Charles A. Clinton and DeWitt Clinton, Sons of
George W. Clinton
P. M. Eckel, P.O. Box 299, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis,
Missouri, 63166‑0299; email: mailto:email@example.com
made the discovery that the Hon. George William Clinton was buried in Forest Lawn
Cemetery, Buffalo, New York,
and having prepared an on-line paper discussing this:
I discovered I
had made an error regarding one of George Clinton’s sons, DeWitt, indicating
that the grave stone with his name was a cenotaph and that he was buried in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
It was discovered, however, in another obituary, this reproduced below, that
his remains were actually taken back to Buffalo,
New York, and they are interred
at Forest Lawn.
Guy Clinton (1936), Judge G. W. Clinton had the following seven children,
four boys and three girls: DeWitt,
Charles A., Spencer, Catherine, Mary Natalie and George Clinton. Three of
George Clinton’s boys are buried in Forest Lawn
Cemetery - the girls
are most likely buried with their husbands, and not with the male line of the
Charles A., was not accounted for in Buffalo,
and that is because he is buried in Bellefontaine
Cemetery in Saint Louis. His obituary was published as
Evening, April 2, 1885
Summoned to Rest
Death of a Descendant of the Illustrious Clinton Family of New
Under the above heads the St.
Louis Republican of March 28th, had the following notice of the death of a
son of ex-Judge Clinton:
Mr. Charles A. Clinton, civil engineer, and
a member of the illustrious Clinton
family, died on Thursday, after a severe illness, at the residence of his
mother-in-law, Mrs. Rebecca Southard, on Fairfax Avenue. Notwithstanding his
intense suffering from a tumor, some of his friends who were present, say his
last hours were borne with patience and Christian fortitude.
He was 48 years of age and was born in Buffalo, N.Y.
He was the son of Judge George W. Clinton, late judge of the superior court
of Buffalo, who, with his wife, now reside in Albany (where the judge was
born) and is the grandson of the illustrious DeWitt Clinton, the projector of
the Erie canal, and who was not only eminent as a statesman, but occupied a
conspicuous rank as a man of learning, and died while governor of New York in
1828. His great grandfather, James Clinton, the father of DeWitt, marched
with Montgomery to Quebec,
and during the revolution rendered eminent services to his country, and was a
member of the convention for the adoption of the present constitution of the United States.
His grand uncle, George Clinton, served as brigadier-general in the
Continental army; was elected governor of New York in 1777, and continued in
the office eighteen years, was re-elected in 1801, and after filling the
executive chair three years, was elected vice-president of the United States,
retaining that position until he died in 1812.
Mr. Charles Clinton, possessing the
advantages of a fine education, came West about twenty years ago, and has since
become prominent as a civil engineer. He was the resident engineer under
Chief Engineer K. T. Booth in building the Chicago
and Alton extension from Mexico to Kansas City. He was also employed as
engineer on the West End Narrow-Gauge railway of St. Louis,
and was chief engineer of the Springfield and Memphis railroad from Springfield,
Mo., to Memphis, Tenn.
He was compelled to give up his work in the South on account of failing
health. For the past nine months he was confined to the house. He leaves a wife
to whom he was married twelve years ago, and one son. The funeral will take
place this afternoon at 2 o’clock from the late residence, 3952 Fairfax Avenue to Bellefontaine
cemetery. The Rev. Dr. Tudor of
Centenary church will officiate. The
pall-bearers will be D. N. Burgoyne, C. C. Anderson, George A. Baker, Willie
Gry, H. V. Morris and C. R. Garrison. [end]
Since I now reside in Saint
Louis, I thought I would visit Charles’ grave and
report on it as part of developing a documentary basis for a biography of the
Hon. George W. Clinton. So on April 25 (2014) on a beautiful spring day in
Saint Louis with the lavish urban forest of ornamental trees in full flower
and fragrance, I set off for the Cemetery, accompanied by Richard Zander, who
was Curator of the Clinton Herbarium for thirty years at the Buffalo Museum
The Bellefontaine Cemetery is just as lovely as expected, an oasis of
peace and greenness, just as the Forest
in Buffalo, New York. It is filled with the
illustrious ones of Saint Louis,
just as Forest Lawn is filled with those to gave
great service to their community.
After making inquiries in the administration building, we were
directed to the area where the remains of Charles A. Clinton were interred.
When we found the plot after a winding labyrinth of roads we were quite
This is because the second eldest son of George Clinton is buried in an
unmarked grave. Perhaps the reader is familiar with such a situation, but we
weren’t. An unmarked grave recognizes an interment with nothing on the
surface of the ground to indicate who lies sleeping beneath the grass or
precisely where or with whom. We were completely unprepared for what the
reader may forgive a feeling of profound neglect. We were informed that circumstances of such
a burial condition are standard, in a way - there are over 2,000 unmarked
graves in Bellefontaine
I am afraid we wandered around in our confusion and something that felt like
sorrow. There were monuments all around us, to the Penrods, and the many
Pecks, the Ely’s, the Loves, the Tidds, but no Clinton whatsoever. Only green grass,
carpeted with the white flowers of Claytonia
virginiana, the purple of Viola
sororia, and the starbursts of the Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) met our eyes. One lone obelisk stood of some stone,
fading or melting down in the weather, barely legible - only a letter or two
could be discerned: a W stood out, and a terminal D - nothing that resembled Clinton.
Any yet, according to the map given us by the administration, this was
not only the burial place of Charles A. Clinton, but also of a whole row of
other people, none of whom had any marker over their remains. Upon examining
the map where other interments are depicted, perhaps one funereal custom was
to erect a central monument and surround it with the unmarked graves of those
sharing the same name or family connections.
Yet, it was without a doubt that we had found where lay Charles A. Clinton,
of the obituary just copied above.
There are many people who choose to lie in death below the ground, free
at last of the burden of their social lives and lie unmarked as a token of
their humility. The former President of the United States, Franklin D.
Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, chose nearly such a self effacing
condition, which made their monumental contribution to the peoples of the
world after the devastation of World War II even more poignant, but for some
reason I thought the grave treatment of this man was not like that.
For one thing, Charles died in 1885, at the beginning of this month, in
April, just a few years before his father died, in September, in the rural
cemetery in Albany, New York. His father and mother both were
living in a boarding house at the time, having recently left Buffalo in early 1881. In various memorials given by his father
before the public during the 1870s, he described himself as old, worn out,
but above all, as poor. I have already supposed elsewhere that Charlie’s
death may have precipitated the death of his father, at the beginning of
autumn of the same year. The bodies of DeWitt, his father, and later his
mother from cities distant from Buffalo, were transported back to Buffalo,
but not that of brother Charles, who lies in an unmarked grave in Saint
The following is the telegram George Clinton received in Albany, notifying him of his son’s death.
George Clinton preserved it in his scrapbook.
If Charles A. Clinton was 48 years old when he died in 1885, then he was
born around the year 1837, pretty close to if not after the Clinton
family had moved to Buffalo from Canandaigua, New
York. Guy Clinton (1936) indicated that Charles
Clinton’s wife was Mary L. Prather. Together they had a son, George W.
Clinton, who is not recorded as having been buried together with his parents
mother-in-law was Mrs. Rebecca Southard, and she apparently lived together
with her daughter and son-in-law on Fairfax
Avenue in Saint
Consulting again the cemetery map given to us, there is indeed a Mary L.
Clinton buried beside Charles. There is also a child, Mary V. Prather that
lies buried between the two. And then
the letters on the old obelisk made sense - the W and the final D. The plot
in Bellefontaine was that of the Southard family, Rebecca, William W. and a
conjoined coffin of [?] and Amelia B. Southard, Charles’ in-laws.
At first, I expected there to be a monument commemorating Charles A.
Clinton’s death, but then I realized that Charles had been with his wife and
in-laws for twelve years. His brother, DeWitt had known his own wife only a
few years, had taken her away from Texas,
where he met her, to Minnesota.
During those few years DeWitt had suffered from malaria. Apparently, Charles
Clinton had known the family of his wife long enough to make a strong
commitment of affection with them, and so, it was more his will to remain in Saint Louis, than to return to Buffalo. Note that Charles’ mother-in-law
was “Mrs. Rebecca Southard” of the obituary above. Mrs. Southard’s maiden
name may have been Prather, hence her daughter, Charles’ wife, may have Mrs.
Southard’s maiden name. The name of the child buried between Mary and Charles
Clinton, Mary V. Prather may have been Mary’s sister, but the exact nature of
these relationships is conjectural.
Thus, the one tall monument for the Southard extended family includes Charles
A. Clinton and his wife Mary L., whose graves lie in to the right and forward
of the monument, approximately in the center of the photograph above.
The text of DeWitt Clinton’s obituary is transcribed here in full to
correct the error made in an earlier publication regarding whether the grave
in Forest Lawn Cemetery
was a cenotaph. It is not.
The obituary of DeWitt Clinton, eldest son of Hon. George W. Clinton.
Buffalo Courier. Saturday Morning, August 16, 1873
Obituary - DeWitt Clinton
notice in The Courier yesterday announced the death of Brevet Lt. Col. Dewitt
Clinton, eldest son of Hon. George W. Clinton of this city. The said event
occurred on the 13th inst. at St.
where he was stationed.
deceased was born in Canandaigua April 18th, 1833. He received a partial
collegiate education, but did not complete a full course. After leaving
college he read law in the office of his father, and was admitted to the bar
in 1854. He practiced his profession
in this city until 1861, when he entered the army, receiving a commission as
Second Lieutenant in the 10th N. Y. Vols.
He was at once assigned as aide-de-camp to General Wool, and served
with that officer at Fortress Monroe, and at New York city during the time of the
riots. With General Wool he also acted
as military censor and judge-advocate. When General Canby relieved General
Wool, Lieut. Clinton was transferred to his staff, and was attached to the
department of military [next photo] justice, at Washington, when Canby was acting
Secretary of War. In May, 1864, the deceased was appointed judge-advocate in
the regular army with the rank of Major.
In this capacity he went to New Orleans
with General Canby, and served under that officer and his successor, General
Terry, as Judge-advocate of the department, in Louisiana
and Texas. In the fall of 1872 he was ordered to the
Department of the Dacotah, under General Hancock, and was Judge-advocate of
that department when he died.
death is attributed to a malarial fever which he contracted in Texas two years ago.
Though his health has been impaired from this cause, his decease was not
expected by his friends. He was
married in Texas
in February, 1872.. His widow survives him.
remains were to have left St. Paul
last night, and will be interred here. Notice of the funeral will be
greatly respected family of the deceased in this city, as well as his
mourning widow, will have the sympathy of the entire community in their
We wish to
thank Jean Pate, Office Assistant at the Bellefontaine Cemetery
for her essential assistance in understanding and locating Charles Clinton
and his wife’s gravesites. We would also like to Cynthia Van Ness, Director
of Library and Archives, Buffalo
and Erie County Historical Society, for her assistance.
1936. The Clintons
appearing in the early American Records. [type-written copy] Research
1 Museum Court, Buffalo, NY 14216.