Saturday, January 19, 2013

Farnham Orris Bennett (1832-1899), Farnham Manning Sprague (1858-1952)


  Having an interesting surname as a first name seems to be quite prevalent as far as 19th century politicians are concerned, and the above pictured man is no exception. A lifelong resident of Connecticut, Farnham Orris Bennett was blessed with an interesting first name and during his life carved a career for himself in the fields of medicine and politics, gaining statewide distinction in the process.
   The son of Connecticut Baptist minister David Bennett (1783-1868) and his wife Clarissa Farnham (1793-1869), Farnham Orris Bennett was born on December 23, 1832 in the village of Monroe. He received his primary schooling in Burlington, Connecticut and eventually moved here with his family at age nine. Bennett later continued his education at the Suffield Academy and began pursuing the study of medicine at the Berkshire Medical College in Massachusetts, graduating with his medical degree in 1859. Shortly after his graduation he undertook a two year course in surgery in New York City and after completing this course returned to Westford, Connecticut to open a medical office.
  The history of The Bennett Family:1628-1910 notes that Bennett became a highly regarded medical practitioner in Windham County, and with this distinction came a nomination to the Connecticut State House of Representatives, to which he was elected in 1863. Bennett was returned to the legislature fifteen years later in 1878 and aside from his brief legislative tenure also held the position of Register for the town of Ashford in 1866 and 1873.

                                     Bennett's name on an 1878 roster of Connecticut legislators.

  Farnham O. Bennett married on September 15, 1868 to Romelia Parsons (1851-1907), a native of Rutland, Vermont. Three children were born to the couple and are listed as follows: William H. (born 1869), Frederick Ward (born 1871) and Annie Louise (born 1877). In the same year as his nuptials Bennett was elected to a seat on the Ashford Board Of Education, serving for an indeterminate length of time.
   Throughout his legislative service and other civic activities, Bennett's medical practice continued to grow, with his often having to travel into many of the surrounding towns and villages to take medical calls. This constant travel eventually necessitated the relocation of his medical practice to the larger city of Willimantic, where he settled around 1881.
  His stay in Willimantic lasted until 1886, whereafter he and his wife removed to Fort Collins, Colorado to better Romelia's health. The couple returned to Willimantic in 1891 and Bennett continued to practice medicine until his own health concerns prevented him from doing so.
  Bennett's last years are chronicled in the 1899 Proceedings of the Connecticut Medical Society as being ones marked by periods of feebleness and impaired health. In the weeks preceding his death he was confined to his home, and he later expired at the home of his son William on March 26, 1899. The earlier mentioned Proceedings lamented the loss of the popular doctor and legislator, stating that he "was a skillful, conscientious and faithful physician. He was eminently kind to the poor-attending to them gratuitously" and that "many will miss his kindly visits."
   Farnham O. Bennett was later interred in the Bennett family plot at the Knowlton Cemetery in Ashford, Connecticut. He was survived by all three of his children as well as his wife Romelia, who died in Colorado in 1907 at age 56. The rare portrait of Bennett shown above was featured in the history of The Bennett Family: 1628-1910, published in 1910.

From the Genealogical and Family History of Vermont, Volume I, 1903.

  Another man named "Farnham" that made his name known politically was Farnham Manning Sprague of Readsboro. Born in the town of Whitingham on June 23, 1858, Sprague was the son of Manning and Fanny Willard Sprague. The Sprague family relocated to Readsboro when their son was ten and he attended schools local to that town. 
  Following the completion of his schooling Sprague began a lifelong career as a machinist, learning his trade in various shops in Readsboro. In 1880 he married to Ms. Hattie Jewell and late had two daughters Blanche and Lena. Following Hattie's death in November 1887 Sprague remarried to Etta Chase in August of 1889. After some years plying his trade in Readsboro he became the head of machine work at the National Metal Edge Box Company, and in 1893 took on a position with the Hoosac Tunnel and Wilmington Railroad Company as a foreman and master mechanic.
  The Genealogical and Family History of Vermont notes of Sprague's mechanical skill and also makes light of his being a "firm adherent" to Democratic Party principles. He served Readsboro as city water commissioner for a time and was later elected to represent the city in the Vermont State House of Representatives in 1888 for one term. Sprague left the legislature in 1890 and died in Fort Belvoir, Virginia in 1952 at age 93, and was later interred at the Readsboro Village Cemetery in Bennington County, Vermont.

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