Thomas Vincent Welch

Thomas Vincent Welch

Thomas Vincent Welch (October 1 1850October 20 1903) was a New York State Assemblyman and served as the first Superintendent of the New York State Reservation at Niagara, holding the post for 18 years. As a member of the New York State Assembly, Welch was a key player in the efforts to acquire the lands adjoining Niagara Falls, and to make them free for all to view.

When the bill making Niagara Falls free was signed on April 30 1885, it was the culmination of a campaign in the New York State Legislature spearheaded by Thomas V. Welch. His efforts, and those of everyone involved, are documented in a pamphlet entitled "How Niagara Was Made Free", which was published by the Niagara Frontier Historical Society, and of course in the annals of New York State.

He was born in Onondaga County, New York (near Syracuse), a son of Thomas and Honora (Holland) Welch. In 1857 his parents moved to Niagara Falls, where is father died in 1877. There were six children, Thomas V., Edward, John, Honora, Ellen and Ann.

He was educated in the public schools in Niagara Falls and at an early age was employed at the New York Central Railroad Company as timekeeper in the shops in the village of Niagara Falls. In 1873 he was promoted to be freight agent of the Central Railroad there, a position he occupied for three years.

In 1876 he left the Railroad to enter into the mercantile business. He continued to be involved in public affairs, but opened a dry goods store on Falls Street with Michael Ryan and later with James E. Rock, under the firm name of Welch & Ryan and Welch & Rock.

In public affairs, from 1873 to 1874 he was clerk of the village of Niagara Falls, and in 1875–6 he was a village trustee. In 1876, 1877 and 1878 he was elected Supervisor of the town of Niagara and in the latter year he was chosen as chairman of the Board of Supervisors of the county of Niagara.

He was then nominated by the Democratic party and elected Member of the State Assembly from the second Assembly district of Niagara county, and was re-elected in 1883 and 1884. He was a member of the committee on ways and means in the Legislature and a leader in that body.

During the presidential campaign of 1884, he acquired a wide reputation as a talented and convincing speaker. His speeches on behalf of the election of Grover Cleveland made him an outstanding figure and following the election of President Cleveland, Thomas V. was regarded as the most likely appointee for U.S. Collector of Customs at the then Port of Suspension Bridge, for many years the most powerful and most remunerative position in that part of the country.

President Cleveland came to office in 1885, at the peak of the "Free Niagara" movement, and the unanimous choice (of the Niagara Reservation Commission) of Welch becoming the Superintendent of the parks resulted in him accepting that post.

In 1902 after 17 years of outstanding service, the Commission presented him with a sterling silver "loving cup" and parchment, in recognition of his service to the State.

Mr. Welch played an important part in the incorporation of the city of Niagara Falls. He was a member of the charter committee, and, with Hon. W. Caryl Ely, was in Albany when Governor Roswell P. Flower signed the Niagara Falls city charter bill, March 17 1892, in fact Governor Flower was ready to sign the bill the day before, but Mr. Welch requested that he hold off until the next day, St. Patrick's Day. He procured the pen with which the governor signed the bill.

Mr. Welch also had a leading part in the organization of the Niagara Falls Power Company.

Mr. Welch was the first president of the Memorial Hospital Association and active in its affairs for many years. He was a member of a great many civic societies and organizations. He was prominently identified with a number of organizations of [ [ Mary ] at] St. Mary's Church, and a trustee of Niagara University.

He was vice-president of the Niagara Frontier Historical Society at the time of his death, was also a member of the Niagara Frontier Land Marks Association, and had served two terms as president of the Civic Club, as president of the Niagara County Pioneer Association, of the Shakespeare Club, and was an honorary member of the Niagara County Farmers Club.

Thomas V. Welch was married at Belfast, Allegany County, New York on October 21 1902 and died from an attack of typhoid fever, just one year later, aged 53.

External links

* [ Thomas V. Welch site with the full text of "How Niagara Was Made Free"]
* [ "Olmstead, Yosemite and the Niagara Reservation" - mention of T.V. Welch's role]
* [ "In defence of Niagara: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Niagara Reservation" - mentions of the role of T.V.Welch]
* [ "Tom Welch: Politician, Poet" - Article from Niagara Falls Reporter]
* [ "Niagara River - Niagara Bond and Free" - published 1908 in Antiques Digest]
* [ Niagara Falls History (mention of Thomas Vincent Welch's Role)]


*Laws of New York, 1883, One Hundred and sixth session, Chap.336 - an Act authorizing the selection of lands at Niagara for a reservation
*"The State Reservation at Niagara" by Charles M. Dow, Commissioner of the State Reservation at Niagara 1898–1914, J.B.Lyon Company, Printers
*"The History of the Niagara River", by G.K. Gilbert, lecture delivered to the American Association for the Advancement of Science at Toronto, August,1889.
*Niagara Falls Gazette, June 10, 1885, p.8
*Niagara Falls Gazette, July 22, 1885, p.5
*Niagara Falls Gazette, Jan.2, 1902
*Niagara Falls Gazette, Dec.2, 1903, pages 1 and 6
*"Niagara Portage - From Past to Present", by Theodora Vinal, copyright 1949, Foster and Stewart Publishing, 210 Ellicott Street, Buffalo 3, N.Y.
*"News of the Day...Yesterday", by Donald E. Loker, copyright 1971, Niagara County Historical Society, Inc., 215 Niagara Street, Lockport, NY 14094.

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