Jabez Abel Bostwick (1830 - 1892)

Family Tree: New World - Part 109
Son of: Abel Bostwick (1797) and Sally (1791) GBFA
Born: 23/9/1830 in Franklin, NY GBFA
Died: 16/8/1892 in the fire at his home in Mamoreneck, NY NY Times
Married: Helen Celia (1848) GBFA
Children: Nellie Ford (1868) , Fannie Evelyn (1872) , Albert Carlton (1876) GBFA

The 'Star' (presumably the New York Star) of 20/7/1888 had an article headed "New York Millionaires", subtitled "The way big fortunes are growing in the States", which included the sentence "There are included ... Jabez A. Bostwick, ... each of whom is reported to have $20,000,000 and over." A subsequent issue dated 18/8/1892 gave this obituary. "Fatal Excitement", "An American Millionaire, Mr. Jabez Bostwick, the Secretary of the Standard Oil Trust, has died in remarkable circumstances. A fire broke out at a barn belonging to him, and Mr. Bostwick hurried from his house to the stable yard labouring under great excitement. He had been in ill-health for some time, but he seemed to feel that he ought to take part personally in extinguishing the flames. He gave a few orders to the men at the top of his voice, and then suddenly pressed his hand against his heart and sank down unconscious. The members of his family carried him back to the house. He had just been placed in a comfortable position when he gave a compulsive gasp and fell back dead. A physician who arrived a few minutes afterwards gave it as his opinion that the millionaire died of a heart failure produced by extraordinary excitement. The fire was with difficulty brought under control. It was then discovered that the coachman and footman were missing. They were sleeping in appartments on the second floor of the stable. When an examination was made of the ruins their blackened and charred bodies were found."
NY Star 20/7/1888

On the following day, 19/8/1892, the paper reported that the Doctor now said that his death was due to internal injury, not heart failure.
NY Star 21/7/1888

A separate and longer article in the New York Times on 18/8/1892 records, under the heading "Jabez A. Bostwick's Death", "Three lives lost at the burning of his Stables", "The millionaire breaths his last after helping to save his propery at his country place - two stable hands in the ruins - a successful business career", and the article says: "Jabez A. Bostwick, the Standard Oil millionaire and railroad capitalist, came to his death shortly before midnight on Tuesday in a most tragic manner. Two other men, Thomas and Henry Atkinson, stable hands, lost their lives at the same time, being burned to death."
NY Times 18/8/1892

"Since the beginning of hot weather Mr. Bostwick and his family have been living at their summer residence at Mamaroneck, Westchester County. On Tuesday night, not long after they had retired, the household was awakened by the coachman who announced that the stable was on fire."

"By looking out of his bedroom window Mr. Bostwick could see the flames and before anyone could stop him he had dressed hastily and was taking a hand in saving the horses and carriages that stood in the stable."

"It was while he was engaged in this task that he received the injuries from which he undoubtedly died. At first it was supposed he had been overcome with heart disease, due to the unusual exertions he had made in the excitement of the moment, but this theory is not borne out by the physician who attended him up to the time of his death, or by the facts that developed after the incidents attending his end were fully investigated."

"The Bostwick place is situated on what is known as De Landey Point, one of the most beautiful spots on Long Island Sound. Adjoining it on the South is the estate of James M. Constable, the dry goods merchant of this city, and it was on the latter's place that the fire, which proved so fatal, originated. The stables of the two places stood wall to wall about 200 or 300 feet from Mr. Bostwick's residence. They were very much alike in architecture and were among the largest and best appointed stables in the neighbourhood. Both structures were three stories in height, 150 feet long and 100 feet wide. They were wooden structures and burned with great rapidity."

"The death of the two Atkinsons is due to this fact. They were brothers and were employed by Mr. Constable, Thomas serving as assistant coachman, and Henry as groom. They slept in the same room on the second floor of the Constable stable and must have been first overcome by the smoke, as no cry or sound was heard from them."

"It was not until late yesterday morning that any one suspected that they had been lost. In the excitement attending the death of Mr. Bostwick and the destruction of the big stables, which were burned to the ground, the two stable hands were not missed at first. Then someone remembered that nothing had been seen of them since the flames had first been discovered, and a search of the ruins was at once begun. This revealed the body of Thomas after a hunt of only a few hours."

"Nothing remained of the coachman but a charred trunk so badly burned that its identity could only be established by the fact that it was too large and heavy for Henry, who was considerably lighter than his brother. After this shocking discovery the workmen proceeded more actively with their work than ever, but at dusk they had discovered nothing of Henry's body, and the opinion was generally expressed that it had been entirely consumed in the fierce flames of the hay and other inflammable material with which the stable was filled."

"The death of Mr. Bostwick diverted much of the community's interest from the work of digging in the ruins. Few men were better known in the neighbourhood and the circumstances under which he died were so tragic that little else was talked of."

"For some time past Mr. Bostwick had not been enjoying robust health. He had been threatened with a peritoneal trouble some time before, and his physician had enforced quietness and rest. But this by no means implied that he was an invalid. He was constantly about his beautiful grounds in which he took a great pride, and almost every evening he either entertained a number of guests or visited some of his neighbours."

"On the night of the fire he had been unusually well and active. He passed the evening in the company of his wife, Clement Gould a cousin and Horace L. Hotchkiss, the broker, who had a place in De Landey Point. After Mrs. Bostwick retired the three gentlemen went to the billiard room, where they played together until about 10:30 when Mr. Gould and Mr. Hotchkiss left for home. An hour later they were summoned to watch the death throes of their friend and neighbour."

"Not long after the lights had been put out in the Bostwick residence - about 11:30 as near as can be ascertained - A. W. Ouchstrom, who is employed as head gardener on the Constable estate, discovered the flames which cost the lives of three people. The gardener lives with his family in a large cottage just across the hedge from the Bostwick house, and immediately East of were the two burned stables stood."

"The family in the cottage had gone to bed long before and Ouchstrom is not clear as to what it was that woke him up. The next thing he remembers is the glare and crackling of the flames which were already under good headway. With the female members of his household Ouchstrom rushed out to give the alarm and to save the horses and carriages that were in the stable. But the heat was already so intense that a near approach to the burning building was found to be impossible, and Ouchstrom broke the hedge to give the alarm to the people in the Bostwick stable."

"He found William Bickford, Mr. Bostwick's coachman, the latter's son, Harry, and a groom named Patrick asleep in the rooms over the coachhouse. He awakened them hastily and Bickford at once ran to notify his master. Then he returned to pull out the carriages, of which there were nearly a dozen in the stable building, and to rescue the horses, of which there were eight."

"Mr. Bostwick, in the meantime, had made a hasty toilet and was downstairs in a remarkably short time. His wife endeavoured to dissuade him from taking an active part in the work of rescue, reminding him of his condition, and pointing out the futility of trying to save the stables. The last thing she said to him as he went out of his bedroom was "Don't worry over the stables. It's dry as tinder and bound to burn up anyway". The next she saw of him was when he was lying unconscious on the kitchen stoop in a dying condition."

"Neither Bickford, the coachman, nor any of the other men who were by this time busily engaged getting the carriages and horses out of danger, knew that Mr. Bostwick had come down until the latter began giving directions about the work. When they observed this he was as busy as anybody, pulling at the vehicles and lending a hand wherever it was needed."

"In the course of his work he took hold of the front axle of a large dray which Bickford was shoving out of the stable in order to guide it. The coachman, not knowing who it was at the front of the vehicle, pushed with his full strength."

"As the dray came out of the stable Mr Bostwick attempted to guide it down the path, but the whittle tree flew out of his hand and he was thrown with violence against the outer wall of the stable, the wheels pinning him tight."

"With the aid of Bickford and the others who had noticed the accident he was freed from his position, but it was apparent that he had been pretty badly hurt. He complained of a severe pain in his back and could only walk with the assistance of one of his men. But he decided to go into the house and sat down on the rear end of a buckboard that had been drawn out, to watch the progress of the fire. He evidently appreciated, however, that he was seriously injured, for he called to his son's tutor, a young man named Williams "Don't leave me, I may need you". "

"A few minutes after he requested Williams' arm and asked him to lead him to the house. At almost evert step he exclaimed "Oh my back, my back!". As they passed the kitchen he sank down on the stoop thoroughly exhausted and still complaining of his back. Here his wife and his friends, Mr. Gould and Mr. Hotchkiss, who had run over from their houses, when they saw the flames, found him. He was lying partly on the ground and partly on the stoop, groaning with pain. Mr. Gould had a sofa brought out of the house, and on this the sufferer was placed under the kitchen windows."

"The flames from the burning stable lighted up the dying man's features; the little group that surrounded him, and the trees, shrubs and bushes were all illuminated by the dancing light, making a weird scene. Everyone now appreciated that he was dying."

"A physician, Dr. Clark, had hastily been summoned from the village, and he laboured to the best of his ability to stay the spark of life that remained. To this end he gave the dying man several hypodermic injections, but just at midnight Mr. Bostwick died." At the end his suffering ceased entirely, and a few minutes before he died he sank into unconsciousness."

"For some moments after the Doctor pronounced life extinct there was not a sound in the group on the stoops except the sobbing of the widow. But the crackling flames where the stable was being licked up recalled the men about the sofa to action. The fire was stretching greedily towards the house, and on one corner its roof had already begun to smoke. It was feared that the corpse was not safe where it was, and, still resting on the sofa it was borne across the grounds to the house of Mr. Hotchkiss. Here it remained until the fire had burned itself out, when it was decided to take it back to the family residence which was no longer in danger."

"By this time the entire neighbourhood for miles around had been aroused and the people filled the grounds around the burning stables. The firemen under the lead of Chief John B. Callaghan worked unremittingly and with such good rsults that all who watched them were loud in their praise yesterday. Mr. Constable said that they had undoubtedly saved the cottage of his gardener and his large greenhouses by their efforts, and Mr. Clinton Gould, who is a cousin of the Bostwick family, was certain that but for their good work the fine family residence would have been destroyed. The firemen all belonged to volunteer companies and were all men who had to go to work in the morning, but they remained at their posts until the last, and patrolled the neighbourhood for some time after the fire was practically over in order to guard against a fresh outbreak."

"After the firemen and crowd of spectators had gone and only a small gang of workmen remained to look for the bodies of the Atkinsons in the smoking ruins, the house of mourning was closed, and it was sought to induce Mrs. Bostwick to take some rest. This proved unavailing, however, and it was not until Dr. Swift, a New York physician who was called, had administered relief to her overwrought nerves that she was able to snatch a few hours sleep."

"During his visit Dr. Swift also made a hasty examination of the body of Mr. Bostwick, but he would not make public his conclusions. It will rest with the coroner, Dr. A. J. Mitchell to determine definitely the direct cause of the millionaire's death at the inquest which will take place today or tomorrow. A post-mortem examination will probably be made, as the family and friends desire to have the true cause of death made plain."

"The funeral services over the body will take place on Friday afternoon at 4 o'clock at the Mamaroneck residency of Rev. Dr. Armitage, the retired pastor of the Fifth Avenue Church, officiating. Dr. Armitage, whose home is in Yonkers, has been a lifelong friend of the dead man and was among the first friends of the family to arrive at Friedhelm, as the Bostwick place is known. He took much of the burden of preparing for the funeral upon himself. Speaking of his friend, he said, with tears in his eyes, "He was a man of the most noble impulses. I have known him over a quarter of a century. I married him in 1866, and married both his daughters, and now I have to bury him." It has been arranged that the body will be placed in a receiving vault at Woodlawn after the funeral services on Friday. There it will remain until the return of the two daughters of the household. They are at present in Europe, but have been summoned home by cable."

"Another early visitor at the house was William Rockefeller of the Standard Oil Company, who was a neighbour as well as a business associate of Mr. Bostwick. Mr. James Constable was about the place all day. He was very much affected by Mr. Bostwick's death. Mr. Constable is living at present in a rented house across the road from his own grounds. In April 1891 his residence was completely destroyed by fire and a new building to replace it is at present under way. At one time it was thought that this new building, which is not far distant from where the stables stood, would go. The walls of the structure, a magnificent mansion of Tiffany brick, built in the Elizabethan style of architecture, are all up, and much of the woodwork has been completed. Both the Constable and Bostwick places are models of elegance and beauty."

"About 14 acres are comprised in the grounds of 'Friedhelm', laid out in beautiful lawns and studded with flowers and palms. The residence is a large Queen Anne structure. From the wide verandahs which surround it a splendid view is had over the Sound. If this building had been burned down the loss would probably have reached $500,000 as it contains much art treasure. As it was the total damage was less than $50,000, most of which is covered by insurance."

"The cause of the fire is a complete mystery, the only plausible theory being that it originated from the pipe one or other of the Atkinsons smoked just before going to bed, and laid aside before its fire was out."

"All of the Bostwick horses and carriages were saved, but in the Constable stable everything was lost. Seven horses, a pony and 8 or 10 carriages were entirely consumed. Mr. Constable and his son-in-law were awakened by their cook and were among the first to arrive at the fire, without however being able to render any assistance."

"Jabez A. Bostwick was a self-made man. Like Rockefeller, Flagler, and the other Standard Oil magnates he was a poor boy of humble parentage. He was born in Delhi, Delaware County, NY. While he was still a boy his father, a farmer, removed to Ohio. The farm life did not suit him and he found employment in a bank at Covington, KY, just across the river from his father's farm. His early life was a series of struggles, but he always managed to make a way out of them. After being a clerk in a hardware store and travelling for Cincinnati commission merchants he opened a small hardware store. Afterwards he went into the cotton brokerage business, removing shortly afterwards to New York City. Still keeping his connection with the cotton trade he drifted into the oil business, his place being at 138 Pearl Street. His partner was W. H. Tilford and the firm name at first was Bostwick and Tilford. From refining he gradually worked into the producing end of the oil business acquiring large interests at Franklin, Penn."

"Mr. Tilford retired in a few years and the house became Bostwick & Co, under which title it remained until Mr. Bostwick joined the Oil Trust. Tilford had already entered the Standard Oil Company and Mr. Bostwick, through him, was brought into contact with the Rockefeller brothers, Flagler and the Andrews. The Oil Trust was formed, Mr. Bostwick becoming its Treasurer."

"He had become a millionaire many times over and had built a handsome house at 800 Fifth Avenue in the district where the Standard Oil magnates all reside."

"He became President of the New York and New England Railroad about 5 years ago, but in January last he tired of that enterprise, sold out his stock and resigned in favour of Austin Corbon, who was afterward succeeded by Charles Parsons. Mr. Bostwick still retained sufficient stock in the Company to keep the chairmanship of the Board of Directors until after the election of Mr. Parsons, when he parted with all of it."

"He was also a large stockholder in the Hoosatonic Railway Company and he is said to have sold $1,000,000 of this stock about a month ago."

"He was the owner of the gas engine and power company at Mooris Dock on the Harlem, where all the naphtha launches are made, and was largely interested in the Standard Gas Company and the New York Steam Company."

"About 2 weeks ago Mr. Bostwick bought the Stock Exchange seat of W. V. Chapin. He had appeared before the Committee on Admissions and would have been elected on August 25th. His death in the interim is the second instance of the kind in the records of the Stock Exchange."

"In business habits Mr. Bostwick was said to be very prompt, and he paid great attention to details. He was an active member of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, and an intimate friend of its retired Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Armitage. He never missed church on Sunday and was an attendant at the weekly prayer meetings. He was a very plain and unassuming man in his habits, and upright and honourable in his dealings. He never drank any intoxicating liquors, nor did he ever use tobacco in any form. He was a member of the Union League, Manhattan, New York Yacht, Country, Down Town and Riding Clubs."

"During all this time he kept up his connection with the cotton trade. He was a member of the New York Cotton Exchange, and always appeared, at least at election time, on the Exchange. He also founded the American Cotton Docks at Staten Island, and sold out his interests there only a few years ago."

"His wife was the daughter of Smith Ford, a well known merchant of Cincinnati. He had 3 children. His eldest daughter, Nellie, married Francis Lee Morrell, a member of the New York Stock Exchange on 21/9/1887. His youngest daughter, Fannie, was a great beauty and much admired in New York Society. She was a conspicuous member of the 'Hunting set' of Pelham and Long Island, and rode exceptionally well. Two winters ago she gave a hunt breakfast at the Bostwick townhouse on Fifth Avenue, at which the guests were in full hunting dress, an event which created much discussion in Society at the time. She was then engaged to young Norris, the son of Gordon Norris, but the engagement was broken off shortly before the time appointed for the marriage, and on her return from a European visit the year afterwards her engagement to Captain Albert Carstairs of the Royal Irish Rifles, whom she married a short time since, was announced. Mr. and Mrs. Carstairs are abroad. Mr. Bostwick also leaves a wife and a young son, 15 years old. A peculiar coincidence with the said mariner was that on Feb 6th he was seriously injured by an oil explosion at his Fifth Avenue residence. While he was bending over the tank to mend a leak, the oil ignited from a match which he held in his hand and burned him severely on the hands and face. In fact he narrowly escaped death and always afterward had a dread of fire."

"Mr. Bostwick's estate is estimated at $10,000,000. Besides his Fifth Avenue residence and his country house 'Friedhelm' at Mamaroneck, he owned considerable real estate in this city and a great deal of stock in a number of corporations. He was a restless man, always entering into new ventures. He was very generous to his church and to the Baptists. He gave $70,000 to Wade Forest College in North Carolina in 1886, and $25,000 to Richmond College, Richmond, Va in 1887. This last gift was in Louisiana 4% Bonds and in his letter accompanying the gift he quaintly said "I believe they are perfectly good and safe bonds to hold". "

"Recently Mr. Bostwick endowed the Emmanuel Church in Suffolk Street, this city, which he had built almost entirely out of his private fortune, with $50,000 'for its perpetual support'. "
NY Times

There was a large gathering of friends at his home at Marmaroneck. The funeral services were held at 4:00 pm on 19th August 1802. The 3:00 pm train from the Grand Central Station took a large number of friends from the city, who were met at the station at Mamaroneck by carriages, and driven to the Bostock's mansion. many people drove in from Rye and other neighbouring towns in Westchester County, and about 200 friends in all were present at the services. The body rested in a coffin at the further end of the spacious hall and the adjoining rooms were also tastefully decorated with flowers.

Dr. Armitage of Yonkers, formerly pastor of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church of this city, a life long friend of the deceased, conducted the services. In the course of an elegant and touching eulogy of the dead man he dealt especially upon his staunch unchangeable character as a friend, and his simple, lovable disposition under all circumstances.

The body will be placed in a vault in Woodlawn Cemetery to await the arrival of the two daughters, now in Europe, who will sail tomorrow for this country.

[There follows a list of some of those present, which is not reproduced here.]
NY Times 20/8/1892

The American Biographical Library has written and published the following on Jabez Abel Bostwick:

Mr. Bostwick was born in Franklin, NY, 23/9/1830, and was killed in a fire at his summer home at Mamaroneck, NY, on 16/8/1892. When he was a boy of 10 years of age, his parents removed to Ohio where he passed his early years. His education, which was essentially of a business character, began when he was a clerk in a bank in Covington, Ky. Later he engaged in business as a cotton broker, and in 1864 located in New York City. He owned large cotton docks on Staten Island, where also he resided on a beautiful estate until 1877, when he purchased the property at Mamaroneck. When the oil regions of western Pennsylvania began to be developed as a new source of wealth, Mr. Bostwick became interested in several wells near Franklin, Pa, and organized the firm of J. A. Bostwick and Company, oil refiners and shippers. In 1872, when John D. Rockefeller formed the Standard Oil Company, Mr. Bostwick aided in its organization and became its first Treasurer, and shortly afterward dissolved his connection with his partner, W. H. Tilford, who also became affiliated with the Standard Oil Company. Thereafter, for many years Mr. Bostwick was the company's chief oil buyer, but in 1885 he retired from the oil business, and in 1886 was elected President of the New York and New England Railroad Company. He held a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. In all his affairs Mr. Bostwick showed his great ability as a far-seeing organizer. He was of even temperament, striking personality, and great charm, a sound judge of character, so that he became a model for the younger generation of Standard Oil men. He was a friend and advisor of Presidents Grant, Hays and Arthur, and supported Secretary William C. Whitney, in his plans for an enlarged American Navy. He had as well an inventive genius and patented several safety devices such as the Bostwick gate. Mr. Bostwick, whose fortune at the time of his death was estimated at $12,000,000, was always liberal with his wealth, although his gifts were made without ostentation, and many of his benefactions will never be known. He aided generously the charities of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, New York, of which he was a member, and built and endowed Emanuel Baptist Church, Suffolk Street, New York. While in Mamaroneck, he aided the Roman Catholic parish and other religious bodies, without regard to denomination. He also materially increased the endowments of Forrest College, North Carolina. Mr. Bostwick believed that education should make one self-reliant by the development of natural talents, that girls should have the same practical training as boys, and that the daughters of the well-to-do should be equipped to earn their own livelihood if necessary. For this reason his elder daughter, Nellie, took a thorough course in dressmaking, and Evelyn, the second child, chose the profession of surgery.


Jabez had a fine house in Manhattan, as well as his summer home at Mamaroneck. This link provides a full and interesting story of the Bostwicks as they relate to the Manhattan residence.
Photo of Jabez, taken from the internet link mentioned above.