competitive bidding after their
40. Burrows and Wallace, 333. 41. Ibid. 42. Harper’s Weekly, April 7, 1860, 24. 43. Norcross.
10 arrival in New York. Financial matters, following clearance through Sheffield books, were likewise centralized in that city.44 Webb entered into a larger picture of American enterprise with his newly formed New York City connections at a time when the economic climate of the country was favorable for growth. This was the post‐Civil War industrial period. Maury Klein explained: “The ethic of individualism and the concept of private property guaranteed people full possession of whatever fortune they could amass as a just reward for their initiative. But no one dreamed the fortunes would be so huge”45 The government was supportive of big business. “The Morrill Tariff of 1861 imposed higher rates that benefitted such major industries as iron and steel, textiles, paper, glass, and leather.”46 The National Bank Act of 1863 provided capital for borrowing. The Immigration Act of 1864 opened the door for laborers; some made their way to the Hortons’ tanneries. Licht summarized: “A political framework was laid down in the United States that placed no obstacles in the way of economic transformation and expansion.”47 With the tannery operations in western Pennsylvania and the Horton, Crary and Co. office in Manhattan, Webb, still in his forties, had the energy and ambition to expand the company. For the most part, what is known about Webb’s activities in the 1870’s comes from his memorandum and cash books in which he kept his daily notations. 48 For most of the decade, Webb continued to shop for the Horton’s general store in Sheffield. There were long lists organized into specific categories such as drugs, linens, hardware and so on. One popular item, the buffalo robe, was purchased between $12 and $15. With his office in Manhattan, the purchases were made in the city; few other shopping destinations are listed. Also, with his New York Swamp location, Webb bought raw hides for shipment to Sheffield and sold Horton leather brought in from the tanneries, both via the Pennsylvania Railroad. His purchases and sales were made through two firms: Massey & Janey in Philadelphia and Bullard & Co. in the Swamp. For example, in 1875, Webb noted: “Hides Put in the Sheffield Tannery for the Year 1874‐75” at “47, 695.” They came from Entre Rios, Montevideo, Rio Grande, San Juan, Corpus Christi, and Buenos Aires. His later note to find a buyer for “bison hair” was an indication that the Hortons tanned buffalo hides (contrary to a local historian’s account). Later in the decade, Webb engaged G.B. Horton & Co.’s services to buy hides and sell the finished leather, as his nephews and son became established in the leather business of the Swamp. There was also a note of a trade in Germany, as H.C. & Co. moved their businesses into the European trade. Webb was frequently on the road. He traveled in Pennsylvania and the Northeast to locate the owners of deeds to land near Sheffield with offers to buy, so the Hortons could increase their ownership of hemlock forests. Lot purchases in Cherry Grove, just outside Sheffield, later provided the Hortons 43. Smith, 481. 44. Klein, 82. 45. Ibid., 36. 46. Ibid. 47. Walter Licht, Industrializing America: The Nineteenth Century (London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 93. 48. These “Memorandum and Cash” books were found in the attic of the Morrison Mansion; copies are in the college’s archives and on microfilm.
11 with large oil strikes. Whether it was negotiating over freight prices, traveling to Kentucky to buy mules for the tannery, or buying insurance for the tanneries, his tasks were multiple. He covered a wide range of responsibilities. It appeared that Webb’s main partner, Walter, managed the Sheffield tannery and expanded other Horton Crary & Co.’s enterprises in Pennsylvania. Overall, Webb shared responsibilities with other members who increased over the years. The investments in Horton, Crary & Co. as of November, 1871 were: H.H. Crary, $36, 849.16, Webb Horton, $16, 282.06, Walter Horton, $4,851.75, William McNair, $4, 679.86, and Jerry Crary, $624.19. Horace Crary did not move to Sheffield, but his brother Jerry, a Civil War veteran, took on accounting for the firm and settled there. From personal and family expenses recorded over the decade, one can note the profitability of Horton, Crary & Co. In an 1871 cash book, Webb recorded “suit clothes $21.00,” “June’s overcoat $11,” and “June’s watch $17.58.” Usually, when in the city, Webb stayed at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, still located at 95 W. Broadway at Chambers Street; the charge was a few dollars per night. The biggest recorded expense was for medical doctors, particularly a Dr. Dorrance, whose bills ranged from $23.00 to $200.00. Webb made only one notation of Trinity Church, but he paid pew rent for Westminster Church in Middletown; in the 1870’s this increased quarterly from $7.50 to $12.50. Monies and purchases for his wife and children were generous with an occasional $50 given to Elizabeth. Webb’s children attended private schools. Eugene attended the old Walkill Academy, Bixby’s Military Academy at Poughkeepsie, and Eastman Business College. Carrie was enrolled at Brooks Seminary, a girls’ boarding school located in Poughkeepsie, next door to Vassar. In an 1875‐76 cash book, there is a notation of “Carrie Tuition 112.50.” Junius attended Riverside Academy. Webb’s relationships, as indicated by his travels, were close. He visited his mother (Isaac died in 1855) and relatives in Liberty Falls frequently. He went to Ray and Agnes Horton’s farm for purchases and bought an occasional gift for young William. When Webb was not on the road for business, he traveled for pleasure. Throughout the 1870’s his trips increased. In 1873 he “visited the new State Capital of Albany.” He wrote, “The foreman told me that there was 743 men employed on the building and besides a grate many teams employed in brick and stone.” In the next year, he and his wife took a short trip to Niagara Falls. Then, in 1875, they traveled by “Palace Car” to Washington. Later that year, they spent time at Lake Chautauqua and the area nearby. In 1876, they explored Boston and nearby spots. Back in New York City, he listed “3 fares Ceneniel.” In 1877, Webb attended an exposition in Philadelphia. In New York, he and his wife attended theaters regularly. They enjoyed Manhattan Beach. At home, Webb went to county fairs and other public events. In 1887, Webb with his wife and friends took a long, quite adventurous trip to Florida and the Bahamas. He visited cities in the south and then traveled by boat to the Bahamas. At a distance from Nassau, he wrote of a “most delightful day clear and warm with a soft balmy breeze from the south…and all along through the day have seen the silvery flying fish darting through the air into the water…[.] In the evening we had the most beautiful sight I ever saw. It was the phosphorescent light in the water in the wake of the boat [.] It is constant flashes of light wherever the water is disturbed from any cause either by motion of the vessel or by a fish jumping up out of the water.
12 Unfortunately, at the end of the 1870’s, a tragedy occurred in the Horton family. Junius, the youngest child, then nineteen, died on March 3, 1879 of typhoid fever. Junius was a student at Riverside Academy in Poughkeepsie when he became ill. Webb, whose memorandums usually contain brief notations, wrote at length about the situation: Junius was taken sick at Bisbees School at Pokeepsie on Wednesday Feb 5th 1879 and was better Saturday so that he was out riding and was taken down to his bed again on Monday the 10th [.] I got a letter from him to his mother on my return from Liberty Falls Saturday Feb 15th which had been written 2 or 3 days before saying that he was sick and asked if he could not come home if he did not get better [.] I started after him Monday morning the 17th Feb and arrived at Pokeepsie about 10 o’clock [.] I found him in bed and very weak. I thought to return with him the same day but Mr. Bisbee and Dr. Otis both thought I had best to wate till the next morning and see how he was [.] It snowed during the night and the next morning was quite blustry but Junius thought that he could stand it to go home so I went to the livery stable and engaged a carriage to come for the 7 oclock train[.] Junius thought he could go better in the morning than the afternoon as his fever was worse in the afternoon. We had to cross the river at Newburgh in an open sleigh and it was cold and blustry and hard north wind blowing down the river [.] We drove to the W S Hotel and had to wate there about two hours. He laid down on the lounge while we wated had a carriage take us to the depot and we had to change cars at Greycourt and got to Middletown on No 9 at 11 oclock [.} Mr. Harding took us up home and Junius went right to bed. Dr. Dorrance came up to see him in the afternoon. Gave him some medicine which made him vomit and afterwards he had a looseness in the bowels [.] this was on Tuesday the 18th of February [.] The Dr called to see him every day till Sunday the 23 he was sick and did not come up but sent medicine he did not come Monday and Junius ‘s diarrhea was much more frequent and he seemed to be getting weaker all the while. Tuesday morning I went down to see the Dr and he came up to see him in the afternoon and changed his medicine [.] On Wednesday evening the 26 he was taken much worse and I went down and got Dr Eager he pronounced him very sick and told others that it was very doubtful about his getting well. The next day Thursday Dr. Dorrance called to see him twice and twice again on Saturday and Sunday. Sunday night at ½ past eleven I laid down but was called up a short time afterward by John Brown (who was staying with Eugene) he was much worse and his feet and legs were cold. I sent down after Esther about 2 o’clock. He kept failing till 3 oclock and 20 minutes when he drawed his last breath Monday morning March 3‐‐ One can read in Webb’s reaction to Junius’ illness the desperation and responsiveness so ingrained in Webb’s personality. For Junius’ burial, Webb had the Horton plot laid out and a stone erected for his immediate family in Hillside Cemetery in Middletown. Throughout the 1870’s, the tiny village of Sheffield grew as the Horton enterprises expanded. Webb Horton kept a close eye on the progress and his own financial interests in the businesses. In 1872, it was reported that “Schoellkopf, McNair & Co.’s circular saw is now running and works nicely, sawing about 8000 feet per day. They expect with a full head of water to saw about 10,000 or 12,000 feet per
13 day.” 49 The lumber, more often hemlock then pine, was used for the tannery and the store buildings as well as for homes for the workers. Some was sold down river into the Pittsburgh area. In 1875 The Warren Ledger reported: “Every year has made large additions to the tannery buildings that were needed to accommodate their increasing business and an immense skeleton for a dry house is ready for cover now.” In order to keep the tanneries running, there was the ever‐growing need for hemlock, so the Horton’s buying of land continued. The land was not considered valuable, so the Hortons were easily able to purchase good lots either through buyers who no longer considered their holdings to be investments or through tax sales. In 1876 The Warren Ledger noted that two Sheffield tanneries “consume annually 18,000 cords of hemlock bark, which costs from $4 to $5 a cord” to produce “200,000 sides of sole leather with an average of 27c a pound, for a worth of $1,080,000.” They transported hides from Philadelphia and New York at a cost of $38,000 per year. The writer, a Tom O’Shanter from Sheffield, expected that a few sides would be “placed on exhibit at the Centennial.” As the enterprises expanded in Sheffield, more Hortons arrived to take over new businesses or to play roles in the tanneries. With the exception of Charles Sigel, who brought in a German connection along with his own tanning expertise, all were relatives or in‐laws of the Hortons and Crarys. Even some of the workers in the mills came from Sullivan County, where the circles of Horton and Crary families originated. The senior Hortons, Walter and George, resided in Sheffield and controlled the tanneries. Isaac traveled abroad as the principal salesman. It should be noted that during this period, sawmills and tanneries were being built and operated throughout the forested regions west of the Appalachians. In 1875 Walter attended a convention of tanners at Harrisburg. Also in attendance was Jackson Schultz, whose tannery in Wilcox, about thirty miles east of Sheffield, was billed as the largest in the country. In the next year, there was a convention of lumbermen and tanners at Wilcox. By 1879, the Warren Ledger reported: Horton, Crary, & Co. had “sold ten thousand sides of sole leather to be shipped to Europe. Sold by cablegram. What a country!” While the production of sole leather increased and the lumber from their two mills was put to good use in buildings, Horton, Crary, & Co found more resources on their land. By 1876, they had begun to drill gas wells to light their tanneries and the village of Sheffield. The product was so new to them that one of the McNairs was burned when he carried a lantern too close to a well. Also, they needed to switch from wooden to iron pipes to send the gas safely into town. Gradually, Horton, Crary and Co. formed the Pennsylvania Gas Company. Since the H.C. & Co. first tannery was in operation in 1867, the tiny village of Sheffield had grown into a factory town. The change was evident in the village entertainment: “Dancing then was a diversion entered into by everybody and enjoyed by all. Grandparents danced with their grandchildren, 49. Smith, 508.
14 little tots were pulled around like teddy bears…. Fiddlers were always in demand…. At times there was a full band…a bass viol and a first and second violin.50 However, “The tannery establishment in the sixties brought about an incursion of roughnecks who persisted in getting drunk at the dance and making disturbance and engaging in fist fights, and after that the ball room was no place for grandparents and grandchildren….”51 When Webb’s family lived in Sheffield, his wife Elizabeth was instrumental in the establishment of the first church—a Methodist/Episcopal. “H.C. & Co. contributed generously in land, materials, and finance toward construction of the original church buildings.”52 Webb’s wife’s labor for her church must have come with some frustration. With itinerant ministers “traveling by foot or on horseback over trails through what was still a forest wilderness and then finding the congregations so ‘listless’ and ‘inattentive’ that one minister “turned a handspring” back of the pulpit, Elizabeth’s work showed her determination.53 The Hortons also supported schools, and by the 1880’s Kate and Celia Horton had become teachers. Still, into the 1870’s Sheffield was a rough place—an indication of the Horton men’s toughness to run such a place. The town was considered to be “morally corrupt” with the worst reputation in the county. Eventually with peace officers the “roughnecks” were brought under control. Both the church and school were burned and replaced by the Hortons, but there was suspicion of arson. There was a paternalistic system with the workers under the heavy guiding hand of the company. The laborers lived in boarding houses or homes owned by the company. They worked hard for low wages. Smith described the situation: In general working conditions in a tannery have never been considered ideal for those who have a particular dislike for the stench of decaying flesh and damp environment commonly associated with the manufacture of leather. Examination of the payroll records of the various tanneries place the average daily wage for labor in the neighborhood of $1.25, craftsmen such as carpenters receiving $2.00. Top men, the tannery superintendents, received $3.00 as their daily stipend. 54 “The years intervening between 1864 and 1880 were spent laying the foundations and getting the tanneries firmly established. Horton & Crary had acquired over 30,000 acres of timber and continued to purchase more.”55 While the workers toiled, and Webb’s family and in‐laws invested their energies to accommodate the burgeoning businesses in Sheffield—stores, tanneries, a gas company, a railroad, lumber mills and so on, the Hortons entered the 1880s with a vigor and optimism that was characteristic of the age. As Ron Chernow observed of John D. Rockefeller and the men of this period, “For them, 50. Smith, 440. 51. Smith, 440. 52. Ibid., 462. 53. Ibid., 460. 54. Ibid., 482. 55. Casler, 810.
15 work was the greatest adventure.”56 For the Hortons, the decade of the ‘80’s represented their greatest business expansion. And, Webb Horton (so well‐named “the guiding spirit” by Sheffield historian Bruce Smith} was everywhere. In a Warren Mail commentary from Bellefonte “Watchman,” there was this February 17, 1880 appraisal of the tanneries: The largest single tannery is that of the Wilcox Tanning Co. at Wilcox, Elk Co. Next comes Horton, Crary & Co. at Sheffield, Warren County. Osterhaut Tannery and Ridgway and Grant Horton & Co. of the same place are next in importance. The four are the largest tanneries in the state and all are situated on the line of the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad. These works consume about six hundred thousand hides annually. The amount of bark to tan one hundred bales is nine cords, and the average price paid for bark delivered at the tanneries is $3.50 per cord. To run these tanneries upwards of fifty thousand cords are required annually. The Tionesta tannery in Sheffield was now in operation, so there was a third tannery to stock with hides from which to sell finished leather. Webb’s New York office with his clerk was busy. For part of the decade, Horton, Crary and Co. continued to deal with Bullard & Company of New York and Massey and Janey of Philadelphia. Into the 1880’s, though, the notations in Webb’s memorandum books list transactions with G .B. Horton, his nephew’s company. In addition, the Hortons frequently made their own inspections of hides. The principal Hortons—Walter, George, and Isaac—were often at the H.C. & Co. office and inspected the bales of hides on the East River docks before bidding. While the men in the New York Swamp were compatible, they were also competitive, so there was usually a price war on hides that had not been previously agreed upon with sellers, often represented by ship owners. In addition to buying hides, the Hortons frequented the Astor House, where, like Webb, they gleaned information about the markets. Also, they interacted with other tanners from established companies, such as the Hoyts and the Palens. For example, in a memorandum book, Webb noted lunch with William Palen at the Union League Club. Seldom, now, did Webb make purchases for the Sheffield stores. He did, however, continue to travel to buy land, and he handled arrangements once an agreement with an owner was reached. Still, the land was cheap. Early in the 1880’s, the Hortons became interested in drilling oil wells. It was not long ago, in 1859, in nearby Venango County, when “Edwin L. Drake ‘struck oil’ near Titusville, thus giving North American its first commercial oil well and starting the petroleum industry.”57 From then on, many oil wells were drilled all over the area, including Warren County. “The most famous oil field ever found in Warren County was the Cherry Grove area” 58(six miles west of Sheffield)…and the Hortons were there. 56. Ron Chernow, Titan: The Life of John d. Rockefeller, Sr. (New York: Random House, 1998), 98. 57. Ernest Miller, The History & Development of the Petroleum Industry in Warren County, Pennsylvania: 1859‐ 1959 ( Danville, Pennsylvania: Northwestern Pennsylvania Historical Study Number Five, Yesnaby Publishers, 1983), 8. 58. Ibid., 48.
16 Early in 1882, “word was broadcast about a new well at Cherry Grove on tract 646”59 This “646 mystery”…”was carefully guarded and scouts were to find the derrick tightly boarded.”60 The trade reasoned from past experience that the well was probably good but the owners were withholding the news, purposely stalling for time while they purchased and leased additional land in the vicinity. Late March saw this stalling rumor crystallize into truth as Horton, Crary and Company, tanners at Sheffield, and owner of large blocks of Cherry Grove land, sold over 1,000 acres for one‐eighth royalty plus cash payments of over $!50,000 as bonus.61 Eventually, the mystery gusher “yielded over 2,000 barrels daily.”62 “Oil men, always optimists paid fabulous prices for drillable acreage close to productive territory…. The incoming hoard knew but did not care that “646” had wrecked the oil market and had caused crude oil to finally reach its lowest price in twenty years.”63 To enter this surprise region two plank roads were used and long wagon lines were common; some days 500 teams traveled the roads. Horton’s plank reached the field from Sheffield….for single teams the toll was twenty cents, for double teams thirty cents, and for heavier loads of boilers and casings, two dollars was charged.64 Cherry Grove was a rough arena with men acting as scouts and both owners and information seekers armed with guns. There were also the groups trying to earn monies on the side. The Hortons “stayed their course.” It had required twenty‐two years to find thirty wells yielding over 1,000 barrels each day in the Pennsylvania region, yet Cherry Grove alone had come up with a majority of these within three months.65 Just how many wells the Hortons drilled for themselves is difficult to appraise. In spring 1880 Webb Horton noted purchases of land in Cherry Grove for $6 or $7 an acre; at the time their intent was acquisition of hemlock bark land; there was a second entry for a Cherry Grove lot. The Horton interest in oil was noted in his trip with Thomas Kane. Webb went to Blue Jay, a place south of Sheffield, to join Brig. Gen. Thomas Kane from the town ten miles east; Webb stated: “Went to Foxes with Gen. Kane to see the Blue Jay well shot.” A few days later: “Blue Jay well reported shot dead…99 ft. oil.” Then, in the spring and summer of 1882, Webb made several notations about Cherry Grove: “Went to see lot 635 & 646,”…”run out 660,” “run out 680 in the forenoon & 30 acres of 635 in the afternoon,” “went with party of engineers to survey out lot 589,” “then went to wells of 611, 618, and 619.” The Cherry Grove strike was so well known in the country that Harper’s Weekly sent an artist reporter. There, in Garfield, a town that sprang from no one to 3,000 inhabitants, is a picture of a dinner tent along with accommodations for the men, and , of course, the derricks. Webb noted that while eating dinner in such a tent, on lot 619, he was almost hit by lightening followed by a loud thunderclap. He recorded a stay at a Camp House for 85 cents and three dinners at Garfield for $1.50. 59. Ibid., 49. 60. Ibid., 50. 61. Ibid., 50 62. Ibid., 71. 63. Ibid., 73. 64. Ibid., 73. 65. Ibid., 74.
17 There was rumor that the Hortons were part of the early formation of the original Texas Company, known as Texaco. Ernest C. Miller, the area’s oil expert, explained that the forerunner of Texaco was The Texas Fuel Company which went into business on January 2, 1902. The Hortons were not mentioned as early organizers. However, men who were involved in a nearby oil company, Rockwell, Lewis, and Lapham, also tanners, did become part of the Texas Company. The Hortons did not lose their interest in oil wells. There were other notations of wells in Warren and nearby counties in Webb’s memorandums. In a letter, written by Walter Horton, there is mention of an “oil meeting” in New York City in which he participated. William C. Casler’s comment in his book about the Tionesta Valley is worth noting: “Oil was found in the area. The company (H.C. & C.) drilled wells and produced considerable oil. The discovery generated considerable excitement and activity along the Tionesta Valley. Naturally Sheffield shared in this prosperity, but never lost its status as a tannery and sawmill town. The Hortons and Crarys, regardless of other interests never deviated from their original plans of a leather empire.”66 In order to increase their tanneries’ production, the Hortons needed to get deeper into the forests to obtain more bark. Casler explained: The rapid growth of their business was fast approaching the point where a railroad was needed to serve company interests. With their usual foresight, plans were laid well in advance to be ready to execute at the proper time. A charter was obtained September 9, 1879, authorizing the building of fifteen miles of 36 inch gauge railroad…. It was appropriately named the Tionesta Valley Railroad. The capital stock authorized was $100,000 with… President, Walter Horton, vice president, Webb Horton….67 In his Memorandum on January 1, 1882, Webb wrote: “Our first rolling Stock for TVRR 2 boxes and 2 gondolas arrived here.”
Casler quoted the Warren Ledger about the TVRR’s first run: Tuesday, January 17, 1882, engine, No. 1…was placed on the road. Its name is the Wild Pigeon…a nice passenger coach and about 20 freight cars, all in use and more expected.68 By January 1883 “the increasing business taxed the capacity of the “Wild Pigeon” and a new locomotive, the “Black Bear” was purchased. “The new engine was a big boilered 2‐6‐0 mogul designed for heavy work and for the next fifteen years handled most of the freight trains.”69 The stock was sold publically; the Tionesta Valley Railroad was a Horton, Crary and Co. concern.
Webb’s business travels extended into the South to help his son Eugene build a tannery in Johnson City, Tennessee. Webb’s first trip took place in spring 1882. “In connection with S. H. Yocum (Charles’s son‐in‐law), Eugene Horton and Henry Gildersleeve , (Webb’s and Charles’ nephew), under 66. Casler, 807. 67. Ibid., 812. 68. Ibid., 813. 69. Ibid., 818.
18 the firm of Horton, Yocum, & Co., the Watauga tannery was built at Johnson City, Tennessee…. The Watauga oak sole leather was sold in New York by G .B. Horton and Eugene Horton, doing business as Horton & Co. Soon after this, G.B. Horton, Eugene Horton, H.R. Gurd and William Gurd (brother‐in‐law of Webb and Charles) bought the New Creek Tannery in Mineral County, West Virginia.”70 During the 1880’s Webb made many trips to both tanneries; often his wife and daughter accompanied him to visit with relatives. Webb even traveled to New Orleans to see Watauga leather at the 1884 Exposition. The Watauga leather was tanned with chestnut and oak bark. Back in Sheffield the operations continued. In late 1882, Smith noted a “foundation laid for a long needed boarding house near the school house.”71 Also, in 1883 George and Isaac Horton purchased the Arroyo Tannery, south along the Clarion River. Then, in 1884, the Hortons expanded further in Pennsylvania by purchasing the Brookston tannery, seven miles south of Sheffield, for $16,000. It had been built in the early 1870’s by Henry J. Brooks, from a well‐established New York Swamp tanning family. He invested in houses and stores and attempted to set up a tanning community, but his enterprise failed. His business was set too deeply into the forest, with insufficient outside connections. By the time the Tionesta Valley’s line reached Brookston, Brooks had given up. The Hortons renamed it the Forest Tannery and made considerable improvements. The May 2, 1888 Warren Ledger explained that the Hortons “will rebuild the tannery and put two hundred men to work within the next few weeks.” Webb acted as director. In their last big venture of the decade, Walter Horton opened an office in Boston, at 107 South Street. Walter did not move into the area; he placed Lane Schofield, husband of Lizzie McNair (Walter’s niece) as manager. There was abundant correspondence in letters to and from Horton, Crary & Co., Walter Horton & Co. and others from 1887‐1890. Letterhead from their stationary is attached to this paper.72 Bruce Smith explained that the Boston office “offered close business relationships with the immense New England boot and shoe trade, and was no doubt created expressly for that purpose, though here as elsewhere any matter pertaining to the leather industry was given every attention.”73 At the end of the 1880’s, Horton, Crary & Co. bought an interest in the tanning property at Salamanca, New York, operated by James Horton, brother of Webb. Known as “Uncle Webb” in the New York Swamp by relatives and fellow tanners, his name was a frequent notation in the office letters of New York and Boston such as “Uncle Webb was here today.” In Sheffield Webb was seen as the “senior partner.” In this town, the very base of the Hortons’ operations, there was the discrepancy between the affluent Hortons and the poor workers. The Horton “tannery ring,” so described by the Warren papers played influential roles in their community. They were Justices of the Peace, Inspectors, Road Commissioners, School Directors, Post Masters, Assessors, Treasurers, Auditors, and overall staunch Republicans.
In their business roles, they displayed reserve. In a March 14, 1884 article, a Warren Ledger
70. Smith, 79‐80. 71. Smith, 82. 72. Attachment 2. 73. Ibid., 475.
19 reporter detailed the large holdings of Horton, Crary and Company in Sheffield. While the reporter noted their “large number of book‐keepers, eight or ten, and about sixteen clerks, he stopped with any declaration of finances. “We must not go into a detailed statement of Horton, Crary & Co’s business— first, because it is not known, and second, because they do not care to have it known.” The news papers did report the social affairs and travels of the Hortons and in‐laws, but it was doubtful that the public was fully aware of the extent of their wealth. In the 1880’s, the Hortons turned their attention in Sheffield to building new houses. In November 1885, the Warren Mail reported: “Walter Horton is just finishing one of the finest houses in Warren Co. It is all that good taste, fine workmanship, and money can make it.” By August of 1890, “George Horton’s magnificent new house is nearly completed. Probably its superior is not found in Warren.” On one of his trips to Chicago, George had taken particular interest in a house and hired the architect, Alfred Smith, to work on his design for Sheffield. The Hortons supported the schools throughout their residency in Sheffield. They became shareholders in a new opera house, that, according to a July 22, 1885 Warren Mail report, seated two hundred twenty. Unfortunately, like the church and schoolhouse, which had previously burned and were rebuilt, the opera house didn’t last long before it too was burned, taking part of Charles Sigel’s house with it. There was suspicion of arson. Along with other merchants, the Hortons were able to maintain a variety of stores. So, Sheffield had merchant tailors and even a photograph gallery. Overall, though, even with the hiring of peace officers in the previous decade, Sheffield was a rough tannery town; thus, maintaining their “paternalistic” control showed the Horton’s toughness in more than their business operations. The temperance movement had only brief success, and there was heavy drinking by the workers in the evenings into the nights. A reporter from the Warren Mail stated that in May of 1886: “the bark peelers and their assistants aided by beer, make our evenings anything but quiet.” In an earlier description, “The merry bark peeler is around no more. Like all things in nature they come on their season and take to their beer and whiskey as naturally as a cat to milk.” Unfortunately, the evening drinking often led to fights and a statement such as: “Beer has blossomed out into a street stabbing” was common. The men fought with knives, and face cuttings were frequent. On July 10, 1883, the Warren Mail reported: “Mr. Walter Horton of Sheffield don’t stand for any foolishness. Monday evening of last week a drunken park peeler was ordered to leave the premises. He quickly fired 3 shots with a revolver at Mr. H. who knocked him down and held him until an officer arrived. Luckily nobody was hit by the bullets.” Then, on August 3, of the same year, the Warren Ledger stated that Webb was shot at: The person fired at…by an intoxicated individual…was no less a personage than the senior member of the firm of Horton, Crary and Co. The person who made such a free and improper use of firearms on being called to an account on the following morning asserted that he did not fire to kill or cripple—his only object being to scare. Mr. Horton, however, did not scare worth a cent; but he proved as generous as he was brave, permitting his assailant on professing penitence and promising to behave better in the future, to go off to his work.
20 The life for workers in the tannery was not easy. The wage, $1.15 to $1.25 per an eleven hour day, had to stretch to pay for the necessities sold in the company town. At one point in the decade, when leather sold for less, the Hortons lowered the wage. Even beyond the low pay, was the danger of the work; serious accidents happened. In late 1883 the Warren Ledger described an accident when a tannery fireman “accidentally fell” into a tan bark feeder and became wedged in…. “His lower extremities were entirely burned off, leaving his trunk black and charred.” Later in the decade two men, who were walking on planks over “vats filled with boiling liquor” slipped and fell into the vats. One man survived, but was burned badly; the other died. 74 Like other factories around the country, the Hortons encountered problems with labor organizations; in Sheffield, the Knights of Labor were active. In an August 17, 1888 report to the Warren Mail, a sympathetic writer described the plight of tannery workers who were thrown out of their homes because of their involvement with the Knights of Labor. “Walter declared that he will hire no more Irish, only Swedes.” After much action, though, the Hortons eventually negotiated with one of the Knights of Labor leaders and peace was restored. Around the same time, there was labor trouble in Manhattan. Kibbilious, the clerk in the Horton, Crary & Co. office wrote: “Am quite likely to have to hold up on everything all around by tomorrow or Sat as this confounded striking business is getting pretty….33000 longshoremen and cart men …quit today and all S.S. lines who are doing anything are with green hands and few of them.” 75 Following the longshoremen were the Pennsylvania Railroad men who threatened a strike unless their demand “for a advance of from 3c to 7c per hr… is met.” Also, Kibbilious wrote: “There are very strong threats of general street car stops and that the gas electric light men will quit for sympathy.” 76 Generally, the Hortons were so much a part of this industrial period that they experienced the same challenges as other entrepreneurs. Toward the end of the 1880’s were the labor conflicts, both at home and in New York City. The workers themselves, whether in delivery or transportation or leather work fought back over their economic conditions. The gap between wealthy and poor was wide. In the 1880’s Webb took three extensive trips. He carefully recorded places and events in his memorandum and cash books. The first, from June 23, 1880 to September 4, 1880 was a mix of business with sightseeing. He took along his wife and children and a couple cousins; they met Ike, the cousin who sold the Horton leather abroad and Reiber, their sales representative in Europe. The party traveled through the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Scotland, England, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. The men visited leather dealers in the cities and sold Horton leather. They communicated with the Sheffield office by cable. The party stayed at expensive hotels, the “Grand” hotels, wherever they could find them. They were ardent sightseers. Webb wrote about a climb at Chamonix, Switzerland: “Went up to the Montevart 630 ft. high & Ice Mountains and Rocks 2 or 3 thous. ft—Then crossed the Mer de Glace & could see the streams of moving mass of Ice for Several Miles above [.] we came down on the right side of the glacier past the Manvias Pass where we had to hang to the Iron Rods fastened on the 74. Warren Mail, April 19, 1887. 75. Letter, January 27, 1887. 76. Letter, January 31, 1887.
21 Rocks.” Seldom did Webb complain. Usually, there were comments about pleasant days such as “very fine day” or “delightful spring day.” Even when the situation was difficult, he persevered. For example, on the voyage home on the Steamship Gallia, Webb noted: “a very heavy sea causing the ship to pitch & dive—but it did not roll side wise as bad as it did this afternoon.” In 1884, Webb traveled with his wife, daughter, a friend, and Mr. & Mrs. Horace Crary to California. They traveled in Palace Cars, when they could, and stayed at the best hotels. In St. Louis and Kansas City, Webb bought hides for the tanneries. The group took in Santa Fe, The Rio Grande, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Oakland, San Francisco, San Hose, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Des Moines, Milwaukee, and Chicago. The trip lasted almost three months, and Webb recorded the cost at $2420 for his family. Then, in the next year, Webb traveled throughout Europe again, this time selling Horton and Watauga leather from the Johnson City tannery. His sales were extensive, so he devised codes for his cablegrams: for example, “ABLE: Your message rec’d & will go at once.” He was referring to a leather order. The dangers traveling by ship in this era could be observed in Webb’s notes: “5th day at sea—we almost ran into a Norwegian ship in the night [.] she was crossing in front…without any lights out…. 7th day most disagreeable fog horn blowing at intervals all night.” In 1887, the final trip of the decade was to Mexico—for the Hortons to talk business with the Mexican President Dias. They traveled from Washington through Florida to New Orleans to San Antonia to Chihuahua, where their baggage was looked over at Pasodel Norte. They viewed the sights, while spending seven days at San Carol and met with the President Dias & the Minister of State, M Mascal. No doubt the Hortons wanted to purchase more Mexican hides. It was a forty‐five day trip by train. In New York, Webb took advantage of the entertainment. He frequented Manhattan Beach, even taking in the moving of Manhattan Beach Hotel. Often, he was at Coney Island, to watch the evening fireworks. He and his wife took carriage rides through Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn and in Central Park. The Hortons stayed at the Normandy, the Metropolitan Hotel, the Westminster, and the 7th Avenue Hotel. Sometimes, Webb booked Carrie and his wife for a week or two‐week stays. He recorded $50 or $100 for their city expenses. All of the Hortons attended theaters regularly; these included the Windsor, the Union Square, Daileys, the Lyceum, Wallacks, and Madison Square. Webb also enjoyed other events such as Barnum’s Shows, dog‐walking events in Asbury Park, horse shows at Madison Garden and the Buffalo Bill Wild West specticals. At much as he enjoyed the city, his return to Middletown was quite regular. If his house was closed for the winter, he stayed at the Russell House in Middletown. He shopped for the best horses and drove his phaeton about town. As busy as the 1880’s were for all the Horton men with their business expansions, Webb himself never lost his commitment to his family. For his wife and children, his financial generosity was evident: expensive clothing and jewelry such as a diamond pin for $598.97 and a dress for Carrie at $130. He noted every time that Carrie and Eugene returned to their Middletown home. He was close to his brother Charles and his wife Betsy and their children. When Charles’ son Mell died in 1887, Webb was beside him. Both Charles and Webb continued their support of Agnes and Will Morrison. The visits
22 among their homes were frequent and Charles and Webb purchased the Morrison’s farm goods. Webb bought 1000 mile train tickets for more than business; he checked on “the folks” in Liberty Falls Sheffield, Hancock, Salamanca, and Buffalo. By the end of the seventies, Webb had already lost his son; the eighties brought about the deaths of his mother in 1884 and three brothers: Homer (1883), Ray (1884) and Ovid (1887). On April 30, 1888 Webb moved his office to 78 Gold Street. It was here in the New York Swamp that these tanners and leather merchants began the decade of the 1890’s—one that was quite different from the previous. It began with a new venture and more travel for Webb. Outside of Sheffield in the area of Deer Lick, the Hortons began drilling more wells on a new oil field; wells were “shot,” with a couple giving 60‐70 barrels an hour. In that same month, Webb traveled with a group of tanners to Washington to hold a session with the House Ways & Means Committee to protect a duty on imported hides. Webb continued to frequent the sites of any Horton business. Early in the year, Webb noted that he called on a Dr. Wilkin “to ask about medicine for Walter.” By the end of the year, Walter was seriously ill in Philadelphia where he stayed at the Hotel Lafayette while undergoing medical treatment. The Hortons rallied to Walter’s side and there were reports of his recovery. In the meantime, Webb received a telegram that his namesake, Charles Webb Morrison, had died on December 14, 1890. This was William and Agnes Morrison’s third child; the first, Hamilton Ray, died two weeks after birth. Remaining were Mary Frances and John Horton, who stayed close to Webb and Charles. Walter did not recover and he died in Philadelphia on January 31, 1891. Walter left his wife Hattie Lee and his daughter, Myra, who had married Louis Schoellkopf. The Horton’s other daughter, Cora, died shortly after their move to Sheffield; her burial prompted the move to a new cemetery on the hill above Sheffield. For Webb, Walter’s death was difficult. If Webb had been the “guiding spirit,” Walter had been the “driving force” behind the Hortons’ tannery empire. Earlier Walter had been on his way to success with the Hancock group, when in 1864 Webb persuaded him to build tanneries in the Pennsylvania wilds. Without Walter’s connections, the men could not have progressed. It was Walter who built and bought more tanneries, built two railroads, drilled oil wells, and opened the Boston office. Walter was one of the “tannery kings,” a phrase used by Shoe & Leather Reporter Frank Norcross. For a while, Webb continued his usual life style. He stayed at the Normandie in the city and attended his favorite theaters and other events. He stayed frequently at the Manhattan Beach Hotel. He vacationed with his family at Lake Mohawk and Lake Minnewaska. They traveled to Bar Harbor by cruise ship. In Boston, they spent their time sightseeing, and not much was recorded by Webb about the tannery business. Relatives visited the family in New York and in Middletown. Then, it could be discerned from his memorandums that Webb’s activities slowed. Webb stayed home more and during spring and summer, he gardened diligently and cared for his house and the surrounding fields. Not one to give into emotion, he appeared to be at work for renewal after Walter’s death. Webb’s journal for the next year is missing, but one could assume that he went about business again. Then, in March of 1893, George Horton died at the age of forty‐six. The Warren Mail reported that “always robust and in good health,” George was “troubled…with a sore throat that was a tumor of the throat.” He left his wife, Myra, who was originally from the nearby Barnes settlement and two sons
23 Byron and Melvin. Byron would inherit George’s large estate and go on to earn college degrees and become the Horton historian and genealogist. Like the death of Walter, George’s was a serious loss to Horton, Crary & Company. George had arrived in Sheffield once the first tannery was built and became an early partner. He was supervisor of four tanneries.
Like the others, George was well invested. Local historian Bruce Smith explained: All [the tanneries] were adjuncts to Horton, Crary & Company, as were numerous other subsidiaries situated elsewhere in northern Pennsylvania and New York. The subsidiary proprietors were for the most part either active partners in this controlling firm, or were participants through the media of interlocking directorates….77 While most industries of the same period were being amalgamated under the leadership of a single guiding genius, here we find many who, through diverse dispositions and temperaments, exhibited to an exceptional degree the ability to get along together and unite most successfully their efforts toward a single goal.78
Later in 1893, though, not only because of the loss of Walter and George, but also because of the tendency of the times for industries to consolidate, the Horton and Crary tanneries merged into The United Leather Company. No longer active in the businesses, Webb marked his retirement with the merger. In summarizing the large Horton enterprise, Frank Norcross in History of the Swamp wrote: “Here we have a record of about forty tanners, either Hortons or connected closely with the Horton family. This is the greatest tanning family the world ever saw. All were distinguished men and reached high positions in trade circles. “79 The United Leather Company merger did allow “those living at the time [to continue] in an active and executive capacity in the newly formed corporation.”80 James Horton served as President for a few years; Webb’s son Eugene served as a Director. At the writing of New York Swamp in 1899, Norcross described The United Leather Company as the “largest tanning organization every known…with more than a hundred tanneries… [and] a capital equal to $124,000,000.”81 Back in Sheffield, Webb sold Horton, Crary & Company property in January of 1897 to Jerry Crary for $320,000. Both the tanneries and the Central Lumber Company continued to operate into the 1920’s, when much of the Horton land was sold to the government to create the Allegheny National Forest. Webb, best known as Uncle Webb in the New York Swamp, visited his old haunts regularly. His son Eugene and his nephew G. B. Horton still maintained offices. The United Leather Company had its own office. For the remainder of the 1890’s Webb was very active. It was obvious that his first interest and that of his family was New York City. Once the Waldorf was completed in 1893, Webb, Elizabeth, and Carrie moved away from the Normadie Hotel, which had been their favorite in recent years. “The [Waldorf‐Astoria’s] hyphenated name suggested its origins as two buildings—the 11‐story Waldorf, built 77. Smith, 473. 78. Ibid., 481. 79. Norcross, 83. 80. Smith, 484. 81. Norcross , 74.
24 by William Waldorf Astor in 1893, and the 16‐ story Astoria, built by John Astor in 1897.”82 Located at 5th and 34th Streets, the Waldorf‐Astoria had more than 1300 rooms and was “the largest and most opulent hotel in New York.”83 In his journals Webb referred to both hotels. The family divided their time between the hotels and their Middletown home. As Elizabeth and Carrie grew accustomed to the luxury, their stays became longer. The hotels provided their own amusement, as dinners on the Astoria roof or concerts and charity balls. Eugene had a room at 61 West 32 Street, but he, as well as Horton friends and relatives, often engaged rooms of their own. Generally, whatever the wealthy New Yorkers did in the Gilded Age, the Hortons participated in also. There was entertainment at Madison Square Garden, such as a circus or sporting show. There were the Wild West Shows that Webb enjoyed. Even horse shows and dog shows claimed an elite audience. “The Garden’s colossal amphitheater—with 110 boxes and brilliant illumination from incandescent lamps—became home to elite affairs like the annual National Horse Show, the first big event of each season, and the Westminster Kennel Club Show.”84 In fact, in an 1898 journal entry, Webb noted that he had to find another hotel because the “Waldorf [was] full because of [the] horse show.” Like other New Yorkers, the Hortons loved the theater. It was not just the productions as audiences often talked rudely during the performances, but also the social scene that was the additional attraction. “The ‘legitimate stage’ had fled…to upper Broadway between 23rd and 42nd. The chain of theaters began with the Lyceum (1885) the first NY playhouse lighted by electricity, which had been personally installed by Edison.”85 Then, there were Daly’s, Wallack’s, “the Bayou, the Abbey, the Casino… and the Empire….”86 Webb and his family attended all of them. “For the most part, the content in these new playhouses was as respectable as their audience. The Lyceum was the favorite haunt of the Four Hundred who, dressed in formal attire, took in its drawing‐room dramas.”87 The Hortons were not part of the very elite Four Hundred, but their money helped to engage them in a lavish life style which brought them in touch with the rich New Yorkers. In addition to the theaters, there were musical events. “The Casino became the city’s new temple of light opera, drawing many patrons clad in the new tailless evening coat and the ‘tuxedo’”.88 Webb attended concerts at the Academy of Music and the 7th Regiment Armory. The Hortons also were part of the audience at the Metropolitan Opera, which opened in 1883. While Webb recorded ticket prices of $1.50 at the Lyceum, the Metropolitan tickets were $5. Webb also liked special events in the city, especially parades. There was the Grant Memorial Day Parade on April 10, 1897 and the “Naval Parade...being on account of the steam ships return from
82. Ric Burns and James Sanders, with Lisa Ades, New York: An Illustrated History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), 376. 83. Ibid., 377. 84. Burrows and Wallace, 1148. 85. Ibid., 1149. 86. Ibid. 87. Ibid. 88. Ibid.
25 the war” on August 20, 1893. Webb’s favorite and much attended event, though, was the fireworks’ display at Manhattan Beach. These were not ordinary fireworks. Among the things for which Coney Island became justly famous toward the end of the nineteenth century were the magnificent fireworks displays which lit up the skies for miles on summer evenings. [One particular] display was an historical tableau with live actors, depicting scenes from The Last Days of Pompeii, complete with an artificial lake in front of a high stage setting. Accompanied by appropriate music, the presentation was climaxed by fireworks representing the destruction of the city by the eruptions of Mt. Vesuvius.89 Webb and his relatives stayed at the Manhattan Beach Hotel, built “on extensive grounds…like a summer palace…. [The owner} catered to a top‐notch crowd.”90 If he was not staying overnight, often Webb took the Iron Steamboat to Coney Island for the day. Eugene, who maintained his office in the city, was an active member of the 7th Regiment, “the elite’s crack militia.”91 Webb noted: “Eugene to camp at Peekskill.” Also, Eugene was a member of the Union League. “Launched on February 24, 1863… by war’s end the Union League Club embraced eight hundred of the city’s most wealthy and well established merchants, lawyers, bankers, and professionals.”92 Carrie was often with her parents, but she also traveled with her cousins, Carrie Radeker, Alice Conkling, and Myranelle Radeker, throughout Europe. The young women visited the Grand Hotels. They showed a particular preference for Austria. A collection of postcards, dated early 1901 to late 1903, to Carrie from cities in Austria indicated a close relationship to a Schultz family and Lieutenant Otto Schultz, in particular. (The Lieutenant visited the Hortons in New York and Pennsylvania.) There were romantic inscriptions in the postcards, especially from a Lieutenant Basket who told Carrie: “My heart is yours.” At home in Middletown, Webb and Elizabeth were quite social. There were the usual interactions with close relatives, but other Middletown names were written in Webb’s memorandums as well. The Hortons’ attendance at the Bull wedding on December 9, 1895 showed their connections. Webb enjoyed local fairs. They vacationed at the Mohonk Mountain House. The Hortons liked traveling up the Hudson River on the popular Mary Powell Steamship. When Webb was home, he had his dog Nero with him; otherwise, when Webb was in the city, Nero was boarded. Nero was not a well‐behaved dog as there were Webb’s notations about Nero’s biting someone. At one point, Webb settled with a victim for $200. Often, Webb sent John Morrison, who had become Webb’s all‐around assistant, to retrieve Nero from his boarders in Astoria. During one instance on the way home by train and then by horse & carriage, John reported that Nero bit the horse. Nevertheless, Webb seemed to be quite fond of him, and the dog’s prominence can be observed in a picture of the mansion construction.
89. John Grafton, New York in the Nineteenth Century: 317 Engravings from Harper’s Weekly and Other Contemporary Sources (Dover Publications, Second Edition, 1980), 127. 90. Ibid., 943. 91. Burrows and Wallace, 763. 92. Ibid., 887.
26 Among the family’s expenses was their very persistent doctors’ care. Webb was obsessive with doctor visits, and any kind of illness necessitated several doctor visits, whether in their Middletown home or in a city hotel. Webb’s throat and sinus problems sent him to a New York doctor almost seventy times in one year. Nineteenth century medical practices, such as burning his nostrils or “electricity on neck or throat” or “took a piece of flesh and bone from left nostril,” or treated “with acetic acid” as recorded in his journals, didn’t seem to be helpful as his annoying conditions prevailed. When Elizabeth was ill, Webb employed a live‐in nurse. Webb kept up family visits and arranged family reunions. There was one at Niagara Falls in 1897 and one in Liberty in 1898 at Wawonka and another in 1899. He continued his travels, often with family and friends. In 1893, a group went to the World’s Fair in Chicago. When Webb traveled, he got off the train, found a hotel, and went sightseeing. For example, in 1894, on a trip to Florida, he left the train at Asheville and explored the city. He wrote: “out to the Vanderbilt place in P.M.” and the next day, “I went walking to Oakland Hts. & around by Biltmore.” In Florida, he moved about, stayed at Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine, but visited West Palm Beach and other towns as well. On the way home through Washington, he visited the Smithsonian Institute. He noted: “Had carriage with Irish Poet to Red Top and around the city.” In 1895 he took a month and a half long trip to Alaska with Carrie. His memorandum writing was delightful because he was so taken in by the scenery. He and Carrie began their adventure at New York’s Grand Central Station and traveled mostly by train, but at times, on steamboats to Montreal, Windsor, Regina, Vancouver, Victoria, the Grand Muir Glacier and back to Victoria. Near the Glacier of the Selkirk, he wrote: “went through the Grandest Scenery imaginable through the Grand Canon.” The Hortons returned through the United States from Seattle through Spokane, Billings, Fargo, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Albany. Webb returned home with “1 Bulk Bear Robe 65,” “1 Beaver Dressed 14,” “1 seal undressed 10,” 1 state totem pole 5,” “White Fox Skin $7,” “Silver Tip Bear$65,” and “Red fox 8.” Later, he wore his bear robe in the city. Not one to miss an important cultural event, he recorded that in Portland on August 7, 1895, “Went to Mark Twain’s lecture at Themarovan across the street.” In 1896, Webb and Elizabeth, Charles, Cal, Byron, Hattie, and Harry went to Florida. Again, they stayed at the Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine for twenty‐two days at the cost of $396.50. On the way home, Webb stopped at Ashville and wrote, “had 3 seat carriage to go to Vanderbilt’s.” Their stay at the Battery Park Hotel included such “extras” as champagne and claret to a bill of $521.27. They stopped also in Johnson City to visit relatives. This trip lasted over a month. A few months later, Webb traveled to Boston and back through the Catskills. He visited the Catskill Mt. House, the Kaaterskill House and the Laurel House, lake and falls, but he stayed at the Mt. Hotel in Tannersville. This was a twenty‐two day trip, one of the least expensive at $544.12. In 1897, he took a nephew June for a short trip to Florida and a cruise to Bermuda. On the ship, he noted: “June in State Room most of time. I had Chief Steward’s Room.” Later in the year, the family went to Nova Scotia; Webb listed stops at Halifax, Moosehead Lake, Newport, Algonquin, St .Andrews, St. John, Prince Edward Cottage, Quebec, and Montreal. In 1898 there was a month and a half trip to the West Indies, taking in Bermuda, St. Croix, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad, St. Kilts,
27 and Jamaica. They returned within a month for the Horton reunion at the International Hotel at Niagara Falls. The Hortons were sufficiently wealthy that it appeared that no undertaking was beyond their means. After the merger of Horton, Crary and Co. with United Leather, Webb established his own investments, buying stocks and bonds regularly. He was heavily invested in the United Leather Company. His other investments were spread widely. For example, he bought $10,000 of New York City school bonds, “1829 shares of one dollar each stock of Penna Oil Co No 588,” “Brooklyn Wharf & Warehouse Bonds,” “war bonds,” preferred stock sold by Strong Sturges & Co, and “$15,000 B & O South Western Bonds.” His brokerage firm was “Heidebach, Ichelkeimer & Co” in the city. He kept his papers in the Nassau Vault at 5th Ave. Safe Deposit Vaults. Unfortunately, after the untimely deaths of Walter and George Horton, more deaths followed later in the decade. The brother with whom Webb had always been closest, Charles Horton, died on November 3, 1896. Right after, on December 3, 1896, Charles Lamkin, his brother‐in‐law and proprietor of the Lee House in Sheffield, died. Mark Hoyt, one of the most influential tanners in the city, died on January 2, 1897. (While Webb & his brothers came to the New York Swamp later than many of the established families, the Hortons’ success brought them close to these earlier families—the Hoyts, Palens, and Schultzes, for example.) In a further blow to the tanning industry, James Horton, President of United Leather, died on September 12, 1899. Isaac Horton, the last of the influential Hortons in Warren County, Pennsylvania, died on June 16, 1899. (Isaac’s death was personally sad for his immediate family because shortly after his death, his wife died while caring for their children, one of whom was ill with scarlet fever. The Isaac Horton family never had the chance to move into their new home.)93 In 1900, Webb Horton was seventy‐four years old. In the next years, 1900 to 1904, for which his “memorandum and cash books” exist, Webb was quite active. His usual optimism was evident. A recorded comment such as “a very fine salubrious day and beautiful evening” was typical. There were visits to Elizabeth and Webb’s home from relatives and friends; Carrie and Eugene came home regularly. Eugene had his city apartment. Webb and his wife continued to divide their time between their house in Middletown (or for Webb, the Russell House) and the Waldorf‐Astoria in the city. At times, members of the Horton clan stayed at the Waldorf and socialized. In the city, whatever difficulties Webb encountered, usually bad falls from negotiating transportation vehicles or a thief trying to steal his watch, were met with quick recovery. There were the weddings and funerals that Webb and his family attended. His children did not marry. Their cousins did, and an occasional wedding within the large tanning family indicated the almost dynastic ambitions that the Hortons held. Mrs. Horton bought generous wedding gifts, spending $90 to $200. John Morrison was married on May 14, 1904 at the Episcopal Church in Middletown. John and his mother Agnes and sister Mary were not only frequent visitors to Elizabeth and Webb, but John 93. It is now a bed and breakfast in Warren, and the plain large glass window at the top of the stairs is a reminder that a Tiffany, most likely included in plans, never arrived. Two large homes in Sheffield, Walter’s rambling clapboard, and George’s tall, intricately‐designed Victorian, are still maintained.
28 was paid by Webb for his assistance. Unfortunately, Webb lost several business associates during these years, most notably, Louis Schllokopf, whose partnership was established early in Sheffield and G. B. Horton, his son’s partner and the nephew whom Webb supported and dealt with closely in the tanning business. G. B. Horton died in 1902. In Middletown Webb’s favorite activity was driving around town with his horse and carriage; he wrote of his horse Pansy, although he frequently shopped for new horses, with deliberate scrutiny. The problem he encountered was finding horses that didn’t “shy” at the train whistles at Middletown stations. As for other interests, he paid pew rent of $12.50 per quarter at the Presbyterian Church. His generosity was noted with an occasional $5 gift to the Salvation Army or the Old Ladies Home, but Horton philanthropy occurred after Webb’s death. He attended local events such as county fairs and Republican meetings, but he favored events in New York City. These events were quite diverse. As mentioned previously, his attendance at the city’s theaters was customary, and he attended in style. An order from his personal tailor was $110 for an evening suit and tuxedo coat. He attended fancy balls such as a “Carnival…in Astoria Ball Room. On January 1, 1901, “Mrs. Horton and Carrie went to Ball given by G.B. Horton’s girls as the Assembly Rooms.” As usual, there were the fireworks at Manhattan Beach, horse & dog shows, Barnum Bailey performances, Buffalo Wild West shows, military shows in Madison Square Garden and parades. In fact, the Hortons were prominent enough in the city to have an occasional special box. For example, on April 2, 1902, for the laying of the corner stone of The Grant Memorial, Webb wrote: “had GVHs Ticket to Grand Stand & then a little after one had a good seat where I could hear and see all [.] Gen. Porter spoke then Pres. Harrison.” In New York and in Middletown, a pattern of Webb’s behavior was evident. Around home, he rode about town in his horse and carriage or was driven by his coachman. Then, in the city he stayed at the Waldorf, often ate at the Fulton Fish market and went to the Nassau St. Deposit vaults or the Mercantile Safe Deposit Vault to check on his investment papers and to clip the interest coupons that were due. Often, he made deposits at banks such as Chase National Bank. Webb’s investments continued to be quite varied. Still, there was the Preferred United States Leather Company. There were Western Union Telegraph Company bonds, Pennsylvania Gas Company stock ( of which the Hortons sold a million dollars), Orange County Telephone, Howell Henchman Tannery Company, American Hawaiian Steamship bonds, U.S. government bonds, many railroad stocks, and so on. There were two trips. The first one was to Mexico early in the 1900’s. For a little over a month, Webb and Carrie traveled by train from Chicago to San Antonio and around Mexico. They returned through Nevada and Colorado and through Chicago again. Then, early in 1902, Webb traveled with Elizabeth and Carrie to the “Orient.” They sailed on the S.S. Celtic to ports where they often disembarked on small boats to get on land to sight see. At times, they dealt with rough waters. Their trip took in Madeira, Gibraltar, Algiers, Valetta Malta, Athens, Constantinople, Smyrna, Jerusalem, Jericho, Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor, Naples, Rome, Corsica, Nice, Liverpool, and London. This “Orient” trip lasted almost three months.
29 Throughout these early years of the 1900’s, Webb’s main interest was building what he called his “new house,” but what is now referred to as the “mansion.” He and his family moved to the Bump House, so his former house could be moved. The architect, Frank Lindsey, (whose name had appeared in earlier memorandums) was often with Webb on South Street to discuss the building’s progress. When the basement was finished, Webb had a copper box placed in the front right corner. A copy of the page from Webb’s memorandum on which he listed the contents is attached to this paper. 94 As the building progressed, Webb wrote checks, which he gave to Eugene for the workers. There were notes of progress such as “men putting iron beam on first floor of house” and “Roebling men commenced…wire arches for concrete floor.” There are no “memorandum and cash books” beyond 1904. Webb Horton was a remarkable man. He had the advantage of an early American heritage with the spark of Yankee ingenuity. As a young man his interest in business was supported by his immediate family and his community. Once he understood that the sole leather industry could bring him financial success, Webb never wavered from his ambitious enterprises. He showed what could be achieved in the post‐Civil War industrial period. Webb’s other commitment was his family—one as steady as his love of the world of business. In his early life, Webb adapted to a very primitive wilderness environment. Later, he was comfortable with the culture and wealth of New York City. He traveled widely. Like other wealthy men of the era, Webb left a mansion and an estate to mark the pinnacle of his success.
94. Attachment 3.