Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hedding Anderson Caswell (1851-1913)

Portrait from the Rome Daily Sentinel, April 14, 1913.

    Long distinguished in the business and political life of Rome, New York, Hedding Anderson Caswell served a three year term as mayor of that city beginning in the early 1900s. A lifelong New Yorker, Hedding Anderson Caswell was born in the town of Herkimer on June 13, 1861, being the son of William and Harriett Harter Caswell. The Caswell family removed from Herkimer to Camden, New York when Hedding was a child and from there resettled in Rome when he was nine. Caswell would attend the public schools of that city and also studied at the Rome Free Academy.
   Having entered his teenage years Hedding Caswell left Rome for the big city, traveling to New York City to begin work in a "large boot and shoe store." This line of work proved to have a lasting influence on Caswell, who, after returning to Rome, joined the shoe store operated by Jerome Dillenbeck. After several years in his employ, Caswell and another partner, Fred Marriott, purchased Dillenbeck's interest in the store and began new operations under the name of Caswell and Marriott. Hedding Caswell married on November 24, 1875 to Ms. Arletta Tiffany (1854-1934). The couple would later have four children: Eva (died in infancy in 1879), Tiffany (1880-1906), G. Frederick (1882-1940) and Pauline (1891-1933).
  After a year operating in the aforementioned partnership, Hedding Caswell sold his interest in the firm to Fred Marriott and launched a new career for himself by entering into the flour and feed business, being joined in this endeavor by his father-in-law, Erastus Tiffany. The firm of Tiffany and Caswell would continue until Tiffany sold off his interest to a friend, M.J. Wentworth, whereafter the firm underwent a name change to Caswell and Wentworth. Sometime later Caswell would operate this business alone and eventually sold it to his son Frederick.
   Caswell became active in city politics in the late 1880s when he was elected as a member of the Rome Board of Supervisors for the city's fifth ward. In 1895 he was appointed to the city's Board of Aldermen to fill a vacancy and six years later became the Republican nominee for Mayor of Rome. In the election of 1901, it was Caswell facing off against incumbent Democratic Mayor Abner White, who had been in office since 1899. On election day it was Caswell who emerged victorious, receiving a "majority of 189", and in addition to winning the mayoralty the Republicans swept a number of other city offices, in what was referred to as a "real Waterloo for the Democrats."
  Shortly after being told of his election, Caswell gave a brief address to his constituents, stating that: 
"Gentlemen: I am pleased to meet you as Republicans and Democrats of this city, this evening, for you chose to stand up for a man in any spot and place. If fortune spares my life, I will serve all to the best of my ability. You have won a great victory, for not only have we beaten the ring, but a double ring, and I have made the canvass single handed and alone. I will try to give you an administration that you will feel proud of."
   Entering into office in March 1901, Caswell's original term of two years was extended to three by a provision of the city charter in 1903. His term concluded in January 1904 and he was succeeded by Thomas Gill Nock Jr. (1859-1910). Following his tenure as mayor, Caswell would never again be a candidate for public office but did continue to "keep in touch" with city political happenings for the remainder of his life. 
  Caswell's final years were marred by periods of ill health and in April 1913 underwent an operation for "adhesion of the peritoneum and intestines". Following this surgery prognosis for Caswell's recovery appeared to be good, but this changed a few days later, and by Sunday the former Mayor of Rome was dead, being just 61 years old at the time of his passing. He was survived by his Arletta and two of his children, all of whom were interred in the Caswell family plot at the Rome Cemetery in Rome, New York.

Mayor-elect Caswell, from the March 8, 1901 edition of the Rome Citizen.

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