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February 5, 2013

NEW ALBANY BICENTENNIAL: William S. Culbertson

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“I think that he took a personal event or experience that he had in his life and then turned around and used his money to help those people who had been affected by it because he understood,” Stavros said.

Four years following Cornelia’s death, Culbertson married his last wife, Rebecca Keith Spears Young. They had no children. For their honeymoon, he took Rebecca on a six-month honeymoon throughout Europe and the Holy Land. During this trip, he mailed letters back to the local newspaper detailing his overseas’ experiences. But unlike many of his social stature, he tended to notice the conditions of the working man rather than the aristocrats.

“So much of what he writes about is what the servants wear, how the working man’s house looks on the side of the road, how people look in their jobs,” Stavros said. “As high class as he was, he didn’t take the time to notice what other high class people were noticing. He was looking down the classes, which was odd for Victorians. I just think that’s really telling of his character.”

On June 25, 1892, Culbertson died of heart failure after a two week illness. He had continued to keep a daily work schedule up until he turned 78 years old. At the time of his death, he had amassed a fortune worth $3.5 million. 

Gone but not forgotten, Culbertson’s life and legacy will be celebrated by his namesake mansion next year at the bicentennial of his birth. 

“William Culbertson could be anyone living down the street right now. He’s the epitome of the American dream,” Stavros said. “If you work hard enough you can be anything. You can rise to great wealth and success.”

 

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