Rock Island Lighthouse Keepers
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 Samuel Stillman Spaulding, 1861 - 1865
    Written by Mark A. Wentling

        Samuel Stillman Spaulding was born 2 July 1815 in Cavendish, Windsor, Co., Vermont, son of Samuel Spaulding and Hannah Haggett. On 22 September 1839 he married Phebe Almeda Hovey. Sometime during the 1840's, before the birth of their son Judson, they removed to Theresa, Jefferson Co., New York.

        In the 1850 census of the Town of Theresa, Samuel "Spalding" was enumerated (page 46, dwelling 114, family 115) as a farmer, age 36, born in Vermont. Living with him was wife Phebe A., 27, also born in Vermont, and children (all born in New York) Cinthia, 9, Judson, 8, and Mandana, 5.

        In the 1860 census of the Town of Theresa, Theresa Post Office, Samuel was enumerated (page 29/765, dwelling 200, family 212) as a box maker, age 45, born in Vermont. Living with him was wife Almeda, 35, also born in Vermont, and children (all born in New York) Judson, 17 and attending school, Mandana, 15 and attending school, and Franklin, age 3.

        The U.S. Government's "Record of Lights, Keepers, Birthplace, Whence Appointed, Annual Salary, &c." indicates that S.S. Spaulding, born in Vermont, was appointed from New York as keeper of Rock Island Lighthouse on 8 April 1861, succeeding William Johnston, receiving a salary of $350 per annum. The transition was not an easy one—Johnston refused to relinquish possession of the station for more than a month.

        No logbooks for the period of Samuel's service survive, nor do any correspondences, so most events are known only from indices to Lighthouse Service letterbooks. No major events occurred at the station during Spaulding's tenure, but the time period of his service effectively kept him off the battlefield for the duration of the Civil War. He was removed 3 March 1865 and replaced by Joseph Collins.

        Land ownership maps of Jefferson County, created in 1864, show the "S.S. Spaulding" home situated on Foundry St., in the village of Theresa, just next door to the Methodist Episcopal Church and across the street from the parsonage and the local schoolhouse.

        In the 1870 census of the Town of Theresa, Theresa Post Office, Samuel was enumerated (page 4, dwelling 28, family 31) as a worker in a "butter tub shop," age 55, born in Vermont, to a father of foreign birth. Living with him was wife Phebe A., who again this year reported her age as 35 (same as 1860 census), a housekeeper also born in Vermont. That year, their recently widowed daughter, Mrs. Cynthia "Steenburgh," age 30, born in New York, was living with them.

        In the 1880 census of Theresa, only one Samuel Spaulding is mentioned and facts in the record conflict with those known about Samuel Stillman Spaulding. In that year, a Samuel Spaulding, age 64, born in New York to parents from Massachusetts, was enumerated (page 17, dwelling 197, family 218) as a worker in a "chair shop". Living with him was a wife named Sarah, age 58, born in New York to parents from New York, who was keeping house. In contrast, Samuel Stillman Spaulding is known to have been born in Vermont, not New York; further, Samuel's wife was named Phebe Almeda Hovey, not Sarah, and she survived Samuel making it impossible that the Sarah named as wife in the census record could be either a middle name for Phebe or a second wife. Further research is needed to ascertain whether this record refers to Samuel Stillman Spaulding or to another family.

        Samuel Stillman Spaulding died in 1888 in nearby Omar, Jefferson Co., New York; sources conflict as to the specific day. His tombstone at Old Theresa Cemetery reads September 26th. Land ownership maps for Theresa made that year show the former S. S. Spaulding residence on Foundry St. was by then vacant, and a "Mrs. Spaulding" was living a couple of blocks away on Commerce St.

        In the 1907 obituary of her daughter, Cynthia, mother Phebe Spaulding was listed as surviving, but her eventual date of death is not known. A headstone inscription at the Old Theresa Cemetery lists her name and birth date of 26 June1826, but no death date, suggesting she was buried elsewhere.

        The old Spaulding home on Foundry St. (now Riverside St.) stands today.

Headstone for Samuel S. Spaulding at Old Theresa Cemetery. The inscription lacks a death date for wife Phoebe, suggesting she is buried elsewhere.


        Samuel and Phebe had five children: Cynthia Ann, born 7 May 1841, died 20 December 1907 in the Town of Clayton, married first 21 October 1861 to William Harrison Steamburgh, married second to Nathan Holloway; Judson Levi, born 11 June 1843; Mandana Malvina, born 18 October 1845, married 10 August 1862 Amos Wekker, and died 20 November 1864; William Spaulding, died at an early age from an accident with an axe; and John Franklin, born 30 August 1856 married 25 December 1879 Henrietta Braun, and removed to Belgrade, Maine, where he was 27 times elected Supervisor of Schools, and later to Augusta where he was elected City Alderman in 1893.

        Judson Levi Spaulding, was born 11 June 1843. He served as a private in Capt. Byron B. Taggart's Co., 7th Battalion (Co. K) of the 10th (Black River) Artillery, enrolling 5 August 1862. On 31 December 1866 he married Josephine Derrol, of neighboring St. Lawrence County.
       Early in life he lived near Clayton, New York, and then later in St. Lawrence County, where he presumably met his wife. Afterwards, they resided in Orleans Corners, Town of Orleans, Jefferson Co., New York, where on 8 July 1928, Josephine died.
       Judson was a member of the veterans association of the 10th New York Heavy Artillery and attended their annual reunions in Watertown. The last one he attended was held in 1930 at the Jefferson County Historical Society building, and during that meeting he was elected second vice president, succeeding Thomas J. Strainge who resigned.
      In later years, Judson lived in Lowville, Lewis Co., New York, then Port Byron, and finally at Gerry, New York, where on 14 June 1937 he died at his son William's home. His body was taken by train to Watertown to the William R. Box funeral parlors that Friday, and then on Saturday to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Dayton A. Priest on the Theresa Road, where funeral services were held that afternoon at 2 p.m. Burial was made in North Watertown Rural Cemetery.

        Judson is shown at left at the top of Mt. Wantastiacut, New Hampshire, on 24 June 1916, and at right at age 92 years in August 1934.

Judson and Josephine were parents of:

        Giles Burton Spaulding, born 19 April 1869, of Glen Park, Jefferson Co., New York, died 27 April 1936 "in a Utica hospital four days after he was seriously injured when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver on the Herkimer road," according to his father's obituary; married 14 November 1893 May C. Garner.

        Rev. William Franklin Spaulding, born 20 January 1873, died 15 August 1949 in Auburn, Cayuga Co., New York; married 23 September 1896, Sarah Rebecca Reed. He was a minister with the Methodist Protestant church and resided at Gerry, New York, according to his father's obituary.

        Fred John Spaulding, born 24 January 1877 in Norfolk, St. Lawrence Co., New York, died 2 January 1961 in Hartford, Vermont, buried in Brattleboro, Vermont; married 8 October 1902 in Hartford, Vermont, Mary "Mamie" Louise Stone.

        Fred & Mamie Spaulding on their 50th wedding anniversary with their children: (left to right) Dorothy Spaulding Zagrubski, Leslie Spaulding, Lloyd Spaulding, Eva Spaulding LaPointe, and Clyde Spaulding.


Photo of headstone, courtesy of Sid & Boni Shafer at, rec'd May 2009.

All other photographs generously donated for use on this website by Barbara Mary LaPointe Silva <>, from whom also comes the majority of information on Samuel's descendants.

Clayton Deaths, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909. Jefferson County, New York GenWeb. Online at Visited 26 January 2008.

Correspondence in November & December 2002 with descendant Barbara Mary LaPointe Silva <>

U.S. Government's "Record of Lights, Keepers, Birthplace, Whence Appointed, Annual Salary, &c."

Spalding, Charles Warren. "The Spalding Memorial: A Genealogical History of Edward Spalding of Virginia and Massachusetts Bay and his Descendants." Chicago: Amer. Pub. Assoc., 1897.

1850 Federal Census of the Town of Theresa, Jefferson County, New York

1860 Federal Census of the Town of Theresa, Jefferson County, New York.

1870 Federal Census of the Town of Theresa, Jefferson County, New York.

1880 Federal Census of the Town of Theresa, Jefferson County, New York.

"J. L. Spaulding, Aged 94, Expires: Dies at Home of Son at Gerry, N.Y." Watertown Daily Times, 14 June 1937.

Ancestral File, LDS Church.

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