Stories from the family Vault

Families often have stories that are not shared with younger members, one such story concerned my grandfather.    Hamilton R Norvell

My grandfather Hamilton Redfield Norvell was born in Detroit in 1863, when his father died in 1881 leaving the family with a mountain of debts, Hamilton and his mother Mary Dean Redfield Norvell moved to Buffalo. Buffalo at the time was the dynamic center of commerce on the Great Lakes. Hamilton, it can be supposed, hoped to recoup some of the family’s fortune which had been lost in bad investments. As is often the case, it didn’t work out that way. By the late 1896, he was now a clerk in the local post office.

At this time a strange event occurred, as reported in the local press:

Buffalo, May 13. H. R. Norvell, who acted as a postmaster in charge of a substation on Walden avenue, is missing and is said to be in Canada. He was last heard of in St. Catharines. The postal authorities have examined Norvell’ s books, found a shortage of less than $500 and have removed the office Norvell was under bonds, which can be collected. His friends have ineffectually tried to induce him to return.

May 21 1897 Auburn NY
Hamilton R. Norvell, convicted of embezzling money order funds from substation No. 4 in Buffalo of which he was superintendent, comes to Auburn to remain eighteen months and to pay a fine of $481.22 before he will be able to remove his checked suit.

PARDONED BY McKINLEY. – Dec 27, 1897
H.R. Norvell, a United States man doing a sentence of one year and six months at the Auburn prison with a fine of $460 for misappropriating postal funds at Buffalo, was discharged from the prison today on a pardon signed by President McKinley. Norvell was received here May 17 last and has been employed as a clerk in Clerk Winegar’s office since John Beaugert was released from the prison. Eight other US men in various parts of the country were also pardoned along with Norvell.

Hamilton R. Norvell, a convict in Auburn prison, was made happy Christmas day by a full pardon from President McKinley. Norvell was sentenced last May to serve one year and six months for embezzling postal money order funds from the Buffalo Post officer, where he was an accounting clerk.

Later it would come out that he had been drinking and took the money for a spree.  Not something often told to younger family members.

There is one more twist, on September 6, 1901 the Norvell family journeyed to the Buffalo Pan-American Expostion hoping to thank President McKinley for the actions in pardoning Hamilton. As the Norvells moved through the grounds en-route to where Mckinley was receiving visitors in the Temple of Music, the news swept the exposition that he had been shot. President McKinley died two weeks later the victim of an assassin’s bullet.

My grandfather later turned to printing as a career at the Roycroft in East Aurora for Elbert Hubbard.  See At the Roycroft


About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in American History, Detroit History, Elbert Hubbard, New York, New York State History, Norvell Family History, NY, NY History, Roycroft, Social History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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