William R. Travers

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William Riggin Travers
BornJuly 1819
DiedMarch 19, 1887
ChildrenThree sons:
William R. Travers, Jr.
John Travers
Reverdy J. Travers
Six daughters:
Mary Mackall Travers Hecksher
Maria Louisa Travers Wadsworth
Harriet Travers Fearing
Ellen T. Travers Duer
Matilda E. Travers Gay
Susan B. Travers

William Riggin Travers (July 1819 – March 19, 1887) was an American lawyer who was highly successful on Wall Street. A well-known cosmopolite, Travers was a member of 27 private clubs, according to Cleveland Amory in his book Who Killed Society?

Early life[edit]

Travers was born in 1819 and graduated in 1838 from Columbia College, where he was a member of the Philolexian Society.


John Morrissey in 1863 enlisted Travers' help along with John Hunter's to found Saratoga Race Course where Travers served as the first president.[1] Saratoga's Travers Stakes is named in his honor and is the oldest major Thoroughbred horse race in the United States. In 1884, William Travers became one of the backers of the Sheepshead Bay Race Track on Coney Island.

Travers was a partner in Annieswood Stable with John Hunter and George Osgood. The operation had considerable success both in racing runners and with breeding at their Annieswood Stud farm in Westchester County, New York. Their horse, the Hall of Famer Kentucky won the first running of the Travers Stakes in 1864. One of their most famous horses was Alarm, considered one of the best sprint race horses in American Thoroughbred horse racing history.

Travers was a long-time president of the New York Athletic Club. On January 13, 1887, the club purchased Hogg Island in Long Island Sound and Pelham, New York, shoreline from the estate of John Hunter and renamed it Travers Island in his honor.[2]

Personal life[edit]

He married Maria Louisa Johnson (1827–1893), the fourth daughter of Reverdy Johnson (1796–1876). They had nine children, including:[3][4]

  • William R. Travers, Jr.[5]
  • Reverdy J. Travers[5][6]
  • Mary Mackall Travers (1847–1900), who married Henry Winthrop Gray (1839–1906) in 1865. They divorced and she remarried to John Gerard Heckscher (1837–1908).[7]
  • Maria Louisa Travers (1848–1931), who married U.S. Representative James Wolcott Wadsworth (1846–1926)
  • Harriet Travers (d. 1931), who married George Richmond Fearing (1839–1920)[8]
  • Ellen T. Travers (1850–1902), who married William Alexander Duer (1848–1905), son of Willam Duer[9]
  • John Travers (1851–1888)[10]
  • Matilda E. Travers (d. 1943), who married Walter Gay (1856–1937), the painter, and moved to Paris, France, in 1876 where she remained until her death in 1943.
  • Susan B. Travers

Travers died in Bermuda on March 19, 1887, from complications of diabetes. In his obituary, The New York Times wrote that he was "probably the most popular man in New York."[11]


  1. ^ "John Morrissey Handicap (NYB) | NYRA".
  2. ^ "Travers Island". New York Times. June 9, 1889. Retrieved 2010-12-31. The now Summer home of the New-York Athletic Club on Travers Island, near Pelham Manor, on the Sound, was opened yesterday for inspection by the members and their friends. The building, designed by Douglas Smythe, is a handsome structure of wood in the prevailing...
  3. ^ Hall, Henry (1895). America's Successful Men of Affairs: The city of New York. New York tribune. p. 665. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  4. ^ "A BRILLIANT ENTERTAINMENT". The New York Times. 10 February 1885. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b American Millionaires: The Tribune's List of Persons Reputed to Worth a Million Or More. Lines of Business in which the Fortunes Were Made | Vol. IV. Tribune Association. 1892. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  6. ^ Depew, Chauncey M. (1890). Titled Americans, 1890: A list of American ladies who have married foreigners of rank. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781783660056. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  7. ^ "WALDO TO MARRY MRS. J.G. HECKSCHER; Fire Commissioner's Marriage to Third Wife of Late J.G. Heckscher to Occur To-morrow". The New York Times. 19 April 1910. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  8. ^ Times, Special To The New York (4 March 1931). "MRS. G.R. FEARING DIES IN 82D YEAR; Former New Yorker Was Well Known for Her Activities in Philanthropies. WAS HONORED BY FRANCE Funeral Services Will Take Place in Newport, Where She at One Time Resided". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  9. ^ "MRS. K. DUER BLAKE DIES OF PNEUMONIA; Former Wife of Dr. Joseph. A. Blake and Clarence H. Mackay Was Briefly Ill. OF OLD NEW YORK FAMILY Former Leader in Society and War Worker in France is Survived by Seven Children". The New York Times. 20 April 1930. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  10. ^ "JOHN TRAVERS'S ESTATE". The New York Times. 23 May 1888. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  11. ^ "William R. Travers Dead; Final Rest Of A Man Universally Popular. Dying At Bermuda After A Long And Languishing Illness. Sketch Of His Career". New York Times. March 28, 1887. Retrieved 2007-06-01. William R. Travers, well known for the last 30 years in Wall-Street, in the leading clubs, and in society in this city, died in Bermuda March 19. He was unconscious during the last hours, when his wife, his son, R.J. Travers, his daughter Susie, and his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Duer, stood around his bed.

Further reading[edit]