The first part of today's trio of oddly named political figures centers on the curiously named Civilion Fones, a resident of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Fones was one of the most prominent men living in Connecticut in the later period of the 19th century, and although his main occupation was that of a dentist, it is his brief tenure as the Mayor of Bridgeport that earns him a place here.
Civilion Fones' birth occurred in Belleville, Ontario, Canada on October 1, 1836, a son of Christopher and Sarah (Marigold) Fones. His parents were both natives of the United States who were residing in Canada at the time of their son's birth. Fones received his early education in Canada and later New York City, and during his adolescence studied to become an architect (his father's line of work) but abandoned it after a short time. On October 21, 1863, Fones married to Ms. Phoebe Wright, with whom he would have three children, George (died in infancy), Grace and Alfred Civilion.
In 1858 the then twenty-two-year-old Civilion Fones relocated to Bridgeport, Connecticut and there embarked upon the study of dentistry, later attending the Baltimore College of Dental Surgeons. In 1873 he graduated from the Maryland College of Dentistry and over the succeeding years gained recognition as one of the preeminent dentists in New England, lecturing and publishing scholarly articles on teeth care.
In addition to his dental practice, Fones became active in Bridgeport politics, being elected as an alderman on the Bridgeport City Council in 1884. Two years later he was elected as Mayor of Bridgeport, and it is noted in 1886's The History of the Old Town of Stratford and the city of Bridgeport that Fones enjoyed "unusual support from both political parties" after taking office. His term in office is highlighted by the History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume II as being a "businesslike and progressive administration that resulted in the inauguration of various needed reforms and improvements", including the erection of a new post office building in the city.
Fones during his term as Mayor, ca. 1887.
Fones served as Bridgeport's mayor for two terms (1886-1887) and after the conclusion of his second term served as the President of Connecticut's State Dental Association. Further honors were conferred upon him when he was appointed to the first Connecticut State Dental Commission in 1892. Fones died in his native Bridgeport on September 20, 1907, at age 70, and was later interred at the Mountain Grove Cemetery and Mausoleum in that city. In addition to Civilion Fones' impressive stature in Bridgeport, attention must also be given to Civilion's youngest son, Alfred Civilion Fones (1869-1936). Alfred C. Fones is often regarded as the "father of dental hygiene" and was the creator of the term "dental hygienist". He also is notable for being the founder of the first school of dental hygiene in the United States.
Next up is Mr. Savilion Chapman of Connecticut. Of the three individuals profiled within this article, Chapman is certainly the most obscure. Only one biographical resource could be found mentioning him at great length and is located in Duane Hamilton Hurd's History of New London County Connecticut, published in 1882. The information contained herein was found in the aforementioned book.
Savilion Chapman was born on September 12, 1816 in the village of East Lyme, the son of Moses and Polly Church Chapman. The History of New London County notes that Chapman received "limited advantages for education" and soon after his father's death in 1837 began a career as a stone cutter in the town of Waterford. In addition to his stone cutting profession, Chapman managed some success in dairy farming as well as the raising of Devonshire cattle. In 1840 Savilion married Ms. Mary Ann Smith, and two children were eventually born to the couple, Robert W. (1843-1913) and M. Anna (1848-1888).
Research has shown that Chapman was quite the prominent figure in the Waterford community, and he was named as a town selectman on numerous occasions. In 1868 the town of Waterford honored Chapman by electing him to a seat in the Connecticut State House of Representatives, and he was reelected to this body the following year. After the conclusion of his term in the legislature in 1870, Chapman returned to his native town where he died in 1894 at age 78. He was subsequently buried in the Jordan Cemetery in the town of Waterford. His wife Mary survived him by three years, dying in 1897 at age 78.
In an update to Savilion Chapman's article, some new information on him has come to light, courtesy of an incredibly helpful site fan named Vivian. As it turns out, I wasn't the only one who was researching Savilion's life and exploits! Because of Vivian's helpful research I now have a definitive death date for Chapman (December 15, 1894) and she also graciously provided me with the above photograph of his gravesite in the Jordan Cemetery. In an interesting side note, Vivian mentioned to me that Savilion lacked an actual gravestone for over 50 years until one was laid (by the widow of Chapman's son Robert), in 1945!
From the 1910 Souvenir of Massachusetts Legislators.
The mustachioed man shown above is Mr. Savillion W. Longley of Shirley, Massachusetts. Even more obscure than the preceding gentlemen, Longley was born in the town of Leominster, Massachusetts on July 7, 1841, one of two sons born to James Parker and Lucy Chaplin Longley. He relocated with his family to the town of Shirley when still a child and later graduated from the Shirley High School. His early life was spent as a traveling salesman and later as a railroad station agent in Shirley and Boston.
During the 1880s he became a bookkeeper and office manager for the Pepperell Manufacturing Company, serving in these positions for eight years. After returning to Shirley, Longley started his own insurance company and was still engaged in this profession when he was elected to the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, officially taking office in 1910. Prior to his election Longley had occupied the offices of town assessor in Shirley as well as being chief engineer of the town fire department.
His one term in the state legislature was Longley's only foray into the political arena, and during his service held a seat on the house committees on towns. Within a year of leaving the legislature the life of this oddly named Massachusetts political figure came to an end in rather unusual circumstances. The Turner's Spirit newspaper from January 6th of that year notes that three days previously Longley (having prepared himself for bed) got up to blow out a kerosene lamp in his room. A flame (which had made its way underneath the lamp's burner) subsequently caught his nightshirt on fire, and within moments the majority of his body (as well as his room) were afire. After smoke was discovered in the home, a downstairs neighbor and Savillion's brother Harriman (who lived in an adjacent room) sounded the alarm. The initial prognosis was not good, with Longley receiving severe burns over all his body, whilst also losing nearly all his hair to the flame.
After surviving the initial fire Longley received prompt medical attention and was given morphine to ease his pain. The Turner's Public Spirit newspaper of Ayers, Massachusetts mentions that Longley lingered for a few hours before succumbing to his burns the following day (January 4, 1912) early in the morning. He is recorded as being a lifelong bachelor and was survived by his brother Harriman. Longley was later interred at the village cemetery in Shirley following his death.
In an end note, my biography of Longley was copied nearly verbatim and pasted on the "Eastern Americana" auction site, one of a few times my writings here have been pilfered without proper citation!
A portion of the original article from the "Turner's Public Spirit" newspaper, January 6, 1912.
From the Corning, New York Evening Leader, March 22, 1923.
Another public figure with this odd first name is Judge Sevellon Fowler Channell of Tioga County, Pennsylvania. A lifelong resident of the Keystone State, Channell served as President Judge of the Tioga County Court for several years and had earlier been a prosperous attorney in that county. His first name is a variation on the preceding gentlemen's names, and is recorded as being spelled as "Sevelion" and "Sevellon", the second one being the name etched into his gravestone.
The eldest of five children born to William and Sarah Wright Channell, Sevellon Fowler Channell was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania on November 21, 1848. He attended schools local to his hometown of Canton and later went on to study at the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute in the city of Towanda, whilst also clerking in a general store to gain income to further his schooling.
Channell studied law in Wellsboro beginning in 1877 and in 1879 graduate from the Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. In the following year, he was admitted to the state bar and began a practice in Tioga County, practicing alone for four years. Sometime later he formed a partnership with attorney Henry Foote, which dissolved in 1889. Channell married in September 1888 to Elizabeth Fairman and the couple later had one son, Malcolm (1891-1910). Following Elizabeth's death in 1920 Sevellon remarried the following year to Wellsboro widow Mary Young, who died in 1934.
Channell continued to operate a law firm (both alone and with partners) until 1915 and in addition to practicing law was prominent in other areas of interest in Tioga County, being a member and president of the Wellsboro school board and was later elected as the Burgess of Wellsboro in 1897. In 1915 he won election as Tioga County judge and served in this capacity until his death at age 74, caused by "cancer of the liver", on March 22, 1923. He was later interred at the Wellsboro Cemetery in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.