Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Remembering Silvius Hoard

Bookmark and Share

Previous: Fort Niagara And The Man-Made Wonder Of Lockport

Lafayette memorial on 1 Exchange Blvd. in downtown Rochester identifying the site of Hoard’s Tavern. Source: Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center

Think of history as a mosaic containing thousands of tiny stones. When you get up close, they appear unremarkable. Except for a few, often minor, variations in color or a slightly different shape, they look nearly identical. Sure, for any number of reasons, a few stand out and pique your curiosity. But all in all, they’re all the same.

Until you back away. Farther away, you see the small rocks begin to transform into a series of patterns. It’s as though each stone represents a dot connected to its neighbors. From a more distant perspective, you no longer see individual stones. You see a compelling picture. As if it was always there.

That’s history. It’s a picture you see, far removed from the original source, the original data points, the human stones that actually created the picture. It’s too easy to forget those people. But you shouldn’t. Without them, you wouldn’t have history.

But it’s more than just history. Without them, you wouldn’t have a country. You wouldn’t have a stable community. Indeed, you maybe wouldn’t even be here.

It’s important to remember that. You, your community, your nation, owe much to these people. Not all of them, but many of them. Every community starts off as a settlement. Not all settlements survive. Not all settlements thrive. Some remain villages. Others grow into cities.

Rochester began as a small settlement, grew into a village, then blossomed into a city. For decades following the establishment of the Erie Canal, it stood out as the largest city in Western New York. (As mentioned earlier, Buffalo only surpassed it in 1850.)

We are all familiar with the name Nathaniel Rochester. He’s the man credited with starting the community that would earn his name. He was a big stone. When Lafayette visited in 1825, Nathaniel Rochester had the honor of riding in the carriage with the French general.1

But there were other stones present on that day. Each played a role in creating the historic mosaic you see before you. When you learn about their lives—not only what they did on Tuesday, June 7, 1825, but the entirety of their lives—you learn a little bit more about how our nation was built, how our state was built, and how Western New York was built.

If you’re lucky, you even learn a little bit about how you are built. How do you measure up to those people? How do your parents, your family, and your friends measure up to those early settlers? Do you have the fortitude to confront a pioneering life, or do you seek the path of least resistance? Do you have the confidence to step in and make a difference, or do you defer to others? Are you brave enough to tackle new challenges, or do you prefer to avoid them?

In other words, are you made of the same stuff as those who made America? Or are you merely a pebble that has decided to go along for the ride, satisfied to not earn a spot on and be left off the mosaic of history?

It’s a hard question to answer, because times today are so much different. In some ways, it was easier to make a difference 200 years ago. There were fewer people. This meant each person was under more pressure to help others. Life was tough, and if you wanted your settlement to do more than survive, you had to chip in. There was really very little choice otherwise.

Which brings us back to one of those stones on the Tuesday in Rochester. He represents not only all that was good about our ancestors, but also the happy fortune of the confluence of coincidence.

Silvius Hoar was born in Springfield, Vermont on July 23, 1789. At least we think so. Several sources say that.2,3 One source says he was born in Massachusetts on September 23, 1789.4 This is the problem with relying on secondary source information.

It’s very possible that the fact there’s a more famous Springfield in that state confused the Massachusetts source. Indeed, that same source states that Silvius’ brother Charles Brooks Hoard was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. We know, however, from his congressional biography (Charles B. served in the U.S. House of Representatives) that he was in fact born in Springfield, Windsor County, Vermont.5 It is reasonable to assume Silvius was also born at that location.

Speaking of errors, yet another secondary source misidentified Charles Brooks Hoard as Silvius’ son.6 That’s incorrect. Silvius’s son was named “Charles Alexander Hoard.”7

And lest you think the first mention of “Silvius Hoar” is a typo, it isn’t. That’s the name he (and his brothers) were born with. After they moved to New York, they petitioned the New York State Legislature to legally add a “d” to their original name, making their new last name “Hoard.”8

One would presume it would be difficult to run for Congress when your last name sounds like “hoar frost.” Or it might be they didn’t like the fact that, in Old English, “hoar” refers to showing signs of aging. Or… well, we won’t go there. In either case, the name change occurred well before Charles ran for Congress, and Silvius may have instigated it.

You might ask, “Why did these Vermont boys get an act passed by the New York Legislature?” Well, the answer is simple. The family moved to Northern New York prior to the War of 1812. Silvius and his older brother Daniel were hired by David Parish as agents. Daniel was assigned Parishville in St. Lawrence County and Silvius got Antwerp in Jefferson County.9

Silvius made quite a name for himself in Antwerp (and not just literally by changing his name, but by his proactive nature). In 1816, he became a commissioner for the Jefferson County Bank.10 That same year, David Parrish built a brick meeting house and put Silvius on the committee in charge of it.11 A year later, he was selected as the Antwerp director for the Jefferson County Agricultural Society.12 In 1819, he was named trustee when the first Presbyterian Society was formed.13

The busy Mr. Hoard also served in a more official civic capacity. Actually, more than one. He was elected Town Supervisor in 1818-19 and again in 1823-24.14 In 1819, when a 184 Regiment was newly formed, Silvius became second in command, serving as Lieutenant colonel.15 He became a full colonel in 1820.16

On February 24,1814, he married Nancy Mary DeVillers.17 This would play a key role in his prominence (and relevance) in Rochester on June 7, 1825. You see, Nancy was the daughter of Louis Charles Aime LeFebvre, (American name: Lewis DeVillers). DeVillers, a French nobleman like Lafayette, came to fight in the American Revolutionary War. After the peace, he decided to make America his home.17

Would you be surprised to hear that DeVillers and Lafayette were friends? It makes sense. They were. And that gave reason for Lafayette to visit Hoard’s Tavern when he arrived in Rochester. Or so says one source written a century after the event.18

How certain can we be that this connection is true? It’s tough to say as there is no contemporary reporting on this. It’s also difficult to determine how, why and when Hoard came to Rochester. That same century-later source says he arrived in 1820 after he “lost both his money and his health in an attempt to float the Ogdensburg Turnpike Company.”19 This could not be independently confirmed.

One contradiction we know of is that Silvius Hoard appears on the 1820 census for Antwerp, Jefferson County, New York.20 served as supervisor of the Town of Antwerp in 1823-1824. That makes it difficult to place him in Rochester during that time period. Two things are certain: First, on November 30, 1824 (presumably after his time of office in Antwerp had expired), he was in Canada turning over the first ceremonial sod of the Welland Canal, the construction of which he was hired to supervise.21 Second, Hoard definitely owned the tavern and Lafayette definitely visited there.22 Beyond that, who knows?

Oddly enough, that same article states Hoard sold the tavern the day after Lafayette’s visit. No reason was given. How long did he stay in Rochester? Well, someone thought he was there as late as March 1826 because the Rochester Post Office advertised he had a letter waiting for him.23 We do know Hoard died at age 39 on September 23, 1828 in Niagara Falls, New York while working on the Welland Canal. He’s buried with his wife in Ogdensburg.24

Yet, in that brief life, he accomplished much in all the communities he served. He most assuredly earned his spot on the mosaic of history. Yet, like the Rochester tavern he operated in 1825, Silvius Hoard has disappeared into the foggy mists of time.

Let’s remember him.

And his tavern.

Next Week: Competing Memories Turn Lafayette’s Rochester Visit From History To Mystery

1 “Visit of Lafayette,” Rochester Telegraph, Wednesday, June 15, 1825, p.2
2 Hough, Franklin B., A History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Co, Little & Co, Albany 1853, p. 422-423
3 [Retrieved June 5, 2024]
4 Genealogical and Family History of Northern New York Vol. II, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1910 p.628
5 “HOARD, Charles Brooks,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, [Retrieved June 14, 2024]
6 Our County and Its People A Descriptive Work on Jefferson County, ed. Edgar C. Emerson, The Boston History Company, 1898, p. 452
7 Genealogical and Family History of Northern New York Vol. II, p.628
8 Ibid.
9 Hough, Franklin B., p. 422-423
10 Our County and Its People A Descriptive Work on Jefferson County, p.333
11 Ibid., p. 463
12 Ibid, p. 246-247
13 Hough, p. 94
14 Our County and Its People A Descriptive Work on Jefferson County, p. 474
15 Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment of the State of New York 1783-1821, Vol III, ed by Hugh Hastings, James B. Lyon, State Printer, Albany 1901, p. 1980
16 Ibid., p. 2140
17 [Retrieved June 5, 2024]
18 “Lafayette and Retinue Paid Visit to Rochester One Hundred Years Ago,” Democrat and Chronicle, Sunday, June 14, 1925, p.1
19 Ibid.
20 1820 Census Antwerp, Jefferson Co., NY: Heads of Households, [Retrieved June 17, 2024]
21 “Big Ship Canal Monument To Silvius Hoard,” The Odgensburg Republican-Journal, Monday, December 16, 1929, p. 3
22 “Visit of Lafayette,” Rochester Telegraph, Wednesday, June 15, 1825, p.2
23 “List of Letters,” Monroe Republican, Wednesday, March 16, 1926, p. 3
24 Genealogical and Family History of Northern New York Vol. II, p.628


Speak Your Mind


You cannot copy content of this page

Skip to content