Charles Wellington Tufts

Charles Wellington Tufts, of the city of Grand Rapids, all though not an old settler, is among the enterprising men of the place, and of recent years has been a considerable factor in its improvement and development. He was born in Galion, Ohio, January 8, 1856, and through a long line of notable ancestry, trace his lineage back to Peter Tufts, who was the progenitor of the family in America, and came from Norfolk county, England, about the year 1630. He was a Massachusetts colonist, and with his brother-in-law, William Bridges, kept the Malden ferry in 1646 and 1647. He lived in Everett and on the site of the niter storehouse in Malden, and was a large land owner. He married Mary, a daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Pierce, in Charlestown. She died January 10, 1702, aged seventy-five years. He died May 13, 1700, aged eighty-three years. Their gravestones in Bell Rock cemetery, Malden, are still in an excellent state of preservation.  From this beginning, the Tufts family multiplied, and its representative may be found in all parts of the United States. As a rule they have been prominent in social and political affairs, and the name of Tufts is intimately associated with many notable events, and philanthropic enterprises. Among them was Peter the second, known as Capt. Tufts. He was commissioned lieutenant of a cavalry troop October 17, 1699, and later was much interested in educational affairs, and John Tufts, whose name appears on the rolls of old Harvard as far back as 1708. He studied theology, was pastor of Second church, at Newbury, from 1714 to 1738, and wrote, as early as 1714."An Introduction to the Singing of Psalm-tunes, in a plain and easy method, with a collection of tunes; In three parts. He advocated singing by note, and his was the first book of the kind published in New England, and passed through several editions.

Generations later came Charles Tufts, the granduncle of the subject of this sketch, who was born in Medford, Mass., July 16, 1781, and died at Somerville, December 24, 1876. He was a manufacturer and active business man, promoted the prosperity of his town, and added to his fortune by sagacious investments. He was a liberal friend of education, and to his effort, liberality and influence, was founded, in 1847, Tufts’ college at Boston. The college has become the largest and strongest institution of its class in the United States. He gave not only large amounts of money, but seventy acres of valuable land, upon a part of which the college stands. This same land was purchased by Peter Tufts in 1852, and instruction actually began in 1855. The college is under the control of the Universalist church, and the divinity school prepares students for the ministry of that denomination. Otis Tufts, a second cousin of Charles Wellington, was the inventor of the grain elevator, the first being operated by a large screw, which ran up the center of the elevator car, and this he used for years in his machine shop in Boston; he afterward improved upon this, and built a large number, which are still in use in the same city. He was also the first man to use several cables on cars for safety in case of breakage. James W. Tufts was the inventor of the soda-water fountain, and realized a fortune from its sales.

The parents of the subject of this sketch, George A. Tufts and Sarah R. (Pettyes) Tufts, moved to Leslie, Mich., in 1864, where Charles Wellington received his primary education. He was graduated from the high school in 1876, and that same year entered the university of Michigan and was graduated in 1880, with the degree of A.B. and A.M. Subsequently he studied one year in Berlin and Leipsic, Germany. Then, returning to the United States, he engaged in teaching, first for one year at Sheboygan, Wis., then as principal of the high school; at Kalamazoo, and later as principal at the Normal at Ottawa, Ill., for four years. Mr. Tufts graduated from the law department of the university of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, was admitted to the bar at Mason, Ingham county, came to Grand Rapids in 1888 and commenced the practice of law, forming a partnership with C. R. Buchanan; this arrangement continued for two years, during which time Mr. Tufts’ personal business had increased to large proportions, and the partnership was dissolved by mutual consent.

This gave the subject an opportunity to give more attention to the real-estate business, and in this line of work he was accomplished much. He bought five acres between Madison and Union streets, near Fifth avenue, and platted the same, and this is known as C.W. Tufts’ First addition to Grand Rapids. This tract is now mostly improved and in its management he built four residence himself. Later he platted another five acres, known as C.W. Tufts’ Second addition, and since coming to this city he has built and sold 156 houses--many of them fine models of architecture, and all of them a good class of residences. He is also interested in other additions to the city, his own holdings taking the greater part of his time.

In 1893 Mr. Tufts began and completed the attractive building on Fulton street known as the Wellington flats. This edifice is one of the best in the city, is 45 X 168 feet, six stories, and contains about 200 rooms. In 1899 he enlarged this building--making an addition of 48 X 62 feet, seven stories, and containing ninety-eight rooms--the entire building costing upward of $100,000. The Wellington flats are so called from early associations. A great uncle of Mr. Tufts, who was a prominent man in Boston, bore the name of Wellington, and after him also named the subject.

Mr. Tufts was married at Toledo, Ohio, September 18, 1877, to Gertrude L. Clapp, who was born in Owego, N.Y., December 25, 1860, a daughter of James H. and Mary (Dana) Clapp, of Massachusetts, whose ancestry is traceable in direct line to members of the Mayflower colony. They have one daughter--Lura G., born January 25, 1885. Mr. and Mrs. Tufts attend the Congregational church, and in politics Mr. Tufts is a republican. Socially Mr. Tufts is a genial gentleman, whom it is a pleasure to meet. Fraternally he is connected with the Masonic order and is a member of the Patriarchal Circle.

Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 16 Feb 2009