J. B. Beers.

History of Middlesex county, Connecticut, with biographical sketches of its prominent men online

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Online LibraryJ. B. BeersHistory of Middlesex county, Connecticut, with biographical sketches of its prominent men → online text (page 125 of 147)
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tive teachings of John Calvin and the doctrine of the
Trinity, and the adoption of views substantially in ac-
cord with those of Dr. William EUery Channing as set
forth in his published works. His conscientiousness
and habit of thorough investigation had a marked effect
upon his subsequent career. By his industrious and
studious habits, and upright conduct, he won the confi-
dence, and esteem of his employers. His clerkship in
Meriden was continued with Major Cowles and his
successors in business, Tibbals, Butler & Co., and
Butler, Linsley & Co., for a period of six years. He
was thereafter for one year in the employ of General
Edwin R. Yale, then a prominent manufacturer of Meri-

In the spring of 1836, he removed to New York, and
entered the service of Perkins, Hopkins & White, whole-
sale merchants, then extensively engaged in the dry
goods jobbing business with the South. He remained
with that firm, in confidential relations, through a period
of unusual instability and difficulty in the mercantile af-
fairs of the country, during which time by active partici-
pation in the business he gained valuable experience in
laying the foundation of his future prosperity. Upon
the reorganization of that firm in 1842, he became inter-
ested as a partner with Perkins & Hopkins, and upon
a subsequent organization, the firm name was changed to
Hopkins, Allen & Co. It was, however, as a member of
the last named firm, whose high reputation was a fitting
tribute to its enterprise, integrity, and success, that he
became prominently known to the business world.

His intercourse with the people of the South made him
familiar with their views and policy in reference to the
institution of slavery, and perceiving the growing antag-
onism between free and slave labor, which foreshadowed
serious difficulty to the country, he resolved to withdraw
from mercantile business (then conducted largely upon
credit) and retire, for a time, to private life. He there-
upon removed from New York, and established his resi-
dence where his family now resides. Being in active
sympathy with the government of the United States in
ils efforts to maintain its integrity, and suppress the Re-
bellion, he received an unsought nomination to represent
the Nineteenth Senatorial District, in the State of Con-
necticut, and was elected thereto in 1863, and again in
1864, and in both years was chairman of the joint stand-
ing committee on finance, whose labors were of the
highest importance in thaticritical period of public affairs,
when the State was raising money for the war. The
financial measures recommended by that committtee and

adopted by the Legislature, not only enabled the State to
creditably place its full quota of men in the field, but es-
tablished a policy in the revision of the tax laws, which
has met the approval of the people of the State for 20
years, and reduced to a minimum amount the public
debt. The present equitable method of taxing railroad
property, on the basis of what it will sell for, by which
the market value of its stock and bonds is made the
measure of value of such property for purposes of taxa-
tion, was suggested by him.

On the 17th day of June 1864, Mr. Allen introduced
into the Connecticut Legislature the first resolution in
favor of the abolition of slavery by constitutional amend-
ment, which resolution was as follows:

"General Assembly, May Session, 1864.

" Whereas: The formidable rebellion now existing
against the authority of the United States originated in
a conspiracy to subvert our free institutions and establish
a separate government based upon the institution of
human slavery; and whereas such slavery is incompatible
with the peace, prosperity and union of all portions of
our common country; therefore be it

"Resolved: That our Senators and Representatives in
Congress be and they are hereby requested, to use their
efforts to secure the passage by Congress of the proposed
amendment of the Constitution of the United States, for-
ever prohibiting human slavery within the limits of the
National Union."

Mr. Allen was one of the delegates from Connecticut
to meet a convention of loyal Southerners at Philadel-
phia on the 3d day of September 1866, called to give ex-
pression to the sentiments of the people in support of
Congress against the defection of Andrew Johnson. He
was prominent in the movement that arrested the "peace
flag" heresy at Saybrook, or the raising of any flag not
representing all the States of the Union. He was one
of the Fellows of the corporation of Yale College while
he was senator in the years aforesaid, the old law being
that the six senior senators were members ex officio of
that corporation.

In the Hayes presidential campaign of 1S76, he was a
republican presidential elector in this State.

In 1867, he was elected president of the Peoria, Pekin
& Jacksonville Railroad Company, of the State of Illi-
nois, which position he held in the active administration
of the property for many years, during which time that
part of its road from the town of Virginia to the city of
Jacksonville, was constructed.

In 1883, he was again elected to the State Senate from
the Twenty-first District, formerly the Nineteenth, and
was made chairman of the joint standing committee on
railroads, for which his experience in railroad affairs
eminently qualified him. During the session of the Legis-
lature of 1884, he was appointed chairman of the com-
mission raised by the General Assembly to inaugurate,
with appropriate ceremonies, the Governor Buckingham
Statue, which ceremonies took place on the i8ih of June

As such chairman, it devolved on Mr. Allen to intro-



duce the speakers participating in the exercises at the
State Capitol. His opening address, in the battle flag
vestibule, was as follows:
" Men and Women of Connecticut:

' You have assembled in testimony of your regard for
the illustrious patriot, statesman, and Christian, chosen
to be the supreme Executive- of the people of this State
and voice their will, during a period in which their 'lives
and fortunes and sacred honor' were at stake, in the
greatest struggle for free government the world has wit-

" In the presence of these battle flags, and the sur-
vivors of those who bore them to victory, you have come
to dedicate a statue, erected, in love and gratitude, to the
memory of William A. Buckingham.

"As he looked to the source ot all strength for guid-
ance, it is fitting to this occasion, that his pastor for
many years, the Rev. Dr. Merriman, commence the ex-
ercises with prayer. It is my privilege to present to you
Dr. Merriman."

After the prayer, the Hon. Henry B. Harrison, of the
commission for the procurement of the statue, made an
address of presentation. The statue was unveiled and
received by Governor Waller, on behalf of the State,
and an oration was delivered by Senator O. H. Piatt,
from a platform at the north entrance of liie Capitol.
The benediction was pronounced by Pre.sident Smith, ol
Trinity College. Major John C. Kinney was the grand
marshall of the day. 7,500 war veterans were present in
the parade, and a large concourse of people were assem-
bled on that occasion.

On the loth of November 184.7, ^'I''- Allen married
Mary Ann, daughter of Hon. Elisha Phelps, of Simsbury,
Conn., whose father, Maior-General Noah Phelps,served
in the French and Indian wars, and was a distinguished
ofHcer of the American Revolution.

Seven children were the issue of that marriage: Lucy
Phelps, Jane Jennett, Edith Electa (who died in the
sixth year of her age) Mary Constance, John H., William
Hall, and Grace Electa. Lucy Phelps, the eldest, mar-
ried Charles Leslie Morgan, of New York; Jane Jennett
married Hon William Hamersley, of Hartford; and
Mary Constance married Benjamin Knower, of Scar-
borough on the Hudson, and New York.

Mr. Allen has a keen love of the beautiful in nature, is
simple in his habits, thorough in all matters of business,
a man of quiet yet dignified demeanor, thoughtful of the
wants of others, zealous and earnest in his efforts to
promote the public good, conscientious, fearless, truth-
ful, and independent.

His beautiful home is at Old Saybrook, on Maple

Daniel Chapman Spencer.

The life of Daniel C. Spencer affords a striking exam-
ple of what the young men of America are capable of.
Commencing the battle of life at nine years of age, he
has not reached half the period allotted to man ere he
becomes associated with the largest commercial house in

the United States, and when most men are still actively
engaged in business pursuits, he is leading a quiet
life of retirement, with a sufficient competence to place
him beyond the possibility of want during his remaining
years. He comes from a race of men, however, who
have left their impress on every age, from the time of
William the Conqueror, when Robert de Spenser became
the steward or " dispenser of the king's bounty," down
to the present time.

His American ancestor was Jared Spencer, who came
to this country about 1610, and settled first at what is
now Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 1662 removed to
Haddam, in this county, from which place Thomas, one
of his sons, removed, in 1685, to Pochaug, now West-
brook. The descendants of Thomas were mostly
farmers, but David, the father of Daniel C. Spencer, was
a farmer, mason, and blacksmith. He was born in West-
brook, but removed, early in life, to that part of the town
of Saybrook known as Oyster River. He married Rachel,
daughter of Asa Bushnell, of Westbrook, a descendant
of one of the first settlers under the Fenwick patent.
By her he had eleven children: David jr., Nancy, Charles
Chauncey, Una Maria, Edwin, Alvin Benjamin, Julia
Elizabeth, Daniel Chapman, Harriet Amelia, Emily Ann,
and Mary Augusta.

Daniel Chapman, the eighth child and fifth son, was
born in that part of Saybrook designated as Oyster
River, on the 3d of December 1823. He attended the
public school until he was nine years of age, when he
went to work on his father's farm, where he continued
until he was 22 years of age. During this period he at-
tended the public school and academy for a time in the
winter. He might have lived and died a farmer, but a
Providential'mi.-ifortune changed the whole current of
his life. About this time, while working in the field, he
had a sunstroke, the effects of which compelled him
to give up farming, and for three years he filled a clerk-
ship in the stores of his native town and in Westbrook.
During this period he familiarized himself with the class
of goods usually kept by country merchants, and learned
their wants. This Was the stepping stone to his subse-
quent advancement. He next entered the employ of L.
L. Bishop, of New Haven, as traveling salesman, the
stock of goods at that time being carried in peddlers'
wagons. He entered into the business with his whole
soul, and soon acquired a reputation as a salesman that
extended beyond the limits of his own State.

Messrs. Moulton, Plympton, Williams. & Co.-, one of
the leading wholesale dry goods firms of New York, heard
of him, and after a brief personal interview offered him
the entire charge of their fancy goods department. He
was fearful that they had overestimated his ability and
was reluctant to accept the position, but so anxious were
they to secure his services that they at once gave him a
check to purchase the time of his unexpired contract
from his employer. He remained with the new firm for
two years, until their failure, and so well pleased were
they with his management of their affairs that Mr. Moul-
ton, one of the firm, prepared the way for his entrance




into the house of Claflin, Mellen & Co., then the second
largest dry goods house in the United State?. They
were at that time located at the Trinity Building, No.
Ill Broadway. The firm was then contemplating open-
ing a notion department. After a brief interview
Mr. Spencer offered to take charge of it for one
year without any compensation. Mr. Claflin declined
the offer and insisted on paying him a salary, with the
promise of further compensation at the end of the year
should the venture prove successful. The department
was limited to a small space in the basement; but Mr.
Spencer at once devoted his whole energies to the busi-
ness, and at the end of the year his purchases and sales
had nearly equaled those of some other departments long
established. The balance sheet was so satisfactory to
Mr. Claflin that he at once gave Mr. Spencer a check for
f i,ooo in addition to his salary. The engagement was
renewed on the basis of a percentage of the profits, and
so rapidly did the business increase that the firm was
soon after compelled to change their quarters for
the purpose of increasing their facilities. They con-
sequently purchased a site on the corner of Church
and Worth streets, extending through to West
Broadway, covering nearly an acre of ground.
On this they erected a mammoth building six stories
high. The notion department, under the management
of Mr. Spencer, covered a large portion of the third and
also a portion of the fifth floor. This soon equaled in
importance that of other departments connected with the
business. To handle the immense quantities of goods re-
quired the aid of over forty clerks; and to control and
direct this number of men, to attend to all the details of
the business, required great powers of combination and
organization, together with a strong will and decision of-
character. Mr. Spencer, however, proved himself equal
to the great responsibility. During his connection with
the business, covering a period of thirteen years, the
house rose from being the second largest to the largest
dry goods house in the United States, the sales exceed-
ing those of its distinguished rival by several millions of
dollars. The strain, however, proved too great for Mr.
Spencer's powers of endurance, and in the fall of 1867 he
broke down completely, and was compelled to give up
business." Mr. Claflin urged him to continue his busi-
ness connection with the house, and to take as much
time as he chose for recuperation and rest; but Mr.
Spencer knew that the mere physical rest would be of
little help to him so long as the care and responsibility
rested upon him, and this he found it impossible to shake
off. He therefore determined to give up business alto-
gether and to spend the remainder of his days, which he
then thought were few, in retirement and rest. This he
did on the ist of January 1868.

Soon after it became known to the different employes
of his department that he was about to sever his con-
nection with the house, a most touching scene awaited
him, which for the time completely unnerved him. It is
thus described in the New York Tribune of February
8th 1868:

" Mr. D. C. Spencer, for many years past, the genial
and able manager of the Fancy Goods Department of
the well known house of Messrs. H. B. Claflin & Co.,
having been obliged, on account of ill health, to retire
from business, his late employes, headed by his worthy
and efficient successor, Mr. James H. Day, presented Mr.
Spencer with a superb silver service of the richest, yet
most chaste workmanship, contained in a truly elegant
black walnut casket. Each piece of the service bears
the following inscription:

' Presented to

D. C. Spencer,

By his late employes.

On his retiring from business,

Jan. I, 1868.'

" Accompanying the service was a very handsome card,
36 by 40 inches, incased in a heavy gilt frame, on which
is a photograph of the house of Claflin & Co., and one
of each of the donors. In the center of this card, in an
oval space surrounded by the photographs, are these

" ' We, whose familiar faces surround this Card of
Presentation, would respectfully state that in your retire-
ment from business and our midst, we feel that we lose
a genial face, a good counseling' friend, an exemplary
Christian, and a true business man.

" ' Expressive of our feelings of high respect for you
and our deep regret that your impaired health compels
our separation, we ask that you receive this card and
service in the spirit in which it is presented as a me-
mento of past pleasant associations.

"' We would further add^that it shall be our earnest
prayer that your health may be restored, and that you
may long be spared to your family and for society's

" To these costly testimonials of the regard of his late
employes, and their regret at losing him from their midst,
Mr. Spencer replied in the following characteristic and
appropriate letter:

"'Gentleman: No language, however eloquent, can
picture the surprise and pleasure awakened in my breast
by the elegant present of which you have made me the
recipient, and which I shall always prize most highly for
its intrinsic worth, and far more as being a testimonial
of your regard and esteem for me, and of the pleasure
and benefit you have derived from our business relations.

" ' When the heart is full, many words seem but to
weaken the expression of our gratitude. I will therefore
only say that for your handsome gift and the accompany-
ing kind wishes in my behalf, I thank you from the
bottom of a grateful heart.

"'It has not been without sincere regret on my part
that I have ended our business connection by withdraw-
ing myself from your midst; but although the state of
my health has rendered that withdrawal necessary, I
shall ever treasure up in my mind the many pleasant
memories arising from our past relations, and not
one of your faces shall ever cease to be remembered
with feelings of the deepest interest. I shall always




pray earnestly and hopefully that none of those faces
may be overcast by clouds of sorrow or disappointment,
but that each one of your lives may be crowned with
success and happiness.'

" This happy affair will long be remembered, both by
the recipient and the donors, and the recollection of it
will doubtless be a source of great pleasure to them in
after years."

Mr. Spencer had previously purchased a number of
acres contiguous to the old homestead property in Say-
brook, known as the Chalker farm. Here he retired to
spend his days. The old place was enlarged and im-
proved and soon made to "blossom like the rose." The
meadows were turned into cranberry patches on
which he spent several thousand dollars in working and
improving. He surrounded his residence with trees
and flowers until it now has the appearance of a fairy
land. Amid these surroundings he soon recovered his
health and then devoted his energies to making such
public improvements in the town as should tend to attract
others to this beautiful spot selected by Col. Fenwick as
the '■ garden spot of the earth," more than two hundred
years ago. Mr. Spencer purchased loo acres of land at
Guard House Point, and subsequently, in connection
with John F. and R. M. Bushnell, purchased 250 acres
of what was known as the Lynde farm, which comprised
a part of the Fenwick estate. This property was sold
to the New Saybrook Company, and subsequently laid
out in building lots, most of which were disposed of to
parties who contemplated erecting summer residences.
Soon after Mr. Spencer had disposed of his interest in
this property he became connected with the New Say-
brook Company as a stockholder and director. In the
erection of the hotel known as the Fenwick Hall, and
other extensive improvements made by this company,
Mr. Spencer took an active part.

His strong religious and benevolent nature has led him
to make other improvements for the benefit of his neigh-
bors and fellow citizens. He was largely instrumental
in the erection of the beautiful stone building occupied
by the Grace Episcopal Church, and one of the largest
contributors to the building fund. He has been an ear-
nest and devout member and a liberal contributor to its
support since he became connected with the church. He
holds the office of warden and clerk.

He was one of the pioneers in the Valley Railroad
enterprise and was instrumental in securing the present
location as the terminus of the road. He is still a
director in the company, which position he has held for
many years.

Mr. Spencer is a man of strong and positive convic-
tions, naturally reticent about his own affairs, but always
seeking to promote the good and happiness of
others. Owing to his strongly sympathetic nature and
his kindness of heart he is frequently imposed upon
by parties who take advantage of his well known lib-

On the i2th of October 181; i, he married Emily Maria,
daughter of William Stokes, of Westbrook, one of the
most ardent and enthusiastic patriots, and a volunteer in
the war of 1812. He was one of the brave men who
shouldered his musket and intercepted the retreating
British troops after the burning of Essex, in 1814.

The issue of Mr. Spencer's marriage with Miss Stokes,
was eight children: William David, the eldest, born in
1852, became a practicing physician; Ella Maria, born
1856, married Dr. B. W. Leonard, a prominent dentist of
Saybrook; Daniel Stokes, born i860; Grace Emily, born
1861; George Jarvis, born 1866; Edmond Chapman, born
1869; Frederick Clarence, born 1870; and Henry Russell,
born 187s, died on the fifth of May 1876.


By Mbs. J. S. Batnb.

Geographical and Descriptive.

PORTLAND is one of the two northern towns of
Middlesex county. It was first known as East
Middletown, being constituted the Third Society of Mid-
dletown, in 1714. In 1767, it was incorporated as Chat-
ham, that township also including the societies of Mid-
dle Haddam and East Hampton.

In May 1841, that part which was known as the First
Society of Chatham was set off as a separate town, with
the name of Portland. It is bounded on the north by
the town of Glastonbury, on the east by Chatham, and
the Connecticut River forms its western and southern
boundary. It is nine miles long and three miles wide.

The population of the township at the several census
dates has been reported as follows: 1840, included with
Chatham; 1850, 2,905; x86o, 3,657; 1870,4,694; 1880,

The assessors statistics, for 1883, are as follows:
Acres, 11,642; valuation of real estate, $788,430; per-
sonal property, $1,155,597; debt, $318; total taxable
property, $1,944,027; polls; $755; school tax (State),
$9,211.07; county tax, $387.98; road tax, $2,255.16;
poor tax, $5,028.50.

The village is. beautifully situated upon the eastern
bank of the Connecticut River, where it sweeps around
the bend opposite Middletown and Cromwell. Any one
looking at Portland, as represented upon a good map,
will see at once the significance and appropriateness of
its Indian name, Wangunk, " The Bend."

It is celebrated chiefly for its fine quarries of brown or
sand stone; these, with other geological formations, are
described at length in another place. There are some
fine farming lands, principally near the river. In some
places it is very rocky, but well adapted to sheep farm-
ing. Its location, in regard to the river, and its other
natural advantages, make it, after its rather uninviting
approaches are passed, one of the most delightful of vil-

The Main street is about two miles long, and four rods
average width. It is shaded by beautiful old elms, and
in some places by a double row of maples. It is partly
lighted and paved. It has a fine soldiers' monument,

six churches, two post offices, stores, two public halls,
and nine school houses.

The shipyard of Gildersleeve & Sons is at the upper
end of the village called Gildersleeve. This village has
a post office and a large brick store. An account of the
shipyard, churches, schools, and industries of the town
will be found under those respective heads.

Besides the great brownstone quarries for which Port-
land is famous, it has other quarries, which in other lo-
calities might be considered remarkable. The granite
quarry on Calling s Hill, now disused, furnished the stone
for the railroad bridge across the river.

On this same hill is a chalybeate spring, known for
many years, but never much used for medicinal purposes.
There is also a spring near the top of Bald Hill, said to
be strongly impregnated with iron. In 1789, appearances
of iron were noticed on Calling's Hill, but the ore was
imbedded in so hard a rock that no efforts were made to

Online LibraryJ. B. BeersHistory of Middlesex county, Connecticut, with biographical sketches of its prominent men → online text (page 125 of 147)