Portrait from the Jamesons in America: 1637-1900.
Irasburg, Vermont resident Zuar Eldridge Jameson is honored today on the 127th anniversary of his death as the newest addition to the Strangest Names In American Political History. With a first name that brings to mind a comic book villain (oh no! Look out! It's ZUAR!) this intriguingly named Vermonter has an interesting backstory to his short political career, one that I couldn't wait to chronicle here! Jameson was involved in agricultural matters in Vermont for many years, including breeding cattle, being an agricultural correspondent for the New York Tribune, a member of the state board of agriculture, and was also a short story fiction writer. While obviously being a man of many talents, it is Jameson's brief tenure in the Vermont State House of Representatives that earns him a place here on the site.
While his name is certainly one of the stranger ones you'll read about here, a fair amount of information can be found online in regards to Jameson's life, which is quite surprising considering the overall obscurity of the man. Despite living to be only fifty years old, Jameson left a substantial legacy in Vermont agricultural circles, and over a century after his death in 1886, Jameson's name was prominently featured in Paul Searls' 2006 work Two Vermonts: Geography and Identity, 1865-1910. This informative book yielded many interesting tidbits on Jameson's life, and I count it as one of the most important resources when it came to doing research for this profile.
Zuar Jameson's story begins with his birth in Irasburg on January 5, 1835, the sixth of eleven children born to Alexander (1798-1871) and Sarah Knowles Locke Jameson (1804-1863). Zuar's parents had migrated from New Hampshire to Irasburg some years previously, and our subject received his unusual name in honor of Alexander Jameson's cousin Zuar Eldridge (1760-1812), with whom Alexander resided during his youth in New Hampshire.
Zuar E. Jameson is recorded as attending public schools in the Irasburg area and was later enrolled in a private academy. Little could be found on Jameson's early life after completing his education, although the earlier mentioned Two Vermonts notes that Zuar taught school for a time in Irasburg whilst still a teenager. The Jameson family history (entitled the Jamesons In America: 1647-1900) remarks that he embarked upon a career in farming at an early age and was engaged in this pursuit for all his life. Jameson married in Irasburg on June 25, 1860 to Rhode Island-born Mary Ellen Wilcox (born 1842), with whom he had four children: Arthur Lincoln (1867-1930), Grace Winfred (born 1867), Isadore Darling (died aged ten months in 1877) and Bessie Antoinette (died aged two months in 1878).
All of the sources that mention Zuar Jameson take note of his active involvement in the Vermont agriculture, and despite his short lifespan, was a prominent leader in Orleans County farming circles for many years, serving as the secretary of that county's Agricultural Society. Among his many accomplishments in the agricultural field were the breeding of new cattle varieties and "being a writer and lecturer on agricultural topics", such as the article below, published in an 1868 edition of the New England Farmer. In said article Jameson notes that he used a mixture of sulphuric acid and phosphate rock ("Vermont superphosphate") fertilizer to better the condition of soil and growth of his crops, including corn and turnips.
In addition to publishing scholarly agricultural editorials in periodicals like the New York Tribune, the Albany Country Gentleman, and the Boston Cultivator, Jameson is also mentioned as being a short story fiction writer by the Jamesons In America family history. These stories are remarked as "usually treating of rural life" and were published under his own name as well as pseudonyms. This same work also notes that Jameson was the editor of the Vermont Farmer, then regarded as among the "most successful of Vermont agricultural journals."
In 1870 Jameson became a member of the Vermont State Board of Agriculture, Manufacture, and Mining, and during his four-year tenure on this board proved to be an influential voice in advocating agricultural education in Vermont. Both before and during his board service Jameson launched a one-man campaign against the stagnant condition of the Vermont State Agricultural College, noted as being established in the mid-1860s but after five years of existence "still had no facilities or students". The college's decrepit state eventually led Jameson to compose a letter in the Newport, Vermont Express in which he voiced his concerns about the languishing state of the school, and because of Jameson's criticism, the school and its trustees began a program "intended to provide lectures and week-long conferences to Vermont farmers on modern agricultural techniques" starting in the early 1870s.
Throughout the 1870s Jameson continued to gain prominence throughout Vermont, becoming a leading figure and lecturer in the Vermont State Grange, as well as holding a membership in the State Dairymen's Association. In 1874 he left the Agricultural Board and four years later was elected to the Vermont State House of Representatives from his home county of Orleans. His one term in the legislature began in January 1878 and would serve as chairman of the committee on Agriculture. A small biographical notice for Jameson appeared in the 1878 Vermont Legislative Directory and is shown below.
After leaving the legislature in 1880 Jameson continued active involvement in the state grange, as well as publishing newspaper columns and essays, many of which appeared in the Vermont Watchman. In 1885 he published a large column in the Watchman detailing the success of his farm's apple orchards, stating that it consisted of five hundred trees and that "it receives constant praise in regards to its thrifty appearance." This article also details that Jameson sold countless bushels of apples that season for "a dollar a bushel, and fed many of the imperfect ones" to the five pigs living on his farm.
Zuar Eldridge Jameson died at his farm in Irasburg on January 4, 1886, a day before his 51st birthday. The immediate cause of his death is noted as an "injury sustained by a fall on the ice" (this according to his Orleans County Monitor death notice), though "pulmonary trouble" is also given as a contributing factor. He was shortly thereafter buried at the Irasburg Cemetery, which is also the resting place of both of his parents. Jameson was memorialized by the Jameson's In America as having been
"Energetically and physically devoting brain and muscle, in the spirit of broad Christian philanthropy, to his fellow farmers and fellow man."
This death notice for Jameson appeared in the Middlebury Register a few days after his death.