Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Every once in a while you hear of someone who takes a fancy to a celebrity or politician and writes them a “fan” letter. Most are innocent crushes that soon fade away (although some have turned deadly for the person of interest). It is interesting to learn that one national political figure with local ties caused a Lockport man to be so smitten with her that it was a source of embarrassment to the man for many years.
In 1877, Belva Ann Bennett McNall Lockwood, a native of Royalton, was living in Washington, D.C., pursuing a career in law and making a name for herself in the women’s suffrage movement as well in the political circles within which she moved. She had been recently widowed for a second time, had a grown daughter and had just lost a second daughter to typhoid. She was devoted to her work as a legal champion for underrepresented populations and doubtless had thought little of romance again in her life. But a gentleman from Lockport had other thoughts.
Moses Richardson, born in 1817 (13 years before Belva Bennett), arrived in Royalton as a teenager in the 1830s. He taught school in Royalton, Buffalo and Lockport before beginning a newspaper career in 1848, when he founded the Lockport Daily Journal. As editor, printer and pressman, Richardson built the paper up as a successful daily.
He also had apparently become enamored with Mrs. Lockwood, whom he may have met when she was the preceptress at the old Union School in Lockport. In a moment of romantic weakness, Richardson wrote a love letter to the lady lawyer in Washington, but changed his mind about sending it. It apparently got mixed up with some other papers and Richardson later used the reverse side to write an editorial and sent it off to be printed.
Whether an honest mistake, or as a joke, the young typesetter printed the love letter instead of the editorial. When Richardson saw the letter in print, he was furious. Before he could correct the error, several copies had already been distributed. He soon became the butt of many a joke throughout the city. Until his death in 1890, Richardson was never truly able to live down the infamous letter.
We don’t know whether Belva Lockwood ever saw a copy of the letter, although gossip as it is, she undoubtedly heard about it.
In 1884, she became the first woman to run for U.S. president on the Equal Rights Party and actually received over 4,000 votes. She ran again four years later. Although she did not win either election, she continued to work for the rights of those she felt were underrepresented in the United States justice system.
Belva Lockwood did not marry again and she died in Washington in 1917, three years short of women getting the right to vote.
Ann Marie Linnabery is the assistant director of the History Center of Niagara.Ann Marie Linnabery is the assistant director of the History Center of Niagara.