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William R. Travers

William R. Travers
Born July, 1819
Baltimore, Maryland
Died March 19, 1887
Hamilton, Bermuda
Occupation Lawyer
Three 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 made a fortune on Wall Street. Along with John Hunter, in 1863 he founded Saratoga Race Course and served as its first president. 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.[1]

A well-known cosmopolite and high liver, Travers was a member of 27 private clubs, according to Cleveland Amory in his book Who Killed Society?

William R. Travers married Maria Louisa, the fourth daughter of Reverdy Johnson. They had nine children. One of their five daughters, Matilda, married the painter Walter Gay and moved to Paris, France in 1876 where she remained until her death in 1943.


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." [2]


  1. Source: 'Travers Island', New York Times, Jun. 9, 1889, p. 3
  2. "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, Wednesday. "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." 


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