George E. Stockwell was born on July 30, 1853. He was the son of Godfrey E. Stockwell and Adelia S. Stockwell. He was the third born of at least five children. His father was a farmer.
He married his first wife, Louisa, some time between 1870 and 1880.
By 1880, Stockwell was living in New Haven, Connecticut and working as a school teacher. He had started his career as a Methodist clergyman by 1882 and was living in Halfmoon, Saratoga County, New York,
Stockwell married his second wife, Mary Grace, in 1898. They had three sons, George Smith Stockwell (born. August 14, 1899), Albert B. Stockwell (born August 23, 1900), Charles Ellwood Stockwell (born May 5. 1902).
By 1905, Stockwell had moved to Fort Plain, Montgomery County, New York and by 1906, had become pastor of Grace Methodist Church of Troy, New York. Stockwell became chairman of the Ministerial Union in Troy in 1908. Given that he was identified as living in Fort Plain in 1908, it appears that Stockwell may have maintained his primary residence in Fort Plain while preaching in Troy.
Stockwell had a special interest in temperance and prohibition. In February 1908, he gained some statewide prominence when he attempted to get Elias Mann, the mayor of Troy, removed from office. Mayor Mann was accused of neglecting to enforce state laws restricting alcohol sales (particularly, of allowing saloons to sell alcohol on Sundays), and of allowing illegal gambling operations to occur in the city. Stockwell, along with the Ministerial Union of Troy, filed a legal complaint with Governor Hughes against Mann, charging him with misconduct in office and with neglecting official duty, and petitioned for him to be removed from office. The Governor refused, but Mayor Mann did crack down against illegal alcohol sales on Sundays, and the Ministerial Union withdrew its petition to remove him.
Stockwell was selected to serve on the Prohibition National Committee as one of the committeemen for New York State in 1908 and served on the National Committee from 1908 to 1912.
The Prohibition Party held its 1908 state convention in Syracuse on November 1-2. The leading contenders for the governor nomination were Stockwell and Marshall A. Hudson of Buffalo. Stockwell won the nomination, 232 for Stockwell to 219 for Hudson. Hudson was selected as the party’s candidate for Lieutenant Governor. After receiving the nomination for governor, Stockwell spoke at campaign rallies and prohibitionist meetings throughout the state. He told how the alcohol industry was damaging to the economy, by harming the business environment, draining wealth away from working people, and driving up taxes to pay for the cost of dealing with crime and other social ills fueled by alcohol. “The great proposition before the American people today is the destruction of the saloon. From a commercial standpoint, from the standpoint of the laboring man, or the business man, of the taxpayers, of the Christian, from whatever standpoint you look at it, you will see that it looms up beyond all other questions.”
He criticized the Republican Party for nominating a brewer, Horace White, as its candidate for Lieutenant Governor. He criticized the Republican governor candidate, incumbent Charles Evans Hughes, for failing to make sheriffs enforce the state’s liquor laws. He criticized the Democratic and Republican Parties in general for conceding to the saloon.
He criticized both major parties for putting too much focus on the issue of tariffs and other financial matters, while neglecting considerations of public wellbeing. “The time has come in this nation where we ought to begin to think about man and not money. We ought to demand that our politicians should consider this question, what is best for the intellectual and moral life of the people, to make them a la- abiding class of citizens, to give them righteous convictions and purposes, and these questions ought to come up to the front and not always be harping on high tariff and low tariff, revenue and sound money.
"We ought to consider first of all what will help our nation most in elevating its thought and life. Here is the great monster of evil rising in our midst, and we talking about these minor issues instead of giving this the first place. The time has come where we ought to put man at a premium. The saloon grapples with the best interests of our homes and churches.”
Stockwell argued for the creation of a non-partisan tariff commission that would aim to balance the interests of producers and consumers when setting tariff rates. He also gave attention to the 1908 presidential race. He promoted Prohibition Party candidate Eugene Chafin. He criticized outgoing Republican president Theodore Roosevelt for “belittling his high office by stooping to take part in a partisan scrabble” (which may have referred to how Roosevelt had used his influence to help William Howard Taft the Republican presidential nominee), and made note of the fact that the Democratic presidential candidate had made two previous unsuccessful attempts at getting elected president.
During the campaign, the International Reform Bureau, a Cleveland, Ohio-based anti-gambling group aligned with Hughes, tried to pressure Stockwell into dropping out of the election. Their recording secretary, Rev. A.S. Gregg, offered to finance a petition for the Prohibition Party to regain statewide ballot access if Stockwell's dropping out caused the Party to fall below the required number of votes needed to maintain ballot access.
Stockwell refused to drop out and continued his campaign. He came in 5th place, receiving 18,802 votes, 1.15% of the total statewide vote.
After the election, Stockwell continued with his activism, making speeches at prohibitionist meetings in places such as Buffalo, Salamanca, Binghamton, Glen Falls, and Sag Harbor. He called for all of the temperance and prohibition organizations in the state, including the Prohibition Party, WCTU, and Anti-Saloon League, to come together in an effort to push for legislation in the state to either establish statewide prohibition or to allow for counties to establish their own county-level prohibition laws.
Stockwell acted as temporary chairman of the Prohibition Party state convention in 1909. One of the big issues there was whether to appoint state chairman Clarence E. Pitts to another term as state chairman or to select a new person to be state chairman. Party figures such as Francis Baldwin and Dr. E.L. Tiffany of Elmira, supported Pitts, while New York County chairman and 1902 Prohibition Party candidate for Governor, Alfred E. Manierre, supported the selection of a new state chairman. Those who sought to replace Pitts ended up backing Stockwell as a possible new chairman. The vote was 39 for Pitts and 15 for Stockwell; Stockwell was selected to be first vice-president of the state party. During the convention,
Stockwell encouraged members of the Party to get behind an effort to pressure the state legislature into passing a county unit prohibition bill. The bill had gained the support of the various temperance organizations in the state, but was stuck in the state legislature, and needed additional effort to help push for its passage.
The 1911 focus of the state Prohibition Party was to advance local prohibition laws and to try to elect Prohibition Party candidates. Stockwell was one of the key state party officials involved in working on these efforts. He attended meetings and spoke at rallies in various parts of the state, including Erie County, Niagara County, Monroe County, Otsego County, Chenango County, Steuben County, and Cattaraugus County. He also involved in efforts to promote local prohibition in the city of Saratoga Springs.
He gave addresses at a series of rallies in Vermont to help support an effort to pass a statewide prohibition law there.
He was SecretaryTreasurer of Allied Forces Civic and Moral Betterment:, a federation of temperance, moral, and religious organizations supporting various reform efforts, including the advancement of prohibitionist legislation in the state.
While Stockwell had worked to bring various temperance, prohibition, and reform organizations together to work towards common goals, he had also shown a willingness to criticize other groups when he considered them to act in objectionable ways. In 1911, he delivered speeches criticizing the Anti-Saloon League in New York, claiming that some of the legislation they supported would actually be favorable to saloons. This lead the Troy Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church to form a committee to investigate his allegations against the Anti-Saloon League.
Stockwell's 1913 report accused the New York Anti-Saloon League of falsely claiming credit for the work of other activists and groups, of misusing funds, of refusing to work with other temperance and reform organizations, and of supporting legislation that was too favorable to the alcohol industry.
Stockwell, spent the later part of his life living in retirement in Fort Plain. He died on June 30, 1925 and was buried at Maple Grove Old Cemetery, in Hoosick Falls, Rensselaer County, New York.
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-- Contributed by Jonathan Makeley