William Richard Cutter.

Genealogical and personal memoirs relating to the families of the state of Massachusetts; (Volume 3) online

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Susanna. Rachel. Anna and Prudence.

(6) Ezra, third son of William (2) and
Sarah ( Wild ) Penniman, was born in Brain-
tree, April 27, 1760, died May 21, 1823. He
moved to Gardner, and was a resident there,
in 1 Si 5, where he and his wife conveyed their
risrht in his mother's property to his brother
Elijah. He married, probably in Gardner,
Lovisa Eager, and they had born in Gardner :
Lovisa, Abigail, Benjamin, Sarah and Mary
(twins), Betsey, Susan and Tabitha.

(VIII) Christopher Columbus, son of Cap-
tain Increase Sumner and Susan (Penniman)
Merritt, was born in Gardner, September 29,
1830. At the age of eight years he was appren-
ticed to Asa Fessenden, of Templeton Center,
to learn carriage making. After mastering that
trade he also learned the machinist trade with
Mr. Fessenden. In 1856 he went to Boston
and worked at No. 69 Commercial street, con-
structing machines to cut corks. He next
worked for Grover and Baker, making sewing

i 4 /6


machines, in 1857. He worked in Ottawa,
Canada, and then returned to Templeton where
he was employed two years by Walter Green-
wood & Company, chair makers. He was with
Baxter Whitney at Winchendon when the civil
war broke out and then he went to Springfield,
July, 1861, and was tool maker in the United
States armory till the close of the war, being
inspector and foreman. From 1866 till 1905
he was engaged in the retail drug business near
the corner of State and Walnut streets. Mr.
Merritt is a man who is sincere and earnest in
his convictions, always following what he
thinks is the right course. He cast his first
presidential vote for John P. Hale, the Free
Soil Democrat. In 1856 he voted for John
C. Fremont, the first Republican candidate for
president, and next for Abraham Lincoln, the
emancipator, and so on down to the present
time. In 1872 he was elected to the legislature
from ward 5, Springfield, and was re-elected
in 1876-80-81. In 1 88 1 he was appointed by
Governor Butler as trustee of the Northamp-
ton Asylum, and served in that office five years.
For eight years he was one of the overseers
of the poor of Springfield, and served in each
case without pay. In 1892 he was elected to
the senate. Mr. Merritt's official service has
been of such a character as to reflect credit on
him and please his constituency. He is fond
of literary composition, especially of metrical
composition, and has written hundreds of
poems, which have been eagerly accepted by
newspaper publishers, and his poetry is very
familiar to the readers of Springfield papers
for forty years past. From a financial point
of view he has been successful, and among
other holdings he has a farm on the Bay road
where the Forty-sixth Massachusetts Infantry
camped in the time of the civil war, being
called at that time Camp Banks. There he
spends a part of each summer and fall. Chris-
topher C. Merritt married, October 13, i860,
Elvira Parker Brooks, born in Gardner, No-
vember 26, 1837, died December 26, 1883,
daughter of Oscar and Sophrona (Jackson)
Parker. Four children were born of this mar-
riage : Josephine M., May 3, 1861, in
Winchendon; Harriet S., November 11, 1863;
Henry Romeo, December 24, 1869; Charles
Junius, February 21, 1874, died May 12, 1905.
The last three were born in Springfield.

The following may be taken as examples of
Mr. Merritt's verse:

O thou eternal now! All Infinite
To-day! Thee full and precious hour to serve!

Forever present. — quenchless to survive!
Behind thee death! Before thee nothing is!
Great multiple in problem of an age. —
Each new-born moment crowding to fulfil
The true and pressing destinies of life,
Where all companionships, by time revealed,
Unite the present in magnetic ties
To perished ages in the calendar.

O man! bethink thee. — for this day is thine!
What of the Past? Dead as a mummy's dust!
Who from her moldy sepulcher of deeds
Can roll the massive closing stone away?
The Sphinx-like sentry of infinitude
Sits by her portals with the mysteries.
But thou. O living Opportunity!
Clothed in the shining panoply of life,
Nerved to the quick by essence of fruition.
Outliving all in deeds and mightiness! —
Thy vigorous hand, relaxing not its hold.
Strives for the prize of being's own ambition!

The icicles hang by the wall, John.

The icicles hang by the wall;
They never were longer at all, John.

They never were longer at all;
But they'll melt and they'll fall in the sun, John,

But they'll melt and they'll fall in the sun;
Then ragged and broken and all, John.

They'll melt and they'll fall in the sun.

A type of our life now is here, John.

Like icicles cling we and fall;
As brief in our growth and decay, John,

As brief in our growth and decay;
So we live in our prime but a day, John,

So we live in our prime but a day;
Then broken and wasted away, John,

We live in our prime but a day.

The origin of this honorable
FORBES patronymic appears to be sur-
rounded with mystery and may
have been derived from one of a variety of
sources, just as it is found variously written in
the records in Scotland and England as well as
in this country. It is said in Burke's "Heraldry"
that the surname Forbes was assumed from
lands of Forbes in Aberdeen, Scotland, for it
is a Scottish name and of Scottish origin. The
lands of Forbes were granted by Alexander II
(1240) to the progenitor of this noble family.
John de Forbes, the first of his surname of
whom there is any record, was a personage of
rank and distinction during the reign of King
William the Lion (1214). Following him is
the long line of descendants of whom William
Forbes, of Tullickerne, Scotland, wrote in
1580: "In all ages since our first aryse, we
myght compair with neighbors, for greater
loyalty and valor for pietie (which we think
truely ennobleth a families) ; witness the many
bishops and doctors att home and renownd
divines abroad. Like as the root has ever done



so the several branches of the house thought
their greatest honour to honour God in their
generations. As to their loyaltie, it was never

It is of this ancient and noble Scotch house
whence comes the family of whom this narra-
tive proposes to treat. John Forbes, of Deskrie,
Scotland, died in 1739, and was buried at
Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. His son Archibald
died at Newmill of Leith, December 3, 1793,
aged eighty years, and also was buried at
Strathdon. One hundred and thirty years
after the death of John Forbes, the rather, his
great-great-grandson, the late Robert Bennet
Forbes, of Boston, caused. a tablet to be erected
within the walls of Strathdon Church, in com-
memoration of his ancestor, Archibald, son of
John Forbes. This tablet contains a copy of
the inscription on the gravestone outside the
walls, and which reads: "Underneath this
stone lies interred the body of Archibald Forbes,
of Deskrie, who died at Newmill of Leith, the
3d day of December. 1793, in the 80th year of
his age."

In his autobiography Mr. Robert Bennett
Forbes gives us other interesting information
concerning his ancestry, and says "the family
memoranda show that we originated from the
family called of 'Dauch.' William Forbes of
that ilk lived in 1800, was brother of Alexander
of Pitslago ; and these were of the family of
Newe and Edinglassie, brought down to my
ancestor, John of Strathdon. My great-grand-
mother on my father's side was Dorothy Coll-
ingwood, aunt to the celebrated Lord Colling-

(I) Rev. John Forbes, immigrant ancestor
of the family here under consideration, appears
in American history as rector of St. Augustine,
Florida, for he was a Scotch clergyman of
distinction. He married, at Brush Hill, Milton,
Massachusetts, February 2, 1767, Dorothy
Murray, then twenty-four years old and also
of a noted Scotch family. Mr. Forbes sub-
sequently returned to England and died there
September 17, 1793. He had three children:

1. Colonel James Grant, born November 22,
1769, served under General Andrew Jackson
and held a commission as colonel in the service ;
was once commander at Staten Island, and was
first marshal or governor of St. Augustine
when Florida was ceded to the United States.

2. John Murray, born at St. Augustine, August
13, 1 77 1, was fitted for college under the
instruction of Dr. Samuel Kendall, of Weston,
Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard
in 1787; studied law with John Sprague, of

Lancaster, and Pliny Merrick, of Brookfield,
Massachusetts, and in 1791 was engaged in
practice in the town last mentioned. He then
removed to Boston and associated profession-
ally with C. P. Phelps during the years 1794-95,
but after 1796 he lived chiefly abroad. He
was a man of splendid character and attain-
ments and one of the ornaments of society in
his time. After leaving America he was consul
general to the North of Europe, and made his
residence at Hamburg and Copenhagen. In
1820 he went to Buenos Ay res as secretary of
the legation to Caesar Rodney, minister to the
Argentine Republic, and at the time of his
death, in 1831, Mr. Forbes himself was charge
d'affaires at Buenos Ayres. In speaking of
him the "History of Milton," Massachusetts,
says "He was troubled with gout ; his crest
was composed of a gouty foot couchant, crossed
by two crutches rampant ; and the motto was
'Toujours souffrant jamais triste.' " John
Murray Forbes never married. 3. Ralph Ben-
nett, born June 11, 1773 (see post).

( II 1 Ralph Bennett, son of Rev. John and
Dorothy ( Murray) Forbes, was born at Brush
Hill. Milton, Massachusetts, June n, 1773,
and died there October 5, 1824. He lived with
his mother at Brush Hill until 1783, when she
removed with her children to Cambridge, Mass-
achusetts. At the age of eight years Ralph
was sent to Dr. Parker's school in Hingham,
and his young life was spent chiefly at Brush
Hill, Hingham and in Cambridge. At the age
of fourteen he was apprenticed to John B.
Murray, in Alexandria, Virginia, and remained
with his master until he reached his nineteenth
year, in December, 1791, when he joined his
brother, James Grant Forbes, at Port-au-
Prince, St. Domingo, where he continued to
live until 1794 and then returned to his mother's
home in Cambridge. In the winter of 1795 he
sailed from Portland, Maine, in the ship "Ris-
ing States," ( she was owned by John McLean,
William Stephenson, and the firm of Loring
and Curtis) bound south to Charleston, South
Carolina, and other southern coast ports, and
thence sailed in March for Bordeaux, France,
arriving at that port in April with a cargo of
rice and tobacco. From Bordeaux he set sail
for Hamburg, Germany, having on board a
cargo of brandy, and reached port there in
August of the same year. He finally left the
ship at Dover and went to England, arriving
in London in September. There he met Col-
onel Perkins, and in December following he
returned to Bordeaux and from thence sailed
for America. October 13, 1799, Ralph Bennett

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Forbes married Margaret Perkins, of Boston,
and by her had seven children: I. Emma
Perkins, born May 18, 1801. 2. Thomas Tunno,
April 11, 1803. 3. Robert Bennet, September
18, 1804 (see post). 4. Margaret Perkins,
April 10, 1806. 5. John Murray, February 23,
1813 (see post). 6. Mary Abbot, September
4, 1814. 7. Cornelia Frances, still living.

(Ill) Captain Robert Bennett, son of Ralph
Bennett and Margaret ( Perkins ) Forbes, was
born at Jamaica Plain. Massachusetts, Septem-
ber 18, 1804, and soon afterward was taken
by his parents to Boston and for several years
lived in Federal street in that city. As a child
he was sent to a private school kept by a Miss
Doubleday, in Purchase street, where he con-
tinued to attend until 1S11, when on January
17 his mother took her sons and embarked in
the schooner "Midas," Captain William Ropes,
of Salem, master, and sailed to join her hus-
band at Marseilles, France. When off that
port the schooner was captured by the British
frigate "Resistance," whose captain sent her to
Port Mahon, and it was only after consider-
able delay and much anxiety that Mrs. Forbes
reached France. In his interesting narrative
Captain Forbes in speaking of this event says
"It was at that time the custom of our cousin
John to detain American vessels bound tolan
enemy's port. We were ordered to Port
Mahon in the Island of Minorca, to await the
decision of Sir Charles Cotton. All my mother's
energies were aroused, to try to induce the
captain of the 'Resistance' to let us go. She
went to his ship in a long gig, in a tumbling
sea, without success, fie said he must obey

In Marseilles the boys were sent to a French
school where the master was as ignorant of
English as they were of French, but by the use
of a French and English dictionary they soon
acquired a sufficient knowledge of elementary
French to enable them to continue their studies.
However, in 1813, on May 13, Air. Forbes and
his family embarked at Bordeaux in the Amer-
ican schooner "Orders in Council" bound for
New York. The "Orders in Council," says
Captain Forbes autobiography, "was a letter
of marque commanded by Captain Josiah
Ingersoll." War having been declared between
the United States and Great Britain, she was
armed with six small guns, probably nine
pounders, and had a crew of about twenty, all
told. She was one of a large fleet of Balti-
more and New York clippers, built to carry
silks, wines, and other valuable goods, and to
fight when attacked ; hence the letter of marque.

Soon after leaving port the schooner was
attacked by the British cutter "Wellington,"
which was beaten off after a fight of from one
to two hours, but only to fall into the hands of
the "Surveillante," Captain Sir George Collier,
who treated his prisoners with much consid-
eration and sent them to Coruna, in Spain.
There they were released and soon afterward
found passage with Captain Lovell in the
"Caroline" bound for Boston, but on the
eighth day out the old brig was boarded by
the British frigate "Potnone," examined, taken
in tow, and pulled by the nose into the Tagus.
After remaining a day or two on the "Caro-
line" Mr. Forbes and his family escaped on a
fishing boat and went to Lisbon, remained
there about one month and finally embarked in
the "Leda." of Baltimore, and in the course of
thirty-six days arrived at Newport, Rhode
Island, some time in the month of August.

These were rather trying experiences to a
boy of hardly more than a dozen years, yet
after all they served a useful purpose and
made a man of him in experience, although
only a child in years. Returning at length to
Milton young Forbes and his brother were for
a time put out to boarding school, but in 1816
he was employed in a minor clerical capacity
with the house of S. Cabot, and James and
Thomas H. Perkins Jr., of Boston, merchant
importers and exporters. On October 19,
181 7, then aged thirteen years, he shipped
before the mast in the "Canton Packet" and
made his first voyage to China, arriving at
Canton in March of the following year, the
vessel having sailed by the eastern passage.
"Here." says the captain in his narrative,
began an epoch in my life which was of great
importance : a connection which led directly to
fortune and which never ended but with the
life of my cousin (John P. Cushing, then head
of the house of Perkins & Co., Canton), in
April. 1861. In June. 1818, he returned to
Boston, and thus ended his first voyage to
China and return. In 1819 he made a second
voyage to the Orient in the "Canton Packet"
and on the passage made a thorough study of
navigation ; and on his next voyage to the far
east it was as third mate of the ship. From
this rank he became second mate in 1821, and
in 1825 as master of the "Nile" he sailed for
Manila, Philippine Islands. Previous to this
time he had been for a short time master of
the "Levant," and thus was captain of a deep
sea vessel before he had attained the age of
twenty years. From Manila the "Nile" went
to China, thence to California, and from there



to Buenos Ayres, South America ; and thence
to Boston at the end of a long and successful
trading voyage. In 1828 he sailed the "Danube"
for Sturgis & Perkins on a trading voyage to
Smyrna, Turkey, and other European ports,
and afterward lie commanded the "Niantic."
About 1832 he made his last voyage to China
and in 1840 became head of Russell & Com-
pany, the largest American commercial house
in China. Of his large means he made'gener-
ous provision for his mother and younger
brother. He visited China several times and
at one time was American vice consul at Can-
ton. He traded between the United States,
China, Europe, California and South America
and was almost invariably successful in his
vuyages. In 1847 he commanded the United
States sloop-of-war "Jamestown" laden with
provisions for the starving poor of Ireland
and made the voyage from Boston to Cork and
return in forty-nine days. As a matter of fact
Captain Forbes chartered the vessel for this
voyage at his own expense, furnished her
cargo and paid all of the charges without
awaiting government action, although he was
afterward reimbursed for all his expenses
under an act of congress; but he had no assur-
ance of being compensated by the government
when he took such prompt measures for relief
of the suffering people of Ireland. Still later
he helped to load the frigate "Macedonian" on
the same voyage of mercy. During the civil
war he was employed as a volunteer by the
government to inspect the building of nine
gunboats and at the same time built for him-
self and others the "Meteor," of 1500 tons.
She was built to cruise for vessels which were
preying upon American shipping and destroy-
ing American commerce.

And besides being a famous mariner and
deep sea sailor, and afterward an extensive
foreign trader, Captain Forbes enjoyed equal
celebrity as a ship builder, and during the
course of his active life was concerned with
the construction of as many as seventy vessels
of all classes. His first ship was the bark
"Lintin," built in 1830, and was owned exclu-
sively by him until 1832, when she sailed into
Chinese waters and remained there. In this
connection it is interesting to note the name,
class, approximate tonnage, and year of con-
struction of each of the many vessels built
imder his order or supervision, or in which he
had an interest: bark "Lintin," 390 tons. 1830;
brig "Swan," 150 tons, 1831-32; schooner
yacht "Sylph," 70 tons, 1833; ship "Hooghly,"
350 tons, 1834; schooner yacht "Fawn," 30

tons, 1835 ; brig "Henry Clay," 250 tons, 1835 ;
schooner yacht "Dream," 30 tons, 1835; ship
"Levant," 400 tons, 1836; brig "Rose," 150
tons, 1836; brig "Isidore," 300 tons, 1836; ship
"Luconia," 450 tons, 1836; bark "Canton
Packet," 350 tons, 1836; schooner yacht
"Breeze," 30 tons, 1837; steam schooner
"Midas," 180 tons, 1841 ; schooner "Anglona,"
90 tons, 1841 ; schooner "Zephyr," 150 tons,
1N42; schooner "Mazeppa," 175 tons, 1842;
ship "Xarragansett," 500 tons, 1842; schooner
"Ariel," 100 tons, 1842; ship "Paul Jones," 750
tons. 1842; bark "Paulina," 300 tons, 1843;
schooner "Don Juan," 175 tons, 1843; sru P
"Farweli," 700 or 800 tons, 1843 ! brig "Ante-
lope," 370 tons, 1843; bark "Coquette," 420
tons, 1844; steam bark "Edith," 400 tons,
1844; steam tug (iron) "R. B. Forbes," 300
tons, 1845 ; steamship "Massachusetts," 750
tons, 1845; bark "Sappho," 350 tons, 1845;
iron propeller "Firefly," 20 tons, 1846; ship
"Samoset," 800 tons, 1847; sm P "Raduga,"
500 tons, 1848; iron paddle steamer "Mint,"
40 tons, 1848; iron paddle steamer "Jacob
Bell," 250 tons, 1849; ship "Akbar," 700 or
800 tons, 1849; paddle steamer "Spark," 200
tons, 1849: schooner "Minna," 300 tons, 1852;
schooner "Brenda," 300 tons, 1852; propeller
steamer "Antelope," 450 tons, 1855 ; schooner
yacht "Halcyon," 90 tons, 1855; ship "Flor-
ence," 1000 tons, 1856; iron paddle steamer no
name. 75 tons, 1856; iron yacht "Edith,"
43 tons, 1856; wood yacht "Azalea," 43 tons,
1856; iron herm. brig "Nankin," 260 tons,
1858: iron paddle steamer "Argentina," 100
tons, 1858; iron paddle steamer "Alpha," 22
tons, 1858; schooner "Calliope," 300 tons, 1861 ;
iron paddle, no name. 70 tons, 1861 ; three iron
barges, no name, 1861 ; iron propeller steamer
"Pembroke," 300 tons, 1861 ; schooner
"Madge," 125 tons, 1863; yacht "Lillie," 20
tons, 1865; propeller steamer "Niphon," 300
tons, 1865 (sold to the government and was
very useful); propeller ship "Meteor," 1500
tons, 1865; herm. brob "Jeannie," 300 tons,
1865 : small propellers "Samson," "Hercules"
and "Leviathan," 15 tons each, 1865; schooner
"Syren," 75 tons, 1866; iron propeller "Chero-
kee," 350 tons, 1866; gunboats "Sagamore,"
"Huron/' "Chocorua," "Kineo," "Katahdin,"
"Kennebec," "Penobscot," "Aroostook" and
"Marblehead," built for the government under
the inspection of Captain Forbes in 1861 and

Captain Forbes always took an earnest inter-
est in everything connected with and concern-
in? the seamen, so much so indeed that he



came to be called the "Howard of the sea."
He did much and wrote much about the best
means of saving life in case of disaster, and
several benevolent institutions for seamen
found in him a very generous supporter. "In
his long and varied career his feet were ever
in the straight and narrow path of virtue, and
it may be truly said of him that he never lost
a friend, nor had an enemy whom he did not
endeavor to conciliate. He was almost wor-
shipped by the boys at Milton, and he made
for them with his own hands more than one
hundred models of sail and row boats. For
many years he was one of the most efficient
members and active officers of the Massachu-
setts Humane Society ; and he was awarded
the gold medal of that society and the medal
of the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane
Society for his gallant conduct in 1849, when
the Cunard steamship "Europa" ran down and
sank the emigrant ship "Charles Bartlett" in
mid-ocean. Captain Forbes jumped from the
towering bulwarks of the "Europa" to save a
woman and child and afterwards a man. He
was president of the Boston Marine Society,
trustee and president of the Sailors' Snug
Harbor, one of the Boston pilot commissioners,
member of the government of the Board of
Trade, one of the vestry of King's Chapel,
member of the Boston Port Society, and at
one time and another a director of various
railroad and insurance companies. The Mass-
achusetts Historical Society concludes its
memoir of Captain Forbes with these words:
"Of no one can it be more truly said that he
tried to do his duty ;" and such was the motto
he wished to be- placed on his gravestone. In
1834 Captain Forbes married Rose Greene
Smith, who died September 18, 1885, having
borne her husband three children: 1. Robert
Bennet, born 1837, died June 30, 1891. 2.
Edith, married Charles Eliot Perkins. 3.
James Murray, born July 17, 1845 ( see post).
(IV) James Murray, son of Robert Bennet
and Rose Greene (Smith) Forbes, was born
in Boston, July 17, 1845, acquired his earlier
education in Mr. Dixwell's school, and entered
Harvard in the class of 1866, but left before
the completion of his course to go to Canton,
China, to enter the old house of Russell &
Company, of which his father had been the
head. He became a partner and in charge of
the business at Canton and afterward at Hong
Kong, and was vice consul for Sweden and
Norway at Canton. He returned from China
at the time of his marriage in 1871 and after-
ward for several years represented Russell &

Company as agent in Boston. Later on he
became president of the Chicago, Burlington
& Northern railroad and served in that capacity
for several years. He is now a vice-president
of the Suffolk Savings Bank. He holds mem-
bership in the Somerset Club, Eastern Yacht
Club, New Riding Club, the Porcellian Club
and the Country Club, as well as in other social
organizations. In 1882 Mr. Forbes was the
prime mover in establishing the Country Club
at 1 irookline, Massachusetts, which was the first
club of its kind in the whole country, and of
which he served as chairman of the board of
governors for twelve years. He seems to have
inherited much of his father's love of yachting
and horses, and is regularly to be seen in the
saddle at all seasons of the year; and he is a
strong lover of all animals, and formerly for
many years was prominently connected with
and a director of the Massachusetts Society

Online LibraryWilliam Richard CutterGenealogical and personal memoirs relating to the families of the state of Massachusetts; (Volume 3) → online text (page 22 of 145)