Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Orceneth Asbury Fly (1894-1976)

Portrait from the Hondo Anvil Herald, April 6, 1955.

   A longtime civic leader and prominent citizen in Hondo, Texas, Orceneth Asbury Fly can rightfully be called the oddest named mayor this Medina County city ever produced, and in addition to his two terms as mayor was a druggist in that city for over five decades. Born in Utopia, Texas on February 16, 1894, Orceneth Asbury "O.A." Fly was the son of John Sidney and Annalee (Fisher) Fly. Bestowed the unusual names Orceneth Asbury upon his birth, Fly's unsual name may have connection to Orceneth Asbury Fisher (1803-1880), a widely known Methodist minister who spent a good portion of his later life in Texas.
  O.A. Fly attended school in Hondo and following graduation from that city's high school continued study at the Coronel Institute in San Marcos and the University of Texas' Pharmacy School at Galveston. Following his graduation in January 1917 Fly began his career as pharmacist, briefly residing in Laredo and San Antonio before returning to Hondo. He married in May 1917 to Willie LeRoy Barton (1894-1967), to whom he was wed for fifty years. The couple's lengthy union would produce four childrenOrceneth Asbury Jr. (1918-1972), Frances Ruth (1921-2004), William Sidney (born 1925) and the Rev. Richard Fly (1930-1959).
  In January 1919 Fly returned to Hondo and shortly after his return "purchased a half interest" in the Martin Drug Store. Following the purchase the store underwent a name change to the Fly Drug Co. He would remain connected with this business for over fifty years (retiring in January 1970) and was later joined by his sons William Sidney and Orceneth Asbury Jr., the latter also being surgeon based in Houston. During its existence the Fly Drug Co. would carry not only medical supplies and pharmaceuticals but also "sundries, candy, tobacco, gift items, school supplies and the like", as well as sporting goods.
   While prominent in Hondo business circles, O.A. Fly also stood tall in city civic affairs, being a past president of the Chamber of Commerce and Hondo Lions Club, a past master of the local Masonic lodge, as well as a Shriner. Fly also was a longstanding member of the Southwest Texas Pharmaceutical Association and the National Association of Retail Druggists.
   O.A. Fly entered Hondo political life in the late 1940s when he was elected to the city council. In February 1953 Fly announced his candidacy for mayor of Hondo, following incumbent mayor Bob Kollman's announcement that he wouldn't be seeking reelection. In April of that year Fly won the mayorality and would serve two terms in that post. Upon entering the mayor's office, Fly envisioned a bright future for Hondo, remarking
"I want many things for Hondo but especially I would like to see all our streets paved, curbs and sidewalks laid, a federal building, a city hall,  a city library, a large park and city playground. Also, I would like for Hondo to have a zoning ordinance, a standard building code, improved traffic regulations, a stricter enforcement on vaccinating and tagging dogs, a cleaner city and a continuation of the friendly hospitality with which Hondoans make visitors and newcomers feel at home in Hondo."
O.A. Fly at work, from the February 17, 1967 Hondo Anvil Herald.

   Fly's second term as mayor concluded in April 1957 and was succeeded by Dr. Thomas Knopp. In 1967 Fly celebrated not only the five decade anniversary of his entering the druggist trade but also his fiftieth wedding anniversary. He and his wife were subsequently feted with a large party at their home in June of that year, which was attended by over 150 guests from all across the country. Sadly, just two months following their anniversary, Willie Barton Fly died at age 72. In the year following his wife's passing O.A. Fly remarried to Emilia "Millie" Eckhart, to whom he was wed until her death in April 1974
  In January 1970 the Fly Drug Co. was purchased from Fly and his son William by Dan B. Conoly Jr., with the business continuing under the name Dan's Drug Inc. Following his retirement O.A. Fly continued prominence in Hondo, being a member of the Board of Stewards for the Hondo Methodist Church. He died that city on February 3, 1976, just two weeks shy of his 82nd birthday. He was later interred alongside his wife Willie at the Oakwood Cemetery in the Hondo cemetery complex.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Orba Ollie McCurdy (1895-1964)

Portrait from the "Calyx", Washington and Lee Yearbook, 1917.

  Vernon, Texas attorney Orba Ollie McCurdy was a veteran of World War I who would become active in Wilbarger County politics following his return from service, winning election as county prosecuting attorney and county judge. The son of L.E. and Minta Virginia (McDonald) McCurdy, Orba Ollie "O.O." McCurdy was born on November 29, 1895 in Harrold, Texas. Early in his life his family relocated to Vernon, Texas, where he would attend public schools. Deciding upon a career in law, McCurdy studied at both Valparaiso University in Indiana and Washington and Lee University in Virginia, earning his degree from the latter in 1917
  Following American entry into World War I McCurdy enlisted in the Marines, and he would subsequently be stationed at a barracks in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic beginning in 1918. He would hold the rank of sergeant at the time of his discharge and after returning stateside married in 1921 to Josephine Wardlaw (1899-1985), to whom he was wed until his death. The couple are believed to have been childless.
   In 1924 McCurdy won election as County Attorney for Wilbarger County and served two terms in that post (1925-1929). In the early 1940s McCurdy held the presidency of the Vernon Bar Association and in 1945 was elected as its secretary-treasurer. In 1942 he had won election to the first of three terms as Judge of Wilbarger County, and after serving six years on the bench stepped down in early 1949 and returned to practicing law, opening his office at the Herring Bank Building in Vernon
  Active in the American Legion, Rotary Club, Lions Club and the Masons, McCurdy continued to reside in Vernon until his death at home on June 4, 1964 at age 69. He was survived by his wife Josephine, and a burial location for both he and his wife remains unknown at this time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Blucher Haynes Erskine (1849-1929)

Portrait from Personnel of the Texas State Government, 1889.

    After several weeks of profiling a number of unusually named New England political figures we journey south to Frio County, Texas and Blucher Haynes Erskine. A farmer and stock raiser, Erskine represented Frio County in the Texas House of Representatives for three terms beginning in 1889. A lifelong Texas resident, Blucher H. Erskine was born in Guadalupe County on August 10, 1849, the eldest son of Andrew Nelson (1826-1862) and Annie T. Erskine (1826-1914). 
   Erskine attended schools local to Guadalupe County and was left fatherless at just thirteen years of age, with Andrew Erskine losing his life at the Battle of Antietam. Blucher Erskine married in May 1872 to Ada Cotton (1850-1939) and would have four sons, Andrew Nelson (1873-1954), John P. (born 1875), Blucher Haynes Jr. (1880-1963) and Fredrick Paul (1885-1958). 
  After entering young adulthood Erskine began a career in milling and stockraising, first in Guadalupe County and later in Frio County. Following his removal to the latter county he became one of that area's leading cattlemen, and in 1884 journeyed to St. Louis to take part in the First National Convention of Cattle Growers of the United States. A representative from the Frio County Stock Association to that meeting, Erskine served on the committees on Credentials, Permanent Organization and Resolutions during the convention proceedings.
  In November 1888 Erskine was elected to represent Frio County (and the rest of the 21st district) in the Texas House of Representatives. Taking his seat at the start of the 1889-91 session, Erskine was named to committees on Finance, Internal Improvements, Lands and Land Office, Public Debt, Stocks and Stock Raising, and Roads, Bridges and Ferries. He would also chair the committee on Irrigation. Erskine won his second term in the house in November 1890 and during that legislative session held a number of new committee assignments, including Finance, State Asylums and chairing the committee on Claims and Accounts.
  Erskine's third win at the ballot box occurred in November 1892, and during his final stint in the legislature chaired the committee on Public Lands and the Land Offices, as well as serving on the Finance and Military affairs committees. Following his time in government Erskine returned to raising short horn cattle and was acknowledged as a "liberal contributor to stock journals of the country." Sadly, Erskine encountered financial hardship in his later years, and in July 1919 wrote the following letter to the Shorthorn World cattle journal:
"Years of drouth [sic] and financial misfortune forced me completely out of the cattle business and I reluctantly parted with my Shorthorns in 1918 after over forty years--1875-1918 as a Shorthorn breeder. I felt like a man suddenly jerked from near the top of the ladder. I had to rub my bruises awhile before trying to mount again. Although nearly 70 years old, I am going to try in a small way, as my little money left will allow me to enter the ''ranks" again and when the final call comes, die a Shorthorn breeder."
   Erskine's last years were spent in Cometa, Crystal City, Texas and during this time was an avid researcher of his family's history, work that would see him author a piece on his father's exploits (published in the June 1927 issue of the Frontier Times Magazine) as well as compiling a 116 page biography entitled "Life of Andrew Nelson Erskine, 1826-1862". Blucher Haynes Erskine died at age 80 on December 20, 1929, with burial occurring at his ranch in Crystal City, Texas.

From the Personnel of the Texas State Government, 1892.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Parsons Brainard Cogswell (1828-1895)

Portrait from the Proceedings of the New Hampshire Historical Society, Vol. 3.

"Always a plain man of the people, he recognized no cliques or classes as an editor or public man. He greeted the poor and rich alike, and in the days of his prosperity never failed to remember the companions of his hours of toil at the compositor's case or the printing press. This characteristic made warm friends of all who knew him,  but he had others which were only known to his nearer and more intimate associates."
   Such was the memorial given to Parsons Brainard Cogswell, one of New Hampshire's preeminent newspaper publishers and editors during the 19th century. In addition to success in his chosen field, Cogswell also made an impact in Granite State political life, being a two term state representative, New Hampshire state printer and Mayor of Concord. The fifth born son of David and Hannah (Haskell) Cogswell, Parsons Brainard Cogswell was born in Henniker, New Hampshire on January 22, 1828. 
  Cogswell's formative years were spent on the farm and his education was centered during the winter months at district schools. For an eight month period Cogswell attended an academy in Clinton Grove, where, under the tutelage of principal Moses Cartland, he first became "strongly attached to anti-slavery tenets and temperance." At the age of just 19 Cogswell was called to enter the printing trade, and in 1847 joined the staff of the Independent Democrat in Concord. During his two years in their offices Cogswell gained wide knowledge of the printer's daily activities and by 1849 had moved on to the New Hampshire Patriot, also located in Concord. His three year tenure on the Patriot staff also saw him employed for several weeks in Massachusetts, working with the Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph newspapers.
  In 1852 Cogswell left the New Hampshire Patriot to join the print firm of Tripp and Osgood, where he was in engaged in "book and job work." In March 1854 he and Abraham Gates Jones (a future Mayor of Concord) pooled resources and together purchased the aforementioned business, which they operated until 1858, after which Cogswell "assumed whole control of the business." He continued along this route until 1863 when he took on George Sturtevant as a partner, and in May of the following year they launched the Concord Daily Monitor, notable for being the first daily newspaper to be issued in the city. While being one of the paper's founders, Cogswell had a hand in nearly every aspect of the paper's production, serving
"In every editorial department, as local, associate and managing editor, and as an editorial writer, wielding a vigorous pen, and contributing with strength to every department of the paper." 
   Several years after its founding the Daily Monitor was consolidated with two other papers, those being the Independent Democrat and the New Hampshire Statesman. Cogswell (as a member of the Republican Press Association, the guiding light behind the consolidation) maintained a large presence in the Monitor's continued production, being at various times managing editor and editor in chief.
   Parsons B. Cogswell first entered the political life of Concord in 1858, when he won a seat on the Union school district's school committee. In the following year he began a lengthy tenure on the Concord city board of education, continuing to serve until his death in 1895. Cogswell also held the presidency of that board for several years and for nearly two decades was its financial agent.

From a bookplate in the collection of the Concord Public Library.

   In 1871 Parsons Cogswell was elected as one of Merrimack County's representatives to the New Hampshire General Court, and in 1872 won a second term. His terms in the legislature saw him sit on the committees on the Asylum For the Insane and Bills in the Second Reading. During these terms Cogswell also served as president of the New Hampshire Press Association (1872-75) and in 1876 was its recording secretary. 
   1877 saw Cogswell embark on an extended journey through California, Oregon and several other states, whilst later visiting Canada. He would continue his travels into 1878 and 1879, venturing across the Atlantic Ocean to traverse "Europe, the Holy Land and Egypt". During his travels overseas Cogswell documented his journey through letters published in the Daily Monitor and the Independent Statesman. Due to a growing interest from those paper's subscribers, Cogswell's travelogues were later published in book form following his return stateside in 1880, under the title Glints From Over the Water
   Cogswell returned to Granite State political life in June 1881 when he entered into the post of New Hampshire State Printer, an office he'd continue to hold until 1885. During his term Cogswell oversaw the publishing of numerous works relating to early New Hampshire history, including documents related to the state constitutional conventions of 1778-79 and 1781-83, rolls of New Hampshire soldiers during the Revolutionary War, and census statistics for the state. 
   Active in a number of non-political areas in Concord, Cogswell was for many years a trustee of the state library and a past president of both the Concord Commercial Club and the New Hampshire Historical SocietyOn September 22, 1888 Cogswell married to Helen Buffam Pillsbury (1843-1929), the daughter of noted New Hampshire abolitionist and reformer Parker Pillsbury (1809-1898). Despite marrying late in life (as well as a fifteen year age difference between them) Cogswell and his wife's family had been extremely close for a number of years prior, as he had boarded with the family beginning in 1848. Parker Pillsbury would in turn have a large effect on Cogswell, who early in his life embraced many of Pillsbury's ideas in regards to social activism, women's rights and the abolition of slavery. Cogswell would put much of what he learned from his future father-in-law into action during his time as director of the lyceum in Concord, inviting reform minded speakers to lecture on a broad range of topics, including prohibition and equal rights.
   In 1892 Cogswell returned to government service when he was appointed by then President Benjamin Harrison as U.S. Inspector of Immigrants at Concord, holding that post until his resignation in January of the following year. In the same year as his appointment as immigrant inspector Cogswell was elected as Mayor of Concord, and entered into his duties in January 1893. During his term he spoke at the dedication of the new state library building and was "interested in all measures tending to improve Concord." 
   Parsons Cogswell's term as mayor concluded in January 1895 and on October 28th of that year died of pneumonia at his home in Concord. News of his passing made the pages of the New York Sun within a day of his death, and he was subsequently memorialized as a
"Faithful and painstaking servant of the people, seeking with perseverance the ends he believed to be good, and striving with the utmost success to perform his whole duty in whatever station he found himself."
  Helen Pillsbury Cogswell survived her husband by three decades, dying at age 86 in October 29, 1929, one day after the thirty-fourth anniversary of Cogswell's passing. Following her death she was interred alongside him in the Cogswell-Pillsbury family plot at the Blossom Hill Cemetery in Concord. 

From the New York Sun, October 29, 1895.

Portrait from the History of the Eleventh New Hampshire Regiment, Volunteer Infantry.

  While the Cogswell family could boast of one oddly named politician in Parsons B. Cogswell, attention must also be given to his older brother Leander Winslow Cogswell, who, while not having as unusual a name, left a lasting mark in Granite State politics. A veteran of the Civil War, Cogswell attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in Co. D. of the Eleventh Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry.
  In 1865 he was elected to the first of four terms as Henniker's representative to the New Hampshire General Court (serving from 1866, 1867 and 1870, 1871) and from 1871-72 served as state treasurer. Cogswell later served five years one of New Hampshire's savings bank commissioners from 1876-81 and died in Henniker on January 21, 1906 at age 80.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Dauphin White Wilson (1810-1892)

Portrait from the History of the town of Sullivan, New Hampshire, 1777-1917, Vol II.

   Our theme of oddly named New England political figures continues with the addition of Dauphin White Wilson, a two term member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives from the town of Sullivan. The son of John and Betsy (Nims) Wilson, Dauphin White Wilson was born in Sullivan on August 18, 1810. Bestowed the names Dauphin White upon his birth, Wilson's unusual name honored Dauphin White (1788-1810), a rising young citizen of Sullivan who died in December 1810, and was acknowledged "as one of the most brilliant young men of the town, possessed of remarkable intelligence. Nearly a dozen boys of the town and vicinity were named for him."
   A member of the local militia during his youth, Dauphin Wilson married on November 3, 1836 to Ruth Mason, to whom he was wed for fifty-six years. The couple would have one son who died in infancy in 1837. Through the succeeding years Wilson rose to become a prominent figure in Sullivan, being a farmer, schoolteacher, carpenter and a man of verse. Remarked as being a "fair poet" and "true balladest", Wilson is noted as having had 
"The true spirit of poetry in his nature, but had never given any attention to the laws of meter, and the metrical arraignment of many of his poems is seriously defective. His poem, printed on page 70 of this book [the History of the town of Sullivan] sounds like an old time ballad and is of that nature.....He had a sentimental turn of mind and was particularly attached to his native town. Every object of interest which ever existed in the town was treasured by him in memory."
  Active in the political affairs of Sullivan, Wilson held several town offices, including justice of the peace, school board clerk, hog-reeve, juror and treasurer (serving in the latter in 1838.) In 1850 he was elected as one of Sullivan County's representatives to the New Hampshire legislature and during the 1851 session held no committee assignments. In 1860 Wilson won a second term in the legislature and, as was the case in his previous term, held no committee assignments
  1886 proved to be an important year for Wilson and his wife, as they not only celebrated their golden wedding anniversary (an event that was celebrated in the photograph below) but also removed from Sullivan to the neighboring town of Keene. Wilson returned to politics that year when he served on the Keene Common Council from Ward 1, and continued to reside in that city until his death at age 81 on March 17, 1892. His wife Ruth survived him by six years, and following her death in 1898 was interred alongside her husband at the Sullivan Center Cemetery in Sullivan.

Dauphin Wilson and his wife are seated in the above photo. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Liba Conant Morrison (1828-1900)

Portrait from the History of Northfield, New Hampshire, 1780-1905.

   An obscure resident of the town of Northfield in New Hampshire, Liba Conant Morrison represented that town in his state's legislature for one term in the mid 1870s. A son of Ebenezer and Elizabeth (Lyford) Morrison, Liba Conant Morrison was born in Northfield on May 13, 1828. Named in honor of the Rev. Liba Conant (1793-1881), a prominent Congregationalist minister in Northfield, Liba Morrison married in May 1859 to Mary Chase Hill (1835-1898). The couple's near four decade marriage is believed to have been childless.
  A tanner for the majority of his life, Morrison and his brother Ebenezer (along with their father) are recorded as building a steam mill for their work near Sanbornton Bridge, and that the mill was "destroyed by fire after the business declined." Following this Morrison followed farming and in 1875 was elected as one of Merrimack County's representatives to the New Hampshire legislature.  Serving in the session of 1876-77, Morrison was named to the committee on Fisheries. Little else is known of Morrison's life after his term in state government, excepting notice of his death at the home of his niece on July 11, 1900. A burial location for both he and his wife remains unknown at this time.

A  New Hampshire legislative roster from 1876.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Minthorne Dyckman Tompkins (1841-1904)

Portrait courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

   A descendant of one of New York's prominent political families, Minthorne Dyckman Tompkins' story is one of the more interesting ones you'll read about here, as he is the first political figure to have been a fireman by occupation. A member of Hook and Ladder Engine Company No. 1 in New York City, Tompkins etched his name into New York fire department history when he became the first man to be award a medal of valor, this award extending from his heroic actions a year prior while rescuing a woman from a burning hotel building. Following his retirement from the department in 1883 Tompkins and his family removed to Connecticut, and in 1885 was elected to that state's house of representatives from Stonington.
   The son of George Clinton and Sarah Minthorne (Watson) Tompkins, Minthorne Dyckman Tompkins was born in New York City on July 20, 1841. A member of one of New York's most prestigious families, Tompkins' uncle was none other than Daniel D. Tompkins (1774-1825), former New York Governor, Congressman and Vice President of the United States under James Monroe. In addition to the Vice President, the family could count Westchester County Judge and U.S. Representative Caleb Tompkins amongst their ranks, and sported another odd name politician in Mangle Minthorne Tompkins (1807-1881), a former state senator and candidate for Governor in 1852.
   Young Minthorne's early education occurred at Grammar School No. 13 in New York City and he later attended the Forsyth Academy at White Plains. After leaving that school in 1860 Tompkins began a five year clerkship in the Quartermaster's Department in New York City, from which he resigned in 1865. In that year he was appointed to the New York City Fire Department, which had become a paid force just three years prior
  By 1868 Tompkins had attained the rank of assistant foreman for the Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, and on November 14th of that year he and other department members were dispatched to combat a rapidly spreading fire that had broken out at the Stewart House, a restaurant and hotel located at 480 Broadway in lower Manhattan. Fourteen of the hotel's occupants had become trapped by the flames, with no escape routes possible. After ladders had been positioned against the building, Tompkins began a trek to the building's upper floors. Hearing screams and seeing a woman trapped by flames above him, Tompkins reached the top rung of the long wooden ladder and amongst the smoke, steadied himself on the top rung. After positioning his frame against the side of the building, Tompkins directed the woman out of the window and onto his shoulders, after which he precariously made the climb downward to the street
   After seeing that the woman had been attended to, Tompkins led his fellow firefighters back into the building to continue search and rescue operations, while hose teams contained the fire to the "rear portion of the building." Their efforts led to several more people being rescued and extracted from the building, with Tompkins himself continuing work even though he had received injury early in the rescue operation. 

Tompkins as he appeared in the New York Herald in November 1910.

   Several months after the Stewart House fire New York Herald publisher James Russell Bennett Sr. (1795-1872) endowed fifteen hundred dollars to be used towards the striking of a medal to be issued annually to a fire department member who had exhibited an exemplary act of heroism. The then recently established FDNY Board of Merit, knowing of Tompkins' actions, awarded him the Bennett Medal in April 1869, making Tompkins the first FDNY officer to be so honored
   Promoted to Lieutenant in 1868, Tompkins attained the rank of Captain three years later and in November 1871 married in Groton, Connecticut to Ellen Wilcox (1846-1889), a resident of Stonington. The couple would have at least one son, Odell Dyckman (1872-1962). In 1883 Tompkins was honorably discharged from the fire department due to physical disability. In the following year he and his family removed to Mystic, Connecticut, and within a short period of his resettlement had become a leading figure in the area, becoming a Grand Juror for the city of Stonington and a founder of Mystic Hook and Ladder Company No. 1. 
   In 1885 Tompkins was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly as a representative from Stonington and during the 1886 session would be named to the committee on claims. Widowed in 1889, Tompkins died in Stonington on March 15, 1904 at age 62. He and his wife (as well as their son Odell) were all interred at the Elm Grove Cemetery in Stonington. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Minotte Estes Chatfield (1859-1952)

Portrait from the Commemorative Biographical Record of New Haven County, 1902.

    New Haven, Connecticut resident Minotte Estes Chatfield is another in a long line of distinguished Nutmeg State businessmen/state representatives profiled recently, and, like his oddly named contemporary Plumb Nichols Fairchild, made his fortune through the manufacture of paper. During a long life that extended from the administrations of Buchanan to Truman, Chatfield branched out into other walks of New Haven life (being a newspaper company and bank president) and served terms in both houses of the Connecticut legislature.
   Born in Centerville, Connecticut on March 13, 1859, Minotte Estes Chatfield was one of four children born to George Wooster and Cornelia Andrews (Ford) Chatfield. Descended from a family with roots in Connecticut dating back to the early 17th century, Chatfield's education took place in public school system of New Haven, as well as the Hopkins grammar school. Upon reaching age sixteen Chatfield entered the workforce, assuming a clerkship under New Haven postmaster Nehemiah Day Sperry (1827-1911), who would later represent Connecticut's 2nd district in Congress for eight terms. In 1880 Chatfield took as his wife one Stella Rowe Russell (1858-1916), to whom he was wed for thirty-six years. The couple would have three children, Russell Estes (1884-1962), Sterling Russell (1891-1973) and Helen Russell (1893-1988). 
   Chatfield's postal clerkship extended from 1875 to 1882, when he resigned. He soon found employment with the F.S. Bradley and Co., one of New Haven's premier dealers in hardware supplies and paper. Chatfield's tenure at that company saw him placed in the paper department, and through seven years of diligent work learned the in's and outs of the paper making trade, and "acquainted himself with every branch of the department." By 1889 Chatfield, now equipped with extensive knowledge of the paper business, resolved to go into business for himself. In that year he purchased the Bradley Co.'s paper and twine departments, and within a short period the Chatfield Paper Company was born. This business (incorporated in 1895), grew to be "among the largest concerns of the kind in New England" and Chatfield himself served as its president and treasurer
   Minotte Chatfield continued to expand his business savvy through the remainder of the 1890s, becoming affiliated with the New Haven Pulp and Board Co. He would hold the presidency of that company (as well as being a large stockholder) and branched out into the publishing world when he assumed the directorship of the Evening Leader Co., publishers of the New Haven Times Leader, a popular city newspaper. Chatfield also added the title of bank director to his resume when he became a director of the Yale National Bank in early 1918. In addition to banking and business Chatfield loomed large in city civic affairs and social clubs, being a director of the New Haven Public Library, as well as a member of the the Quinnipiac Club and the New Haven Country Club.
   Acknowledged as one of New Haven's leading young Republicans, Chatfield was a member of that city's Young Men's Republican Club and served on the New Haven city council and board of aldermen. In November 1902 Chatfield won election to the Connecticut General Assembly, garnering 9, 247 votes on election day. It can safely be said that Chatfield had plenty of oddly named company amongst his fellow legislators in the 1903-05 session, as he served alongside such men as Fessenden Leverett Ives, Allerton Cushman Kibbe, Maltby Gaylord Gelston, Scovill McLean Buckingham, Urban Todd Harrison, Aretas Frederick Kibbe and Mayro Keeney. 

Portrait from the Legislative History and Souvenir of Connecticut, 1903.

   Chatfield's term in the house saw him sit on the committee on constitutional amendments and in 1905 sought election to the state senate. He was elected to that body in November of that year with 3,270 votes and during the 1906-08 term chaired the committee on cities and boroughs. During the waning months of his senate term Chatfield was put forth as the Republican candidate for Mayor of New Haven, and in September 1907 accepted the nomination, remarking
"The honor of heading the ticket has fallen to my lot. That it will be my endeavor to fill the office to the best of my ability, all who know me will understand. If elected mayor it will be my pleasure to advocate such improvements as will, in my judgement, cause city betterments."
   Chatfield's opponent that year was Democrat James B. Martin, a former member of the city council and city clerk. On election day in October it was Martin who emerged victorious, and following his win served as mayor until his defeat in 1909. Following his loss Chatfield remained prominent in New Haven, being an active Mason and commissioner of the city's sinking fund from 1921-1930. Widowed in 1916, Chatfield remarried in June 1920 to Charlotte Snider (1874-1947). Widowed for a second time in 1947, Chatfield celebrated his 90th birthday in 1949 and died in Branford, Connecticut on August 19, 1952 at age 93. He was interred at the Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, the same resting place as that of his wives Stella and Charlotte.

From the New Haven Journal Courier, September 25, 1907.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Plumb Nichols Fairchild (1809-1892)

Portrait from "A Hstory of the Old Town of Stratford", 1886.

   Possessing some impressive chin whiskers, Plumb Nichols Fairchild was long prominent in Fairfield County, Connecticut business circles, being both a co-owner of his family's paper mill and a bank director. A one term member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Fairchild also farmed and was a justice of the peace. The son of Lewis and Martha (Nichols) Fairchild, Plumb Nichols Fairchild's birth occurred in Trumbull, Connecticut on November 12, 1809. 
   Fairchild's youth saw him attend the common schools and work the family farm, continuing in the latter until age 18. Upon reaching that age he began work at his family's paper mill, which had been established in Trumbull a number of years prior by his father and uncles Eben and Reuben. In 1836 he and his brother Daniel were admitted to the firm and eleven years later purchased the business, which was then renamed the D. and P.N. Fairchild Co. The brothers' were later joined by Daniel's son Horace, and Plumb himself continued to be active in the mill's operation until its sale in 1886In May 1856 Fairchild married to Jennett H. Lewis (1825-1892) and the couple's near four decade union is noted as childless. 
  In addition to co-owning his family's paper mill Fairchild branched out into other areas of Fairfield County life, including farming, serving as a justice of the peace and was the director of the Bridgeport National Bank for twelve years. In 1846 he followed in his father and uncles' stead when he was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly as a representative from Trumbull. Serving in the 1847 session, Fairchild held a seat on the committee on Federal Relations and in 1854 saw his brother Daniel win election as Trumbull's representative to the legislature.
  Plumb Fairchild remained prominent in Fairfield County life well into his twilight years, being elected as a member of the county historical society in 1883. In early 1892 Fairchild fell ill and by March of that year newspaper reports noted that he was in a "state of unconsciousness." Sometime earlier Fairchild had willed a good majority of his estate (amounting to nearly $250,000) to his wife, who, in a strange twist, died four days before him on March 10, 1892. Fairchild (who had been unconscious at the time of his wife's passing) died on March 14, having never recovered consciousness. 
  The deaths of both Fairchild and his wife within days of one another left a quandary in regards to his estate, with both Fairchild's siblings and his wife's family making cases for receiving it. Newspapers of the time fail to record the outcome of whatever legal proceedings may have occurred, and both Plumb and Jennett Fairchild were interred at the Nichols Farm Burying Ground after their passing.  

From the New York Times, March 29, 1892.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Scovill Merrill Buckingham (1811-1889), Scovill McLean Buckingham (1876-1965)

Portrait from the Town and History of Waterbury, Connecticut, Vol II, 1896.

  This two part write-up takes us to Connecticut and an oddly named grandfather and grandson pair who both served terms in their state's legislature, whilst also attaining notoriety in a number of other non-political areas. The first of these men, Scovill Merrill Buckingham, was born in Watertown, Connecticut on August 10, 1811, being the son of John and Betsy (Scovill) Buckingham. Young Scovill was a student in schools local to Watertown and also studied under Deacon Simeon Hart.
   Early in his life Buckingham was prepared to enter the business world, joining the mercantile store of his uncles James Mitchell Lamson Scovill and William H. Scovill in 1827. Their firm, later to be titled the Scovill Manufacturing Co., would gain fame throughout the United States as a manufacturer of rolled brass, wire, lighting, buttons and silver plated copper sheets used in the production of daguerreotypes. After several years of work Buckingham advanced to superintendent of the firm's button manufacturing department, and in 1839 he and fellow employee Abraham Ives were given an interest in the business. Buckingham and Ives' partnership led to the development of Scovill and Co., a separate business devoted solely to the manufacture of brass buttons.
   Scovill M. Buckingham married in May 1835 to Charlotte Ann Benedict (1810-1887). The couple's fifty two year union saw the birth of one son, John Aaron (1836-1899). Through the 1840s Buckingham's business profile continued to rise and by the time of his uncles' retirement and the formation of the Scovill Manufacturing Co. in 1850, the "responsibility of the business devolved largely on him." From 1850 until his death in 1889 Buckingham was a director of that company and served as its secretary from 1850-58 and treasurer from 1855-62. He held the presidency of the company from 1857-1861.
  In addition to his stewardship of the aforementioned company Buckingham was also heavily involved in several other business endeavors in Connecticut, including service as president of the Plymouth Granite Co. and president of the Waterbury National Bank. Buckingham also had large holdings in both the Naugatuck Railroad and the Wheeler and Wilson Sewing Machine Co., and "took pride in building houses", culminating in the building of the Buckingham block on Willow Street in Waterbury.
  Buckingham's lone involvement in political life came in 1843 when he was elected as one of New Haven County's representatives to the Connecticut General Assembly, and his one term in office saw him sit on the committee on claims. Active in the St. John's Episcopal Church of Waterbury, Buckingham succeeded his uncle as senior warden of that church and also donated funds for the construction of a new church building and to the building fund for Trinity College at Hartford. Sources also attest to his being an avid outdoorsman and being a crack shot with a hunting rifle.
  Scovill M. Buckingham lost his wife of fifty-two years in January 1887 and he himself died at his Waterbury home on April 27, 1889 at age 77. Both he and his wife were later interred at the Riverside Cemetery in that city.

A death notice for Buckingham from the Waterbury Evening Democrat, April 29, 1889.

Portrait from the Legislative and Souvenir History of Connecticut, 1903.

   Public service continued in the Buckingham family in Scovill McLean Buckingham, the grandson of the preceding gentleman. A Harvard educated lawyer, Buckingham served terms in the Connecticut house of representatives and senate, and in the late 1920s was appointed as state commissioner of agriculture.
  The son of John Aaron and Anne McLean Buckingham, Scovill McLean "Mac" Buckingham's birth occurred in Brooklyn, New York on October 3, 1876. He removed with his family to Watertown, Connecticut in 1892 and would attend the Taft School in that city. He continued his studies at both Yale and Harvard, graduating from the latter's law department in the class of 1902. In December of that year he was admitted to practice law in Litchfield County and in 1906 wed Margaret McConway (1883-1940), to whom he was married until her death. The couple would have have four children, Mary (1907-1967), Margaret McLean (1909-2007), Scovill McLean Jr. (1911-1994) and Josephine Alden (1919-1995).
   In the same year as his admittance to the bar Mac Buckingham began his political career, winning election to the Connecticut House of Representatives. Just 27 years old at the time of his election, Buckingham was one of the youngest members of the legislature during that session and served on the committee on Cities and Boroughs. Following this term he would occupy several political offices in Watertown (including first selectman and town clerk) and for a time served as Chief of the Watertown Fire Department.
   Active in agricultural circles in Litchfield County, Mac Buckingham would purchase Mount Fair Farm from Horace Taft (President William H. Taft's younger brother) in 1913. Under Buckingham's watchful eye the farm became widely known for its dairy and poultry production, and his work with agriculture continued well into his later years, as he held the presidency of both the Litchfield County Farm Bureau and the Connecticut Farm Bureau Federation. He would also hold a seat on the executive committee of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Buckingham (and fellow odd name representative Minotte E. Chatfield) in 1903.

   Twenty-two years after serving his first term Buckingham won a second term in the state house, serving in the 1925-27 sessionFollowing his second term in the legislature Buckingham won election to the state senate in November 1926. Representing the 32nd senatorial district, he sat on the committees on agriculture and state parks and reservations. In 1928 Buckingham was selected as Connecticut State Commissioner of Agriculture, succeeding outgoing commissioner Leonard Holmes Healy
  Buckingham's time as commissioner extended until 1932, and three years later was returned to government service when was appointed by then Governor Wilbur Ross as State Milk Administrator, a post he would hold until 1937. Widowed in 1940, Buckingham resided in Watertown until his death at age 88 on May 15, 1965. Both he and his wife (as well as his son Scovill) were interred at the Evergreen Cemetery in Watertown.