ROBERT RODMAN HEFFORD. It would be impossible to name a more representative figure in Buffalo than Robert R. Hefford. A native of this city, Mr. Hefford has lived here all his life. He is a man of versatile ability and has won equal distinction in the business world, in citizenship, and in public affairs. From an early period identified with the coal trade, Mr. Hefford until his retirement from the business, stood in the front rank of that industry. He is one of the leading Republicans in the State, and has had a notable political career. Mr. Hefford is distinctively a man of public spirit, and no Buffalonian of bur generation has shown himself more earnest and enthusiastic in behalf of the welfare of the city.
Mr. Hefford is the son of Thomas Hefford, who was born in Lilborne, England, March 14, 1807. He settled in Buffalo in 1835, and married Elizabeth Livingston Lasher on the 12th of May, 1844. His death occurred in Buffalo May 6, 1865.
Robert Rodman Hefford was born in Buffalo February 25, 1855. He was educated at public and private schools and at Bryant & Stratton's Business College. When seventeen years old he became a clerk in a wholesale salt and cement concern, for two years. During 1864 he held a clerkship in the Canal Collector's office. In 1865, with Mr. E. E. Hazard, Mr. Hefford engaged in the coal trade. The firm of E. E. Hazard & Company prospered greatly, and the copartnership lasted till 1871, when Mr. Hefford succeeded to the business, which he conducted until his retirement in 1896. Under his able management it was developed chiefly along the lines of shipping and forwarding. The enterprise assumed very large proportions, and Mr. Hefford was a leading factor in gaining for Buffalo its status as one of the world's centers of coal distribution. Mr. Hefford was President of the Bank of Commerce and a Director of the Merchants' Bank, both of which institutions are now liquidated. He is at present a director in six business corporations.
From early manhood Mr. Hefford has been actively connected with public life. In 1879 he was elected Alderman from the Second Ward, and was twice reelected, serving till 1884. During two terms he was President of the Common Council. Meantime he was chosen President of the City Board of Health, serving two terms. In this capacity he established a lasting claim to public gratitude by opposing the notorious street cleaning contract which was vetoed by Grover Cleveland, then Mayor. In 1883, Mr. Hefford's party paid him the high tribute of nominating him for Mayor, to fill the vacancy left by Mr. Cleveland, but the local conditions that year were adverse to Republican success, and, the Democratic candidate was elected. Mr. Hefford has repeatedly served on the Republican General Committee, and in 1885-1886 was Chairman of the Republican County Committee. He had a distinguished share in the work of establishing the Republican League of the State of New York, and in 1887 was elected its first President, being reelected the following year. He also held for several years a place on the League's Executive Committee. From 1889 to 1893 he was Vice-President of the National Republican League. In the duties connected with these political bodies, Mr. Hefford has shown himself a party manager of signal ability. In 1895 Mr. Hefford was appointed by Mayor Jewett Commissioner of Public Works. The choice was enthusiastically indorsed by the press and people, bu.t Mr. Hefford, for business reasons, felt himself obliged to decline, the appointment.
The canal system of the State has no more earnest and efficient champion than Robert K. Hefford. He has ably supported the interests of the Erie Canal, and did notable work in aid of the $9,000,000 canal appropriation and the measures which resulted in the $101,000,000 barge canal enterprise. He served as Chairman of the Executive Canal Committee of the State, which in 1894 induced the Constitutional Convention to approve the $9,000,000 appropriation, was a principal factor in bringing about legislative action in the matter in 1895, and a most powerful influence in effecting the endorsement of the project by the voters. He was also a delegate to all conventions called in that interest.
Mr. Hefford is a leading member and a trustee of the Chamber of Commerce, and served four terms as President of the Merchants' Exchange. He was Chairman of the Building Committee in 1896, when the Board of Trade Building was enlarged, and served in the same capacity in 1906 when the new Chamber of Commerce Building was built. He has served four terms as President of the Board of Trade. He is a life member of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, the Public Library and the Fine Arts Academy and a member of the Historical Society; a trustee of the Buffalo General Hospital and the Y. M. C. A., and a member of the Council of the University of Buffalo. He is President of the Buffalo Club, a member and former President of the Ellicott and Liberal Clubs, a member of the Country Club, and belongs to the Republican Club of New York City. In 1877 he was a member of the New York State Commission to the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.
January 4, 1870, Mr. Hefford married Harriet Rosalie Whitaker of Catskill, N. Y.
SOURCE: Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York; Volume I