Bullitt County History

Elisha David Standiford

The biographical sketch that follows is taken from History of Kentucky, Judge Charles Kerr, Editor, Volume V, 1922, page 23. While Dr. Standiford was not a Bullitt Countian, he was the grandson of Joseph Brooks, and this sketch of his life contains some information about his ancestors.

ELISHA DAVID STANDIFORD, in a lifetime of less than sixty years, became one of the foremost men of achievement and constructive leadership in business and public affairs in Kentucky. In his early life he had earned success as physician, and turned from his profession to other interests with even greater success. He served a term in Congress, was a banker and for several years was president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

Doctor Standiford was born in Jefferson County, Kentucky, December 28, 1831, and died at his home in Louisville, July 26, 1887. His birthplace was a farm within a few miles of the city where he spent all the active years of his life. He was a son of Elisha and Nancy (Brooks) Standiford, his father being a successful farmer. The Standifords came to Kentucky from Maryland and settled in that colony from Scotland. The Brooks family were of Irish descent and were established in Kentucky early in the last century. Nancy Brooks was born in Pennsylvania and was brought by her parents to Louisville, but she grew up in what was then a frontier settlement near Shepherdsville in Bullitt County. Brooks station in that county was named for her father who had large landed interests there. Sturdiness of character, thrift and progressiveness were marked characteristics of both the Standiford and Brooks families, and the boy who was to become in later years a power in politics and in the business and financial world, was richly endowed by nature with those qualities which wrest favors from fortunes and win success for their possessor in any field of effort.

Elisha D. Standiford was educated principally in the schools of Jefferson County, completed an academic course in St. Mary's College near Lebanon, Kentucky, and began the study of medicine with Dr. J. B. Flint of Louisville. After graduating from the Kentucky School of Medicine, he began practice at Louisville, and was soon profitably engaged.

Preferring, however, a more stirring and varied business, he abandoned his profession and engaged in agricultural and other enterprises of larger and more public character. One writer said of him that "he was in the broadest sense the best and most successful farmer in Kentucky," though farming as a matter of fact was largely incidental to his other activities. He invested his means somewhat heavily in manufacturing and banking, and for a number of years was president of the Red River Iron Works, which developed into one of the greatest operations of the kind in the West or Southwest. The Louisville Car Wheel Company, while he was its president, was the largest concern of its kind in the valley of the Ohio. He was also president of the influential and strong Farmers and Drovers Bank on Market above Fourth, then the leading bank of deposit in the state.

In 1873 an election by the directors of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad added to his numerous duties the responsible relations of vice president of that corporation. Two years later he was promoted sto the Presidency of the road, an office he held until 1879. One familiar with railroad activities wrote during his lifetime: "Under his management the commercial importance of that road has been greatly advanced, its entire working thoroughly systematized, many, of its superfluous officers dispensed with, the running expenses of the road largely reduced, its actual condition greatly unproved,its local business increased, its general earnings greatly augmented, and the standing of the road permanently fixed in public confidence."

It is probably no exaggeration to say that the way was prepared by the presidency of Doctor Standiford for the present power and far-reaching influence of the Louisville & Nashville. He was also prominently associated with the project of the Louisville Southern Railroad, and for some dozen years before his death was president of the Louisville Bridge Company.

A more general estimate of his life and character is: "He is a man of uncommon business and executive ability; is ready for any emergency; is remarkably clear sighted; is possessed of uncommon energy; turns almost everything he touches to advantage and is emphatically one of the most active and enterprising public-spirited, successful and valuable business men of Louisville. Doctor Standiford is attractive in manners, genial and companionable; is over six feet in height, in the very prime of life, and is a splendid specimen of physical manhood."

A man of such power and indubitable success could never look upon politics in any other light than as an opportunity for community service. He served faithfully for several years on the Louisville Board of Education, and by the suffrages of his fellow citizens was sent to the State Senate in 1868, and was returned to the same body in 1872. While in the Senate he was instrumental in securing important legislation looking to the large and permanent benefit of the state. Before the close of his second term he was chosen by the democrats of the Louisville district to represent that constituency in Congress. He was elected and entered Congress and went to Washington at the opening of the forty-third Congress. Here, says one authority, he was distinguished as an active worker and a debator of great ability, and was influential in the passage of the bill authorizing the Government to take possession of the Louisville and Portland canal, a measure greatly beneficial to the interests of commerce on the Ohio River, his speech on the subject exciting favorable comment throughout the country. He also appeared prominently in the debates opposing the reduction of wages for revenue agents, the reduction of certain tariffs, the repealing of the charter of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, and in favor of granting a charter to the Iron Moulders' National Union, these and other activities constituting an honorable and valuable congressional record. At the close of his term he was tendered the renomination by both parties, but declined, believing that in his large business and home interests he could better serve the people. He will long be remembered as a man who helped to make much of the history of the City of Louisville and the State of Kebtucky. He accumulated a vast amount of property and at his death left one of the largest estates ever probated by a citizen of Louisville.

Doctor Standiford was reared a Presbyterian, but later in life inclined to the Methodist faith, although not a formal member of any church. He married first Miss Mary A. E. Neill, who died in 1875, leaving four daughters and one son, the latter of whom died in early manhood unmarried. Daughters Florence, Mary, Nannie and Virginia became the wives respectively of George L. Danforth, Murray Keller, James G. Caldwell and John Hays Caperton, all of Louisville. In 1876 Doctor Standiford married Miss Lily Smith, who died ten years later, leaving two children. Less than three weeks before his death he married Miss Lorena Scott of Paducah, Kentucky.

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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 12 Jan 2024 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/edstandiford.html