Esbon Blackmar became well know in Hillsdale College circles as the donor of the acreage on which the College was built. Blackmar was a banker, land developer, and senior partner of the Blackmar Produce firm, which eventually expanded its business to Michigan, Iowa and Illinois, greatly improving the economy of the developing Midwest.
Blackmar built a fine home on Hillsdale Street for his daughter, Jane, and her husband, Eli Van Valkenburgh. The home, which later became known as Ambler House, remains today a part of Hillsdale College. The Van Valkenburgh’s son, named Esbon after his grandfather, grew to fame as one of the infamous Four Oarsmen rowing team.
Sadly, the once prominent Esbon Blackmar, suffered great losses in the Panic of 1857, in which land schemes failed, as did the railroads which were overbuilt to accommodate the wildcat purchasing of land. The November 26, 1857 edition of the New York Times reported, “Honorable Esbon Blackmar, formerly a member of the Legislature of this State, drowned himself, at his residence in Newark, Wayne County, last week. Cause – financial embarrassments. He had recently failed for $150,000.”
Carol A. Lackey