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 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. 

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