D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) Hurd.

History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 114 of 118)
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accurate knowledge of practical business. He added
strength to a naturally robust constitution by farm-
work, until he was about eighteen, when he entered
the tack-works, and carefully learned the details of
the busiuess, under the oversight of his father, aud he
has ever since been connected with tack manufactur-
ing, aud, when his father retired (about ISo-I), suc-
ceeded him as proprietor. About this time an added
impetus was given to the business, large buildings
were erected, steam-power added to that of water, and
tacks, shoe-nails, heel-plates, as well as lumber aud
shingles, were manufactured, affording labor to numer-
ous workmen.

About 1875, Mr. Gurney removed his business
from Centre to South Abington, where he erected
commodious buildings, in accordance with the most
modern improvements, intended in every way to
facilitate the increased development. of this industry.
Everything is arranged with system ; neatness, order,
and taste are everywhere shown, aud all this Mr.
Gurney has accomplished by his personal iudustry,
financial ability, and enterprise. He has loved his
field of labor, and he is still fouud attending to the
many requirements of his extensive business, which
has far outgrown the expectations, if not the ambition,
of its founder, and is now one of the leading factors
of the life of the town.



' \






Mr. Gurney married, Sept. 6, 1837, Cemeotha,
daughter of Eli and Deborah (Harden) Blanehard, of
East Bridgewater. Their children are Ann (Mrs.
Charles Phillips), Myra (Mrs. L. B. Hatch), David
A., all now residents of this towD.

Mr. Gurney is unassuming and unostentatious. He
has strong convictions, and can give logical and cogent
reasons for his belief. He has stood in the van of the
temperance cause, with which he has been identified
for many years, and favors, as the best means of ad-
vancing that cause, the entire prohibition of the traffic
in intoxicating drinks. He has been several times
the candidate of the Prohibition party of Massachu-
setts for Secretary of State, having such associates on
the ticket as Wendell Phillips, Rev. Dr. Miner, etc.
He was heartily in accord with them, and from devo-
tion to principle would prefer to cast his vote with a
small minority he believed to be right rather than
with a majority voting wrong. He has a quick sense
of injustice, and was a persisteut enemy of slavery,
and on the organization of the Republican party
strongly supported its war policy and struggles for the
perpetuity of the Union. He is one of the deacons
of the Baptist Church of South Abington, of which
he has been a consistent, liberal, and leading member
for twenty years. In all matters of public- improve-
ment or private beuevoleuce, Mr. Gurney has ever
beeu amoug the first to respond, and he has well
earned by a straightforward life of industry and in-
tegrity, and his calm, cool, and clear judgment, the
high place he occupies in the community, which
justly classes him among its most valuable aud valued

Augustus Whitman, son of Jared and Susanna
Whitman, was born in South Abington, Mass., March
16, 1S21. (For ancestral history, see biography of
Jared Whitman in chapter of Bench and Bar.) His
childhood and early youth passed happily. Active,
impulsive, generous, — a thorough boy, — he was also
reliable and faithful to every required duty. After a
fair improvement of such advantages as could be had
in the public and private schools of his native town,
in his fifteenth year he entered that celebrated train-
ing-school, Phillips' Exeter Academy, Exeter, N. II.,
then under the care of the venerable Dr. Abbott,
where he remained a year aud a half. As was showu
by his letters home and the official reports, he was
diligent and made highly commendable progress in
his studies, especially selecting what would be of
practical use in after-life. The next year he passed at

home. In his eighteenth year (1838) he entered the
hardware-store of Peter Grinnell & Sons, Providence,
II. L, to whose interests he devoted himself most
faithfully and intelligently. His social life widened.
In the Franklin Society he met a class of young men
eager for improvement, the fire company found him
an active member, and the artillery company, which
he joined, was called out in the Dorr rebellion. The
dangers he then shared in the cause of law aud order
may have intensified his sympathy in the struggle for
the right and for the maintenance of the Union in
the great civil war, and possibly the exposures of this
part of his life may have laid the foundation of the
infirmities of his later years. In 1848, a few years
after leaving Providence, he became associated in the
same business with Mr. Calvin Foster, of Worcester,
where he remained for some years, making many val-
ued friends. In 1856 he removed to Fitchburg, and
entered into the manufacturing business, making a
specialty of mowing-machine knives. The business
increased so rapidly as to necessitate the establish-
ment of a branch, which was done at Akron, Ohio.
These various branches were formed finally into the
Whitman & Barnes Manufacturing Company, of
which he was the first president. He was also inter-
ested in aud took an active part in the management
of the manufacturing enterprises in Fitchburg and
vicinity. He was president of the Worcester North
Savings Institution, of Fitchburg, for ten years, aud
its financial adviser until his death. In 1874, after
a severe illness, Mr. Whitman purchased a place at
Leominster, in which he took much interest and
pleasure. This country life had a beneficial effect
upon his health, and he took pride in making a model
stock farm. He imported many valuable animals
from Europe, and his herds of "short-horns" and
other blooded cattle gave his farm a wide reputation.
About 1878, Mr. Whitman retired from active busi-
ness, removed to Worcester, and purchased the farm
formerly occupied by his brother, Jared Whitman.
Here he was indulging his taste in many improve-
ments, and had planned to complete a beautiful estate
on which to pass his days, when, Oct. 2, 1880. ho
was thrown from his carriage in his orchard, and was
instantly killed.

Concerning Mr. Whitman's character and ability,
the following extracts from memorials given by those
who were intimately connected with him will speak
better than any words of ours. He did a man's work
well in the face of difficulties which would have ap-
palled maoy.

From trustees of the Worcester North Savings
Institution :



" As members of this corporation, of which Mr, Whitman
was president for ten years and its tinaucial adviser from its
inception, in 1S6S, until his death, we have been witnesses to
his earnest and efficient performance of the trusts reposed in
him, to his patient attendance upon the meetings of trustees
under great physical infirmity, to his uniform courtesy and
kindness, and to the eminent public spirit that animated bun
in the discharge of his official duty, and we hereby record our
belief that all interested in the great trust in the execution of
which his example is a rich legacy have occasion for generous
gratitude to his memory, as the friend of this institution and
a leading contributor to its success."

From the directors of the Rollstone National Bauk
of Fitehburg:

" Mr. Whitman was possessed of marked traits of character,
which rendered his life more than an ordinary one. His ca-
reer gives an example of what may be achieved by thorough
uprightness of character, honesty of purpose, a just regard for
tin' rights and happiness of others, and an indomitable will,
which in his case triumphed ovur physical infirmities, such as
a weaker nature would have succumbed to. He was kindly in
disposition, and always courteous in his intercourse with bis
fellow-men. Though tenacious of his own opinions, lie thor-
oughly respected those of others. Ho was just and exact in all
his dealings, and required equal justice and exactness in re-
turn. He was outspoken in his views, and had a repugnance
amounting almost to contempt for hypocrisy, insincerity, or
double-dealing in any one. He was generous, and bis contribu-
tions to both public and private enterprises were bestowed with
a liberal hand. He took much interest in worthy young men
struggling amid the vicissitudes of life, and many a one has
cause to bless his memory for the material assistance and val-
uable counsel ho so freely bestowed. We recognize his long
service as a director of this institution, and accord full credit
for his share in a management which has brought so much of
success. Let us emulate his virtue and cherish his memory."

The directors of the Whitman & Barnes Manufac-
turing Company, Syracuse, N. Y. :

"Bear our witness to the thorough integrity of character,
earnestness of purpose, and kindly fellowship of our departed
associate and friend. He was our senior in years and in busi-
ness, and we bear testimony to bis wiso and able counsels in the
formation of our company, and to his steadfast helpfulness and
ready assistance always at our command in the management of
our business."

Rev. II. L. Edwards, a former pastor of South Ab-

iugton Congregational Church, pays this tribute to his

worth :

•' I never was with him but to admire. He seeiucd so guile-
less, so pure in his nature and character, so considerate for
others, so self-forgetful, notwithstanding his cares, his pains,
and his infirmities. I am sure I should have been stupid nut
to have seen all this, or seeing not to have admired. How a
Ulun so quiet and so undemonstrative could achieve so much
was always to me a mystery. That he had rare ability and
could be conscious of it, without being the least ostentatious,
I do not doubt. And who that believes in a * better country'
can doubt that hu is an inhabitant. If not he, then who ?"

The citizens of his native town of South Abington
hold him affectionately in memory, not only for his
sterling personal qualities, but also for his generosity

| in presenting the town with a valuable piece of land
comprising eleven acres, to be made a public park, and
which bears his name. In coming years this will be
counted a benefaction of inestimable value. He also
remembered the Congregational society munificently
in his will.


Of the old representative families of Plymouth
Colony the Stetsons rank among the first for business
ability and worth. They are all direct descendants of
Cornet Robert Stetson, one of the earliest settlers,
and the only one known to have emigrated to the
colony (see biography of Nahum Stetsou, Bridge-
water). Among the most prominent business men
who have had large mercantile interests during the
last half-century or more may be mentioned Martin
Sumner Stetson, son of Barnabas and Lucy (Bar-
stow) Stetson, born June 1, 1809, at East Abington
(now Rockland). The line of descent is Cornet
Robert', Robert 1 , Isaac 3 , Peleg', Ephraim 5 , Barnabas ,
Martin S 7 . His great-grandfather, Peleg*, was the
first Stetson to settle in Abington, 1738. His grand-
father, Ephraim 4 , third son of Peleg, married Ruth
Ford. He was deacon of the Third Congregational
Church from its organization until the infirmities of
age induced him to resign the office. He lived to
the great age of ninety-six years with unimpaired
faculties. His children were Mary, Barnabas, Lydia,
Ephraim, Jr., and Ruth. Barnabas, boru April 27,
1775, married, Oct. 10, 1802, Lucy, daughter of
Daniel and Betsey (Tilden) Barstow, of Hanover.
(The families of Tilden and Barstow are old and val-
ued New England families, and prominent men ate
to be found in their number, among them Samuel J.
Tilden. The Barstows are large ship-builders, and
also extensively engaged in manufactures and mer-
chandising.) Their children were Amos (died sud-
denly, aged twenty), Lucy B., Martin S., Julia A.
(Mrs. Samuel Blake, Jr.), Barnabas (deceased), and
Lydia B. Mr. Baruabas Stetson was largely inter-
ested iu various branches of business, — merchandise,
farming, and manufacturing brick. He was asso-
ciated with his younger brother, Ephraim, with the
firm-name of B. &, E. Stetson, and carried on a large
mercantile business, having one store at East Abing-
ton (now Rockland), the other at Ilauover Four Cor-
ners. He was an active, energetic business mau
through life ; honest himself, he placed too much
confidence in the honesty of his fellow-men for his
own pecuniary interests.

Martin's scholastic education was acquired at the


(^JU-ti. ^/-^4t7~,



district .school of li is Dative town, supplemented by
six months at an academy at Bolton, Mass. When
twelve years old he entered the store of his uncle at
Hanover, and stayed there some years, until, upon
the death of an older brother, his services were re-
quired at home by his father, where he remained
until he was twenty-one. During this time, however,
he taught school several winter terms at East Abiug-
ton and Hanover. In 1835 he commenced the manu-
facture of boots and shoes in company with Samuel
Blake, Jr. (his brother-in-law), with the firm-name
of Stetson & Blake. The manufacture of boots and
shoes, which originated in Abington, was then in its
infancy, and this was one of the few first firms. They
commenced their commercial career by manufacturing
for Amasa Walker & Co., oue of the oldest estab-
lished firms in Boston, and whose successors still con-
tinue the business. After a few years the firm of
Stetson & Blake dissolved, and Mr. Stetsou continued
alone. In 1836-37 occurred the great financial crisis,
and there were many failures of large firms ; nearly all
the banks suspended specie payment, aud a general
demoralization and overthrow of business was the re-
sult. During this time a number of manufacturers
established houses at the South (New Orleans,
Charleston, aud Mobile, etc.) for the purpose of dis-
posing of their goods. Mr. Stetson started a store in
Mobile iu 1840, and his brother was placed in charge.
In November, 1842, however, Mr. Stetson went South
and spent the winter, continuing his manufacturing at
the North and also selling on commission a large
amount of goods from other manufacturers, aud soon
succeeded in building up an extensive business, the
largest of the kind in Mobile. From that time for
nineteen years (until the Rebellion) he passed eight
months of every year in the South, having his family
with him, returning North for the summer. We
quote Mr. Stetson's own words as to the feeling of
the business men at the North : " Up to the time of
the attack on Fort Sumter the busiuess men of the
North firmly believed that some compromise would
be effected between the two sections, that war would
not ensue. Acting on this belief, merchandise was
shipped freely after many of the States had seceded.
Wheu the attack occurred it was too late to remedy
the mistake." Before the commencement of hostili-
ties, Mr. Stetson came North aud passed most of the
time during the war at South Abington, where he
had a pleasant home, purchased some few years pre-
viously, and where he still resides, leaving his partner,
Mr. James B. Studley, of Hanover, Mass., who was
associated with him in busiuess in 1850, with firm-
name of M. S. Stetson & Co., to care for the business.

Mr. Studley had been first clerk for him from the
commencemeut of his business, in 1842, and managed
all affairs during his absence at the North, and was a
most reliable, competent, and worthy man.

At this time the assets of the company were four
hundred thousand dollars. There was no possibility
of takiug any of the money away, as all intercourse
was suspended, and fifty thousand dollar bonds were
required that not one dollar should be sent out of the
Confederacy and no debt could be collected. Some
three years after coining North, Mr. Stetson received
the first news of his business in Mobile from a friend
who had escaped from the South, who informed him
of the death of his partner from fever caused by im-
prisonment at a sickly season of the year iu a filthy
prison, for refusing to enlist in a military company
wheu not liable to do military duty. Judge Jones,
acting under the Confederacy, confiscated the prop-
erty aud appointed a receiver to take charge of it.
Immediately on Lee's surrender, Mr. Stetson returned
to Mobile, reaching there in ten days, to find his
property gone aud the Confederacy a thing of the

During his life in Mobile, Mr. Stetson attained a
high rank in commercial circles, his busiuess, whole-
sale exclusively, extending to every hamlet in three
or four of the Southern States, and his name was
known to every merchant as a tower of financial
strength and commercial honor. Although every-
thing was changed at the South, and there still ex-
isted great animosity against Northerners, yet as Mr.
Stetson and his family had been associated for so
many years intimately with the best elements of so-
! ciety, and he had always liberally contributed of his
means to sustain every worthy object, and for years
had been an elder of the Presbyterian Church, — the
Southerners acknowledging his unblemished charac-
ter, freely admitted him into the old confidential
relations (for nothing but his New England birth
aud disbelief in slavery could ever be brought against
him) when he, at the close of the war, engaged in
trade iu Mobile. He opened a large stock of goods,
which, as the couutry was almost entirely destitute,
was iu large demand, and brought rich returns, his
sales averaging three hundred thousand dollars per
annum. In 1869 he transferred his business to his
sou, retiring from active life. In 1861, Mr. Stetsou
had established a branch store in St. Paul, Minn., but
closed his interest there in 1865.

Mr. Stetson married, Nov. 14, 1836, Eliza A.,
daughter of John Thomas, of Troy, N. Y., where
her father held the office of city chamberlain. Their
children were John T. (deceased), Amos Sumner,



Helen E. (Mrs. Alonzo Lane). Julia B. (deceased),
and Virginia A. (deceased).

Mr. Stetson has been a great traveler in America,
preferring to see first American rather than Euro-
pean scenery. On the completion of the Union Pa-
cific Railroad (1870) he joined the first organized
excursion — that of the Boston Board of Trade — to
California, Yosemite, etc. This was one of the pleas-
antest and most successful trips of the kind ever
made. He is a director of the Abington National
Bank ; never has entertained a desire for political
office, or to be connected with society organizations
or clubs. He has been strictly a temperance man
from youth, and was president of the first young
men's temperance society organized in Plymouth

Mr. Stetson retains the erect bearing, courteous
grace, and dignified appearance which have charac-
terized him through life. An able business man, a
genial companion, and a kind husband and father, he
has given and derived much enjoyment during his
diversified life. He has cheerfully given wherever
charity was needed, and always heartily co-operated
with matters of public interest. His social nature
has made many friends. He is now enjoyiug the
evening of an honorable and useful career in his
pleasant home in South Abington, with his children
and grandchildren near him.


Oliver G. Healy was a native of Pembroke, Mass.,
where he was born Oct. 17, 1813. His early life
was passed with an uncle, a farmer in Pembroke.
When about sixteen he came with a brother to South
Abington to learn the carpenter's trade, after which
he engaged in business as carpenter and builder, which
he followed until his death, July 2, 187G, from fever
contracted at Philadelphia while attending the Cen-
tennial Exhibition. He married, July 17, 1834,
Phebe, daughter of Philip and Mary (Taylor) Reed,
who was a native of South Abington.

Mr. Healy was a man of quiet and reserved man-
ners, of good shrewd judgment in business, and an
honest and conscientious workman. The quick
growth and prosperity of the village of South Abing-
ton was largely owing to his energy and enterprise.
He purchased land, laid out streets, and built numer-
ous houses which he sold on easy terms to those who
desired to acquire the owuership of a home. Any
honest, industrious workman could be sure of Mr.
Healy's sympathy and aid in this direction, and, while

at the same time advancing his own interests and
prosperity of the town, he was still the benefactor of
the poor man. In compliment to him for the develop-
ment he has made, this elevated tract of land has been
changed from " Mount Zion" to " Mount Olives."
His business sagacity and industry were rewarded by
a substantial financial prosperity which he was ever
ready to share with any deserving ease of charity or
benevolent objects.

Mr. Healy was deeply imbued with religion. In-
deed, that seemed a vital part of his character. He
was a valued member of the Congregational Church,
a popular Sabbath-school teacher, and heartily gave
his personal assistance aud monetary aid to its chari-
ties and support. He was especially interested in
missionary work, aud above every other object was
he disposed to aid this important cause, bequeathing
to this grand work the valuable property he had ac-
quired after the faithful wife — the loved companion
and colaborer of years — should uo longer need its
use. During his life Mr. Healy made numerous
friends who were drawn to him by the many good
qualities of his nature, and his life affords a good ex-
ample to many a poor aud struggling youth. With
limited education, by honest integrity aud industry
he raised himself from humble circumstances to a
comfortable position in society, and was enabled to do
more for the advancement of his town than most
others, and his memory is cherished by a large num-
ber. In all his enterprises and charities he was
heartily seconded by Mrs. Healy, who is now en-
gaged in carrying out such benevolent work as would
meet his approbation.


Jacob Pratt Bates, son of David and Almeria
Bates, was born in Soutli Abington, Mass., April 7,

The surname Bates is derived from the old French
name Bartholomew. The first American resident
was Clement Bates, who came from Kent, England,
in the ship " Elizabeth," in 1635, and settled in Hing-
ham, Mass. He is the aucestor of the numerous
family bearing his name in this section of New Eng-

Eleazer Bates, greatgrandfather of Jacob P. Bates,
was born probably in Abington before 1750. He was
a- blacksmith by trade, and one of those New Eng-
enders, of Puritan stock, possessed of robust bodies
uud old-fashioned virtues, which have been transmitted
to their descendants. He had numerous children,
among them four sons, — Robert, Seth, Eleazer, and



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John. All were of marked physical development,
and all over six feet in height except John, who was
short of stature. John was born in Abington about
17TG. He married Milly Pratt, of Weymouth, and
had but one child, — David. He died in 1841.

David Bates was born March 12, 1805, in Abing-
ton, and has followed the making of boots and shoes
from boyhood. His specialty has been fine custom-
work, in which he has displayed much skill and taken
great pride. He has now (1884) a pair of boots,
which he made for his own use about 1854. They
have been worn every year since and are good boots
yet, needing no repair. He married, September,
1828, Almeria, daughter of Jacob and Hannah Loriug
Pratt, of South Weymouth. They have seven chil-
dren, all sons, — David B., Edwin W., James E.,
Henry A., Charles, Jacob P., and Andrew, — all stal-
wart six-footers. This family has a remarkable war
record : five of these boys served the Union in the
great civil war. As Mr. Bates would humorously say,
" I have thirty feet of boys in the army." David,
Edwin, James, and Charles served in the Thirty-
eighth Massachusetts Volunteers for three years.
Edwin was nearly starved in Libby Prison, where he
was incarcerated for six months, and Charles was
slightly wounded by a spent ball. These were their
only casualties during the long and active service, and
all are uow well and strong. Mr. Bates is tall, erect,

Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 114 of 118)