Buffalo golf club

Kelli Kates lines up her shot on the fourth hole on July 17 at the Buffalo Golf Club. The club and the Buffalo City Pool will each benefit from a gift from the Wilbur Holt estate.

Bulletin photo by Jessi Dodge 

The city of Buffalo is about to get a gift that was given a very long time ago.

At the end of the 19th century, Wilbur Holt and his family settled in Buffalo. As his family grew, Wilbur placed money into a trust with certain stipulations. As long as his three children, Walter, Mary and Robert, were alive, they would remain the fund’s beneficiaries. Mary, the last surviving of the three, died on April 26 of this year, just a month shy of her 105th birthday.

With Mary’s death, the trust was terminated. Under the terms of the trust settlement, the remaining money should be divided and dispersed in two equal shares: half to the city of Buffalo and half to the Johnson County Memorial Hospital.

“He indicated to his family that the city of Buffalo had always been very good to him and to his family, and he wanted to see some assets that would benefit the city and the hospital in perpetuity,” said Ray Holt, Wilbur’s grandson, of his grandfather at the July 7 City Council meeting.

At the time it was terminated, the trust was worth about $1.1 million, according to City Clerk-Treasurer Julie Silbernagel. The amount that the city and hospital actually receive will depend on stock market conditions before the trust is liquidated and any applicable fees or taxes.  

Although Ray Holt told the assembled City Council members that they are free to use the money as they choose, he encouraged them to place at least part of it in the Buffalo Charitable Foundation, where it could continue to grow and benefit the community for years to come.

The city and the hospital do face some restrictions on how they can spend the windfall. The money must be used for significant improvements and capital expenditures. Trust documents list examples of appropriate uses, such as acquiring land for parks, purchasing firefighting equipment or investing in significant building improvements and equipment acquisitions at the hospital. It cannot be used for operating expenses, maintenance or employee salaries.

“If those two trusts were in existence at the time that he set up the trust document, he probably would have named the trust and the charitable foundations rather than the city and the hospital,” Ray Holt said. “But they weren’t.”

Councilman Travis Lawrence moved that the city put all the money it receives from the trust into the Buffalo Charitable Foundation. In addition, Lawrence stipulated that 25% of the money be restricted to a permanent endowment for the outdoor pool and 25% be placed into a permanent endowment for the golf course. The remaining 50% could be used for other city expenses that fall under the trust’s guidelines.

“Looking at what the Holts have done for our community, it’s primarily been centered on three assets within our community, two of which are owned by the city,” Lawrence said. “One, the outdoor pool, and the second, the golf course.”

Wilbur Holt’s father, George, was one of the founders of the First National Bank of Buffalo, now known as First Northern Bank of Buffalo. Generations of his descendants have continued to hold leadership positions at the bank and contribute to the community in various ways. 

“Thank you so much for you and your family’s generosity to the city,” Lawrence told Ray Holt. Lawrence’s motion on distribution of the funds passed unanimously.

Johnson County Healthcare Center CEO Sean McCallister said the hospital board will discuss the Holt trust at their August board meeting.



Mara Abbott joined the Bulletin as Report for America corp member in 2019. She covers energy and natural resources. Mara’s work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Runner’s World.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.