NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: The trials and troubles of the Trafford Family

Contributed photo   This image of a horse and wagon in front of a small building with the number 54 and the name “H. Trafford” is in the History Center’s photo collection.

In the History Center’s photo collection, there is an image of a horse and wagon in front of a small building with the number 54 and the name “H. Trafford” across the front. We have used this photo in some of our exhibits and videos. But who was Trafford, what was the store and where was it located?

Henry Trafford was born in England in 1831 and came to the U.S. before 1850. At that time, he was living in Lewiston and working as a bartender at a hotel operated by relatives. By the of end the decade he had moved to Lockport, opened a grocery store on Main Street, married his wife Frances and had an infant son, Thomas. Two other children were also living with the Traffords who may have been a niece and nephew. In the 1860s, the Traffords lived on South St. and later moved to 48 Lock St. but the store remained on Main St. Robert H. Williams, in a reminiscence published in the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal in 1938, recalled that in 1876, “Henry Trafford, who kept a grocery next to the meat market, sold soft drinks and ‘baloney’ sandwiches for 2 cents [and] I was only 14 years old then, so of course I ate many of those sandwiches.” In 1882, Trafford left Main St. and opened a grocery store next to his house at 54 Lock Street. The store remained at this location until Trafford’s death in 1893.

Despite the fact that Henry and Frances Trafford were described as “people of excellent character who have a pleasant and comfortable home,” they were not without their troubles. The Trafford name appeared in the newspapers several times relating to some unfortunate incidents. In 1887, Henry Trafford was swindled out of money by an unscrupulous salesman and a few years later, his son and daughter-in-law were involved in some questionable activities. In 1890, Lizzie Trafford, who was estranged from her husband, Thomas Trafford (for drunkenness and assault), was running a boarding house on North Transit St. when one of her boarders went missing without a trace. Though she was not implicated in the disappearance, the character and reputation of some of her boarders would be brought up at a later time.

At about this same time, the 7-year-old daughter of the younger Traffords died of an undisclosed illness while with her mother at the boarding house. Their 5-year-old daughter Lucy was staying with the elder Traffords on Lock St. When Lizzie Trafford went to get Lucy from her grandparents, a struggle ensued between her brothers, their friends, and Thomas Trafford and his parents. Lucy was forcibly taken and returned to Lizzie. The Traffords filed kidnapping charges and the brothers and their friends were arrested but released on bail. A trial was held with both sides presenting evidence of the others’ detrimental character. Justice Lewis decided that neither parent would gain custody and that Lucy would live with her Trafford grandparents who “are willing and able properly to bring her up and educate their only granddaughter.”

The saga of the Traffords did not end there however. In 1891, Lizzie Trafford, along with two men, grabbed Lucy while she was walking with her grandmother. The police retrieved her and returned her to Henry and Frances Trafford. A similar incident happened a year later when Lucy was taken out of the Hawley St. School by her mother and they both disappeared from the city. The outcome of this episode could not be found in any of the papers although the case was widely reported on. Henry Trafford died almost exactly one year later. He is buried in the Price Cemetery on Cold Spring Road. Frances remained in the house for three more years but then disappears from the record. Thomas died in May 1901 but his burial place is unknown. Lucy Trafford’s name appeared in the papers one more time. In the same month that her father died, “Lucy Trafford of Lockport, NY [was] badly cut by flying glass” in a train wreck in Pennsylvania. Five years later, Lucy married William H. Kelley of Massachusetts, first living in Maryland and then moving to New York City. They had one son, William H. Kelley, Jr. It is believed Lucy Trafford Kelley died in 1927 although an exact death date is not known.


Ann Marie Linnabery is the assistant director of the History Center of Niagara.

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