Henry Griffith Lapham

Henry Griffith Lapham


He was an older cousin of Silas Griffith who in 1859 guaranteed the accounts of Silas Griffith to the New York City merchants who supplied the stock for his store.

Henry Griffith Lapham, leather merchant, a native of Danby, Vt. born. Feb. 24, 1822, died in New York city Jan. 28, 1888. The family of which he was a distinguished member trace their lineage to John Lapham, a pioneer, who sailed to the new world from Devonshire in England and settled in Rhode Island in 1637. They were members of the Society of Friends, and in 1699, John Lapham and three others built the first meeting house erected in Dartmouth, Mass: The great grandfather of the subject of this memoir was born in Smithfield, R.I., in 1722, and his grandfather in the same town in 1761, moving thence to Adams, Mass., and later to Danby, VT.

Jesse Lapham, father of Henry G. Lapham, was born in Danby and engaged in mercantile pursuits and milling both there and in South Wallingford in the same State and in Troy, N. Y. He was a man of marked purity and natural force of character and great influence in his community, and as president of The Danby Bank and one of those who promoted the building of The Western Vermont Railroad, he rose to prominence and reputation.

Educated in the schools of Rutland county and the Columbia Friends’ School in Chatham, N. Y., Henry G. Lapham located, and later had charge of his father’s interests, in South Wallingford, consisting of a general store, saw mills and grist mills and a foundry. The varied experience which he had there proved of great use to him in his later business life. In 1849, the young man visited the West, attracted by the possibilities of that region, with an idea of settling there; but, after a careful examination, he returned the same year and resumed his place in charge of his father’s interests. But he was ambitious, and in 1854 removed to New York, where, as a clerk, he entered the employment of his uncle, Anson Lapham, then a prominent leather merchant in the ‘‘Swamp.” Already trained in the discharge of responsible duties, he rose by prudence, diligent labor and capacity, to important positions in the house and soon displayed every qualification of a successful merchant. After a few years, a partnership was formed between the uncle, the nephew, and Joseph E. Bulkley, as Lapham & Bulkley, and Mr. Lapham was principally engaged thereafter for the rest of his life in the tanning and lumber business in New York State and Pennsylvania. He had various partners at different times and his firm became known successively as Bulkley & Lapham, Lapham & Bulkley, H. G. Lapham & Co., and Lapham, Costello
& Co. In 1887, the firm name of H. G. Lapham & Co. was finally adopted and has
been retained to this day.

In 1880, with F. H. Rockwell of Warren, PA, he formed the firm of F. H. Rockwell & Co., and engaged in the manufacture of leather and lumber in northwestern Pennsylvania. Later, with Mr. Rockwell, he took an active part in the production of petroleum in Pennsylvania and Ohio. He was also interested in ranching in Mexico.

Mr, Lapham was one of the old race of solid, upright and progressive merchants of this city. He was widely known and highly respected. In all matters affecting the business to which he devoted his life, his judgment was held in the highest regard, and his advice was continually sought by his associates in the trade. He retired from active management of the firms in which he was interested several years before his death, surrendering the labor to his sons. Most of his time thereafter was spent in travel, except that he incidentally gave some attention to a general supervision of his varied interests. He gave liberally to charity. To his generous contributions, the Schofield School for Colored Children in Aiken, S. C., largely owes its success. He was a member of The Charity Organization Society and The New England Society. Mr. Lapham was never active in politics and never held office, although he was a public spirited man and always deeply concerned in whatever affected the welfare of his fellow men and his country. The temperance cause enlisted his especial support. Not only did he practice temperance himself, a natural outgrowth of his purity and firmness of character, but he used his influence at all times to promote the growth of a sentiment in favor of it, this in turn being the result of his benevolent disposition and long observation of the intolerable evils which spring from the vice to which he was opposed.

His marriage in 1846 to Semantha, daughter of John and Ruth Vail of Danby, brought him two children, John Jesse and Lewis Henry. That portion of his extensive business connected with the tanning of leather has been in recent years merged in that of The United States Leather Co., one of the greatest corporations in America.