Monday, March 13, 2017

Twing Reuben Hitt (1847-1922)

Portrait from the Binghamton Press, November 3, 1913.

   One of the best things about researching some of these oddly named folks is the continual discovery of persons you had no idea existed. While doing further research on Beveridge C. Dunlop (a one-term New York state assemblyman profiled here in June 2013), I happened across the abbreviated name of "T.R. Hitt", mentioned in the 1914 New York Red Book as having been the Prohibition Party nominee for the state assembly from Broome County. As luck would have it, Hitt's full name was revealed to be Twing Reuben Hitt, making him the first (and likely only) man with that first name to run for political office in New York State!
   A prominent lumberman and sawmill proprietor in Killawog, New York, Twing Reuben Hitt was born on April 21, 1847, being the son of John W. and Roxy (Smith) Hitt. Little could be found on Hitt's early life, excepting notice of his service in the Civil War. A 1963 edition of the Cortland Democrat records him as being sick in an army hospital in November 1864 and later notes that he was granted a twenty-day furlough the following month. 
   Twing R. Hitt married on October 21, 1872 in Killawog to Ella Phetteplace (1849-1900). The couple would later have three daughters, Jennie (1871-1913) Clara (born 1881) and Alta (born 1883). Following Ella Hitt's death in 1900 Twing would remarry to Addie Hinman (1867-1947), who survived him upon his death in 1922.
   Around 1869 Twing Hitt entered the lumber business in Killawog and would follow that line of work for over three decades. Hitt's sawmill in that town was later remarked as having "cut a million feet of timber annually", but later reduced its output to about three thousand feet a year. Hitt's mill was later joined by a grist and feed mill, which provided "custom grinding" and the production of buckwheat flour. In the early 1890s tragedy struck when Hitt's mill was destroyed by fire, along with a "large amount of seasoned lumber". Not one to let a loss get the best of him, Hitt took stock of his losses and quickly erected a new mill, one:
"Fully equipped with machinery for sawing, planing, matching, lath and shingle making, and a grinding."
  Following the erection of his new mill, Twing Hitt continued to expand his name through Broome County, erecting four stately houses in Binghamton and also built a grain elevator and sales room near the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroad depot. 

A Hitt campaign notice from the Binghamton Press, October 31, 1913.

    Acknowledged as a prominent business leader in Northern Broome County, Twing R. Hitt's sterling reputation eventually led to his jump into politics in 1909. In that year he accepted the nomination of the Prohibition Party as their candidate for the New York State Assembly and on election day placed third in a field of four candidates, garnering 673 votes.
   In 1913 Hitt was again the Prohibition nominee for the assembly, and in that campaign season notices touting his candidacy appeared in Broome County newspapers. In one notice (the Binghamton Press article shown above), Hitt's candidacy attempted to entice religious voters, noting that:
"Mr. Hitt is the only candidate who dares except the brazen challenge to the Christian voters of Broome County, by pledging his support and vote against legislation legalizing Sunday baseball, which is but a leader to an open Sunday in our state."
   Cautioning to keep Sunday holy (and, evidently, without any amusement whatsoever) Hitt found a firm backer in local clergyman Robert L. Clark, who later wrote a political advertisement for Hitt in the Binghamton Press. In that notice, Clark intoned that:
"God commands that we remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Mr. T.R. Hitt, the Prohibition candidate for the Assembly, is the only candidate who dares to stand on God's platform. Quick and Seymour are pledged to legalize the violation of God's law. Ruland is playing Good Lord and Good Devil for your votes. God says: "He that is not for me is against me."
   When Broome County voters went to the polls on November 4, 1913, it was Republican candidate Simon P. Quick who won out, netting 7,601 votes. Twing Hitt polled a respectable 1,278 votes but still placed fourth in a field of five candidates. Hitt would reemerge on the local political scene three years later when he became the Prohibition candidate for Broome county treasurer but again went down to defeat.
   Twing Hitt continued to reside in Killawog until his death from heart disease on June 18, 1922. He was survived by his second wife Addie and two daughters and was interred at the Killawog Cemetery.

From the Cincinnatus Times, June 1922.

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