Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Solva Converse (1790-1877), Salva Goodspeed (1805-1885)

  Today's profile centers on a truly obscure Connecticut state representative named Solva Converse. For many decades Converse was viewed as a prominent leader in political and business circles in his native county of Tolland and was also acknowledged as an active participant in local church affairs.
  Solva Converse was born in Stafford, Connecticut on April 1, 1790, the son of militia Captain Solvin Converse and his wife Sarah. Eleven children were eventually born to the couple, and is it interesting to note that Solva and his younger brother George were the last surviving members of this large family, both dying on November 22, 1877....quite an intriguing coincidence!
  The Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties (where the majority of the information on Converse was found) lists that Solva Converse "received only limited educational advantages" during his youth. He worked at farming during his younger years and was later engaged in the transport of freight with his younger brother Parley (who also served a term in the Connecticut legislature.) In 1812 Solva married his wife Esther Blodgett, and their marriage lasted for over 60 years until his death in 1877. In another interesting familial coincidence, eleven children were born to Solva and Esther, four of whom died in infancy.
  Of the limited sources mentioning Solva Converse's life, all of them stress the importance of his role as a manufacturer of satin and woolen cloths in the Stafford area. In 1839 he was one of the founders of the Mineral Springs Manufacturing Company's first wool mill, established in the village of Stafford Springs. Aside from being a founder in this new endeavor, Converse served the company as an agent and was later named to its presidency. The Commemorative Biographical Record also gives note that under Converse's leadership of the company "a great and prosperous business was developed."
  In addition to his business interests, Solva Converse was also attentive to political matters in the town of Stafford. He was elected as a town selectman on numerous occasions and in 1838 the citizens of Tolland County elected him to the Connecticut State House of Representatives. He served a one year term in the legislature and a roster from that particular session is shown below. One should also note that this roster misspells Converse's first name as "Salva", and considering that they didn't have a spell checker in 1838, I wonder how many people besides me have noticed this mistake!!!

   In the years following his legislative service, Converse continued his involvement with the wool mill and was also a significant benefactor in regards to local church affairs. Both Solva and his brother Parley are listed in the 1905 two-volume work Some of the Ancestors and Descendants of Samuel Converse Jr as "the most prominent supporters of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Stafford." Solva Converse is also listed as a major contributor to the erection and construction of a new Methodist church in Stafford in 1866. 
  Solva Converse lived quite a long life by 19th century standards, dying at age 87 on November 22, 1877. He had outlived six of his eleven children and it is also known that Esther, his wife of 65 years, survived him by nearly three years, dying in 1880 at age 89. The portrait of Solva Converse featured above (and very likely the only one to be found online) was discovered in the earlier mentioned Ancestors of Samuel Converse Jr., Volume 1.

  While his first name may be spelled slightly differently, Salva Goodspeed is another man with this unusual first name who made himself known in political circles. A lifelong resident of Vermont, Goodspeed served a brief term as one of Franklin County's representatives in the state legislature, and later distinguished himself as a selectman for the town of Montgomery.
  Salva Goodspeed was born on August 2, 1805, in Montgomery, Vermont, one of several children born to Seth and Hannah Stone Goodspeed. Nothing is known of Salva's early years or education, or his date of marriage. He married to Carshina Johnson sometime in the 1830s  and had five children, who are listed as follows: Ellen (born 1837), Nelson (born 1839), Monroe (born 1842), Hannah (born 1845) and Dean (born 1851).
   The 1907 History of the Goodspeed Family (where the above picture of Salva was located) notes that he "was prominent in the affairs of his community" for many years and held the office of trustee of surplus money for Montgomery in 1849. In 1855 he was elected to the Vermont State House of Representatives and served there until 1857, afterward serving as town selectman from 1858-1864.
  In addition to his political involvement, Goodspeed was also active in local church affairs, being "one of the pillars of the Episcopal Church at Montgomery." He died at age 79 on June 9, 1885, in his native town of Montgomery and was interred at the Montgomery Village Cemetery. Carshina Johnson Goodspeed (who died in 1902 at age 88) is also interred here.

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