The Pioneers of Utica The Second Charter
Richard Ray Lansing was born
in July 1789, and graduated at Union College in 1809, pursued
his professional studies with Judge Jonas Platt and then established
himself in Utica, marying soon afterward Susan, the daughter of his preceptor.
Declining to take up with the offer
of George Parish, a great land holder of the northern part of
the State, and become his agent in the sale of lands, as this
involved the requirement that he should live at Mexico, in Oswego county,
he entered, in 1815, into partnership with Judge Morris
S. Miller. Ere long he was made clerk of the District Court of
the United States, and held the office during his residence.
Being industrious, punctual, accurate and rapid in all his interactions,
he acquitted himself excellently. His partners, after
Judge Miller, were successively, G. John Mills, John H. Ostrom and
Abraham Varick. He lived in Utica until about 1829, at
first on Broad street, between Genesee and John, and later
in the house on Chancellor square that is now the home of Mrs.
Nicholas Devereux, which he built about 1825.
Mr. Lansing was cultured, agreeable and companionable, fond
of society and of entertaining. He was fond also of his fishing
and his gun. The weight reported of some of his piscatotorial
captures seem akin to the fabulous, while his skill as a sportsman
made him a popular fellow of the once notorious Unadilla Hunt.
With rare bonhommie he was no less a bonvivant, for he loved the gains of his sport, and
was an amateur of good things. But his economy was not proportionate
with his industry, nor his tastes in harmony with his necessities, and so,
though his gains were not small, he lived faster than he could
afford, and found himself embarrassed in the end. The flood
tide of his fortune, which the poet intimates as coming but once
in a lifetime, would seem to have been opened to Mr. Lansing
by the offer of Mr. Parish. Neglecting this, he was left upon the shoals,
and had to struggle hard to support a numerous family
in an expensive way of living.
Removing to New York,
he entered upon the importation of wines and liquors, and for
some years Lansing, Munroe and King were among the heaviest leaders in their line.
But on returning to his store from his residence up town on the morning after the great fire of December 1835,
he discovered that he had been burned to the ground and that his insurers as well as himself were ruined. He left
the city and went to Michigan.
He became identified with the growth of that new State, was interested in land
sales, and among the first to engage in the mining of copper on Lake Superior. In these transactions he was aided
by the fortune he acquired through his second marriage. For having lost his first wife while in New York,
he married her cousin, Eliza, daughter of Henry Livingston, and widow of Smith Thompson, judge of the
Supreme Court of New York. For a few years he resided in Lansing, the capital of Michigan, to which place
he had the honor of giving its name.
And it happened something on this wise: while on one of his fishing excursions,
he stopped, as he had often done before, at a "four corners" where the half store, half-tavern had drawn
around it a few rude buildings. The inhabitants aspired to a name, and were thne
assembled to choose one. Some were advocates for antiquity and more for home recollections, but they were quite
unable to agree, when someone called out: "Here's Dick Lansing, the cleverest fellow that ever came to these corners, let's
call it after him." At once they assented and so gave appellation to the future capital of their State. It was not there,
but at Detroit the place of his final residence, that he died Sept 29, 1855.