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Sanford E. Church

Sanford Elias Church (April 18, 1815 Milford, Otsego County, New York - May 13, 1880 Albion, Orleans County, New York) was an American lawyer and Democratic politician.


His parents, of English and Scotch descent, removed from Otsego to Monroe County, New York when he was still a child, and his education was obtained entirely in the common schools of that county and at the Monroe Academy. From 1835 on he resided in Albion, N.Y., with the exception of a brief residence in Rochester, New York.

He studied law with Benjamin L. Bessac, who subsequently was his law partner until 1843. Then he associated himself with Noah Davis. This firm continued for a period of thirteen years. On its dissolution the firm of Church & Sawyer was established at Albion. About 1862, he took Judge Selden's place in the firm of Selden, Munger & Thompson, at Rochester; in 1865 the firm became Church, Munger & Cooke, and so continued until Church's elevation to the bench of the New York Court of Appeals.

He was a member from Orleans County of the New York State Assembly in 1842. Three years later he was appointed District Attorney of Orleans County, and after the New York State Constitution of 1846 became effective, was elected by the people to the same office, serving until the end of 1850.

In 1850 he was nominated by the Democrats for lieutenant governor with Horatio Seymour for governor. Seymour was defeated by Washington Hunt, the Whig candidate, by about two hundred majority, but Church ran ahead of his ticket and was elected. In 1852 he was re-elected to the same office, and Seymour this time was elected governor.

In 1857 he was elected New York State Comptroller, but was defeated in 1859 and 1863 when a candidate for re-election. In 1867 he was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention, and was chairman of its finance committee.

He was a delegate to the 1844, 1860, 1864 and 1868 Democratic National Conventions, and in 1860 advocated the nomination of Stephen A. Douglas. At the Democratic National Convention, held in New York City in July 1868, Church was named by the delegation from New York State as its choice for the nomination for the presidency, and his name was presented to the convention by Samuel J. Tilden, the chairman of the delegation, who cast the vote of the State for him for the first seven ballots. New York then switched to Thomas A. Hendricks from the eighth to the twenty-second ballots until a break was made by other states to Horatio Seymour, the chairman of the convention, who was then nominated.

In the spring of 1870, Church was nominated by the Democratic convention for chief judge of the Court of Appeals. The opposing candidate in the convention was George F. Comstock, and the opposing candidate in the election was Henry R. Selden. Church was elected by nearly ninety thousand majority.

He died in office, very suddenly and unexpectedly, without any previous sickness, at his residence at Albion, where he had gone to spend a three-week vacation. He is buried at the Mt. Albion Cemetery in Albion.


  • [1] Political Graveyard
  • [2] NY Court History
  • Google Book The New York Civil List compiled by Franklin Benjamin Hough (pages 32, 34, 265 and 378; Weed, Parsons and Co., 1858)
Political offices
Preceded by
George W. Patterson
Lieutenant Governor of New York
1851 - 1854
Succeeded by
Henry J. Raymond
Preceded by
Lorenzo Burrows
New York State Comptroller
1858 - 1859
Succeeded by
Robert Denniston
Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert Earl
Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
1870 - 1880
Succeeded by
Charles J. Folger


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