Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

February 1, 2014

Meet Kate Chase, the 'Belle' and her distant namesake

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Author’s note: This is the third installment of “The Name is the Same But The History Is Different” series looking at local notables in Niagara County’s past. This week, meet two cousins named Kate Chase, 22 years apart in age ...

The first Kate Chase was born Aug. 13, 1840, the daughter of Salmon P. Chase of Cincinnati, Ohio. She was also the niece of Edward I. Chase and Janet Chase Skinner, both of Lockport, whom she visited on a frequent basis.

Kate’s mother died when she was 5 years old and her father remarried. A second daughter, Janet (Nettie), was born in 1847; her mother, Chase’s third wife, died in 1852. Chase did not remarry again.

When Kate was 9, she was sent to boarding school in New York City where she remained for nine years. She returned in 1858 just in time to manage her father’s candidacy for president in 1860. She also served as official hostess for the widowed Chase, who was by then governor of Ohio. 

At age 18, Kate was described as a “tall and slender and exceedingly well-formed” girl who took a “lively and intelligent part” in political conversation. She was a “great beauty and broke many hearts.”

Salmon Chase lost the Republican nomination to Abraham Lincoln but was offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury after Lincoln won the election. Kate was in her element in Washington, again serving as her father’s hostess and unofficial adviser. Known as the “Belle of the North,” Kate offered unsolicited advice to Union generals as well as the President himself.

In 1863, Kate married William Sprague, the young governor of Rhode Island. Their wedding was the social event of the season that year in Washington. Four children were born to the couple. During the 1860s, Kate kept her hope up that her father would someday be president, working behind the scenes on his behalf in 1864 and 1868. With Lincoln’s re-election in 1864, Chase resigned his treasury position but was promptly chosen by Lincoln to be chief justice of the Supreme Court. He passed away in 1873.

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