Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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October 19, 2013

NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: Samuel Works, 'old school' politician

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — With the recent government shutdown, we have heard quite a bit of blame and name-calling by members of both parties at the federal level. Today, we rarely hear people talk about politicians who have “integrity,” a “spotless reputation,” or are “public spirited citizens.” 

However, these were the words used to describe the Honorable Samuel Works, an early businessman and public servant who lived, worked and represented Lockport during the antebellum years of the 1830s to the 1860s. 

This was a time of tremendous change in Lockport and across the nation and Samuel Works, though not on the national stage, was prominent in local and state politics that influenced the rest of the nation.

Samuel Works was born on December 4, 1781, in Westmoreland, N.H. He was elected to the state legislature there in 1810. After serving one term, he moved to Vermont and worked in the mercantile business. He married Hannah Pillsbury and purchased property there from his father-in-law. In 1817, he removed to West Bloomfield near Rochester, to set up business as a tanner and currier with his friend Jacob Graves. 

The business was successful but Works again moved, this time to Lockport in 1831, and purchased the tannery located on the West branch of Eighteen Mile Creek, between Market and Garden streets, later the site of the Western Block Works. By 1836, Works had made a name for himself in business in Lower Town and was nominated to run for the New York State Senate that year. 

It is interesting to note that within the Works papers, he recorded in October 1836 that “snow continues falling here and fell to the depth of about 4 ins. ... We shall probably have to record that in the year 1836 there were but 3 mos. without snow.”

New York politics was in flux in the 1830s. Works won the election to the state Senate from the eighth district in Lockport on the fledging Whig ticket. Other political parties represented in the Legislature included the National Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Loco Focos (the radical wing of the Democratic party in New York state), and the Anti-Masonic party. 

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