Biography of Elihu Gifford


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA



Between Pages 184 & 1885


          For half a century, Mr. Gifford has been identified with the business interests and the social life of the city of Hudson. He was born on the 7th day of July, 1796, in the town of Greenfield, Saratoga Co., N.Y. His parents, Silas and Elizabeth (Robinson) Gifford, were natives of Massachusetts; the former was born in the town of Dartmouth, and the latter on one of the Elizabeth Islands, off New Bedford. They settled in Greenfield, Saratoga county, in 1795, where they spent the remainder of their lives, and where Elihu was reared and resided till twenty-seven years of age, following the occupation of a tanner and shoemaker, to which business he was bred by his father, who pursued the same trade. His advantages for education were quite limited, being such only as were afforded by the district schools of that day. His early ambition was to improve to the best of his ability the opportunities to acquire knowledge, and to strike out upon an independent course of life for himself. In July, 1817, he was united in marriage to Eliza R. Starbuck, daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Starbuck of Easton, Washington Co., N.Y. After his marriage, he continued five years in the leather and shoe business in Greenfield, at the expiration of which time he removed to Hudson, where he arrived in 1823, and bought an interest in the iron foundry, becoming a member of the firm of Starbuck, Gifford & Co., the only foundry in Hudson for years.  In connection with this interest and his part in public affairs, he has been a well-known and influential citizen of Hudson from that day to this, rearing a family which have attained to respectable and honorable positions in society. For several years prior to the construction of the Boston and Albany railroad, he was engaged quite extensively in the forwarding business, shipping the produce of this country by vessels to the city of New York. In connection with other citizens, he early took an active part in the establishment of railroads and other enterprises calculated for the benefit of the city. He helped to build the Hudson and Berkshire, now the Hudson branch of the Boston and Albany railroad, of which he was a director from the organization till the road was sold and consolidated with the main Boston and Albany line. He has also been a member and director of various other corporations. He was one of the first to establish the Farmers' Bank of Hudson, immediately after the passage of the free banking law in 1839, of which he was elected the first president, and held that office for twenty-five consecutive years.

     Often solicited to accept responsible positions in connection with the municipal affairs of the city, he has almost uniformly declined, and has only been a few times alderman of the ward in which he resides. In connection with the schools, charitable institutions, manufacturing and commercial interests of the city, Mr. Gifford has been active, and done his full share to promote and advance these interests, serving as a trustee of the academy at which several of his sons were prepared for college. He has been blessed with a family of eleven children, six sons and five daughters, all of whom have come up to respectable positions in society. The daughters were educated at the Hudson Female Academy, under the direction of Rev. John B. Hague.

     Mrs. Gifford has been an early and prominent member of the Baptist church, of which also several of her children are members. She has been for many years first directress of the Hudson Orphan Asylum, being the successor of Mrs. McKinstry, who, with Mrs. T. G. Freeman, founded the institution. Sanford R. Gifford, one of the sons, is a distinguished landscape painter, and has pursued his art studies in Italy and various parts of Europe.