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JOHN BUTLER SMITH— No State in the Union has maintained
a longer or more unbroken record of disinterested and efficient
service on the part of its high officials than the State of New Hamp-
shire and none has more worthily contributed to this record than the
distinguished gentleman whose name heads this brief appreciation,
John Butler Smith, manufacturer, man of affairs and Governor of
the State from 1893 to 1895, whose death on August 10, 1914, at the
age of seventy-six years, was felt as a direct loss by the whole com-
monwealth. The stock of which ex-Governor Smith was descended
is a strong and hardy one, and has contributed many of America's
most prominent citizens and many of the strongest figures in her
political and industrial life.

His progenitor in this country was Lieutenant Thomas Smith,
a native of the North of Ireland, who was one of the group of men
who formed the famous Londonderry Colony of 1719, and was one of
the grantees of the nearby town of Chester. From him the line
descends through a number of most worthy ancestors to Ammi Smith,
the father of John Butler Smith, who flourished during the first two
quarters of the nineteenth century. Ammi Smith was born at the
town of Acworth, and when a young man operated a saw mill at
Hillsborough. He later removed to Saxton's River, where he was
engaged in the manufacture of woolen goods for some time, but
eventually returned to Hillsborough, where he retired from business
and where his death occurred in 1887 at the venerable age of eighty-
seven years. He married Lydia Butler and they were the parents of a
family of children of which John Butler was one.

John Butler Smith was born April 12, 1838, at Saxton's River,
Vermont, the third child of Ammi and Lydia (Butler) Smith. He
inherited from his ancestors the sterling character which had marked
them, characters that were developed most effectively in him by his
early training and the environment of his youth. His father, while
successful in his business, was in no sense of the word wealthy and
his son was brought up in that stern school of hard work and the
simple wholesome pastimes of outdoors, which has been the cradle of
the best type of American citizenship. The first nine years of his
life were spent in his native town of Saxton's River and it was here
that his earliest associations and impressions were formed. At the
age of nine, however, he accompanied his father to Hillsborough,
whither the elder man went for business reasons, and it was at the
local public schools of this town and at the Academy at Francestown


that he received his eckication. At the latter institution he took
the course which is given preparatory to entering college, but left
before graduation in order to begin his business career, in which
he had a most laudable ambition to excel. The first few^ years of
his career were spent in a number of different places and at various
occupations, all of which, however, increased the knowledge and
experience of his young and receptive nature and became mental
and spiritual assets to be used by him in his subsequent life. He
worked at New Boston, Saxton's River and Manchester, spending a
year or more in each place, and also spent a similar period of time
at Boston, in all of which places he gathered considerable experience
in business and industrial methods. It w^as in 1864, when Mr. Smith
w^as twenty-six years of age, that he finally became associated with
that line of business which he was to follow with such marked success
during so many years of his life. He then became connected with a
mill at Washington, New Hampshire, which w^as engaged in producing
knit goods of various kinds. A year later he secured a better position
in a similar mill at Weare, and after another year once more changed
his location and this time engaged in an enterprise of his own. He
built on his ow-n account a small mill at Hillsborough and here laid
the foundation of his future great success. Upon that foundation,
during forty years of continuous w^ork, w^ork in which he took the
greatest pride and which was always carried on according to the
highest business standards, Mr. Smith built up the great corpora-
tion known as the Contoocook Mills, one of the best known and
most substantial industries of its kind in America. While in one
respect Mr. Smith's policy in connection with this industry was a
conservative one, conservative in that he never accepted any of the
more modern and less purely ethical standards of business, it was
nevertheless in the best sense of the world progressive. There was
no hesitation in his policy of accepting any modern improvement
introduced in the manufacture of the woolen goods which his mills
produced in such great quantities, and at the time of his death his
plant was equipped with every device which modern inventive genius
had supplied to the industry. His reputation for absolute integrity
and probity was second to no man in the community, and the esteem
in which his enterprise is held by the general public was made
apparent by the response of investors both large and small when
in 191 5 a new issue of stock in the Contoocook Mills was offered to
the public through the Boston Bank.

Besides his own great business talents, Governor Smith pos-
sessed that power which all truly great leaders must have, that of
being able to select efficient and capable lieutenants. It was in no
small degree due to this power that his great success in the industrial
world was achieved, since he seemed to have an almost intuitive
faculty for picking out the right man for the right place from the
very highest positions down to the lowest in his great plant. His


relation with his subordinates too had much to do with his success,
since he was able through the esteem and affection by which he
was held by his employees to gain a far greater amount of work and
a far better kind of work than through any other means whatever.
He was vice-president of the Home Market Club, an organization
which has done so much for American industry and which has had a
national influence in the scope and character of its work. Governor
Smith was very wise in investing no small portion of his fortune in
real estate, and he was at the time of his death the owner of a very
large estate both in his native region in New Hampshire and in the
City of Boston where several valuable properties belonged to him.
He was for a number of years president of the Hillsborough Guar-
anty Savings Bank, and was also affiliated with several other impor-
tant business and financial concerns.

But while Governor Smith was a very well known figure as a
business man and industrial leader, it was really as a man of affairs
and through his connection with the public and political life of his
State that he came to be best known to the general public. From
early youth he had been a staunch supporter of the principles and
policies of the Republican party, and particularly of the principle of
high tariff for which that party has stood for so long and so con-
sistently. His influence as vice-president of the Home Market Club
brought him into very considerable notice by the leaders of his party
in this connection, and it was felt by them that no man could better
be its standard-bearer in the state campaign than Mr. Smith. He
had already held a considerable number of minor offices, and in 1884
had been chosen as an alternate delegate to the Republican Na-
tional Convention at Chicago, and in the Fall of the same year as
one of the presidential electors from New Hampshire. Still later, in
1887, he was chosen a member of Governor Charles H. Sawyer's
executive council and distinguished himself as a member of that
important body. From 1888, for a number of years, his name was
prominently mentioned in connection with the gubernatorial candi-
dacy in New Hampshire. In 1888 his friends were vigorous in sup-
porting him for the Republican nomination, but on that occasion
David H. Goodell, of Antrim, was nominated and afterwards elected.
Two years later agitation in his favor was again taken up, but on
this occasion Mr. Smith would not allow the use of his name, because
of his friendship for another candidate, the late Hon. Hiram A. Tuttle,
of Pittsfield. The claims of Mr. Smith, however, were becoming
more and more fully recognized year by year, and in 1892 the Re-
publican State Convention nominated him by acclamation. He was
shortly afterwards elected successfully at the polls, in what was the
first popular election in several years. He was inaugurated governor
in January, 1893, ^"^ at once set to work at the great task which
he performed with such distinction, of serving in every way the
best interests of the Commonwealth of which he was the head. Many


important subjects came up for discussion and decision during his
administration, among which were those of forest preservation and
highway improvement, then indeed not given their due importance
by the people generally or by any save those few far-seeing men
such as Governor Smith, who realized how greatly the future welfare
of the State depended upon them. He brought to the management
of the State's affairs the same keen sense of what w^as practical
that he had displayed in the conduct of his private business, nor had
he ever worked harder or more devotedly for his own interests than
he did now for the public weal. Speaking of his success as an execu-
tive, the "Concord Evening Monitor" said editorially: "The successes
of Governor Smith's term have been most brilliant and the Governor's
frequent appearance at public functions as the representative of the
state has been characterized by a dignity of person befitting his high
place and by a moderation and strength of utterance fully in keeping
with the traditions of the commonwealth. Governor Smith receives
the congratulations of the people upon the unqualified success of his
administrative labors and retires from oflfice to become one of the
foremost citizens of his state."

Although from that time on until his death, not a senatorial
election was held in New Hampshire at which his name was not
mentioned as a possibility, ex-Governor Smith had consistently re-
fused to allow himself to be a candidate for nomination and has pre-
vented his friends from seeking the honor for him. He did not
desire further political honors, and although his service to his party
in many ways, but particularly as a member of the State Committee,
continued to be notable, he gradually retired to a certain extent from
the public eye and to a more private mode of life.

John Butler Smith was united in marriage, November i, 1883,
with Emma Lavender, a daughter of Stephen and Sarah B. (Millis)
Lavender, old and highly respected residents of Boston, the latter
a lady of unusual personal charm and culture. The long married life
of Mr. and Mrs. Smith was an unusually happy and harmonious one,
and the home which formed the environment for the early develop-
ment of their children was an ideal one. They were the parents of
the following children: Butler Lavender, born March 4, 1886, at
Hillsborough, New Hampshire, and died at St. Augustine, Florida,
April 6, 1888; Archibald Lavender, born February i, 1889, at Hills-
borough, graduated from Harvard University with the class of 191 1,
and received the degree of Bachelor of Arts ; and Norman Smith, born
May 8, 1892, at Hillsborough, prepared for college, but did not enter.
Mrs. Smith, who survives her husband, is a member of the ancient
Lavender family of Kent county, England. Both Mr. and Mrs. Smith
were Congregationalists in their religious belief and attended the
church of that denomination at Hillsborough with their children.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith always held the welfare of this church very much


at heart, and contributed most generously in support of its work,
particularly that of a benevolent character.

It will be very appropriate to close this sketch with a number
of the tributes paid to Governor Smith at the time of his death by
many who had come into contact with him, either in personal, busi-
ness or political relation. There was indeed an extraordinary number
of such tributes even for a man so prominent as he and nothing can
speak more eloquently of the personal esteem and affection in which
he was universally held than their volume and character. The press
of New Hampshire was in unison in a chorus of praise at the time
of his death and the words of several obituary articles follow :

The "Mirror" spoke of ex-Governor Smith in the following terms :

John Butler Smith, governor of New Hampshire in 1893 and 1894, was
generally recognized as one of the ablest and most accomplished chief execu-
tives this state ever possessed. He retired from office acclaimed as one of
the foremost citizens of the state, a position he had ever since held with
dignity and honor. He had not sought, nor allowed his friends to seek for
him, any further political preferment, although there has not been an
election of United States senator since the years of his governorship of
which mention has not been made of his eminent fitness for representing
his state in the upper branch of the national congress.

Commenting editorially, the "Concord Evening Monitor" spoke
in the following terms regarding ex-Governor Smith :

The active, successful, beneficent life of the late John Butler Smith touched
that of his fellow men in so many useful, helpful and honorable ways that
the news of his death creates a very wide circle of sincere mourners. As
chief executive of New Hampshire he gave the state a splendid business
administration characterized by good government and sound economy. For
half a century he typified that class of manufacturers, proud of their product,
just in their dealings, efficient in management, who have contributed so
much to the material prosperity of the state. His other business interests
and his real estate holdings were extensive and judicious, proving his unusual
ability as a man of affairs. A Mason of high degree and one of the most
prominent Congregational laymen in the state, Governor Smith took a
lively and substantial interest in all movements for the public welfare and
the true fraternity of his fellowmen. Within the past few years the owners
of the Monitor and Statesmen and the active staff of these papers have come
into intimate relations with Governor Smith, in the respective capacities of
tenant and landlord, and thus have been enabled to appreciate even better
than before his courtesy, kindliness and honor as well as his keen business
judgment and public-spirited enterprise. In his death New Hampshire has
lost one of her most honored, most useful and best-loved citizens.

In the minutes passed by the Smith Memorial Congregational
Church of Hillsboro, September 6, 1914, which were ordered recorded
in the church book, Governor Smith is spoken of in the following
terms :

John Butler Smith was received into the fellowship of this Church on
the confession of faith on the seventh day of September, 1851, when he was
in his fourteenth year. He was the only one received on confession that


communion Sabbath. The Rev. Jacob Cummings who served in the pas-
torate of this Church for fourteen years gave the young lad the right hand
of fellowship. So far as the records go, there is no minute to indicate what
had led to the youth's decision for Christ, a fact that we would have been
glad to know. But this is worthy of grateful acknowledgment, that through
all the years from the day of his acceptance, he remained in continuous
fellowship with the Church, true to the covenant vows which he took upon
him as a youth, and steadfast to the denomination with which he had cast
his lot. Had he been spared to this communion Sunday he would have
observed the sixty-third anniversary of his public avowal of Christ. But
on the tenth of August of this year he was not, for God took him away from
us all unto Himself. It is a pleasure to recall his unswerving fidelity to this
Church through more than three score years; his adherence to the Holy
Gospel amid a period of changing views; his continuing faith in Jesus Christ
as Saviour and Lord; and his constant and reverent attendance on the wor-
ship of the sanctuary. He loved the House of God, and was never absent
from it except when lawfully detained, setting thus a consistent example to
the community in which he long had lived, and being a support and comfort
to twelve of the thirteen pastors -this Church has had. The sacrament
of the Lord's Supper was to him a means of grace, and to be present at it
meant no little self-sacrifice and was to him a privilege and a joy. He was
a man of prayer, of earnest and prevailing intercession. He loved to be
with those who met to pray, and his tender and hearty prayers were a
help and encouragement to both the pastors and people who heard them.
By his presence and his gifts he was a warm supporter of the Sunday School,
a diligent student of the Holy Scriptures, and illuminative and helpful in
his comments thereon. He served the Church as Deacon and Clerk, but at
the same time he loved and prayed for the Church universal, and longed for
the coming of the time when the whole world should come under the sway
of Christ. And in him there was a real correspondence between Christian
faith and practice. He was "Not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord." Nor can we forget his Christian benevolence. He knew
and obeyed the sublime Christian teaching of stewardship. He aided num-
bers of worthy causes, and more of them than any one is aware. In benevo-
lence he constantly shared with the Church in all its missionary and charit-
able enterprises. The sanctuary in which he worshipped is one of his most
conspicuous memorials. It requires no emphasis ; it speaks for itself. In this
matter he was moved by a glad Christian impulse; and his work was conse-
crated, as it was done for the well-being of the community and the glory of
God. We deeply mourn his departure from us through that portal over which
on its earthly side hangs the shadow of separation. But with one heart we
say with the Apocalyptic Seer :

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth : Yea, saith
the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors ; and their works do follow

At the regular semi-monthly meeting of the Board of Trustees
of the Hillsborough Bridge Guaranty Savings Bank held this day,
the following resolutions, prepared and presented by W. D. Foresaith,
W. P. Grimes, and Samuel W. Holman as a committee previously
selected for that purpose, were unanimously adopted:

Resolved, That this Board heard with profound sorrow and regret of
the death of Honorable John Butler Smith, v/ho had been its able, faithful,
and courteous President during all the time since our incorporation.

Resolved, That by his death our bank has lost an able counselor, a con-
servative financier, a willing worker, a true and loyal ofificer, a man of ripe
judgment, great experience, rich endowments, and diligent habits.


Resolved, That we extend to his afflicted family sincere sympathy and
condolence in this sad bereavement; that a copy of these resolutions be
forvvrarded to them by the Clerk, and a like copy spread upon our Records.

The American Bible Society of New York passed the following
memorial minute on the first of October, 1914:

John Butler Smith was elected a vice-president of the American Bible
Society in 1895, and served the society in that office until his death, which
occurred on August 10, 1914.

Mr. Smith was an eminent citizen of New Hampshire having been gov-
ernor of the state, and in other offices of trust demonstrating his own marked
ability and winning the confidence of his fellow citizens. He was one of
the type of Christian business men who have added so much to the strength
and glory of their Native Commonwealth, and of the whole nation. * * *
He was an honored member of the Congregational Church, making con-
fession of his faith when a boy of fourteen, and for more than sixty years
being known and read of all men as a faithful servant of Christ and a leader
in His Church. His love for the Bible an^ the honor in which he held it as
the Word of God. well qualified him for the Vice-Presidency of the Society.

The Board of Managers put on record their appreciation of his service
to this Society and their deep sense of loss ; and they direct that a copy of
this Minute be sent to the members of his family.

The Rev. Robert W. Wallace, at one time the pastor of Governor
Smith's Church, Smith Memorial Church, spoke as follows :

Among the many privileges of my ministerial life I am constrained to
place that of my friendship with Mr. Smith in the front rank. The portal
of his kindly regard for me as his Pastor was ever open. For many years
I knew him intimately, and each year of additional acquaintance increased
my respect and deepened my aflfection for him. It was a real pleasure to hold
converse with him. for he was a man of wide reading, extended research,
and more than usual of retentive memory. He was well versed in history,
in current events, in national affairs, and in denominational movements and
general religious happenings.

A Congregationalist by conviction as by choice, and with sixty full j'ears
of uninterrupted affiliation with that communion, he loved the whole Church
of God, rejoicing in its attempts and its accomplishments and its triumphs.
The choicest time for such enriching converse was at the close of the Sabbath
Evening service, when in his delightful home he poured out his thoughts
about the themes that lay nearest his heart and made us all pay willing
tribute to his intelligent and sagacious survey of events. The hours were
altogether too brief for such illuminative discourse, and such pleasant fellow-
ship in the fireglow of the hearth. * * *

It was in his relation as member and official of the Church I served that
I knew him best. The conspicuous feature of this relation was its genuine-
ness. He united with the Church in his early years, and he honored his
vows to the Church and to the Church's Head to life's sunset hour. It was
with joy akin to that of the ancient Psalmist that he went to the altar of
God in the company of those who "kept holy-day." Worship was to him a
vital experience, a natural religious experience. What might have seemed
to some others a justifiable excuse for non-attendance, never was allowed
to interfere with his presence in the Christian Sanctuary. * * *

In all these, as well as in other aspects of his many-sided life, he was an
example and an inspiration to those who wrought with him in the service
of the best of Masters.


In the course of an appreciative article his friend J. Alexander

thus expressed himself:

* ♦ ♦ He was a man of decision, and one did not have to wait long to
find out what action he would take. Like other successful men of business,
also whom the writer has known, when once he was assured that his action
was right, he allowed nothing to block his progress, neither the protestation
of his friends nor the opposition of his foes.

BENJAMIN PIERCE CHENEY— At Hillsborough, New Hamp-
shire, a substantial stone wall has been erected around a small piece
of land and upon a large boulder which marks the exact location is a
bronze tablet thus inscribed :

In Memory



who was born here

August Twelfth, 1815,

died at

Elm Bank, Wellesley, Massachusetts,

July twenty-third, 1895.

This preservation of the memory of one of New Hampshire's
honored sons who won fame beyond her borders is a particularly
appropriate recognition by the family of Mr. Cheney of the fact that

Online LibraryEverett Schermerhorn StackpoleHistory of New Hampshire (Volume 5) → online text (page 1 of 34)