Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stephen Wallace Dorsey, Sandusky Tool Co. Superintendent and U.S. Senator

Stephen Wallace Dorsey was born in Rutland County, Vermont in 1842. He moved to Oberlin as a young man, and was living in the home of his future father-in-law, Chauncey Wack in 1860. (Oberlin’s Downtown Walking Tour Guide refers to Chauncey Wack as one of Oberlin’s “anti heroes.”) During the Civil War, Dorsey was an officer in the First Regiment of the Ohio Light Artillery. Following the war, Dorsey married Helen Wack, who was known as the prettiest girl in Oberlin.

Records from the Sandusky Tool Company show Stephen W. Dorsey as the company’s superintendent from May 13, 1869 to September 27, 1872. Clayton Chauncey Dorsey, son of Stephen and Helen Wack Dorsey was born in Sandusky in 1871. The Dorsey family moved to Arkansas, and Stephen W. Dorsey became president of the Arkansas Railway Company. He was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving from March 4, 1873, to March 3, 1879.

In the 1880’s, Stephen W. Dorsey achieved notoriety by his connection with the “Star Route” scandal. A group including former Senator Dorsey and assistant postmaster general Thomas Brady over-funded postal contracts, and skimmed off some of the money. The case was covered by the New York Times and other periodicals. Dorsey was never convicted of a crime concerning this case, although many thought he was guilty.

Stephen Dorsey led a colorful life, including raising cattle and speculating in mines. Curiously in the 1880 Census, Stephen Dorsey was listed in New York as a stockbroker, and also in New Mexico as a stock raiser. His mansion in New Mexico was adorned with gargoyles of himself, his wife, and brother, among others. After the death of Helen Wack Dorsey, Stephen married Laura Bigelow. Stephen W. Dorsey died in California in 1916. He is buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, Colorado with his first wife Helen.

The Sandusky Tool Company Story, by Wilbert G. Schwer, is available at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library. To view actual tools made by the Sandusky Tool Company, visit The Follett House Museum, where tools are displayed in a room on the attic level.

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