Samuel Wilkeson
Judge Samuel Wilkeson (cropped).jpg
5th Mayor of Buffalo, New York
In office
Preceded byHiram Pratt
Succeeded byJosiah Trowbridge
Member of the New York State Senate for the Eighth District
In office
January 1, 1825 – December 31, 1828
Preceded byDavid Eason
Succeeded byMoses Hayden
Member of the New York State Assembly for the Erie County
In office
January 1, 1824 – December 31, 1824
Preceded byEbenezer F. Norton
Succeeded byCalvin Fillmore
Personal details
Born(1781-06-01)June 1, 1781
Carlisle, Pennsylvania
DiedJuly 7, 1848(1848-07-07) (aged 67)
near Tellico Plains, Tennessee
Political partyPeople's Party, Clintonian
Spouse(s)Jane Oram
Sarah St. John
Mary Peters
RelationsFrank Wilkeson (grandson)

Samuel Wilkeson (June 1, 1781 – July 7, 1848) was a merchant, politician, and judge who served as mayor of Buffalo, New York.

Early life

He was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on June 1, 1781.[1] He was a child of John Wilkeson and Mary (née Robinson) Wilkeson, immigrant farms from the north of Ireland.[2]

After the death of his father around 1802, Wilkeson moved to Mahoning County, Ohio where he built a farm and the first grist mill in the area.[3]


During the War of 1812 Wilkeson was asked to build a fleet of ships for the U.S. Army at Buffalo, brought his family there, and opened a general store. In 1815, he became the village's first Justice of the Peace and later chosen as a village trustee. He was a member of the Buffalo Harbor Company that brought the terminus of the Erie Canal to Buffalo, versus its rival Black Rock.[3]

In the early 1820s, he led the project to improve the harbor to make it suitable as the canal terminus. In February 1821, Wilkeson was appointed First Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and held this position until 1824.[4] In the early 1820s he went into partnership with Ebenezer Johnson (Buffalo's first mayor) in shipping and real estate enterprises, and once owned the land on which the Buffalo City Hall now stands. His later ventures included building the first steam boiler in Buffalo and operating foundries or factories in several areas of the city.[5]

Public office

In 1823, Samuel Wilkeson was elected to the New York State Assembly as a People's Party candidate serving from January 1, 1824 to December 31, 1824 when he was succeeded by Calvin Fillmore.[6] In 1824, he was elected as a Clintonian (supporters of DeWitt Clinton, opposed to the Bucktails) to the New York State Senate, serving until 1829 in one of the four seats in the Eighth District, which consisted of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara and Steuben counties.[6] In 1836, he was elected to replace Hiram Pratt, the mayor of Buffalo. During his term he focused on law enforcement issues and presided over a city in the depths of a nationwide financial depression.[5]

After his term, in 1838, he became general agent of the American Colonization Society, who wanted to colonize African-Americans in Liberia.[7][8]

Personal life

Wilkeson's youngest son, Samuel Wilkeson Jr.
Wilkeson's youngest son, Samuel Wilkeson Jr.

Around 1802 he married Jane Oram, daughter of James Oram who was of Scotch-Irish extraction and served in the Revolutionary War. They later moved to Buffalo where his father built the Wilkeson Mansion in 1824, across Lafayette Square from the home of his close friend, President Millard Fillmore.[9] Jane was the mother of all six of his children, including:[9]

He later married Sarah St. John of Buffalo (a friend of Harriet Martineau).[11] After her death, he married Mary Peters of New Haven, Connecticut, "who was a famous educator of girls."[3]

He died on July 7, 1848, on his way to visit his daughter who was now living in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. His body was brought back to Buffalo and buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.[5] His home stood until 1915 when it as torn down, only to be replaced by a gas station. It later became the site of Buffalo City Hall built in 1932.[12]


Wilkeson's son Samuel Wilkeson, Jr., was the proprietor and co-editor of The Democracy in Buffalo and worked for New York Tribune under Horace Greeley. Samuel was a war correspondent with the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War,[13] and he later owned Albany Evening Journal in 1869. He went west after the war and became one of the founders of Tacoma, Washington.[14]

Alltogather, Wilkeson's eight grandsons served in the Union Army during the Civil War.[15]


  1. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol. IV. James T. White & Company. 1893. p. 414. Retrieved December 6, 2020 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Klopott, R. Beth (2000). Wilkeson, Samuel (1781-1848), shipowner, iron founder, and manufacturer. American National Biography. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.2001125.
  3. ^ a b c d Memorial and Family History of Erie County, New York: Vol. I: Biographical and Genealogical Illustrated. New York-Buffalo: The Genealogical Publishing Company. 1908. pp. 12–13. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  4. ^ "Samuel Wilkeson". Digital Collections - University at Buffalo Libraries. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Samuel Wilkeson". Through The Mayor's Eyes, The Only Complete History of the Mayor's of Buffalo, New York, Compiled by Michael Rizzo. The Buffalonian is produced by The Peoples History Union. May 27, 2009.
  6. ^ a b Hough, Franklin Benjamin (1858). The New York Civil List: Containing the names and origin of the civil divisions, and the names and dates of election or appointment of the principal state and county officers from the Revolution to the present time. Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons and Co. p. 202. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  7. ^ "A concise history of the commencement, progress and present condition of the American colonies in Liberia". Library of Congress. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  8. ^ Fox, Early Lee (1919). The American Colonization Society, 1817-1840. Johns Hopkins Press. p. 118. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Cutter, William Richard (1912). Genealogical and Family History of Central New York: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 553. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  10. ^ "Gettysburg: The Correspondence From the Famous Story of Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson, Killed at Gettysburg". The Raab Collection. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  11. ^ Severance, Frank H. (2009). Studies of the Niagara Frontier. Heritage Books. pp. 279–283, 436. ISBN 978-0-7884-0845-8. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  12. ^ LaChiusa, Chuck. "Samuel Wilkeson". Buffalo Architecture and History. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  13. ^ "THE GREAT BATTLES Splendid Triumph of the Army of the Potomac ROUT OF LEE'S FORCES ON FRIDAY". The New York Times. July 6, 1863. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  14. ^ Shanker, Thom (July 4, 2018). "The Times at Gettysburg, July 1863: A Reporter's Civil War Heartbreak". The New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  15. ^ Frank Wilkeson & his 1890s New York columns about his Washington and Skagit experiences, and Patricia McAndrew's new book
Political offices Preceded byHiram Pratt Mayor of Buffalo, New York 1836–1837 Succeeded byJosiah Trowbridge New York State Senate Preceded byDavid Eason New York State Senate Eighth District (Class 2) 1825–1828 Succeeded byMoses Hayden New York State Assembly Preceded byEbenezer F. Norton New York State Assembly Erie County 1824 Succeeded byCalvin Fillmore