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 the 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 papermaking 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 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 the second time in 1947, Chatfield celebrated his 90th birthday in 1949 and died at his summer residence "Pine Orchard" 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.

From the New Haven Evening Register.

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