A Man of Many Interests

A biography of Needham Standart (1797 - Dec. 4, 1874) & Naomi Standart (1798 - April 12, 1860)

From the Cleveland Leader, December 5, 1874

Obituary

Needham M. Standart

“Cleveland lost one of the noblest and best of her early citizens in the death of Needham M. Standart, Esq., which took place at the residence of his son, Henry Standart, Esq., of this city, yesterday morning. Mr. Standart was one of those large hearted, enterprising men who are not only beloved by their immediate friends and relatives, but a blessing to the community in which they live.

He was born in Oneida County, New York, in 1797, and had therefore reached his seventy-seventh year, He came to Ohio in 1818, and established himself at Huron, where he was for many years engaged in the ship-building and forwarding and commissioning business. The steamers “Washington,” the “Sheldon Thompson,” and the famous “Cleveland” were among his achievements as a marine builder. In 1836, Mr. Standart, seeing that Cleveland was the coming city of northern Ohio, removed to this city and established the firm of Standart, Griffith & Co., changed afterward to Standart, Ingraham & Co., which for many years held a leading position among the shipping men of this city. Subsequently Mr. Standart engaged in the beef packing business, being one of the earliest packers in this region for the British market. He married meantime Miss Naomi Wilbur, a young lady of this city, the wedding being celebrated at the house of the late Dr. Land. To the devoted couple were born five children, Charles W. Standart, Esq., of New York, Henry Standart, of this city, Capt. W.E. Standart and Stephen Standart of Toledo, and a daughter, now the wife of John B. Wilgus, of Ithaca, New York. After a life of extroadinary activity and usefulness, Mr. Standart finally yielded to the growing infirmities of age, and three or four years ago retired from active business. The death of his beloved wife soon after added to his burthens another affliction which nothing could repair. He leaves behind him an untarnished name and the reputation of one of the ablest of the pioneers who built up the magnificent commerce of the Great Lakes.

His funeral will take place tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon from St. John’s Church, West Side.”

Needham Maynard Standart was born in Oneida County, New York and at the age of 21 in 1818, moved to Milan, Ohio, and opened a store that was successful for many years. Afterward he was a partner in the firm of Standart & Hamilton; entering the shipbuilding business in Huron and also conducting business as a forwarding and commissioning agent. Standart, an enterprising kind of guy, also was involved in the beef packing business and in banking. These traits of multiple business ventures was not uncommon for the prosperous men of the 19th century.

In 1823 citizens of the Town of Milan began to consider the possibilities of building a harbor at the mouth of the Huron River where it emptied into Lake Erie. A committee of nine men was set up to investigate the feasibility of the idea. Needham Standart was one of those nine men and their report to the citizens said that the idea was very feasible and should be pursued. A company was formed to construct this harbor development and Standart was named as one of the five directors. The project was begun but funding ran short before the work could be completed. The federal government had to step in and bring the project to fruition. The creation of that harbor played a significant role in the increase of shipbuilding along the Huron River and also prompted the construction of the Milan canal which was completed in 1839.

Standart married his first wife, Margaret Hamilton, in Milan, however Margaret died in 1827. She was driving along the Huron River, in the company of her brother and her small child, when, nearing Monroeville, the horse became frightened. Horse, wagon and passengers were thrown over the embankment, falling a distance of forty feet. She was the only one injured and never recovered from the effects of the fall. Margaret died a few months later.

Some years later, in 1836, Standart moved his business to Ohio City. He entered into partnership with David Griffith and their firm was known as Standart, Griffith & Company. The firm was located on River Street along the banks of the Cuyahoga River. In 1843 their warehouse burned to the ground but the building was rebuilt and Standart continued in business. Eventually Standart and Griffith parted company and Standart took on a new partner in a firm known as Standart, Ingraham & Company. Standart built many sailing ships and also steamers such as the Washington, the Sheldon Thompson and the Cleveland. Standart was also one of a large group of men who formed a canal packet boat company to conduct trade on the Ohio Canal.

Politics was also of interest to Standart. He served as an Ohio City councilman in 1838 and 1839 and then as the mayor of Ohio City in 1840 and 1841. When the annexation of Ohio City into the city of Cleveland was being discussed, Standart, along with C.S. Rhodes and William Bainbridge Castle, were elected to represent Ohio City in the negotiations with Cleveland representatives. It took three votes by the electorate of the two cities before annexation became a reality. On the first vote the citizens of Cleveland voted against annexation. On the second vote the citizens of Ohio City registered the Nay vote. The third time was the charm and the two cities merged.

Standart married his second wife, Naomi Wilbor, on May 17, 1828, and they gave birth to five children, Lucy, William, Stephen, Henry, and Charles. Naomi has been described as an elegant, gentle, motherly and very hospitable woman. They built a magnificent home on Detroit Street between Waverly (West 58th Street) and Gordon Streets (West 65th Street). The home was so large that in the book Women of Cleveland and their Work a friend of the Standart’s, Rosamund Sargeant, was quoted as saying people “always called it Castle Needham.” The mansion was surrounded by spacious grounds “on which flowers and fruit trees grew in rich abundance.” Before the Civil War and for some years afterwards, the Needham Standart mansion was the scene of many brilliant evening parties which were the general subject of conversation for weeks afterward.

Harboring fugitive slaves was an illegal activity before emancipation so it was not a topic to be discussed in public. Tradition records, however, that the cupola of Castle Needham, which extended high above the roofline, “sheltered many a poor colored fugitive previous to their transportation to Canada and to freedom.”

Standart retired about 1870, having built a reputation, according to his Cleveland Leader obituary, as "one of the ablest of the pioneers who built up the magnificent commerce of the Great Lakes." Naomi died in 1860 from “congestion of the lungs” and Needham followed her at the age of 77 years in 1874. Both Naomi and Needham were buried from St. John’s Episcopal Church and are at rest in Monroe Street Cemetery.