Stephen Horton

Stephen Horton was a dry-goods merchant in the early years of the Village. In 1832, he had business to conduct in New York City, but the city was beset by cholera. The epidemic had taken its first victim there on June 26, 1832, and within two months had taken 3,500 more — 100 in just one day in July.

Cholera was the most feared malady of its day. Having awakened in fine health, one could die horribly before noon. At the onset, nausea and cramps quickly gave way to explosive diarrhea; head and hands turned cold and blue; the heart began to fail. Cholera led to death in 50% of its cases; among children, the ill and the elderly, the death rate was 100%. People were often buried in the very clothes they wore when stricken.

Stephen Horton could have sent another man in his place. But he would not ask someone else to take a risk for his gain, to do something he himself feared to do. And so he went to New York City on his own; on October 23rd, he was stricken with cholera, and died at the age of 39. He left behind his wife, Laura, and five children.


His funeral sermon was preached here by the Rev. J.T. Clarke on November 4th, but Horton’s body did not reach Skaneateles for burial until the following February. One of the original vestrymen of St. James’ Episcopal Church, Horton is remembered there by a window on the east side of the sanctuary, which brightens with the morning light during Sunday services, and by the smaller of the two bells in the bell tower, which he donated and which originally hung in St. James’ first wooden structure.


Source: Notes of Other Days in Skaneateles (1914) by William Beauchamp

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