Henry Birge House / D.A.R. House - Table of Contents
Henry Birge House / D.A.R. House
Katherine Pratt Horton Chapter
477 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY
The text below is an excerpt from
Buffalo's Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families, by Edward T. Dunn. Pub. by Canisius College Press, 2003, pp. 299-302
Henry Birge: By 1897, George's [George K. Birge] brother Henry was living here with his wife and two domestics, and had become manager in the family's wallpaper business. He was plagued by ill health and died at forty-five in 1904. He traveled extensively in India and elsewhere in Asia and had amassed a collection of art treasures.
Following Henry Birge at #477 were Peter A. Porter, of an old Buffalo family, and in 1905 Mrs. Frances Wolcott.
Before 1910 came Mrs. John Miller Horton, nee Katharine Lorenz Pratt, daughter of Pascal Pratt and sister of Samuel Pratt, whose widow had sold #388 Delaware to the Buffalo Club in 1887.
John Horton and his wife were probably more conscious of their alleged ancient and honorable lineage than any other of Buffalo's elite. John told Henry Hill that an ancestor had come to America in the mid-1650s, that the name went back to twelfth century France, and that "many soldiers of the Continental army bore the name of Horton and served with honor and distinction in the struggle for the independence of the Colonies."
Horton was born in Mellenville, New York, in 1840. Educated at Claverack High and in Albany, he came to Buffalo in 1862, where in 1869, he married the daughter of an iron monger with a huge plant and smelting furnaces at Black Rock, in which Horton soon rose to junior partner:
A great lover of books, an eager patron of music and art, he took unbounded delight in the lore and the treasures of the great centers of European culture, where, with his wife, several years were spent in the enjoyment of foreign travel. An expression of his tastes in this regard was his pleasure in and encouragement of his wife's studies in music, while in Europe, under the best vocal masters obtainable, and this at a time when the masters of music in Europe formed a most notable group. -- Buffalo Evening news, August 3, 1904
Though twenty-one when Fort Sumter was fired upon and celebrated by Hill as "preeminently loyal and faithful American," Horton managed like many of his class to avoid military service during the Civil War. He belonged to the Buffalo Club and Trinity Episcopal. In 1902 he died at home at #736 Main Street."
Katherine Pratt Horton
Horton's wife was born in 1842 and vied with her husband in tracing her family back to a lord of the manor in the twelfth century. Before 1910 she acquired #477 Delaware from which she promoted her career as the Daughter par excellence of the American Revolution. The Buffalo D.A.R. had been organized in 1892 and Katharine Pratt Horton became its second regent. John Horton, who disliked the organization, called it:
... the hereditary college of priestesses of the cult of the nation. it commemorated historic events; it set monuments on historic sites, in its solemnities it practiced genuflections to the symbols and trophies of the state. The atmosphere of its social intercourse was the mingled fragrance of bouquets on mahogany tables and of tea poured into fragile china from old silver."
Digby Baltzell, a social historian, writes:
The whole movement [to form associations limited to older immigrants from Northern and Western Europe] was, of course, intimately bound up with anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic sentiments. Thus a leader of the D.A.R. saw a real danger in "our being absorbed by the different nationalities among us," and a president-general of the Sons of the American Revolution reported that: "Not until the state of civilization reached the point where we had a great many foreigners in our land ... were our patriotic societies successful."
The Daughters of the American Revolution was indeed extremely successful. Founded in 1890, it had 397 chapters in 38 states by 1897. That the anti-immigrant reaction was most prevalent in the urban East, however, was attested to by the fact that the Daughters made slow headway in the West and South and had a vast majority of its chapters in New York and Massachusetts.
The Daughters believed that exposure to the mysteries of the Revolution would Americanize the waves of non-WASP immigrants which had swamped America's cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and never heard of Lexington and Concord or even of Gettysburg. Of her flag-waving, Hill, who seems to have been mesmerized by her, wrote:
Mrs. Horton is regent of Buffalo Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and under her leadership the chapter has more than trebled its membership, now registering 712 members, which places this chapter in the lead in membership in New York State, and the second largest in the national order. Through Mrs. Horton's leadership the Buffalo Chapter was the pioneer in the national society in the instituting of Americanization as a branch of their work. She has been indefatigable in keeping the interest high in this field.
In Buffalo each week during the winter months the chapter gives an illustrated lecture, at a cost of $300, to the present-day pioneers from every country so they can learn citizenship in the "Land of Opportunity." Regular chapter meetings are held each month, where noted speakers discuss current events, and the best artists are employed for the musical program, three to five hundred members and guests usually attending. One instance involving exhaustive research work was the placing of one hundred and thirty bronze markers on graves of Revolutionary patriots, and flowers and flags are placed on each Memorial Day on every soldier grave in Buffalo."
Katharine also enjoyed national notoriety. At the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 she chaired the Reception and Entertainment Women's Committee, presided at the Great Flag Day mass meeting of the Daughters' national society, belonged to the Women's National Board of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904, was named by the mayor to represent Buffalo at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915, served on the reception committee and presented flowers to the Queen of Belgium when she and King Albert visited Buffalo after World War 1, and was chairman of the Women's Committee for the Tercentenary Celebration of the Landing of the Pilgrims in 1920.
She and John had been well fixed financially and she resided in Europe for ten years, and so was received warmly in European courts. She was a delegate to the Peace Congress at Stockholm and Geneva, and spoke before the noted men of science and representatives of European parliaments assembled to deliberate on establishing world peace. She was chairman of the national committee for the correct use of the American flag of which Mrs. Warren G. Harding was the honorary chairman.
After several years of physical and mental decline, Katherine died at her home in 1931. By a will signed in 1929 she had left the bulk of her $400,000 estate ($6,972,000 in 1997 dollars) to a sister, Annie P Chittenden, and to Frank B. Steele of Washington D.C. who had drawn up the will in which he was named executor. Subscribing witnesses were Ganson Depew and Rev. Charles Stewart, pastor of North Presbyterian. Steele had been associated with his benefactress in D.A.R. business in Washington.
Katherine's other surviving sister, Melissa Fryer of #681 Delaware, who was not mentioned in the will, and Pascal P. Jones of #695 Delaware, a nephew who was down for a mere $2,000, hired an attorney, Frank G. Raichle, to argue duress and mental incapacity on the part of the testatrix. Stewart and Depew declared that at the signing, "Mrs. Horton was rational but not mentally normal" and added that she "was not under duress," but they also admitted they were in her presence "only a short time."
She also willed #477 to the D.A.R. on condition that words "Buffalo Chapter" would be changed to "Katherine Pratt Horton Chapter," which was accordingly done.