Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Polycarpus Loring Cushman (1778-1855)

   This dour looking gentleman is Polycarpus Loring Cushman, a uniquely named member of both houses of the Massachusetts state legislature. Born on September 21, 1778, in Bernardston, Massachusetts, Cushman was the second born son of Dr. Polycarpus (1750-1797) and Rachel Field Cushman. Polycarpus Loring Cushman gained his distinctive first and middle names courtesy of his father, who named him in honor of a prominent Plympton, Massachusetts physician and friend of the family named Polycarpus Loring (1700-1770). The name Polycarpus (Latin for Polycarp) extends from a 2nd century Christian bishop in Smyrna (located in modern day Turkey).
  Young Cushman engaged in farming pursuits for the majority of his life, and it is mentioned that he was one of the first farmers to raise Merino sheep in New England. An 1851 work entitled The Rich Men of Massachusetts makes special note of Cushman's expertise at farming, stating that he "has done more to advance agricultural interest in this part of the state than any other individual." 
   Cushman married in October 1804 to Ms. Sally Wyles, with who he had one son, Henry Wyles Cushman (1805-1863). Sally (one source also gives a variation on her name as "Sarah") died in Saratoga Springs, New York in 1845 at age 63. Polycarpus remarried one year later in July 1846 to Abigail Barnard Coleman (born 1786), a resident of Sterling, Vermont.  During a long life Cushman gained a reputation as one of Bernardston's prominent men of affairs, and throughout his life was entrusted to hold a variety of public offices. In 1810, 1816 and 1817 he held the posts of town assessor, selectman, Overseer of the Poor and later, Justice of the Peace, serving in that capacity for fourteen years. Late in his life, he became a founding member of the Franklin County Agricultural Society, which came into being in 1850. 
   In 1816 Cushman was elected to his first term in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, where he served one term. He was reelected to the legislature in 1840, and in 1844 was elected to a term in the State Senate from Franklin County. In an interesting coincidence, he served in the same Senate session as his only son, Henry Wyles Cushman (later a Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts), who was elected to a vacancy in the Senate caused by the death of William Whitaker. It is mentioned that father and son were of different political faith (Polycarpus was a Whig and his son a Democrat) but were said to have agreed in "everything else".

The home of Polycarpus L. Cushman, from the History of the Town of Bernardston, 1902.

  Following his term in the Senate, Polycarpus returned to Bernardston and thereafter engaged in his earlier agricultural interests, as well as being recorded as a "warm friend of the cause of education.". He died at age 76 on May 16, 1855, in his native town and was memorialized in the Rich Men of Massachusetts as being "high minded and honorable in all his dealings and intercourse with his fellow citizens, and is liberal, public spirited and charitable.In an aside note, the rare portrait of Cushman shown above was located via a book written and compiled by his son Henry, entitled The Historical and Biographical Genealogy of the Cushmans,  published in 1855, the year of his father's death. The book mentions that the portrait is based on a daguerreotype taken of him at age 75 at the studio of B.F. Popkins in Greenfield, Massachusetts. 

A death notice for P.L. Cushman, from the The New England Historical and Genealogical Register.

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