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Earliest Members of the Century Association

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David C. Colden

Lawyer/Public Servant

Centurion, 1847–1850

Full Name David Cadwallader Colden

Born 9 January 1797 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Died 11 April 1850 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum, Manhattan, New York

Proposed by N/A: Founder

Elected 13 January 1847 at age fifty

Century Memorials

Mr. Seymour, Secretary, offered the following Resolutions.

Resolved, That the loss of our esteemed associate and friend Mr. David C. Colden is deeply regretted by the members of the Century.

Resolved, That as one of the original members of our Club, and as a Member of our Committee of Management from its organization, Mr. Colden displayed a warm and steady interest in its welfare which contributed as much to our success as his presence added to the harmony and pleasure of our meetings and that while as a body we miss his ready goodwill and energy in knowing our common object, there are none of us but have cause to remember with affectionate regret the uniform courtesy & warmhearted kindness which marked him in the social intercourse of our association.

That a copy of these resolutions be sent to Mrs. Colden by the Secretary.

Daniel Seymour, Secretary
Monthly Meeting Minutes, 4 June 1850

Mr. Colden, the presiding officer of the first meeting called to consider the expediency of forming The Century, was held in the highest esteem by all the members. Up to the period of his last illness, he evinced a most active and zealous interest in everything connected with its welfare. He was always a faithful attendant upon its meetings. Eminently social in his character, he was distinguished for the warmth and generosity of his nature, and for an earnest and devoted purpose in all matters in which he took an interest. His presence amongst us was always a source of gratification; and we cannot but recall, with the deepest sense of the loss we have sustained by his death, the memory of the pleasant greetings with which he was welcomed.

He was an earnest and a true-hearted man, whom I we loved with fraternal affection for the noble and manly generosity and disinterestedness of his character. Mr. Colden was a useful citizen and a firm and devoted friend.

It may not be without interest to recall to our fellow-members a few of the many claims which the character and public services of Mr. Colden have upon their respect and affection. Beside the deep interest he manifested in the progress of the Fine Arts in this country, and the active means and personal efforts exercised by him in promoting their advancement, and also by his intimate connection with the Sketch Club, and his zeal in bringing into existence the institution of which we are members, with the liberal and public-spirited view of aiding and giving influence to the claims of art upon the support of the intelligent and cultivated classes of our citizens, he exercised his active and generous nature on a wider and more extended field of usefulness. As a member of various public benevolent institutions of our city, it may be truthfully said of him that no man ever connected with them labored with more earnestness, or exerted more of the faculties of the heart and mind in the promotion of the objects for which they were established. His time, his services, his energies, even at the expense of health, and often at the hazard of his life, were freely offered in the cause in which he had set his heart. Our estimate of his character is not an exaggerated one. He was a man who never shrunk from a duty, however onerous it may have been. In the House of Refuge, in which he was one of the most efficient trustees, and a member of the Board of Commissioners of Emigration, he has frequently performed his duties in the midst of pestilence, without turning, for a moment, to regard the personal hazard it imposed. No sense of danger ever deterred him from the fullest and most ample discharge of his duties. They were fulfilled to the very letter. He was not a man to permit his name to be attached to the list of members of any public body, without earnestly and conscientiously assuming all the obligations of duty which the position imposed.

We are indebted to a distinguished gentleman, who was long connected with him in the Board of Commissioners for the following account of his services in that institution:—

“David C. Colden was one of the original six Commissioners named in the act organizing the Commission of Emigration; and from May, 1847, until his death, in the early part of 1850, took an active and most useful part in all its business.”

The resolutions passed by the Commissioners show the value of his services. The following extract from the annual report, made January, 1851, show the character and value of some of those services for the use of the large Hospital and Refuge on Ward’s Island:—

“The carrying of the Croton water across the broad, deep channel separating Ward’s Island from Manhattan Island, has been completed; and the expense of the work, although large, has been compensated by the numerous advantages of health and comfort which it affords. The superintendence and execution of this valuable and difficult work was one of the last of many zealous and useful services rendered to this Commission by our late lamented colleague, David C. Colden.”

The following resolution, passed by the Board of Commissioners, confirms the high estimate of his character and services which we have endeavored to present:—

Resolved, That this Board have learned with deep sorrow the death of their excellent friend and colleague, David C. Colden. Whilst, in common with his numerous friends, they mourn the loss to themselves and to his family of his many amiable and generous qualities, and to the public of his active and efficient benevolence in a wide sphere of usefulness, the Commissioners of Emigration personally feel that loss more deeply from having witnessed, during three years of official intercourse with him, constant evidence of those high qualities and virtues, and a series of eminent and disinterested services to the strangers thrown under their care, destitute, helpless, diseased, at the sacrifice of personal interest and ease, and often at the risk of health and even of life.”

We have thought it due to the memory of Mr. Colden to embody these expressions of the respect of his colleagues in our record of his character. The following is a copy of the resolution passed by the Century Club, at a meeting held in June, 1850, on the occasion of his death. It was offered by Daniel Seymour, whose own death followed that of his friend a few months afterwards.:—

Resolved, That as one of the original members of our Club, and as a member of our committee from its organization, Mr. Colden displayed a warm and steady interest in its welfare, which contributed as much to our success as his presence added to the harmony our meeting; and that, while as a body we miss his ready good-will and energy in promoting our common object, there are none of us but have cause to remember with affectionate regret the uniform courtesy and warm-hearted kindness which marked him in the social intercourse of our association.”

For Mr. Colden, we had the highest personal esteem; and this, our feeble tribute to his virtues, is presented that the name of one so long and intimately connected with our history and progress should find a permanent memorial in the records of The Century.

John H. Gourlie
“The Origin and History of the Century,” 1856

He was the great-grandson of Cadwallader Colden, the loyalist lieutenant-governor of New York on the eve of the Revolution (who carried on a steady correspondence with Benjamin Franklin, Linnaeus, Samuel Johnson [first president of King’s College in New York City], and John Bartram), and the son of Cadwallader David Colden, who was a Mayor of New York, a state senator and the author of a life of Robert Fulton.

Colden attended Columbia College in 1816 but did not stay for a degree. In 1842, a group of New Yorkers sent him to Boston to tell the young Charles Dickens that the city was eager to welcome him, suggesting that Colden had at least some interest in literature and perhaps the arts in general.

He was one of the original Commissioners on Emigration, and oversaw the carrying of water from the Croton reservoir across the East River from Manhattan to Ward’s Island for use in the Hospital and Refuge there.

William A. Frosch
“Our Original Amateurs, 2009”