Biography of Dean Richmond


ALTHOUGH a large part of the life of this distinguished citizen of the State of New York was passed in other localities, the fact that his home during many years was in Batavia and that his descendants are still residents of this place, renders it important that a brief account of his career shall find a place in these pages. He was born in the town of Barnard, Vt., on March 31, 1804, and was a son of Hathaway and Rachel Dean Richmond, who early migrated to that part of this State of New York now embraced in the corporate limits of Syracuse, Onondaga county, where his father was engaged in the early salt industry. Unfortunate in his business, the father removed to Mobile, Alabama, where he died, leaving a widow, two daughters and a son; the latter was Dean Richmond, who was then only fourteen years of age. The bereaved family were dependent upon their own exertions, and the young son promptly demonstrated his possession of those qualifications which were later to make him a power in the financial, railroad and political life of New York State, and enable him to win his way to the front ranks of his generation. He resolutely took up the business left by his father and with little to start with except a burden of debt and his capital of native health and vigor, he soon began to make his way against the obstacles that confronted him. The market for salt which had heretofore been somewhat limited, was soon greatly extended and enlarged under Mr. Richmondís energetic and enterprising operations, and it was not long before he was in receipt of a good income. With this business finally firmly established he turned to other large enterprises in which he commanded success. In 1842 he removed to Buffalo, where he established a commission and transportation business, dealing largely with the rapidly increasing products of the great West, which he forwarded to the eastern markets. To these operations he brought the sound judgment, untiring industry, and sagacious foresight of his advancing years, and in a few years he became one of the wealthiest and most. influential citizens of the lake region.

In the midst of his active business career Mr. Richmond made his first entry into railroad operations by being made a director in the Utica and Buffalo Railroad Company. With the completion of the direct line to Batavia he took up his residence in this village, where he afterwards built the handsome old mansion on Main street which is still the residence of members of his family. When the competition of rival railroad lines forced the consolidation of seven different companies into the New York Central Company in 1853, he was foremost in the struggle and his perseverance, ability, and influence carried the measure through the State Legislature. He was chosen the first vice-president of the company, and held that position until 1864, when he was elected president upon the retirement of Erastus Corning. His prominence and efficiency in railroad circles led also to his election as president of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern road, which position he occupied a number of years. During his connection with the New York Central the company placed the utmost reliance upon his counsel and never adopted extensive measures for improvement without his advice and approbation. He was the first American citizen to advocote laying steel rails. A trial was made and a large order sent to England, which was not filled until after his death. The vast importance of that measure can be fully appreciated at the present time.

The space available in these pages will not permit detailed mention of the great number of business undertakings with which Mr. Richmond was connected. It must suffice to state that in each one and on every occasion he made his power felt for its promotion and success. He was inherently the active and enterprising business man, to the exclusion of political or social ambition. While he believed it the duty of every good citizen to interest himself in politics to the extent of keeping close watch upon the tide of events, and to labor for the triumph of principles of which his conscience approved, he never was an office seeker. With broad views, a clear knowledge of the principles of Democracy, he easily grasped the various phases of national politics and made his influence felt in the councils of the Democratic party. He was long in full enjoyment of the unlimited confidence of his political associates and no man of his time possessed greater party power in this State. He served as chairman of the Democratic State Committee from 1857 to his death in 1866.

Mr. Richmondís mental powers were no less commendable than his innate goodness of heart. Many of his noble deeds of benevolence might be mentioned, which were so numerous that they became well known to the public, notwithstanding his aversion to such a result. In the summer of 1866, after attending the State convention at Saratoga, he accompanied Samuel J. Tilden on a trip to Washington and Philadelphia, returning to New York on the 18th of August. On the following day, while calling at the Tilden residence, he was stricken with illness which terminated fatally on the 27th of that month.

Mr. Richmond was for many years a familiar figure in Batavia, where he had hosts of friends. In the later years of his life it was his custom to attend to his business affairs in Buffalo, returning to his Batavia home twice in each week to enjoy the peace and comfort of his home circle. The Richmond Memorial Library, in Batavia, was a gift of Mrs. Mary E. Richmond, in memory of her son. Dean Richmond, jr., who died in 1865. The Richmond mansion is now occupied by his daughter, Mrs. Kenney.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Genesee County, New York
Edited by: F. W. Beers
J.W. Vose & Co., Publishers, Syracuse, N. Y. 1890



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