From Successful Vermonters: A Modern Gazetteer of Lamoille, Franklin and Grand Isle Counties.
This multi- part posting highlights the lives of three men who were bestowed the peculiar first name "Ai", which can certainly be considered as a candidate for the shortest first name in history. While the reasons behind each of these men being given this odd name have been lost to the pages of time, the name "Ai" is worth mentioning, as it is of biblical origin. In ancient times "Ai" (pronounced Eh'-aye) was one of the royal cities in the ancient region of Canaan and was later invaded and captured by the Israelites, who later burned the city to the ground.
First up is Mr. Ai Noah Boynton, active in the affairs of business and politics in Lamoille County, Vermont. The eldest of 11 children born to Noah and Abagail Boynton, Boynton's birth occurred in Amherst, New Hampshire on November 3, 1845. His early years were marked by the Successful Vermonters as being of limited education and removed with his family to Vermont at age 9. Four years after his removal Boynton was "bound out" to a farmer in the town of Walden, where he worked at farming and attended school, later returning to his parent's farm after three years away. As Noah Boynton had enlisted for service during the Civil War, it was young Ai who would take over the reigns of the family's 50-acre farm.
Boynton continued farming throughout the 1860s and in November 1867 married Parmelia Campbell, with who he would have one daughter, Effie (died 1887.) In the year following his marriage, he purchased a sawmill in the village of North Wolcott, Vermont and began what would become a three-decade long career as a dealer in lumber. His mill at North Wolcott was said to churn out "a capacity of 2,500 feet of lumber per day." Active in local politics as well as business, Boynton served as a justice of the peace and town selectman, and in November 1897 was selected to as one of Lamoille County's representatives to the Vermont General Assembly, subsequently holding a seat on the grand list committee.
Ai N. Boynton served one term (1898-1900) in the house of representatives and in 1902 sold his lumber business and removed from North Wolcott to Morrisville, Vermont. In the same year as his removal, he was elected as an assistant judge for Lamoille County and in 1905 became a member of the Morrisville Board of Trustees. He later served as street commissioner of the town and later overseer of the poor, occupying the latter post until his death on November 25, 1911. The Burlington Weekly Free Press obituary for Ai Boynton notes he had recently contracted "bilious grip" around his birthday (November 3) and died of complications of the illness. This same obituary later notes that Boynton was returned to Wolcott for burial at the Fairmount Cemetery.
From the November 30, 1911 Burlington Weekly Free Press.
From the "History of the Second Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry", 1896.
Another "Ai" who made his name known in state politics was Ai Baker Thompson, a lifelong resident of New Hampshire who logged thirteen years of service as the Secretary of the State of New Hampshire. Born and raised in Holderness, Ai B. Thompson was born on August 25, 1833, a son of John and Charlotte Baker Thompson. Thompson graduated from Dartmouth College in the class 1858 and three years later was admitted to practice law by the New Hampshire bar.
In the early days of the Civil War Thompson enlisted as a private, and in August 1861 received an appointment from President Lincoln as a captain in the Eighth U.S. Infantry. He participated in the Battle of Bull Run and on New Year's eve 1862 was promoted to brevet major, "for gallant and meritorious conduct at the Battle of Stone's River." Thompson received grievous wounds at this particular engagement, including a fractured humerus. which "rendered the arm practically useless". Following some recuperation Thompson returned to duty as an inspector in the provost marshal's department in Ohio, later serving as an assistant provost marshal for New Hampshire until the conclusion of the war. Decades after his service Thompson served as the Department Commander for New Hampshire G.A.R. in 1888.
Thompson had married during wartime on May 13, 1863 to Matilda R. Smith (1835-1912) and this couple became the parents to four children, of whom two survived into adulthood: James B. (died aged one in October 1865), Joseph Smith (died aged seven months in 1867), Laurien (born 1869) and Marion (born 1871).
After being placed on the military's retired list, Thompson continued to be involved in post-war reconstruction, being appointed (under the authority of the military) as the Sheriff of Richmond, Virginia in June of 1869. After returning home to New Hampshire he established a law office in the city of Concord and in the mid-1870s took on the position of Deputy Secretary of State for New Hampshire. In 1876 he was a delegate from Concord to the New Hampshire State Constitutional Convention, and in the following year was elected as New Hampshire Secretary of State.
Thompson's tenure as secretary extended from 1877 until his death at age 57 on September 12, 1890. He was later interred at the Franklin Cemetery in Franklin, Merrimack County, New Hampshire and was survived by his wife Matilda, who died aged 75 in 1912.
From the 1946 Iowa State Blue Book.
From New Hampshire, we journey to Iowa and one Ai Gray Miller, a two-term member of the Iowa State Senate. Born on February 4, 1885 and raised in Audubon County, Iowa, Miller attended "rural schools" in that county and was later a student at Drake University at Des Moines. Miller married on February 7, 1907, to Stella Fancher (1885-1991), with whom he would have four children: Frank (birth-date unknown), Lt. Col. Marion Ai Miller (1914-2003), Jessie Yvonne Miller Himelright (birthdate unknown) and Dora Adelaide (birth-date unknown).
Active for many years in the civil affairs of Audubon County, Ai G. Miller served as the director of the Audubon County Soil Conservation and Improvement Association, was a member of the Audubon County Board of Supervisors and was a former president of the Audubon County Board of Education. Miller also found prominence in various local businesses in his home county, being affiliated with the Farmer's Mutual Telephone Company for over two decades.
Ai G. Miller was first elected to the Iowa State Senate in November 1940 and was continually reelected to that body, the last of which occurred in November 1944. Miller was a sponsor of a Senate bill during his first term that pressed for rural electrification to aid Iowa's farmers and retired from the Senate at the end of his second term in January 1949. He died a year later on February 26, 1950 at age 65, due to a heart attack, expiring at a hospital in Carroll, Iowa. He was later buried at the Maple Grove Cemetery in Audubon and was survived by his wife Stella, who lived to become one of Iowa's oldest residents, dying at the grand age of 105 on January 7, 1991.
Another "Ai" that ventured into politics was Rumney, New Hampshire resident Ai Stephen Russell, who served one term in his states house of representatives beginning in 1903. A longtime physician in Rumney, Russell was born in Lincoln, New Hampshire on June 29, 1857, a son of Stephen and Eunice (Hanson) Russell. Ai would study medicine at the Eclectic Medical College in Lewiston, Maine and following his graduation in 1883 settled into a medical practice in Rumney.
Russell married in Rumney to Celestia Elliott in May 1885 and in November 1902 won election to the New Hampshire House of Representatives as a Democrat, beating Republican nominee Charles Swain by a vote of 131 to 123. Russell served in the session of 1903-05 and was a member of the committee on Insurance during that term. In 1914 he was appointed by the Governor to the New Hampshire Board of Medical Examiners, serving in that capacity for an indeterminate length of time. Russell died in Rumney on December 22, 1929, at age 72, and was survived by his wife Celestia. Both were interred at the Highland Cemetery in Rumney.