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Archive for December 10th, 2021

carltonCarlton Street runs from Main to Genesee Street in the Medical Campus and Fruit Belt neighborhoods of Buffalo.  Like many streets in this area, it was impacted by the construction of the Kensington Expressway (NYS Route 33), which separates Carlton Street into two, with its final two blocks of the 33, cut off from the rest of the street west of the 33.

Carlton Street is named for Ebenezer Carleton Sprague.  Ebenezer went by the nickname of Eben and was born in Bath, Grafton County, New Hampshire on November 26, 1822.  Eben Sprague was the Great Great Great Grandson of Frances Sprague, who sailed to Plymouth on the ship Anne, and was the First Secretary of the Plymouth Colony.  Eben Sprague came to Buffalo in 1825 with his parents Noah Sprague and Abiah Carleton.  Technically, you could say that Carlton Street was named for Eben’s mom and her family.  The name was spelled interchangeably as Carleton and Carlton, depending on the source.

Noah Sprague worked in the mercantile business in Buffalo and was well known around Early Buffalo.  He was elected County Clerk of Erie County in 1831 and 1840.  He was mostly identified with the lake business and had an office on the docks for many years.

EbenCarletonSpragueEben Sprague attended Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated from Harvard College in 1843.  After graduation, he studied law in the office of Millard Fillmore and Solomon G. Haven, two of the most distinguished lawyers of their day.  Mr. Sprague was admitted to the bar in October 1846.  He was a successful lawyer and was associated with both Millard Fillmore and his son, Millard Powers Fillmore.  Mr. Sprague founded the firm Moot, Sprague, Marcy and Gulick.  He was well respected among the legal community for nearly 50 years.

Mr. Sprague served as the lawyer for the International Railroad Company, the Great Western Railway of Canada, Grand Trunk and Lake Erie & Western Railroads as well as other railroad and manufacturing concerns.  His firm went by several names over the years.  He served as attorney for Erie County Savings Bank for more than 40 years, beginning in 1854.

235 Delaware

Sprague House at Delaware and Chippewa in center of photo. Source: Chippewa Street Development Report

In 1849, Eben Sprague married Elizabeth H. Williams.  They had eight children, but only four lived to adulthood – Henry Ware,  Carlton, Louise and Mary.  The Sprague Family lived in a cottage on High Street and then moved to a home on the northeast corner of Chippewa and Delaware.  The house at 235 Delaware Avenue was originally built by W. S. Gardner in 1836 for Alexander A. Eustaphieve.  The house was a three story, Federal-style brick structure.  The house had a basement kitchen, which was the older style of house popular in the early days of Buffalo, called an English basement house.  The house was demolished in 1930.  The site is currently Starbucks and Bocce’s Pizza.

The Sprague house was a center of culture.  Mr. Sprague studied languages – including French and German which he was fluent in, and Latin and Greek.  He enjoyed poetry, especially Shelley.  He always said if he hadn’t’ been a lawyer, he’d have been a writer.

Mr. Sprague served as President of the Young Men’s Association, which developed into the Buffalo Library; Vice President and Curator of Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts (the Albright Knox Art Gallery); a member of the Buffalo Natural Science Association, the Harvard Club and the Thursday Club.  He was also one of the founders of First Unitarian Church.  In 1890, he was made the third Chancellor of the University of Buffalo.

In 1876, he was nominated to fill a vacancy in the State Senate for a single session.  During his time in the Senate in 1877, he was a member of the Committee on Canals and helped reduce tolls on the Erie Canal.  He also was a member of the Judiciary Committee, and worked to better the new code of civil procedure, which included writing 600 amendments to the code!  His constituents wanted to nominated him the next year, but he declined.  He had no desire for other public positions.

In the 1880s, Mr. Sprague advised wealthy Buffalonians to share their riches, saying, “It was wealth without a conscience that sowed the seeds of the French Revolution and drove its possessors into exile and to the guillotine.”  He was a supporter of many charities, giving of his time, money and attention.  He served as a Secretary of the Buffalo Orphan Asylum and a Trustee of Children’s Aid and Charity Organization Society, and of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Mr. Sprague wrote a number of essays that he published.  In 1891, Mr. Sprague printed a book titled “Lessons from the Life of Benjamin Franklin” for the young people of Buffalo.  This book is an autobiography of Franklin’s that was edited by Mr. Sprague.  In Mr. Sprague’s introduction he wrote to the boy and girls, hoping they could learn from Franklin’s life and, “while they cannot all be Franklins, they can become respected and prosperous.”  He desired wide circulation of the book, so he sold it at cost.

sprague graveMr. Sprague died on February 14, 1895 at the age of 73.  He suffered fell into a coma while home reading to his wife by the fire.  He died the next day of kidney disease.  His grave says:  Jurisconsultus Insignis – Civis Fidelis Literis Perdoctus- Hominum Amator, which means “Distinguished Lawyer – A Loyal Citizen – Lover of Human Learning.  He left behind an estate valued at $50,000 in real estate and $150,000 in personal property ($1.6 Million and $4.9 Million in today’s dollars).  Eben left his law office to his son Henry, who continued the practice until his death.  The firm then continued under Eben’s grandson!

Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index. Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made. You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the home page. You can also follow the blog on facebook. If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.

Sources:

  • Smith, H. Katherine.  “Carlton Street Memorial to Outstanding Buffalo Lawyer.”  Buffalo Courier-Express.  April 20, 1941, p 7-3.
  • “E.C. Sprague Dead”.  Buffalo Enquirer.  February 14, 1895.  p1.
  • “Last Will of Late Eben Carlton Sprague”.  Buffalo Enquirer.  June 14, 1895.  p2.
  • “Loved and Mourned:  A Departed Bright Light of the Bar of Buffalo.”  Buffalo Courier.  February 16, 1895, p6.
  • “Mr. E.C. Sprague:  Sudden Death of One of City’s Most Prominent Lawyers at Noon.”  Buffalo Evening News.  February 15, 1895, p6.
  • Patterson, Roger.  “Chippewa Street Development Report.”  Prepared for the Dept of Community Development, Buffalo New York.  February 1980.
  • Franklin, Benjamin.  Lessons from the Life Of Benjamin Franklin.  Ebenezer Carlton Sprague, editor.  P. Paul & Bro Publishers:  Buffalo.  1891.

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