Portrait from the Representative Men of Somerville, 1897.
It isn't often that one stumbles across a man who's named combines a nationality, a city in England, an alternate word for happy and the funny last name "Tarbox", but that is exactly the case of obscure Massachusetts legislator French Oxford Joy Tarbox, a distinguished figure in the city of Somerville. The son of Ephraim and Clara Tarbox, French O .J. Tarbox was born on September 1, 1861 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He attended the public school system of that city and "graduated from the grammar school in the class of 1877." He would later attend the Boston Commercial College for a period of about six months, leaving behind his studies to begin a life on the high seas. Tarbox would serve on board a number of vessels and is recorded by the 1900 Souvenir of Massachusetts Legislators as:
"Following the seas for several years in the East India and China trade as well as a coast service on the Pacific between San Francisco and adjacent ports."After giving up the sea-faring life Tarbox returned home and was engaged in the oil business and later worked as a steam and air brake fitter, being under the employ of the Fitchburg Railroad and the Walworth Manufacturing Co. of Boston. He married in Boston on September 22, 1890 to Sarah E. Magrath, and the couple would later become the parents of three children: Sarah Jennie (birth-date unknown), Wilfred (birth-date unknown) and Ida (born ca. 1899).
French O.J. Tarbox entered Somerville politics in the mid-1890s, beginning service on the city's common council in 1896. In the following year he served as a member of the Somerville Board of Aldermen (from 1898-1899) and in the latter year was elected as one of Middlesex County's representatives to the Massachusetts General Court, winning with a vote total of 1552. Taking office at the start of the 1900 term, Tarbox held a seat on the house committee on Taxation during his one term at the state capitol.
Following his brief stint in state government, little else could be located on the remaining years of French O.J. Tarbox's life, and aside from political activity, he maintained memberships in the Bunker Hill Odd Fellows Lodge # 114, the Loyal Orange Institute and the Fitchburg Railroad Relief Association. He is recorded in the 1913 Somerville Annual Report as a "mechanic". A death date and burial location couldn't be located for French O.J. Tarbox, although he is listed in the 1920 census as being a 58-year-old resident of Ward 7 in Somerville, residing with his wife, children, son-in-law and two boarders. Tarbox is not listed in the 1930 census, placing his death at some point between 1920 and 1930.
From the 1900 Souvenir of Massachusetts Legislators.