Otis Olney Wright.

History of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; online

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with open heart, with a sincere and cordial desire to encourage and help.
He respected every true man, however small. His heart and his sympathies
were broad enough to take them all in. He was a man of sincere and deep
piety. The ordinary observer would doubtless say that he was intellectual
rather than spiritual. In his preaching he addressed himself to the judg-
ment and the conscience rather than to the emotions. To such a mind as
his this was the most direct way to inspire devotion. Only those who were
most intimate with him knew how deep and steady was the current of his
spiritual life.

He read the Bible assiduously — read it through by course every year,
in his family and personal devotions, in his preparation of sermons and
Sunday School lessons, in the investigation of special doctrines, subjects,
etc. It would be more correct to say that he studied it rather than read it.
This appeared in his public ministrations, not so much in quoting its
language, as in a correct and apt interpretation, delineation and application
of its spirit.

He was a man of pure mind and clean lips. During a most intimate
acquaintance of nearly twenty years I never heard him give expression to
a low thought or utter an unclean word — nor any of those expressions of
inpatience or meaningless exclamations of surprise into which most people
are more or less frequently betrayed. He seemed never to forget himself.
Notwithstanding his transparent openness of character, yet there was a
depth not quickly fathomed, and he was constantly surprising those who
were intimate with him by new revelations of power and knowledge. He
continuously grew in their estimation. He impressed them with the con-
sciousness that he had a reserve force which had not been called into
exercise but which was ready for emergencies. He died January 4, 1889.
Mrs Osborn died Mar. 6, 1914.

—Rev. C, A. Tillinghast, D. D.

Stephen Weaver

Stephen Weaver was born Dec. 9, 1826, in Middletown, R. I. He was
son of Parker and Lydia (Manchester) Weaver. Matthew Weaver, father
of Parker Weaver, was a farmer in his native town, Middletown, where he
lived to be quite old, dying about 1830. Parker was a farmer also, and
quite a successful and active man. He was an industrious, e£U"nest, honest
man, strictly temperate in all things, and noted for purity and strength of
character. He was prompt and reliable in business, of active, persevering
nature, calm and deliberate in matters of judgment. He attended closely
to his own personal matters, never aspiring to office, but avoiding every-
thing savoring of publicity. He was a member of the Christian Baptist
church, which he worthily honored until his death, March, 1870, at eighty-
three years.

Stephen attended common and select schools in Middletown, studied
much at home, and when but nineteen was competent to teach, which he
did for thirteen years with marked success. He studied hard while teaching,
improving himself greatly while advancing others. The relation of a fact to

216 History of Swansea

illustrate the filial love and justice of Mr. Weaver may not be deemed out
of place here. When he was young his father owned a large farm, but became
financially embarrassed. Stephen, in order to assist his father, worked on
the farm during summer, and gave his labor without charge towards the
clearance of the indebtedness, clothing himself by his wages as teacher in
the winter, continuing to do this until his twenty-fourth year. He married
Ruth A., daughter of BarziUia and Ruth (Chase) Buffinton, of Swansea,
Nov. 3, 1850. She was born April 8, 1830. Their children are Anna A.,
born March 1, 1854, married Rowland G. Buffinton, had one child, Wallace
W., and died May 7, 1877; Emma B., born Jan. 8, 1856, married Thomas
H. Buffinton, has two children, Mabel L., who married Fred S. Clarner,
they have one child Doris B.; and Arthur H. who married Mary Edwards;
Arthur W., born June 9, 1859, married Lura R. Peck; Lillian F., born
Sept. 29, 1869, m. Arthur E. Horton.

Arthur Wallace Weaver has been selectman 13 years and chairman of
the Board 12 years; and also Assessor during the period and chairman of the
Board. Mr. Weaver is a farmer; a trustee of the South Somerset M. E.
Church of which he and Mrs. Weaver are members ; and also belongs to the
Swansea Grange.

Immediately upon his marriage Mr. Weaver rented a cottage near his
father's residence, and for three years worked on the farm, teaching school
during the winter seasons. He then rented a farm for himself and worked
that two years, and discontinued it for one year on account of the faiUng
health of his wife, he working out by the month. He then removed to
Somerset, where he rented a farm and remained thirteen years. By
industry and economy he accumulated some money, and, in partnership
with his wife's father, purchased a farm and mill in Swansea, continuing
there only eighteen months. By reason of ill health he was compelled to
relinquish labor, and selling out his share of the mill, he went and resided
with Mr. Buffinton. Mr. Weaver suffered from severe nervous prostration
for two years, and was much broken in health, but finally fully regained his
health, when he succeeded to the management and possession of the farm
of Mr. Buffinton. On this he has made valuable improvements, erected a
splendid barn, and made it one of the best-arranged farms in the town. He
is a pushing, energetic man of enterprise and thought. While agriculture
had been his avocation, he kept apace with the thinking minds of the day,
and grappled with the most advanced ideas. He was well read and thor-
oughly indPormed, not only in the events of the day, but in the practical and
useful improvements in his life-work, agriculture. He cultivated about
eighty acres of land, and in addition had thirty acres of woodland, and was
one of the substantial citizens of Swansea.

Barzillai Buffinton was born in Swansea in 1798, and was son of Job
and Phebe (Chase) Buffinton. He was a farmer and peddler of earthenware.
He was a hard-working and self-denying man, accumulated a fine property.
He married Ruth, daughter of James and Rebecca (Mott) Pierce, of Somer-
set. They had five children, — Amanda M. (deceased), married WiUiam
Richardson, of Newport, R. I., had one child; Job (deceased); Rachael P.,
married Benjamin A. Chace, has two children; Phihp, has two children,
and lives in Warren, R. I.; and Ruth (Mrs. Stephen Weaver). Mr.
Buffinton and wife began housekeeping at Somerset village, but finally
purchased the place now occupied by Mr. Arthur W, Weaver and removing
thither, passed the rest of his life there, dying May 7, 1879, aged eighty-
three. He was a birthright Friend and Mr. and Mrs, Weaver members of
the same society. He was a selectman for many years, and held other posi-
tions of pubhc trust. He was a calm, deliberate, reserved man of few words,
but good judgment and great decision of character. Possessing a robust
constitution, he enjoyed labor and worked hard. He was a man of great

Personal Sketches 217

exactness in money matters, paying for all things on the spot and never
running a bill. He made deposits in the Fall River Savings Bank for and
in the name of each of his children, and ed though precise and accurate in
financial transactions, desiring every dollar due him, such was his justice
in his dealings with others as to give him the reputation of possessing
strict honesty and integrity.

Joseph Mason Northam

Feb. 26, 1916, the selectmen delivered to Joseph M. Northam, who
then had the distinction of being the oldest male resident in town, the
transmittable gift of the gold-headed ebony cane presented by a Boston
newspaper to the oldest resident in Swansea, which for a number of years
was in the possession of the late Dr. James L. Wellington.

Mr. Northam, who was 89 March 20, was the son of the late Stephen
T. and Hanngih (Houghton) Northam, and lived at the Northam
homestead, just east of Christ Church, in the house in which he was born,
and which was built by his grandfather, Capt. Joseph Northam, about
1791. The carpenter who did the work was James Trott. Mr. Northam
died Oct. 30, 1916. His sister, Miss Harriet Northam, who was nearly two
years his senior, hved with him, and died Oct. 13, 1916.

In his younger days, Mr. Northam was a seafaring man for about
22 years, starting on his first whaling voyage when 20 years old, sailing from
New Bedford in July, 1848, with Captain James Allen. He went on six
long voyages, and on two of them he was chief officer on the ship. The
longest voyage lasted five years and five months, and on the shortest
voyage he was away nearly three years. Two voyages were in the Arctic
Ocean, when he went as far north as 72 degrees. The other sailing trips
were around Australia and New Zealand. The last trip was made in 1875.
Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Northam was famlHar with many ports,
Swansea had always been his home town. After retiring from marine
service, Mr. Northam followed the trades of painter and ccirpenter for a
number of years. Although his intimate associates addressed him as
*'Cap'n," he emphatically asserted that he was never a captain officially

In spite of his being totally blind, from a rare disease aflfecting the
eyes, Mr. Northam, through long famiharity with his home, was able to
find his way about the house, also the premises when the weather permitted,
and in the summer months he would occasionally "feel" his way to the
piazza of the postoffice, where on pleasant evenings he many times enter-
tained a group of interested fisteners with accounts of most thrilling as well
as humorous adventures connected with his life on the sea and in foreign

Elijah Pitts Chase

The subject of this sketch was born in Nantucket, Mass., Oct. 1, 1822,
the son of John and Deborah (Pitts) Chase. He was a direct descendant
in the 8 th generation from Wm. Chase, one of the early settlers of New
England, who settled in Yarmouth and died there in 1659, leaving two sons,
Benjamin and William. His grandparents, John and Mary, were prom-
inent in the M. E. Church, South Somerset. The line of descent as traced,
is Wm. 1st,— Wm. 2nd,— Samuel 3d,— Philip 4th,— Caleb 5th,— John 6th,—
John 7th,— Elijah 8th, (John 9th,— Charles 10th,— Merrill 11th).

Elijah P. Chase married Jane Edson born in Rehoboth, Jan. 2, 1819
daughter of Daniel and Sarah (Marvel) Edson, of Swansea, Dec. 8th, 1851,

218 History of Swansea

She died Jan. 9th, 1903. He died Dec. 13th, 1910. On Dec. 8th, 1901 they
celebrated their golden wedding. She was a direct descendant in the 7th
generation from Samuel Edson, born in England in 1612, and died in
Bridgewater, Mass., 1692.

Their children: (1) Mary Jane and Sarah Frances — twins — were born
in Providence, R. I., Sept. 12, 1853. Sarah Frances died, in Swansea, Sept.
12, 1854. Mary Jane married John Baker of Rehoboth, Dec. 7, 1873, in
Swansea. (One child was born to them, Grace Jane, Feb. 22, 1876) ; second
Mrs. Mary J. Chase (Baker) married Edwin B. Eddy of Swansea, Nov. 30,
1887. (2) John Wesley, born in Swansea, May 14, 1856, married Annie
Westgate Borden Baker, of Rehoboth, Nov. 5, 1878. (Three children were
born to them: Charles Levi, Aug. 16, 1879; John Edson, Dec. 2, 1883; and
Abbie Warren Hathaway, May 30, 1888, all in Rehoboth. John Edson
died Feb. 26, 1886). (3) Sarah Marvel, born in Swansea, June 1, 1859,
married in Dighton, April 18, 1888, to the Rev. Otis Hurlbutt Bates, and
(second) Oct. 21, 1909, in Swansea, Richard Hazelhurst of Somerset.

Charles Levi Chase, son of John Wesley, and Annie Westgate Borden
(Baker) Chase was married in Providence, R. I., Dec. 10, 1900 to Mabel
Evans, of that city, and they have one son, Merrill Evans, born Jan. 25,
1902; Grace Jane Baker daughter of Mary Jane (Chase) Baker, married
John H. Swanson of Swansea, Dec. 18, 1904.

Charles L. Chase attended the Bryant & Stratton Commercial school
in the Class of 1896. Abbie W. H. Chase graduated from B. M.C. DurfeeHigh
School, and attended the Hans Schneider Music School, and the Hyannis
School of Music. Merrill Evans Chase is a graduate of the Stevens
Grammar School.

Oldest Knight Templar in Rhode Island, Elijah Pitts Chase, native of
Nantucket and brother of John A. Chase, oldest citizen of Fairhaven, was
signally honored by the gift of a fifty year medal at the annual meeting of
Mount Vernon Lodge, A. F. and A. M., Providence, Feb. 22, 1910. The
recognition of his membership of half a century and more was made at the
same time as that of others entitled to the same distinction.

Made a master mason in August, 1856, he became later a member of
Royal Arch chapter, Providence; Webb council, Warren, and finally in
1863, of Calvary Commandery ,K. T., Providence. When initiated into his
lodge, ex-Governor Augustus O. Bourne, of Rhode Island was the worship-
ful master. Except in 1909, Mr. Chase has attended every annual meeting
of Mount Vernon lodge. In 1876, he went to the Centennial with other
Freemasons, and in 1889 to the Triennial conclave of his brethren sir
knights at Washington, D. C. As far as is known, Mr. Chase was the oldest
mason in Swansea, Mass., where he resided at that date.

His residence at Two Mile Purchase, some nine miles northwest of
Fall River, rendered it impossible for him to attend the communications of
masonic bodies very often, but he occasionally went to Pioneer lodge,
Somerset. His interest was just as keen.

Besides his distinction as senior knight templar of Rhode Island, Mr.
Chase was in early life sailing-master of a whaler, in the South Pacific, and
also captain of a "coaster" between Providence and Baltimore.

How he came to cast his lot with the seekers of the big spouters involves
a bit of family history. His father, John Chace, was born in Swansea in a
house the site of which is now south of that occupied by William B. Knight.
He went to Nantucket, and there was Elijah born Oct. 1, 1822. The first
event of importance was his christening, a unique one, for his last name was
spelt different from that of his father. The latter wrote his name Chace,
like most others of that family in Swansea, but in Nantucket, the> pre-
ferred Chase, so in order to conform with the island mode of spelling,
Ehjah was thus christened.

Personal Sketches 219

His boyhood days were passed in that town. Providence, Somerset,
and Swansea. His father went west when he was two years old, and the
boy's schoohng amounted to three months in a " Lancasterian " institution
on Nantucket. It was called the Coffin school, suggestive, as it happened,
of one of Mr. Chase's occupations in later life. It was founded and endowed
by Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin, who married a Nantucket woman, a maternal
ancestor of Mr. Chase. Since learning the three R's there he secured most
of the rest of his education on board ship.

His parents went to Providence to live and left him with a prominent
Nantucket man. The gentleman was later chosen representative in con-
gress, and removed to Washington with his wife. Elijah was hving with
the man's son, when the latter was married, and so Mr. Chase "enlisted to
go whaling. "

At the age of 19, in August, 1841, he "shipped" on board the good
craft Navigator, of Nantucket, brand-new, bound for a four years' voyage
sperm-whaling in the South Pacific. Captain EHhu Fisher of Falmouth was
master. Three other Nantucket boys embarked at the same time.

Three months out in the Atlantic, Mr. Chase remembers distinctly
when they crossed the line at 27.30 west longitude, that lessons in nav-
igation began.

"When I was thirteen months out I took charge of the navigation of
the ship and navigated her the rest of the voyage and then went out and
navigated the next voyage. I was also steward on both voyages. "

His first voyage Mr. Chase kept only records necessary for reference
on the second, as to whahng-grounds, etc. About 50 whales besides 15
blackfish were captured the first time out.

He says he saw some rough times, and went around Cape Horn both
voyages, but never lost a spar or a sail.

Returning from the first quest of the whale in 1845, he remained eight
weeks, long enough to "recruit" or lay in provisions for the ship. Then he
set sail July 3 of that year for another four years on the trail of the blubber.

He came to Swansea in the spring of '57, bought the house where he
lived for many years, and set up a grocery store. He had several order-
routes, and one of them he called the California route on account of its

A few years before came the romance of his life when he first saw his
future wife. Miss Jane Edson, as passenger on a boat. He met her and
was married by Rev. Mr. Cady, of the South Somerset M. E. Church, in
Elmer D. Young's house at Swansea village, December 8, 1851. They
celebrated their golden wedding, but Mrs. Chase died Jan. 9, 1903.

Besides his grocery business, he was undertaker and for a number of
years had charge of two or three funerals a week, and Elder Waterman was
usually the officiating clergyman.

Captain Chase has held nearly all the different town offices, being
selectman, overseer of the poor and assessor of taxes from 1865 to 1869, and
tax collector in 1879. He has held the office of constable for m£my years,
was often elected moderator of town meetings, and in one hot three-cornered
contest, was chosen by one vote. Besides being chairman of the Repub-
lican town committee for 22 years, he was for many successive elections a
delegate to the State convention.

Nathan Montgomery Wood

The first of the Wood family who came to America of whom there is
any authentic record was (1) William Wood, who came from England, and
after spending some time in the new colonies returned to England. In

220 History of Swansea

1634 he published in London a book entitled "New England's Prospects."
Very meager records were kept in those days, and it is not positive how
many children this William Wood had, or what their names were, but after
consulting all available authorities relative to early genealogical data we
feel justified in stating as most probable that he had at least one son.

(II) John, who came to Plymouth Colony in the early days of that
settlement, married and had two sons. (Ill) John and Thomas, who were
great hunters, and possessed of that hardy adventurous spirit so character-
istic of our early pioneers. In search of a country where game was plenty,
they first came to Seaconnet or thereabouts, and soon after went to Swansea
where Thomas settled. John, so tradition says, went still farther west into
Connecticut, which was then a wilderness,

(III) Thomas Wood was evidently a man of considerable consequence
in his town. He was a surveyor, and divided and surveyed much land. He
held in Swansea a large landed estate containing several hundred acres.
Records indicate that he had two sons, Thomas and John.

(IV) John Wood had two sons, Noah and John. By his will he
bequeathed the mill place to John his son; and to Noah he gave the landed

Eroperty west of the mill farm, consisting of three farms, one of which, the
omestead, is now owned by Midwood Brothers, George H. & James.
Noah had four sons, Nathaniel, Aaron, Levi, and Jonathan. He be-
queathed the homestead farm and the one adjoining to his son Aaron; and
to the others he gave farms in the immediate vicinity.

Aaron Wood, son of Noah, had children, Nathan, Isaac, Levi, Aaron,
Noah, Mason, Freelove, Sarah, Elizabeth, Innocent, Mary, and Polly. In
the distribution of his property he bequeathed the homestead to his son
Aaron. This Aaron had seven sons, Levi, John, Nathan, Benjamin, Ira,
Hiram, and Pardon, and two daughters, Polly and Sarah. Upon his
decease the homestead went to all the sons, and to his wife, Polly, the use of
it during her hfe. She died March 12, 1883, in her ninety-ninth year. The
homestead farm is now in the possession of Benjamin N. Wood, grandson
of Aaron Wood; and it has never been sold out of the family. This Ben-
jamin Nelson Wood was born Oct. 30, 1842, married Margaret Ehzabeth
Axford of Oxford, N. J., who was born March 17, 1858, in Scranton, Pa.
A son, Benjamin Axford was born of this union, Jan. 16, 1888, who died
Aug. 19, 1890. A daughter was born June 26, 1893, named Jean Isabel.

(V) John Wood who inherited the mill place from his father John,
had four sons, John, Isaac, Nathan, and Seth, and two daughters, Bethiah
and Penelope.

(VI) Seth Wood upon his father's decease, inherited the mill farm.
He was a man of consequence in his day; took much interest in pubhc
afifairs, and during the war of the Revolution was commissioned directly
from the State authorities as collector of taxes. He had three sons, John,
Seth, and Haile, the latter by a second wife.

(VII) Col. Haile Wood was born in November, 1788, and inherited
the ancestral acres. He was one of the leading men of Swansea, holding
various town offices and positions of trust and honor. He was an enter-
prising man, and one of the original founders of the Taunton Britannia
Works, now known as the Reed and Barton works. He was colonel of
militia, and took much pride and interest in military affairs. He was said
to be the best horseman in the county. A man of tine physique, he stood
over six feet high, and weighed over two hundred pounds. He was a Whig
and Republican in politics, and an ardent Prohibitionist. His wife, Mary,
daughter of Ebenezer Howard, of Woodstock, Conn., was born in March,
1785, and died in October, 1872. He died May 6, 1860. They had eleven
children: Haile N. married Marian L. Chace, and had one son; Mary A.,
deceased, married E. Brayman, and had six children, all of whom are

Personal Sketches 221

deceased; William, deceased, married Harriet Burbank, of Taunton, and
had three children; Seth married Mary Carver, of Taunton and had four
children; Elizabeth married Nathan Wood, of Swansea, and had two
children; Adeline, deceased, married Benjamin B. Wood, of Swansea, son
of Aaron Wood, and had five children; Walter H. married Amanda
Gardner, and had two children; Augusta became the second wife of Benjamin
B. Wood, and they have one son; Laura died unmarried; Nathan M. is
mentioned below; An^^eline died in infancy.

(VIII) Nathan M. Wood was born in Swansea, Mass., Jan. 16, 1825.
His education was obtained at the common schools of his native town. His
father was a farmer and miller, and Nathan was brought up to the same
business, and, with the exception of about one year passed in Maine, aJways
resided at the home in Swansea, which has been in the family so many
generations. November 7, 1848, he married Abby M. Kingsley, second
child and eldest daughter of Elisha and Mary G. (Mason) Kingsley, of
Swansea. She was born April 10, 1828^ and died April 8, 1889. Mrs. Wood
descended on the maternal side from Samson Mason, who was an English-
man, and an officer in the army of Oliver Cromwell, imtil the latter was
made lord protector of England. About 1650 he came to America, and was
admitted an inhabitant of Rehoboth Dec. 9, 1657. His children were:
Samson, Noah, John, Samuel, Bethiah (who became the wife of John Wood),
Sarah, Mary, James, Joseph, Isaac, Peletiah, Benjamin, and Thankful.
Peletiah had three sons, all of whom were ministers, Job, Russell, and John,
all residing within a mile of each other. They were blacksmiths by occupa-
tion, and it is said used to "preach with their leather aprons on." They
preached in a church occupying the site of the present Christian Church
near Luther's Corners, Swansea Centre. Job Mason had a son Job, who
occupied the ancestral home, and who had a son named Gardner, who was
a seaman, and was drowned at Providence, R. I., while his vessel lay at
that port. His wife's name was Susanna Vinnicum. He left a daughter,
Mary G., who was the mother of Mrs. Nathan M. Wood.

Nathan M. Wood was a Republican in politics, but liberal in his ideas
in political as in aU other matters. He held various official positions,
including nearly all the principal town offices, and some of them for more
than twenty years. He was Representative to the Legislature in 1875.
He was a member of the Christian Church, also a member of Washington
Lodge, No. 3, A. F. & A. M., and of Webb Council, Warren, R. I., of Royal
Arch Chapter, Fall River; and of Calvary Commandery, Knights Temp-
lars, Providence, Rhode Island.

Mr. and Mrs. Wood had five children: Nathan Howard, born Feb. 15,
1851, died in infancy; Abby Isabel, born Nov. 16, 1854, married Hiram E.
Thurston, son of Edward M. Thurston, and they had one child, Louise.
Mrs. Thurston died April 27, 1912; Mary R. P., born May 28, 1857,

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Online LibraryOtis Olney WrightHistory of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; → online text (page 23 of 27)