Otis Olney Wright.

History of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; online

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neighbors and friends besides many acquaintances from Fall River and
other cities, including Hon. Eastwood Eastwood, Mr. C. N. Robertson,
Mr. George Pierce, Mr. P. E. Ryan, Mr. Dexter and Mr. Dabler of
Lonsdale, R. I., old friends of the deceased; Hon. Frank S. Stevens,
Hon. John S. Brayton, John P. Slade, David F. Slade, Ehjah P. Chace,
Mr. E. M. Thurston, Rev. T. S. Weeks, Job Gardner, David B. Gardner,
George W. Slade, David A. Brayton, Jr., Thomas D. Covel, and
F. M. Bronson.

Mr. Gray was married in 1853, to Miss Avice Cotton (daughter of
John S. and Avice (Gardner) Cotton of Fall River) who died in 1863.
Their children are:

Kate born 1858 died 1858

EUzabeth born 1854 died 1860

Mary born 1855 died 1871

and Lewis Skinkle born in Sacramento, Cal., in 1860, who married
Henrietta Wilbur, daughter of Philander Gordon and Susan Rhodes
Wilbur, well known residents of Swansea Centre, in 1881. Lewis S. has
served the Town as School committee, Town assessor for several years and
Selectman and overseer of the Poor for more than ten years.

Henrietta Gray was a pupil of the Prov. State Normal School and a
teacher in Swansea. Children of Lewis S. and Henrietta Gray:

Lewis Herbert Gray born in 1881

Avis Mabel Gray born in 1883

Clarence Wilbur Gray born in 1886

Percy Gordon Gray born in 1890

Isabel Rhodes Gray born in 1892

Ehzabeth Cotton Gray born in 1896

Franklin Gray born in 1897

Jeremiah Gray born in 1899



Personal Sketches 209

Avis Mabel Gray passed away in 1903, after a week's illness from
pneumonia.

She was a graduate of Thibodeau's Business College. A young lady,
whose gracious manner and sterling qualities had made her highly and
widely esteemed.

Lewis Herbert Gray married Hattie Luella daughter of Charles Henry
and Margaret T. Cook, residents of Fall River, in 1902.

Lewis H. is employed by the government as R. F. D. in Swansea. One
daughter, Edith Wilbur Gray was born in 1903.

Clairence Wilbur Gray married Patience Dillon of Fall River, in 1909.
Clarence Wilbur is in the employ of his father, Lewis S. Gray, who is
characterized as one of the leading New England horsemen, doing a large
business in Swansea and neighboring towns and cities. One son, Charles
Dillon Gray was born to them in 1909.



Daniel R. Child

His ancestral line was from Caleb, John, Christopher, Cromwell,
and he was born in East Smithfield, Pa., on June 23, 1827, the son of
Edward and Betsey Pierce Child, of Warren, R. I. He received his educa-
tion in his native town, and at the age of 21 years came to New England,
apprenticing himself to learn the shipcarpentering trade at Barneyville,
North Swansea, Mass., which at that time was a ship-building centre.
Here the young man became acquainted with many of the masters of
vessels sailing from Narragansett Bay and, when the gold fever broke out
in 1849, Mr. Childs had no trouble in embarking at Warren, R. I., for San
Francisco, on a saihng vessel, Charin-, a famous ship in her time, saihng
1849, a voyage of six months. Upon his returning east in 1853, he resumed
his trade as ship carpenter at Swansea.

Nov. 30, 1854, he married Ehzabeth Mason Barney, of North Swan-
sea; and they had children as follows: Charles E., Abby B.; Bessie:
Angelena, and Mary E.

In 1864, the Civil War having completely destroyed the ship-building
industry along the Narragansett Bay tributaries, Mr. Child decided to
enter the manufactimng jewelry business, in Providence, 1858; locating
in Swansea, at a place known as Barneyville, in 1878, and continued therein
until 1893, when he became interested in aluminum and produced a large
line of small wares, novelties, etc. This he continued until 1905 when he
retired from active business on account of advancing years and failing
health. He was one of the old-time manufacturing jewelers, one of the
sturdy upbuilders of the industry with which he was prominently indenti-
fied for more than a half a century.

Mr. Child devoted several years of his life actively in politics while
residing in Swansea, serving as a Selectman of that town for eight years;
and he was also Representative for one term in the Massachusetts Legis-
lature. He was prominently identified with the Masonic fraternity, being
a member of What Cheer Lodge of Providence which he joined in 1866,
and of Calvary Commandery Knights Templars, also Providence.

He died May 23, 1914.



Rev. William Miller

Mr. Miller was born in Swansea April 23, 1817, and passed his early
life in that town, attending the pubhc schools there. When a young man



210 History of Swansea

he went to New Bedford to learn the trade of mason, and it was in that city,
studying at night school, that he continued his education and prepared
himself during his spare time for the ministry in the Christian Church. He
was married March 3, 1841, to Miss Anna Buffington of Swansea, daughter
of Deacon John Buffington. While in New Bedford he was Superintendent
of the Sunday school of the Bonney Street Church and preached there
occasionally. From New Bedford he removed to Lynn in 1853, where he
remained as pastor of the Christian Church for six years. From there he
went to South Portsmouth, R. I. for a period of 11 years, going next to
Bristol, R. I. for four years. After being pastor in Westport, Fairhaven,
Newport and New Bedford, he finaUy went to Swansea for a permanent
residence about 1878. He was one of those who went to California in 1849.

His wife died in 1901. Two daughters, Mrs. G. P. Sherman of South
Portsmouth, and Mrs. J. F. Marden of Newport, survive him. There are
eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Mr. Miller although he had no regular church since his residence in
Swansea, had preached many times and officiated at a great number of
funerals and weddings. He had kept in active work throughout his hfe
and was a student of the Bible. Two weeks before he died he preached in
his former pulpit in Portsmouth. He had kept a journal through his life.
During this last summer he built a boat, which was launched July 15.

In 1891, he and his wife celebrated their golden wedding, at which
many were present, a detailed account of which he wrote in his journal.
He always felt youthful, and kept in remarkably good health. He was
possessed of a nobility of character clearly reflected in his bearing and
benign face. His profile was of the Roman type, clear cut and intellectual.
As a staunch Prohibitionist, a member of the Massachusetts and Rhode
Island Christian Conference, and as a citizen, his loss was mourned by a
large number.

Rev. Joseph W. Osborn, Ph. D.

Joseph Warren Osborn was born in Pembroke, Maine, July 23, 1836.
He was named after the Revolutionary hero who fell at Bunker Hill. His
father, Samuel Osborn, and his mother, Sophia Harding, were both born
in Barrington, Nova Scotia. I have been able to learn but little about
them or their ancestry. His grandfather died in Yarmouth, N. S., but
whence he came, or where he was born, I am unable to say. One of the lines
on his mother's side came from Nantucket. The name Osborn is found in
Enghsh history and it is doubtless of English origin. On his mother's side
were several ministers, one of v/hom. Rev. Theodore Hau-ding, was quite
noted, traveling a great deal, preaching in school houses and private dwell-
ings, and carrying the Gospel to the destitute regions of the new country in
which he lived.

His father was a sea captain, but owned a farm in Pembroke. After
his son Joseph — our Bro. Osborn — went into the printing office at Eastport,
he bought out one of the owners of the Eastport Sentinel, and the business
was carried on under the name of "Nutt and Osborn. " Subsequently he
moved there and Joseph returned to and continued in his father's family.
He was the fourth in a family of six children, three of whom are still living.

His early boyhood life, until he was fourteen, was spent on his father's
farm at Pembroke. His school advantages were limited, and he attended
school less than the average New England boy of that time. But he was
from childhood a student, and learned very fast, always standing at the
head of his class. He was a very great reader, and once, when quite young,
all books were taken from him that he might recover from an illness brought



Personal Sketches 211

on by over study. When about fourteen he went to Eastport and entered
the office of the Eastport Sentinel, where he learned the printer's trade.
Here he remained until he was twenty, working in the office and studying
by himself, as books and opportunity permitted.

He was baptised by Rev. Charles Bugbee, May 20, 1855, being eighteen
years of age. He united with the Christian Church at Eastport on the 12th
of July following. Of this church he remained a member until his death.
His father and mother both belonged to this church and his father was, for
many years, one of its deacons. From childhood he seems to have had
marked inclinations to the ministry. His sister says, " I do not think any
of our family were surprised when he chose it. He was always holding
meetings and Sunday Schools. When a very little boy he would build
pulpits and preach from them, the rest of us children the audience. On our
way to and from school we had to pass a large flat rock. He would gather
the children on this and preach to them. Our father's farm was worked by
two Irish Catholics. One day, after being out with them, he came in and
told us that when he grew up he should be a priest, and that we were all
heretics. "

Mr. E, E. Shedd, one of his associates in Eastport, says: "The natural
bent of his mind was the ministry, and he could not help following it when
circumstances favored. Mr. Bugbee was one of the best of ministers and
probably by advice and encouragement helped him to accomplish his
desire."

At twenty years of age he left Eastport and went to Andover Academy,
N. H. The school was then in charge of Prof. J. W. Symonds and was
intended to be a first-class academy where students might fit for college.
His first sermon was preached while in this school, at Hill, N. H., during a
session of the Merrimac Christian Conference.

After being at Andover one year he received and accepted a call to
Bradford, Vt., and preached to the Christian Church there for about a
year. There he made the acquaintance of Martha Ann George, who was
born Feb. 23, 1834, to whom he was married Sept. 22, 1858, by Rev. Silas
McKeen, the Congregational minister of that place. Three daughters
were born to them; Mary G. born Oct. 24, 1863, who has the A. B. of
Wellesley College 1892, and A. M. of Brown University 1901; Martha
Sophia, born Oct. 19, 1868, died in Jan. 1871, and Sarah Mabel, born Dec.
11, 1870, who took the degree of A. B., 1897 and A. M. 1898 at Brown
University; Mary G. and Sarah Mabel are teachers in the High School of
Pawtucket, R. I. (1916).

From Bradford he went to Brantham, N. H., where he preached five
years. There he was ordained June 9, 1859.

In the spring of 1864 he came to Swansea, Mass., and there the work
of his life was done. His first sermon there was preached Sunday May 29th.
He received a call to settle the same day, and commenced his ministry the
following Sunday, the first in June. He was only 27 years of age. Young,
bashful, almost awkward in manner, and with little education save what
he had acquired by general reading, he commenced a pastorate, exception-
ally pleasant and profitable, covering a period which lacked but five months
of a quarter of a century. His transparent honesty and sincerity, his
excellent spirit, clearly portrayed in every lineament of his face, and the
good sense of his preaching, commended themselves to the good judg-
ment of the people, and immediately won their confidence and affection.
From the outset he was enthroned in their hearts.

Rapidly he acquired influence in the church, the community, the
town — an influence always wise and wholesome, and which grew stronger
and wider until the day of his death. As a teacher and preacher in the
Sunday School and the Church, he was loyal and laborious, doing con-



212 History of Swansea

scientious and thorough work on every lesson and sermon. In the country
community in which he lived the Sunday School library was largely
patronized and of great importance. For this he selected the books, and
thus, and in other ways, gave the community the benefit of his pure
literary taste and his wide reading. A community of young people excep-
tionally intelligent and well-read grew up as a result. A generation was
stamped with his moral and intellectual impress — an impress for which it,
its children and children's children can only be profoundly grateful.

It is a thought that should be sufficiently inspiring to ensure fidelity
in every humble sphere, that good seed perpetuates itself as well as bad,
and that man is endowed with an earthly immortahty. Bro. Osborn's
personality has become incarnate in the community in which he lived so
long, and the fruit of those twenty-five yego-s shall grow and bless, it may
be for centuries. Many a heart, in the ages to come, shall thank him,
many a little rill of blessed influence shall broaden and sweep on until it
finds its way to the ocean of eternity, and "he shall see of the travail of his
soul and be satisfied. " One hundred and forty were added to the church
during his pastorate.

For eleven years and a half, from October, 1866, to the spring of 1878,
he was pastor of the Christian Church in South Rehoboth, preaching there
every Sabbath afternoon, after preaching at Swansea in the morning.
Considerable revival interest was manifested there in 1870 and in 1874, and
several were added to the church.

In the spring of 1879 he took charge of the church at Steep Brook
(North Fall River), in connection with the church at Swansea, and retained
it until his death, wanting three months of ten years. Twenty-two were
added to the church during this time. Here, as at Swansea and Rehoboth,
he acquired wide influence and was held in profound respect.

No one was more thoroughly interested in all kinds of educational
work than he. Deprived as he was of the advantages of early school
facilities, he seemed all the more anxious that others should have better
opportunities. For eleven years he was Superintendent of the Public
Schools of Swansea and labored earnestly to elevate them to a higher
standard of excellence. Here as elsewhere his intelligent, practical, master-
ful mind, made itself felt, and teachers and pupils throughout the town
felt the inspiring influence of his presence and oversight. Methods of
work were more carefully systematised, a higher grade of teachers de-
manded, fuller and more accurate returns secured, and a more careful and
searching supervision exercised. This work was done thoroughly, con-
scientiously, laboriously— done, at times, when the pressure of his pastoral
work made it exceedingly taxing — done, at times, during his vacation, the
time, always all too short, which he had dedicated to rest, but which was
thus robbed of its beneficent results.

The man who had almost continuously for twenty years the care of
two churches on his hands, the general oversight of about forty churches
in their Conference relations, and nearly all the time some special work in
connection with our ministerial associations. New England Convention,
American Christian Convention, Christian Biblical Institute or Christian
Camp Meeting Association, and besides all this was constantly pursuing a
systematic course of study — doing the fuU work of a student in college —
could hardly be expected to have much time or strength to devote to the
public schools. Yet somehow he did find time and strength to do for them
that which made his superintendency a marked era in their history, and
that for which the citizens of the town wiU ever be grateful. It reveals the
profound interest he felt in everything pertaining to the public welfare, the
prodigious intellectual abilities which he possessed, and alas! it reveals
also, the fatal overtaxation, — the overstrain that snapped so suddenly the





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Personal Sketches 213

cord, and took him from us in the meridian of his manhood.

For fifteen years, from 1873 to the time of his death, he was president
of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Christian Conference. His knowl-
edge of parhamentary law was accurate, and as a presiding officer he was
singularly cool and impartial, and had a way of preserving order and good
nature during heated debates that was exceedingly rare and valuable.

His care of the churches was fatherly, and his interest in the ministers,
especially the young, was sincere and profound. His counsels and sugges-
tions were wise and original, always commanding attention and respect.
In cases of difficulties to be settled, in exigencies requiring delicate handling
to avoid suspicion or jealousy, in the examination of candidates for ordin-
ation, in all the important work of the body, all looked to him to take the
lead, and followed in the consciousness of a wise and safe leadership. His
wisdom, his impartiality, his entire freedom from selfish motives were never
questioned. Through all these years he had been trusted with growing
confidence, followed with increasing faith and respect, loved with a deep-
ening affection.

He was President of the American Christian Convention from 1882
to 1886, doing much hard work, and helping materially in the perfecting of
plans for a more complete organization of our methods of work, which are
producing beneficent results. It was during this quadrennium that the
question of uniting our people and the Free Baptists was agitated. This
union he urged with more than his wonted zeal, writing hundreds of letters
to men of both bodies in all parts of the country. The failure of the project
at the Convention in New Bedford was a bitter disappointment, and
disturbed him greatly.

He was President of the Christian Camp Meeting Association, having
been elected at the annual session of 1888. For many years he was a
member of its Board of Trustees. He was also a member of the Board of
Trustees of the Christian Biblical Institute.

As a student he was indefatigable and thorough. He loved knowledge
and never was so happy as when in its pursuit. Most of his time at home
was spent in his study among his books. Possessed of a good memory and
great caution, his information was not only full but very accurate. Quick
to perceive and easy to grasp, he learned rapidly. What, to many, would
have been dark enigmas, to be comprehended only by long and tedious
study, were to him intuitions — self-evident — taken at a glance. The
abstruse metaphysical speculations of a Kant, a Fichte, a Hegel, he read
with the ease with which many would read an ordinary novel. His favorite
studies were theology, history, philosophy, language and literature. In all
these he acquired no little proficiency. His knowledge of ecclesiastical history
was especially noteworthy, and he became a recognized authority in all ques-
tions pertaining to the history, polity, belief, etc., of religious denominations.

Nearly all of his studies were pursued alone. To give direction to
them, as an inducement to be thorough and careful, and as a test of attain-
ment, he conceived the idea of taking a college course and subjecting him-
self to examination. As a result of this determination he entered the
graduating class of 1874 of Lebanon College, Lebanon, Pa., passed his
examination successfully and received the degree of Bachelor of Arts.

In 1875 he went to Union College, Mt. Union, Ohio, and after exam-
ination, was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. In 1877 he
again went to Lebanon College and received the degree of Master of Arts.
These three degrees were taken inside of four years. He went to these
colleges a stranger; they were in no way connected with our people, they
had no incentive to grant him any honor which he had not fully earned,
and so he secured, what he desired, an impartial and trustworthy test of
his intellectual attainments.



214 History of Swansea

It was characteristic of him not to parade his honors, and for several
years only a few of his intimate friends Imew of them, and these under the
seal of secrecy. It was not until the Presidency of Antioch College (which
he decHned) was offered him in 1882 that they became known to the
public. His diplomas were found after his death rolled up and tucked
away in the back end of a drawer in his study.

As a preacher he was plain, thoughtful and thoroughly sincere.
Nothing was said for effect, everything for truth, and with an earnest
effort to make it plain and effective. His thoughts were put in the best of
language, and few men could put so much meaning into so few words. He
was not brilhant but always sensible. His sermons were carefully prepared
and thought out, and presented with a simplicity and directness that
carried conviction of his faith in the truth he was presenting.

He was not a revivalist but a teacher rather. His work was to instruct,
to so present the truth that it should commend itself to the judgment and
the conscience — to convince, confirm — to lay foundations. Naturally the
number of conversions under his labors was not great, but they were
genuine, they were held. The church generally was kept in good working
condition; it commanded the respect of the world; the truth was forced
upon the convictions of the community. A wide-spread, lasting, solid
influence for good was exerted upon saint and sinner, upon those who
attended church and those who stayed at home — somehow the entire
community felt the weight of his character, restraining the evil and stim-
ulating the good of every heart. His work was the planting of a Paul. In
due time Apollos will water and the Master give the increase. Years
hence, under the quickening unfluence of the Holy Spirit, will spring into
life the seed which he has sown in many a heart which seemed careless and
unconcerned when he was speaking.

One of the most conspicuous elements of his character was his thorough
honesty, his perfect loyalty to truth, his entire freedom from all cant and
pretense, his fidelity to ins convictions of right. He heartily despised
everything that savored of falsehood, deceit or hypocrisy. He was as
transparent and open as the light. He carried his character in his face.
No man need look a second time to know that he was a man to be trusted
and respected.

Says Mr. E. E. Shedd: "He came to this town (Eastport), when he
was about fourteen years of age, a modest, retiring, good lad. I am afraid
we were a mischievous set of boys that he was thrown in with, and while
he was ready to join in any of our sports and fun, he would have nothing
to do with what was not up to his standard of right, which he placed very
high. We all respected him for his uprightness of character."

He was exceedingly modest — too modest for his comfort, perhaps for
his highest usefulness. He never preached on public occasions if he could
well avoid it, and when he did it was with shrinking anxiety amounting at
times almost to torture. A less modest man, of his abihties and attain-
ments, would doubtless have pushed himself into wider fields of usefulness.
He sought no positions of honor or trust, nor did he accept all that sought
him. And when he did accept, it was almost invariably with great reluc-
tance. Many of us remember how difficult it was to induce him to accept
the position of President of the Camp Meeting Association.

He was a man of large charity. He always placed the best possible
construction on the questionable acts of his brethren — never made up
judgment or expressed an adverse opinion until he had heard both sides of
the case — ever ready to make large allowance for want of knowledge,
weakness, or stress of circumstances — ever remembering every good thing
that could be said by way of offset or mitigation.

His charity naturally made him broad and catholic in his religious



Personal Sketches 215

views, led him to respect all denominations, and brought him into the most
friendly relations with them. He was loyal to the principles of the Chris-
tian Connection. Few comprehended them better or more fully interf)reted
and exemplified their spirit. He was not a sectarian. Nor was he so
unsectarian as to be led into an unsectarian bigotry, which is one of the
worst forms of sectarianism. He sought after those things that made for

Eeace — that tended to allay suspicion, jealousy, hatred, strife. He felt
imself above none. The weakest and humblest of his brethren were met


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Online LibraryOtis Olney WrightHistory of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; → online text (page 22 of 27)