Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Amazing Potter Family (no relation to Harry)!

In nineteenth century New York City, Potter was a household name, but not because of the Harry Potter novels! Alonzo Potter, seated towards left, and his 9 sons and sole daughter, were almost all renowned for their talent and public service.

Alonzo graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY, then married the daughter of Eliphalet Nott, then President of the College. Nott was an extremely intelligent man, known as an inventor and an able educator. Potter himself became a great educator, becoming Vice-President of Union College in 1838, then Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania in 1845, serving for 20 years until his death. His brother, Horatio, served as Bishop of New York from 1854 until 1887.

His eldest son, Clarkson Nott, seated to the right, helped raise his brothers and sister when their mother died. He trained as a lawyer, serving as US Representative (D) from New Rochelle, NY, where he owned a house overlooking Long Island Sound on Davenport's Neck. Known for his fairness and honesty, he was appointed by Congress to head the investigation into the presidential election of 1876, when fellow Democrat Hayes defeated NY's Samuel Tilden by dishonest means. Clarkson's home in NYC later became the Player's Club in Gramercy Park. (Coincidentally, Tilden's mansion was located right next door at 15 Gramercy Park and is now the home of the National Arts Club.)

Howard, standing, 2nd from right, was a NYC banker and was known for his philanthropy. "There were 3 men in New York who were concerned in the establishment of pretty much every important charity or intstitution for public improvement, like the Metropolitan Museum (of Art), which was organized..., namely, my brother Howard, Mr. William E. Dodge, and Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, Sr." said the youngest of the nine brothers. Howard also helped found the Museum of Natural History, the Children's Aid Society, and the N Y Orthopaedic Hospital.

Henry Codman, standing, 5th from left, followed in his father's footsteps and became a clergyman. He served as rector of Grace Church (see previous), beginning its history of outreach to NYC's needs. He then succeeded his uncle Horatio as Bishop of New York in 1887.

William Appleton, standing 3rd from right, became a well-known architect. His works include the Chancellor Green Library and Alexander Hall, both at Princeton University, as well as Christ Church in Oyster Bay, NY, where President Theodore Roosevelt served as a Vestryman. Edward Tuckerman, standing, far right, also became a renowned architect and was responsible for several buildings on the campus of Union College in Schenectady, the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled in New York City (which later became the Hospital for Special Surgery), and St. John's Episcopal Church in Yonkers.

Robert Brown, standing at far left, and James Neilson, standing to his right, served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Robert rose to the rank of Major General, and had helped saved the Union troops from complete rout at second Bull Run. He also served with distinction at Spotsylvania, the Wilderness, and Fredericksburg. His brother, James, achieved the rank of Colonel, and was also cited for his bravery.

Eliphalet Nott, standing, 4th from left, was an educator who served as President of Union College from 1871 until 1884, when he accepted the presidency of Hobart College. He helped revitalize Union College after the Civil War. Frank Hunter, the youngest, standing to the left of his father, wrote for the New York Herald, then later headed the choir at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Maria Louisa Thompson had the misfortune of losing her mother at birth, which had a lifelong effect on her. She married sculptor Launt Thompson, after which they moved to Florence, Italy. She wrote a number of magazine articles and hosted her brothers at her home when they visited Europe.

Information primarily from The Alonzo Potter Family, by Frank Hunter Potter, privately published in 1923.
See also: Selden, William K.. Alexander Hall, Home of Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University, 2004.

Photo from biography of Henry Codman Potter by George Hodges, New York, 1915.

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