Friday, August 29, 2014

Shubael Wilmarth Brayton (1822-1898)

From the 1872 Massachusetts legislative composite portrait.

    Lifelong Massachusetts native Shubael Wilmarth Brayton was for many years one of Adams, Massachusetts noted business figures, being both a manufacturer and banker. His placement here on the site rests on his one term as a representative in the Massachusetts General Court in 1874, being elected from his hometown of Adams. Brayton was born in North Adams, Massachusetts in 1822, being the son of William E. and Lucinda Brayton. Little is known of his early life and education,  and in the early 1840s married Sarah Wells and had five children: Mary W. (born ca. 1844), Herbert Wells (born 1850), Isabel S. (born 1852), William E. (born 1862) and Harriett Sylvia (born 1864). Sarah Wells Brayton died in March 1877 and two years later Shubael would remarry to Rhode Island native Frances Lowden (1834-1907), who would survive him upon his death in 1898.
   In 1851 Brayton joined in a partnership with brothers Rodman and Henry Wells to form the Wells, Brayton and Co., a business devoted to the manufacture of "satinets and cashmeres". The Wells brothers would sell their portion of the business to Brayton and another partner, S. Johnson, in 1862. The business (now called S. W. Brayton and Co.) continued in manufacturing until 1868, when a fire gutted the inside of the building. Brayton would later have the building rebuilt and for a time had the factory stocked with shoe manufacturing equipment, whilst also purchasing his partner's interest. He continued to run the business (comprising a mill, store, "water-privilege" and "tenements") until he sold it in 1871 to the firm of Gallup and Houghton.
   Shubael Brayton first became active in public service in North Adams in the mid-1850s, when he was named as a justice of the peace. In November 1873 he was elected as one of Berkshire County's representatives to the Massachusetts General Court, and took his seat at the start of the 1874 term. His one term in the house saw him sit on the joint special committee on the Hoosac Tunnel Line of Railroads and left office at the start of the following year's session. He was noted as a "stanch Republican from the foundation of that party" in his North Adams Transcript obituary, which further noted that:
"His likes and dislikes were strong and his estimates of men were not based on outward appearances or station in life. For upright character under the humblest exterior he had sincere regard, while no guise could shield fraud and hypocrisy from his most profound contempt. "
  Following his time in the legislature, Brayton continued with his various business interests, being a director of both the Berkshire Life Insurance Company and the Berkshire Fire Insurance Company, located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In 1885 he succeeded Sanford Blackinton as the president of the Adams National Bank, holding this post until his death thirteen years later.

From the North Adams Transcript, June 20, 1898.

    In the final year of his life, Brayton was afflicted with paralysis, which led to his being confined to his home in Adams in March of 1898. The disease eventually rendered him "helpless and unable to speak" and on June 19, 1898 he died at his home. He was survived by his second wife Frances and was buried at the Hillside Cemetery in North Adams.

From the North Adams Transcript, June 20, 1898.

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