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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 273

              [newspaper clipping]
      SAMUEL WILKESON.
  �ON that panel of the square of granite cover-
ing the grave of Samuel Wilkeson, which faces
the harbor of Buffalo, is chiselled the epitaph
�Urbeno Condidit.�  He built the city of Buffalo
by building its harbor.�  A few days ago another
Samuel Wilkeson, the youngest son of the found-
er of a great city, was laid beside his father.  In
the memorial sketch of his father quoted above,
the Samuel Wilkeson who died at his home in
this city on December 2d, describes graphically
how the foundation of the city was laid.  Here
are a few sentences.  �The writer of this paper
is one of the few men living who looked on the
work.  As it were only yesterday he can remem-
ber being perched on his father�s shoulder as he
waded across the mouth of Buffalo Creek in su-
perintendency of the crib laying.  It was a ford
only waist deep to the tall man.  Ships holding
a hundred thousand bushels of grain move un-
der great sail where he carelessly carried a child.�
This reference is pertinent, because the number
of witnesses of the events of an important half-
century of our national history is rapidly grow-
ing less, especially of those who can give such
eloquent evidence as Mr. Wilkeson could of the
progress of the country during the last fifty years,
and also because it indicates the source from
which the subject of this notice derived a strong
public spirit.  Mr. Wilkeson was a patriot in
the best sense of the word.  He loved to address
his fellow-countrymen through the columns of
the daily press, and invariably for the purpose of
arousing them to the consideration of impor-
tant public questions.
  The best years of his life were spent, as were
those of his father, in advancing a great public
work.  When he had reached the age at which
his father secured to the city of Buffalo the west-
ern terminus of the Erie Canal, he was pushing
out through an almost unknown region, collect-
ing material that determined the construction of
a great transcontinental line�the Northern Paci-
fic Railroad.  He was largely responsible for the
development of that enterprise, especially at the
start, and he never lost faith in it.  For twenty-
one years he held the position of secretary of the
Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and though
the routine work that he performed and super-
vised in that capacity was enormous and most
efficiently done, yet it was really subordinate to
the service he rendered the enterprise in educat-
ing the public as to its character and the politi-
cal necessity for its success.
  Mr. Wilkeson was born in Buffalo in 1817,
graduated from Union College, was educated to
the bar under Daniel Cady, the traditional great
lawyer of New York State, and in 1840 admitted
to practise a profession from which he was al-
ways turning aside to write for a newspaper.
He was born a journalist.  In 1856 he started a
daily paper in Buffalo.  He gave it the name
Democracy, and its tone was characteristically
radical and liberal.  At the instance of Governor
W. H. Seward and Thurlow Weed he bought a
controlling interest in the Albany Evening Jour-
nal, but after two years of arduous work as edi-
tor-in-chief his health gave way.  When he had
recovered it, Horace Greeley invited him to a po-
sition on the editorial staff of the Tribune.  Soon
after the breaking out of the war he took charge
of the Washington bureau of that paper, and in               
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