Norris Galpin Osborn.

Men of mark in Connecticut; ideals of American life told in biographies and autobiographies of eminent living Americans (Volume 1) online

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Men of Mark in Connecticut






• What Connecticut Stands For in the History of the Nation "






Copyright 1904 by B. F. Johnson

Press of Springffield Printiae and BiadiiiK Companjr, Spriaciield, Mtss.


The difficulties to be encountered in compiling and editing a
work of this character are many and varied, and it remains for
public opinion to say with what success they have been met and over-
come. The aim has been to make a representative presentation of
the men in the State of Connecticut who have contributed in
'i marked ways to its professional, industrial, and commercial integrity.
>^ It would be an affectation to claim that the work has been thoroughly
/^,done. It has in some cases been impossible to secure the cooperation
and support of men of mark who belong in a book of this character,
^ At the same time a larger and more sincere effort has been made to
l} achieve the end in view, without exercising a snobbish discrimination,
v\ than has ever before been attempted. In asking the indulgence of
V the public, we do so in the knowledge that our purpose has been
\) to group together, so far as possible, the men and their records,
^ modestly worded, to whose usefulness the historian must in time
Qltum for the human documents necessary to his purpose.
^,52 I must in a word express my appreciation of the work under-
i taken and accomplished by those who have been associated with me,
^Vand in particular the many, whose biographies will be found be-
"'tween the covers of the 'TVTen of Mark," who, averse to publica-
tions of this character on account of past experiences, have been
willing to take at its face value my characterization of its seriousness
and assist me in making it possible. Finally I ask the indulgence
of the public for what will unquestionably be detected as short-
comings on the part of the Editor and his associates, still short-
comings though anticipated so far as possible.

September 20, 1906. N". G. Osborn, Editor.


Col. N. G. Osbork, Editor-in-Chief















New Haven









THE English settlement of the territory now included in the
State of Connecticut was three-fold in origin and purpose, as
it was in place. Soon, however, the three streams of history
and of influence were merged into one, and the annals of the colony
and the State show how they were combined and what has been the
strength of the resultant force in character and in action. There
came to Wethersfield, Windsor, and Hartford in 1635 (following the
steps of earlier emigrants from Plymouth, who made no permanent
settlement) a band of men who had been given, not ungrudgingly,
permission to remove from the colony of Massachusetts Bay. Their
leaders were men of strong character and of strong will under the
restraint of sound judgment. Thomas Hooker and Eoger Ludlow,
with whom we might name William Pynchon, though he never really
came under the jurisdiction of the new colony, were not satisfied
with the ecclesiastical and civil principles which prevailed in Boston
and its neighborhood. They came with their followers to the western
bank of the Great Eiver, then the very limit of civilization, that
they might found a commonwealth which should be puritanically
religious on its religious side, but in which citizenship should not
be dependent on church membership, and laws should have their
binding force from the will of those who were to be governed by
them. It was a settlement made by practical men under the guid-
ance of a practical preacher and a practical lawyer. In the same
year John Winthrop, the younger, representing a company in which
the names of Lord Say and Sele and Lord Brook were prominent,
sent a party to build a fort at the mouth of the Connecticut Eiver.
Lieutenant Lion Gardiner was put in command of the garrison, and
the place became for a few years the seat of an independent govern-
ment. Soon merged in Connecticut, it contributed to it no small
part of the experience of the Pequot War, and helped at least to


give an element of caution in meeting danger, combined with vigor
in warding it off. Three years later, in 1638, another company came
from England by way of Boston, and took up their home at the fair
haven — they presently called it the New Haven — at the mouth of
the Quinnipiack. They were independents, like the pilgrims who
had settled Plymouth; there was among them a strange combination
of spirit of almost fanatical ecclesiasticism and a spirit of commercial
adventure; they were led by the theologian, John Davenport, and the
wealthy merchant, Theophilus Eaton; they expected to found a
theocracy in which the saints should rule, and they hoped to increase
the worldly prosperity of which some of their number already had
a goodly share. With this company there were affiliated from the
next year Milford and Guilford, the latter being the best example
of a commimity of yeomen devoted to agriculture. Doubtless the
religious and civil history of the future State was largely molded
by the founders of the Eiver colony, while its record for neighborli-
ness and bravery may be traced back to Saybrook fort; and speaking
generally, we look to New Haven for strong intellectual influences
and for the sources of material prosperity fostered by invention and
secured by trade.

Early in 1639 the freemen of the three towns in the River colony
met in a general assembly and, adopting the first written constitu-
tion in history, "associated and conjoined themselves to be one
public state or commonwealth." The government which they estab-
lished, with no recognition of King or parliament or of any devolved
authority, was a pure democracy, the example and pattern of all the
democracies in this land or elsewhere; and the recognition of the
three towns, each with its reserved rights, was also the example
and pattern of all true federal governments. The germ of the
Nation was in that assembly of citizens and in their work, and all
the history of our land has been profoundly affected by it. As its
immediate consequence there sprang at once into existence an abso-
lutely independent state; its members were citizens of England, and
not unwilling to be called by the name, but they could hardly be
called English subjects, and their commonwealth, though a colony,
was not a dependency of the crown. When, at the restoration of
the monarchy in the mother country, Winthrop presented a petition
for a charter and a charter was granted, it was not asked or given



for the bestowal of rights or the creation of obligations; on the con-
trary, it contained an acknowledgment on the part of what was
vaguely recognized as having a permanent authority over the land,
of the existing condition of things. So liberal was it in its provis-
ions, that one wonders how it was brought about that the sovereign
and his counsellors ever gave their approval to it ; and so well adapted
was it to the needs of the people here that for more than forty years
after the Declaration of Independence it was retained as the funda-
mental law of the state. In but one instance, that, namely, of Sir
Edmund Andros, was Connecticut called upon to submit to a gov-
ernor who was not of her own choice; she followed her own laws,
and not those of the English parliament imtil she formally adopted
them as her own; she distributed estates according to the Scripture
rule which she had accepted and in defiance of the English statutes,
and her action was upheld by the supreme tribunal across the sea;
she even refused the writ of habeas corpus because her legislature
had not formally incorporated it in her code. And all this she did
quietly and soberly, " The consistent policy of Connecticut," says
an historian — and it would be easy to prove the assertion in detail
through many years — " was to avoid notoriety and public attitudes ;
to secure her privileges without attracting needless notice; to act
as intensely and vigorously as possible when action seemed necessary
and promising; but to say as little as possible, yield as little as
possible, and evade as much as possible when open resistance was
evident folly. Her line of public conduct was precisely the same after
as before 1663 (the date of the charter). And its success was re-
markable; it is safe to say that the diplomatic skill, forethought,
and self-control shown by the men who guided the course of Con-
necticut during this period have seldom been equaled on the larger
fields of the world's history. As products of democracy they were
its best vindication."

An important residt of the granting of the charter was the
end of the separate existence of the colony of New Haven. It did
not submit altogether willingly to its inclusion in the boundaries
assigned to what had thus far been a neighboring jurisdiction; but
its leaders saw it was better to fall into the hands of latitudinarian
Connecticut than into those of the papist Duke of York, and the
democratic element which had gained strength in the aristocratic


colony welcomed the gift of civil rights and privileges. The union
was of advantage to each of the parties which entered into it, and
to the whole commonwealth; and the public interests were served by
a succession of faithful men, whose names, when once they had been
chosen to office, appear again and again as in the same place of
responsibility until their death. It must suffice to allude to the gen-
erous and willing part taken by Connecticut in the plans and acts of
defence taken by the united colonies of ISTew England, a promise of
the part she was to play in the greater struggles of which notice will
be presently made.

From the very first Connecticut had carefully provided for
public education. The requirement of a common school in each
town of fifty householders and a grammar school in each county,
led to a desire for the establishment of a collegiate school to which
those could resort who found Cambridge too far away; and the
first year of the eighteenth century saw the foundation of such an
institution at Saybrook, which was removed fifteen years later to
New Haven, and there gained its name and its fame as Yale College,
and was built up by the benefactions of Dean Berkeley and others.
Under its shadow in its former home there was gathered in 1708,
at the call of Governor Saltonstall and the legislature, the s3mod
which framed the Saybrook platform, an act of ecclesiastical states-
manship giving strength to the Congregationalism which elsewhere
lacked cohesion; and from its walls in its new home went out in
1722 Samuel Johnson and other leaders of an indigenous episcopacy
which was almost immediately granted legal recognition, and never
deserved the charge of being the agent of alien denomination. The
ecclesiastical history of Connecticut runs, in a very interesting way,
parallel to its civil history. The ministers have had a great in-
fluence, willingly recognized and almost always soberly used; to
recount their names would be to suggest the whole course of progress
in learning, in character, and in all that makes up true prosperity.

When called upon to render assistance in the conflicts of the
English against the French on this continent, Connecticut, without
saying much about it, constantly sent to the front many more than
the number of men assigned to her as her quota. At Ticonderoga
and Louisbourg officers and men learned lessons which they prac-
ticed later with good result, not on their own soil, for it was scarce


invaded by those against whom they were called to contend, but at
Bunker Hill, at Saratoga, and at Yorktown. To the cause of
common liberty Connecticut, though she might have pleaded that
she had less than others at stake, contributed most generously the
conscientious ability of her leaders, the no less conscientious service
of a large proportion of her able-bodied men, and unstinted gifts
from her treasury. To the Declaration of Independence there were
affixed on her behalf the names of Eoger Sherman, Samuel Hunting-
ton, William Williams, and Oliver Wolcott, men whose public career,
could it be sketched here, would tell the history of their times. Her
governor during those momentous years was Jonathan Trumbull,
friend and counsellor of General Washington, the " Brother Jona-
than " of popular speech, to whose wise forethought successive cam-
paigns owed more than was or is commonly known. Israel Putnam
led her troops and directed the whole action at Bunker Hill, and
was soon made major-general for further service; Thomas Knowlton,
gallant and brave, fell as he turned the tide of battle at Harlem
Heights; Nathan Hale gladly gave up his true young life for his
country — a nobler and more helpful gift than years of service could
have been; from many homes and from the State's council of
safety, always vigilant, went men and supplies to Valley Forge; Wil-
liam Ledyard, brave defender of the fort at Groton, was slain by
his own sword in the hour of defeat; Joseph Trumbull and Jere-
miah Wadsworth were commissary-generals for nearly the whole
period of the war; and to help the work of the State's little navy
David Bushnell invented the torpedo.

When the struggle was over and independence was acknowledged,
the influence of Connecticut, the State which had had long experience
in self-government, was seen even more plainly than in her quiet
and efficient service during the war. Two of the signers of the great
Declaration, Huntington and Wolcott, were governors during the
" critical period " which soon followed ; Sherman, whose name ap-
pears not only on this document, but also on the Declaration of
Eights and the Articles of Confederation, had the further lionor of
signing the Constitution ; and with him was associated in the framing
of this document William Samuel Johnson, a man who (as was well
known) had not favored a forcible separation from the mother
country, but whom his native State honored for his integrity, his
legal ability, his learning, and his active fidelity to her interests.


There is no doubt that it is to these Connecticut men that the Con-
stitution of the United States owes provisions which rendered it
both practicable and acceptable at the time of its adoption, and i
which, moreover, have commended its wisdom in all the years that
have passed. The principles of the fundamental orders of 1639,
tested by experience, were thus brought into a wider application ; and
they were expounded by a Connecticut man who was called to be the
first chief justice of the new republic, Oliver Ellsworth, conspicuous
for public and private virtues. Jonathan Trumbull, the younger,
presided over the House of Eepresentatives in the second Congress.
Oliver Wolcott served for a time as Secretary of the Treasury, and
Koger Griswold as Secretary of War.

The political history of the State has never been greatly dis-
turbed except when the waves of controversy and party strife, mov-
ing over the whole country, have reached the land of steady habits;
for the excitement and bloodless revolution which in 1818 led to the i
adoption of a Constitution was political only because ecclesiastical
strife had passed into the political arena and politicians had taken I
up ecclesiastical differences. The charter government, surviving
changes of civil administration, fell because the "standing order"
of Congregationalism fell; and the small majority who felt that they
were suffering from an ecclesiastical tyranny secured the formal ,
equality of all citizens before the law. But a full account of this |
change in its inception and its accomplishment must be sought in ]
detailed histories. And it is impossible here to do more than allude
to the influence, far-reaching and long-continuing, of the colonies
which Connecticut sent to the western part of New York, to New ;
Connecticut (better known now as the Western Eeserve), and to
other parts of the country as soon as it was possible to open them ;
to emigration. i

The conduct of the affairs of the State, still in its theory a typi-
cal democracy, did not in quiet times depend largely upon the per-
sonal ability of those who held the office of governor ; for the supreme
power was in the general assembly of citizens, and the affairs of state ;
almost, as one might say, administered themselves. And when a |
great crisis came and the struggle for the preservation of the Union
began, the flexibility and practicability of the system still were
adequate for all needs. The towns took action, as they could readily |


and promptly do; the governor took action as he knew that he could
do with the body of citizens anticipating his plans; with unselfish
devotion the State kept her quota of men more than full and sent
into the service of the Union more men in all than the number
which appeared on her militia roll. William A. Buckingham be-
came the War Governor by successive election after the ancient cus-
tom. For the navy, to which in former days of trial the State had
given Isaac Hull and Thomas McDonough, she now gave Gideon
Welles in the Cabinet, and Andrew H. Foote, with the two Com-
modores Eogers and others in the service; and to the roll of the army
there were added such names as those of Generals Sedgwick, Mans-
field, Hawley, Tyler, Lyon, and Stedman. But on this phase of
the history time does not allow us to dwell here, for two aspects of
the life of the State still call for our attention; the progress of
learning — never in this community divorced from religion — and
the progi-ess in invention and the industrial arts which has kept even
pace with it.

Two of the Presidents of Yale College, who largely molded its
course for the future, Thomas Clap and Ezra Stiles, ended their work
in the first century of its history ; the names of Dwight and Day and
Woolsey and Porter and the second Dwight suggest growth into the
imiversity of our own time. Among the leaders of the old theologi-
cal order many names stand out prominent; it is no derogation of
the honorable place and work of others to mention Jonathan Ed-
wards, Lyman Beecher, Leonard Bacon, and Horace Bushnell. The
Episcopal Church gained her second strength after the Eevolution;
three of her five bishops, Seabury and Brownell and Williams, pre-
sided over the Church in the whole country; and the two last named
were presidents of the second college in Connecticut, first called by
the name of Washington and later named Trinity College. The
strong purposes and confidence of the Methodists were shown when
they founded a third institution of higher education, which has
made great progress in its service to the community. The common
school system, strengthened by its endowment from the sale of the
Western Reserve, fell into a decline from which it was rescued by
the labors of Henry Barnard ; it was long supplemented by academies
of which but few survive, and it now finds its complement in local
high schools, so near together that there is scarce a boy or girl of


suitable age in the State who cannot enjoy the benefits of them; at
least two of these, it may be noted, have handed down the benefits
of very early benefactions. While New Haven has been in a sense
the intellectual center, the "wits," including the author of McFingal,
were a coterie in Hartford, where they were followed by Percival and
Brainard and Mrs. Sigourney; and Noah Webster must not be for-
gotten in any enumeration of literary men. To mention any names
among the writers of our own day might seem invidious ; but we may
at least name, among scholars and writers of local history, in suc-
cession to Benjamin Trumbull of an earlier generation, HoUister
and Beardsley, J. Hammond Trumbull, and Charles J. Hoadly,
Still, on the whole, it seems to be true of Connecticut that she has
done things rather than told of them, made history rather than
written it: caret vate sacro.

From the first, Connecticut men busily devoted themselves to
commerce, and for a long time ships from her river and seaports
sought markets in the West and the East Indies, and for that matter,
in all available parts of the earth, and brought in oil and other
treasures of the sea. The interests in traffic of this kind have
largely passed away; but the spirit of discovery and of travel has
been more than replaced by the spirit of invention and of manufac-
ture. We are told that the versatile mechanical genius of the State
was first conspicuously shown by one Abel Buel; it was Eli Terry
who began the manufacture of wall-clocks, Eli Whitney to whom
we owe the truly epoch-making invention of the cotton-gin, and John
Fitch who first propelled a vessel through water by the power of
steam. The manufacture of pins — the invention of the machine
cannot be credited to Connecticut — led to the setting up of brass-
works; the inventor of the cotton-gin undertook the manufacture of
fire-arms. In his shop Samuel Colt began to make his revolvers; and
then in his own shops he began to construct those instruments of
precision which have made possible the work of the skilled mechanic
of these later years and have given it so great encouragement. The
progress of invention and the mechanical arts in the State has been
beyond the power of adequate description, and the names of those
who deserve honor for their part in it are so numerous that it is
impossible to make any satisfactory selection from them. At first,
wherever a fall of water could be found; then wherever coal could


be procured; now in almost every place from which goods can be
carried to a market, there are busy hands at work to guide the ma-
chines which embody human ingenuity, and human brains as busily
occupied in devising plans for diminishing labor and increasing its

And in all this, from the settlements in the wilderness to the
work in thriving towns and cities on the lines of the world's traffic,
from the gathering of a few neighbors discussing a few simple rules
for the common advantage to the assembly of the representatives of
a modern State, from the study of the isolated minister to the lec-
ture-rooms and libraries of the great university, it has been the work
of faithful and good men which has been of benefit to its own time
and has made ready the way for the coming ages. This is true
everywhere; but probably nowhere is it more evidently true than in
Connecticut that the record of the men of mark is the story of the
commonwealth. Qui transtulit sustinet.




OBERTS, HENEY, the popu-
lar Governor of Connecticut,
was born in Brooklyn, X. Y.,
in January, 1853. His father, George
Eoberts, was a prominent Connecti-
cut manufacturer, who at the time his
son was born was in business in
Brooklyn, The same year he returned
to his native State to retire to a farm
in South Windsor. In 1864 he was
chosen treasurer of the Hartford Car-
pet Company and two years later he
became its president, a position which
he held for twenty years. He was
likewise president of the Hartford Woven Wire Mattress Company
and director in various benevolent and financial institutions. He was
esteemed as a man of sound judgment, high integrity, and great execu-
tive and business ability. He was a staunch Republican and a man
of deep religious convictions. The Governor's mother was Elvira
(Evans) Roberts. His ancestors came from England in colonial

Online LibraryNorris Galpin OsbornMen of mark in Connecticut; ideals of American life told in biographies and autobiographies of eminent living Americans (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 30)