Part 3 of a 3-part web version of a paper presented Nov. 15, 2013 at

Researching New York 2013 by  webmaster.

 Clicking lower case Roman numerals in Parts I and II accesses

respective endnotes in Part III. Clicking that citation's numeral

in Part III returns you to your place in Part I or II. A list of links

to access any of the 3 parts appears at bottom of each page.





Slide from PowerPoint show highlighting points in printed paper.

Stanford’s 1812 state prison chaplaincy appointment has particular significance because it happened about a generation after adoption of the born-in-NY Bill of Rights (with its religious liberty protections). NY authorities saw no conflict with the First Amendment. His being hired marks one of the new nation’s first “accommodations” bridging the supposed divide between church and state. It’s worth noting that the 1790 document proclaiming NYS’s adoption of the Bill of Rights begins with the phrase, The People of the State of New York, by the Grace of God, Free and Independent . . . .” To this day that phrase still appears atop various NYS’ legal documents.

[i] Rev. Charles George Sommers, Memoir of the Rev. John Stanford, D.D.: Late Chaplain to the Humane and Criminal Institutions in the City of New-York, Swords, Stanford & Co. 1835, (Google eBook), Pages 309 – 311. Despite its title, this is less an autobiography than a biography written by the Sommers quoting very extensively from Rev. Stanford's journals, sermons, letters and other writings.


[ii] Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Opinion of the Court, CUTTER V. WILKINSON (03-9877) 544 U.S. 709 (2005) 349 F.3d 257, Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, web site,


[iii] Jennifer Graber, The Furnace of Affliction: Prisons & Religion in Antebellum America, University of North Carolina Press, 2011, Page 54. (A preview version is on Google Books but have a publisher’s review copy.)


[iv] Ibid, Pages 182-183.


[v] David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America and Other Parts of the World,  Lewis & Colby, New York, 1848, (Google eBook), Page 457


[vi] Op. Cit., Sommers, Page 41.


[vii] Ibid, Pages 108-109. So far my research into any Stanford interaction in New York with Catholic clergy or Catholic churches (or with rabbis or Jewish congregations has come up empty. But Page 285 of Sommers features a fascinating letter to Stanford from the prominent Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, responding to Stanford’s earlier letter to that Founding Father and expressing agreement with the chaplain’s views on religious liberty.



Slide from PowerPoint show highlighting points in printed paper.

In 1825 as Stanford entered his 7th decade of life, an appreciative NYC paid him tribute by having his portrait painted and placed on display in the dinning room of Bellevue Hospital. It was an appropriate location because the hospital was part of a complex of institutions --charitable and correctional – which he continued to service until infirmities of age forced him eventually to curtail his rounds.

[viii] Right Rev. George Upfold, A Brief Sketch of the Life of the Rev. John Stanford, D.D. Page xii in the 1855 edition of Rev. John Stanford’s Aged Christian’s Companion: A Variety of Essays for the Improvement, Consolation and Encouragement of Persons Advanced in Life, Stanford & Swords, New York. (Google eBook)


[ix] Op. Cit., Garber, Pages 52-54.


[x] Op. Cit., Sommers, Pages 111-117.


[xi] Op. Cit., Upfold, Page xvi.


[xii] Ann Fabian,The Unvarnished Truth: Personal Narratives in Nineteenth-Century America, University of California Press, 2000, Page 72. (Google Books Preview)


[xiii] Op. Cit., Sommers. Page 109.


[xiv] Ibid, Page 274. Though not noted in the main text above, Stanford wrote an 1815 article as “Americus” for the Mercantile Advertiser in which he formally proposed that the merchant community lead a campaign to establish a “Public Marine School.” Sommers devotes Pages 254-257 to the reverend’s plan, including a letter from Commodore Perry agreeing that “court boys” should not be excluded from seamanship training which had been proposed by the naval hero. He too thought, like Stanford, that such youths could benefit from nautical schooling at sea.


[xv] Pages 16-17, 47th Annual Report of the Managers of theSociety for Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents, 1867, Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 4, No. 51.  (Google Books) I believe I first seriously considered Stanford as a subject for more extensive treatment on the web site (and therefore research) when I encountered his interest in NYC sponsoring or operating a nautical training ship for vagrant youths. I came across him in researching the saga of NYC’s first school ship, the Mercury, operated out of Hart Island as an ocean-going extension of its industrial/reform school. See

Part 2 of 8 parts

and Part 4



Slide from PowerPoint show highlighting points in printed paper.

Stanford simply doesn’t fit the clerical stereotype of a parson passively accepting the institutional regimes where his chaplaincy calling took him. He did indeed challenge the system at the Almshouse that wrote off deaf inmates housed there as unteachable. He did challenge the prison mixing child inmates in with the adults. He did challenge the whole idea of imprisonment of street children instead of providing them with a House of Refuge. He did challenge the prison’s lack of any schooling for its many illiterate inmates.

True, Stanford’s challenging the city and its institutions wouldn’t satisfy history revisionists’ who reject 18th and 19th Century reformers for not being more like modern militant confrontational activists. From within the system, he challenged it to do better for those whom it was supposed to serve.

[xvi] Unlike all the previous end notes above, this one is not tied to any specific quotation, of which this paper already has more than a sufficient number. Rather this end note points to two excellent sources supporting the paper’s contention that Stanford, far from being the stereotypical passive prison parsons served up by modern scriptwriters, frequently initiated and proposed improvements and reforms – in effect, challenging the system to change:



·         W. David Lewis, From Newgate to Dannemora: The Rise of the Penitentiary in New York, 1796 – 1848, Cornell University Press, 1965. Page 39, about the “selfless labors … of the elderly clergyman” who initiate night classes for Newgate inmates, sometimes using literate prisoners as tutors for the illiterates. He also stated a library for inmates but the prison administration shut it down after books came back damaged. Page 47, about his advocating unsuccessfully for setting up an honor group of inmate trustees. I have extended excerpts from the book posted on the, with both the publisher and late author’s permission.


·         Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Oxford University Press, 1999, Page 385, about his and clergy colleague Ely’s reports on public institutions prompting establishment of the Society for Supporting the Gospel Among the City of NY; Page 494, about Stanford’s refusal to join with those advocating ending aid to the poor whom, claimed the Society for Prevention of Pauperism,  had only themselves to blame for their situation; Page 501-502, about Stanford and House of Refuge; Page 506, about Stanford at James Reynolds’ execution.




Since presenting the paper in Albany during November 15, 2013, the webmaster has come across additional sources referencing Rev. Stanford.

Tombs Warden Charles Sutton, in 1860s

After his service in NYC jails, Sutton became keeper at City Hall where his wife (and later widow) Marie E. worked more than two decades as caretaker of the hall's Governor's Room, taking delight in showing its historic treasures to interested and often important visitors.

The NYC web site notes that many of City Hall’s most significant portraits are displayed in the Governor’s Room, a reception space and gallery on the second floor that features historic furnishings and notable objects, including George Washington’s writing desk.

  • The New York Tombs: Its Secrets and Its Mysteries. Being a History of Noted Criminals, with Narratives of Their Crimes by Charles Sutton, warden. 1874, A. Roman & Company, 668 pages (Google eBook, see Pages 32 - 34. Founding of House of Refuge).

  • Annals of the American Pulpit: Vol. VI -- Baptist by William Buell Sprague. Published 1860 by Robert Carter and Brothers (Google eBook. See Pages 244 - 251). Interesting note: Not only the orphan asylum children, but also fellow clerics called him "Father Stanford," perhaps not so much as a priestly title but as a respectful tribute to his age and his paternal interest in them. More than 70 clergy of virtually all denominations in the city attended his funeral. Baptist, Dutch Reformed and Episcopal ministers conducted the service.

  • An entry of several paragraphs about the Rutgers University Library archives collection of papers of Rev. Stanford's son Thomas Naylor Stanford, a publisher. Includes some relevant to the chaplain's successful efforts saving an inmate from execution.

  • The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America by Paul E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz, Oxford University Press, 2012 (Google eBook excerpts includes an extensive look, beginning Page 25, at the life and death of the Rev. Stanford's daughter, Sarah, whom her second husband tried to resurrect.)

Previous (Part II) <<<

Back to Part I >>>

WEBMASTER NOTE: The monograph presented at the Researching New York 2013 conference consisted of 12 pages, the last two of which were devoted to endnotes, This web version includes image inserts with captions. They were not in the original printed copy but have been inserted here as design elements and to provide relevant additional information. Some images are from the slide show which accompanied the verbal presentation of the paper at the conference.

Home Page
History Menu
To Correction
Starter Page
Home Page