State Historical Society of Wisconsin cn.

Collections - State Historical Society of Wisconsin (Volume 10) online

. (page 40 of 58)
Online LibraryState Historical Society of Wisconsin cnCollections - State Historical Society of Wisconsin (Volume 10) → online text (page 40 of 58)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


failed to afli.x: tlieir nam-s to that instrument. Auto<jraphs
of several of the Hij^uers i)->);r ar.; diiii:;Tlt to obtain.
A distia;^uished collecLor stjtds, tha*; his i):;rso.i;'d tjxperience
leads him to say, that the rijlaLivo rarity of tho auto<2;raphs
of the delei^-ates wlio did not sign the, C )u,-;titiition, wouhl
be fairly exprcsstod, at tiiis tim^, by th.; folio vvin^^- classili -a-
tion:

1. Tiio-e most readily obtained: E. (derry, Cal^b Stronj.^,
Ilobert Yates, John Lansin;^, Luther l\I,u'tiii, Edmund K.ui-
dolpli, and Natlianiel l^endleton.

2. John Pickerin[.^, Oliver Ellsworth, John Neilson. John
F. jMercer^ and Patrick Henry.

3. Benjamin Wobt, Win. Churchill Ifouston, Abraliam
Clark, James j\foClung', Alexander ^\larrin, Win. \l. D.ivie,
Ptichard Cas^A'ell, Win. Pierce, and Ceoi-;;e Walton.

4. Francis Dana, Ceorge I\Iason, Ceoj'ge Wytiie, and
William Houston.

5. Willie Jones, the rarest of all.

In briefly describing' the sixteen full collections of the
Constitutional Signers, and the incomplete sets as well, any
mode of discrimination is not without its dihiculties. In
following the rule laid down in classifying the sets of the
Declaration Signers, giving those precedence having the
largest number of A. L. S., there is no certainty tliat really
the best collections, if judged by tbcir conditi(Mi or historical
value, are properly recognized. At ]>resent, liovvevei', we
see no better way to get at the matter; and if not deemed
the best, each one must re-a<ljust the list to suit his own
judgment, with the facts as they are reported and presented.
If a committee of experts, as at a fair, were personally and
carefully to examine the several collections in detail, they
might reach very different results.



I . .,,



Autographs of the Signers. 415

1. Simon GiiATZ, of Philadelphia. His set of the Signers
of the Constitutioti is a superior one — undoubtedly the best
extant. It is wholly conii)osod of A. L. S,, and includes not
only the thirty-nine Signers proper, but the twenty-six
others who were chosen dele gates, and vvlio either failed
in their attendance, or left before the completion, and sign-
ing of the Constitution. Several of the autographs of the
twenty-six non-Signers are more didicult of obtainment
than those of any of the Signers proper.

2. D. Mc. iSr. Stauffeu, of New York, has all the Signers
proper, and all tlie olhers chosen, in A. L. S., save lilair only
in D. S.; and largely illustrated.

3. Dr. S. II. Fo(;a, of Boston. Of his set of the thirty-
nine Signers of the (JonstituLion, all are A. L.. S., except
Blair, D. S. He has also full autograph letters, save of
Wythe only, which is a signed document, of the other
twenty-six who were chosen members of the Convention of
1787, but failed to sign the Constitution. Including William
Jackson, the Secretary, the collection is illustrated with
forty-six engravings, leaving twenty without likenesses.

1. CoL. C. C JoNirs, of Augusta, Georgia. His set of the
Signers of the Constitution is complete — all A. L. S., save
Wilson and Read, A. D. S., and Franklin and Miillin, D. S.
The collection also includes all the members elect to the
Convention of 17d7, who were either not present, or failed
to sign the engrossed document; and all these cilso are A. L.
S., except Bejamin West, A. D. S. This series is likewise
illustrated with portraits, inlaid on Whatman paper, and
bound.

5. The set of the Signers of the Constitution of R. C. Davis,
of Philadelphia, are all A. L. S., save B.ildwin,D. S.; and
he has also all, with one e.xception, of the twent3'"-six othors
chosen to the Convention of lisT, but for one cause or
another, failed to sign the Conolitution. This collecti(jn is
also suitably illustrated.

0. Feko. J. Drekk, Philadelphia, has all the Signers iu
A. L. S.; and quite a portion, in som 3 form of those chosen
who did not attend, or did not sign. Properly illustrated.



416 Wisconsin State Historical Society.

7. Dr. T]Io:^ias A. Emmet, of New York. Of his collection
of the Signers of the Constitution, tliirty-ssven are A. L. S.,
and only^lJrooni and Carroll are A. D. S.; fifteen are of folio
size, and twenty- four are quartos. The set also includes
sixteen others who were chosen members, but did not si^ai
the Constitution — of which thirteen are full letters. It is
an excellent set, and illustrated with portraits, views, etc.

8. Charles Rojjerts, of Philadelphia, has all the tliirty-
nine Signers, and most of the others; and about two-thirds
of the whole are A. L. S., with appropriate illustrations.

9. State Historical Society, ]\Iadison, Wis., has all the
the Signers proper in A. L. S., with suitable illustrative mat-
ter.

10. Josi^PH W. DRiiXiiL, of New York, possesses the set
made up by Mr. Telft, of Georgia, consisting of thirty-live
of the Signers proper, in A. L. S., with Sherman, Paterson,
and Bedford, A. D. S., and Blair, 1). S. Jllustrated and

bound.

li and 12. Proe. Li^^feingwi^ll has two sets of the Signers
of the Constitution — the first consists of thirty-six A. L. S.;
with Blair, L. S, and Bedford and Reed, D. S. The second col-
lection has thirty-live A. L. S., with Bedford, C .^Morris, Ptead,
and Blair, D. S. He has also a set of those who were elected
to the Conveution of 1767, but failed from various causes to
sign the Constitution.

13 and 11. Col. Frank M. Ettino, of Concordville, Pa.,
has two sets, which he represents as full, of which we have
no classification.

15. C. F. GcNTUEii, of Chicago, has the thirty-nine Sign-
ers proper — not reported in detail, but supposed to be nearly
all in full letter form.

]0. Hon. Mellen Chamukrlvin, of Boston, has a unique
set of signatures of the Signers, appended to a neat copy
of the Constitution.

iMCOMl'Lb^TE SeTS.

1. Rev. Dr. J. H. Durbs, of Lancaster, Pa., has all the
Signers proper, save Spaight, and only wanting threes or four
of the others chosen to the Convention.



Autographs op the Signers. 447

2 John M. Hale, of Philipsburg, Pa., has all of the
Signers proper, save Katledge; and has a portion of the
other delegates.

3. C. K. Greenough, Boston, lacks two of a full set of the

Signers.

i. G. M. CoNARROE, Philadelphia, has thirty-five of the
thirty-nine Signers, lackiog Johnson, Washington, Kut-

ledge and Few.

5. Edward E. Sprague, New York, has a partial set —

several rare names are wanting.

G. The Pennsylvania Historical Society has an in-
complete collection.

In all the complete collections of autographs of the Sign-
ers of the Constitution, and probably in most of the partial
ones as well, the autograph of AVilliam Jackson, the Secre-
tary, is very properly included.



SKETCH OF HON. ANDREW rKOi:i)['



By HON. BKEESE J. STEVENS.

The Proudfit family was of Scotch descent, and strict
Scotch Presbyterians in rehgious behei'. Andrew Proudfit's
grandfather, after whom he was named, was one of five
brothers who emip^rated from Scotkmd, and, for a time, he
was a physician at Troy, New York; but later, he retired to
what became the family home at Argyle, AVashington
County, New York. His grandmother, Alary Pyttle, was
the first white woman born in the town of Salem, in that
county, of whom it was said, that "s!ie went with two
horses, during the Revolutionary War, with six bushels of
wheat, as her gift toward supplying the army." His father,
James Proudht, was a merchant, first at Troy, Now York,
and then at Argyle, and died leaving Andrew a lad of four-
teen years, the support of his mother, Alaria J. Proudfit, and
the head of his family. His uncle. Dr. William Proudfit,
died in Alilwaukee, in JSf;;, one of the earliest and most
learned physicians of the country.

Andrew Proudfit was born on the :!d of August, fs>o, at
Argyle, where he received the usual common school educa-
tion until his fourteenth year, when his mother depending
on his support, he became a clerk in the store of an uncle.
In June, ISlv', when twenty-two years of age, with his
mother, sister, and younger brother, ho removed to AViscon-
sin, taking up a farm in P.rookfield, in what was then Alil-
waukee, now Waukesha county. After devoting two
years of labor in clearing off the heavy timber, he employed
others to work the farm, while he engaged himself as book-
keeper and salesman in the general business firm of Shep-
ard (St. Bonnell, in Milwaukee, where he continued for two
years. Removing, in 18 h), to Delafield, Waukesha County,



Sketch of Hon. Andrew Proudfit. 449

he erected a grist-mill, and operated it iij connection with a
country store for five years. In Isob, Mr. Proudfit removed to
Madison, having exchanged his 1 )elarield property for Beriah
Brown's homestead in Madison, including the office of the
Aryu.^ and Democrat. In Septemher, 181(1, shortly after his
removal to Delatield,he was happily marricid at Ann Arbor,
:\Iirhigan, to l']li/al)eth Ford, formerly of Jackson, Wash-
ington county. New York, by whom ho had seven children.

Mr. Proudfit was a conspicuous man in this State, having
participated in many of the movements of public interest
of his day. As a member of the State Senate, in lar^S-ol), in
the infancy of the State, he took a prominent part in mak-
ing the early laws, which more effectively than those of
later days, operated in developing its resources, and pro-
moting its prosperity. He was for four years a member of
the Board of Public Works, which had the supervision of
the improvement of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, provided
for by a grant of lands made by Congress. He was also a
member of the Board of Trustees of the State Hospital for
the Insane, and v/as for several years its Treasurer. As a
contractor with the State, he aided in the construction of the
Fox and Wisconsin improvments; in building the south wing
of the State Prison, at Waupun in lS5t; the north wing of
the Capitol, at Madison, in I8(il; two wings of the State Hos-
pital for the Insane, near Madison, in 180(1, and during tho
war, in furnishing camp supplies for Wisconsin volunteer
soldiers while stationed within the State.

As a citizen he was much respected, and of large inllu-
ence. He became the first Vice President, in 1871, of the
First National Bank; a director of the Gas Light and Coke
Company, and of tho Park Hotel Company, all of IMadison;
and was i\tayor of that city in lSGS-7(». Of the Democratic
school of politics, he was for many years chairman of the
State Democratic Committee, and always leading and inilu-
ential.

Unusually sagacious and energetic in business, he early ac-
quired property to an amount considered to be a generous
competency, which was lost in the financial collapse of 1857,
leaving him heavily encumbered with debt. He at once ac-



450 Wisconsin State Historical Society.

cepted a salaried employment, and courageously began th e
work of reducing his indebtedness, and re-building his estate.
In 1803, he became a member of the Madison firm of M. E.
Fuller & Co., and with such energy and courage pushed his
fortunes, that, at his death, he was able to leave to his fam-
ily an estate, free from debt, much greater than the one he
lost in 1857. lie was considered to be an able financier, and
a man of the self-reliant, quiet, unsensational kind, who
seeks large enterprises, and takes large risks.

He gave to many the aid of his credit, with no security
other than his faith in their honor. He originated many
schemes designed for the public good. Charitable, unosten-
tatious, kind to the poor, a good mughbor, he was univer-
sally esteemed, respected and loved. He was appreciative
of humor, and tender of the feelings of others. Late in life
he became a member of tlie Episcopal Church, and for sev-
eral years was one of the wardens of Grace Church at
Madison.

He passed peacefully away at his home, in IMadison, on
Nov, 13, 188.'5, at the age of sixty-three years. The widow
and four sons survive liim.

In his death the State Historical Society of Wisconsin
lost one of its oldest, most valued, and active members.
Curator and member of the Executive Committee for thir-
teen years, he aided much in directing the course and up-
building of the Society. No greater honor can the Society
do itself, nor render the public greater good, than in worth-
ily noting the career of those of its members who have
wisely served their day and generation.



MKMOKIAL SKETCHES OF 0. M. CONOVEIl, LI. D.



At a meeting of the State Historical Society, June 3d,
ISSt, Gen, David Atwood, fi'om the committee on obituaries,
submitted the following preamble and reisolutions, which
were unanim^uisly adopted:

la the city of Luu Ion, on theniurning of the 2'JLh of April, ISSl, O. M.
Conover, LL. D., a prominent and useful member and officer of this
Society, passed from earth. From foreign lands where Dr. Conover had
been sojourning fo'" nearly two years, his miny friends had fondly hoped
that it would be their pleasure soon to weUionie his return in life, and in
good cheer, to his chosen home at the Capital of Wisconsin, benelited in
health, and imi)ruved in knowledge obtained from his extend -d travels
abroad, and better able to pursue his life of ust^fulness to the Stale, to
this Society, and to his family and friends. But instead of this joyful
welcome, the mortal remains of this good man were brought to our shores,
and by mourning friends were received and deposited in their last resting
place in the beautiful Forest Hill Cemetery.

Thelois of a man so uo\)le in character, so warm a friend and supporter
of this Society, and so generally respected as was Dr. Conover, deserves
and bhould receive from his survivors in charge of the State Historical
Society, a befitting and appropriate recognition. Therefore,

Resolved, That in the death of Dr. O. M. Conover, the members of this
Society, and the people of the State generally have sustained a serious
loss; that in hini were blended the elements of true greatness and worth.
He was a ripe scholar, a ])rofound thinker, a graceful writer of much clear-
ness and force^ a thoroughly read lawyer, a superior Supreme Court Re-
porter, an honored and resi)ected member and officer of the State His-
torical Society from the time of ita incorporation, a genial companion and
friend, a model geutleiuin in all tiie walks of life, and a conscientious,
practical Christian. His social attachments were strong, his friendsliip
was sincere and true; his grasp of hand was warm and cordial; in

fine,

" His life was gentle; and the elements

So mix'd in him. tliat Nature might stand up,

And say to all the vvorld, This was a man."'

Resolved, That the members of this Society mourn the death of Dr.
Conover, as one whose life was really great from its simplicity and purity.



452 Wisconsin State Histomical Society.

and as one wliose intclligrnce and high culture ciiused him to rank among
iho Society's most vahiable, acconiplibhed and usoful members and oliicera;
and tiiat they tender to the immediate family of the deceased, their sin-
cere condolence and sympathy iu this time of then- sore alll ctiou.

Ilesolced, That these resolutions be placed upxi the records o/ this
Society, and tliat a copy of tliesame he forwarded to the family of the de-
ceased.

Rev. Dr. Richards and Chief Justice Cole were re(j[uested
to prepare memorial papers ou Dr. Conover's life and char-
acter.



I.— Bv KEV. CIIAS. H. lilCIIARDS, D. D.

No one could come into close association with Dr. O. AI.
Conover without feeling' the sinj^ular charm of his lile.
Quiet and unostentatious, shrinkini^ from conspicuous posi-
tions, he did not j^ain nor desire the wide notoriety that some
men of more slender endowments attained. Rut such was
his large and varied ability, and such the unusual excellence
and beauty of his life that eminent men who knew him
well deemed him worthy to rank among; the illustrious men
of the State.

It is particularly fitting that one who was not only a citi-
zen of Wisconsin and a resident in ^iladison for thirty- four
years, btit who was also a charter member of the Wisconsin
Historical Society, its Treasurer for sixteen years, and for
the last fifteen years of his life one of its Curators, should
have some special tribute to his memory in its records, llis
life is his own best eulogy. In response to tiie invitation of
this Society, I present a brief sketch of his career, which, iii
itself exhibits those'qualitiesof character that made him em-
inent.

Obadiah j\Iilton Conover was born in Dayton, Ohio, Octo-
ber 8, 18 i5. His father was Obadiah Rerlew Conover, and
his mother was Sarah j\Iiller, whose family was from Ken-
tucky, in which State she was born. On his father's side
Dr. Conover traced his ancestry back through a long line
of New Jersey families (where his father was born,) to an



Memorial SivETCh of Dr. 0. M. Conover. 453

ancient estate of tlie Xouwenhovens in Holland, near
Utrecht. He was always i)roiul of his Dutch origin, and of
his lineal connection with a p^'Ople of such sturdy vi^^or, in-
telligence and courage, that they not only '' wrestetl their
territory from the sea,'' but in spiie of the terrible oi)pres-
sion and persecution of two of the crut.-lest and nio^L big-
oted tyrants of history, Charles V, and i'hih'p H, wrested
their independence fi'oui despots, and established tiie lie-
public of the United Netherlands. These thrifty and en-
terprising people at the close of the Ivllh century had at-
tained " the commercial leadership of the world." Metloy
says of them, that "• in every branch of human indubtry
these republicans took the lead." And he declares tliat the
cliif.'f source of th(Mr wealth and })ower was the ocean, on
which they had at this time three thousand iships, and one
hundred thousand sailor;-.

It was natural that such a people sliould seize upon the
golden opportunities which the New World opened to them,
to enlarge their dominions and increase their wealth. To
the New Nethei'land, establL-^hed about the mouth of the
Hudson River, where the Dutch traders had for seme years
been doing a thriving business with the Indians in furs,
came these stoutdiearted, energetic burghers in considerable
numbers. In I'lii;, they purchased Alauhattan Island, the
site of the New World metropolis. Hither came -Jacob
Wolfertsen van Couwenhoven.in 1<;;)-?, whose name appears
in 1G47 as one of the board of Nine Man, selected by the col-
ony to be a check upon the high-handed proceedings of the
imperious Governor, Peter Stuyvesant. He appears again
in 1()40, as one of the three delegates sent to Holland to bear
a remonstrance to the States General against the methods
of that haughty and irascible ruler. He wns doubtless the
first of the name on these shores, and Dr. Conover was of
the eighth generation in lineal descent from him. ]5y nat-
ural and gradual transitions the name has been transformed
from Kouenhoven, which still clings to the ancient estate in
Holland, to Conover.

It was Dr. Conover's good fortune to visit the home of his
ancestors in Holland but a few v/eeks before his death. His



45i Wisconsin State IIistokical Society.

impressions of the country and the peopk^- are given in a
letter to his brother, in which lie writers:

''I looked upon this little country and its people with
peculiar interest, because it was the 'iionieof our ancestors'
on our father's side. In its external appearance it was
much what 1 expected, but almost perfectly Hat, and tra-
versed in all directions by canals of all sizes. Everywhere
there was evidence of thrift and careful culture. In the
quitt inland cities, Utrecht, the Hague, Delft, one is im-
pressed with Dutch industry and cleanliness. In the rural
districts one sees more pleasaut homes than in any other part
of the continent that I have visited, and the Dutch gentlemen
are credited with being specially fond of country homes.

" As to the people, I confess that I was greatly surprised
by their appearance and manners. I expected to find them
substantial and sensible, but rather heavy. On the contrary
they are more like Americans than any other European peo-
ple I have seen. A fairer-looking, brighter, more active,
more intelligent people it has not been my fortune to en-
counter anywhere. Of course this is not equally true of all
classes; there are heavy and stupid physiognomies, especi-
ally among the peasantry and a corresponding class in the
cities. This is true among all the Germanic peoples, perhaps
among all peoples. Ikit speaking of the general average of
the Dutch people as I saw them, I should say that in per-
sonal dignity and independence, quick intelligence, physical
and mental alertness, and in certain indescribable physical
characteristics, they are quite of the American type, with
here and there in individuals something that is perhaps
more suggestive of an Englishman.

"The Hague, which is the capital of Holland, is simply
the most attractive city for a residence that I have seen in
Europe; perhaps i should call it a quiet, wide-streeted, spa-
cious, airy, elegant town, rather than a great city, with little
trade or manufacturing, but full of pleasant homes, and
bright, handsomedooking people. I call it (though ten or
twelve times as large, and a great deal Hatter) 'the Madison
of Europe.' "

The boyhood of Dr. Conover was spent in Dayton, then a



Memorial Sketch cf Dr. 0. M. Conover. 455

thriving and pleasant village, having, at the time he left it
for college, about six thousand inhabitants. The educational
advantages were good for the time, and he studied in the
academy where ho was afterwards an instructor. He was
prepared for college when fifteen years of age, and entered
the College of New Jersey (Princeton), from which he was
graduated in IS It. The two years succeeding his gradu-
ation were spent in teaching, first, near i^^^xington in Ken-
tucky, and then as an instructor in Latia and Greek in
Dayton Acadeniy. While teachmg in the latter place, he
spent his leisure time in studying kuv in the ollice of
Schenck and Conover, the latter gentleman being his older
brother, and the first named being (Jen. Robert C. Schenck,
since distinguished for various public services.

But perhaps neither the study nor the practice of law
were (luite to his taste, which turned more naturally and
eagerly to the quiet pursuits of the scholar, and to the at-
tractive fields of literature. His talents and his training
alike fitted him for success in a quieter vocation, where he
could gratify his thirst for knowledge and his love of books.
Another motive, arising from the profound moral earnest-
ness of his nature, united with these to divert him from the
profession toward which he had seemed to look. The claims
of the Christian religion took hold of his intellect and con-
science with great power. Though he had declared his
belief in it, and had been for some time a devout and earnest
church-member, yet amid the conflict of opinions and the
difterences of judgment and interpretation among good men,
there were certain questions that lay near the foundations of
religious thought on which his mind was not satisfied. If
religion was grounded in truth, ho perceived that it was the
most momentous and im})ortant concern in hrmian life, lie
determined to make a searching and honest inquiry into
the matter, and arrive, if possible, at some clear and consist-
ent view of the fundamental truths of the spiritual life. It
is a striking testimony to his self-sacrificing devotion to the
truth and to the heroic earnestness of his moral nature, that
at this time he turned aside from the career toward which
he had been looking; and devoted his little patrimony to



'.'.*.



456 Wisconsin State Histojjical Society.

three years of solid and thorou;i:li study in this field of
in(iuiry. It was this motive, rather than any particular
ex[)ectation of devoting his life to the work of the Christian
ministry, that appears to have led him to Princeton Theo-
logical Seminary in JSP5, from which he was graduated in
ISl!).

The result of this theological study, to wliich he gave
the best energies of his mature and scholarly mind, was to
bring him into a clear, rational and settled Christian faith,
which was the soki'^.e and stay of all his after years. Cer-
tain conclusions, indeed, of his vtsaerated instructors he
could not accept. This spirit of frank l)Lit kiudly dissent
from the opinions of many good people, and of fearless but
reverent inipiiry for the truth, In; preserved to the end of
his life. Yet he had found tirni footing for his faith upon
the fundamental verities of religion, and ho walked with



Online LibraryState Historical Society of Wisconsin cnCollections - State Historical Society of Wisconsin (Volume 10) → online text (page 40 of 58)