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Title: Sketches of Fifteen Members of Worcester Fire Society
Author: Davis, Isaac
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber’s note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).




Printed by Charles Hamilton,
Palladium Office.

                     ADDRESS BY HON. ISAAC DAVIS,

                 AT THE QUARTERLY MEETING, APRIL, 1874.

The history of the Worcester Fire Society is intimately connected with
the history of Worcester, of Massachusetts, and the United States. Ten
of its members have been Mayors of Worcester, three have been Governors
of the State, three have been Speakers of the House of Representatives,
and many have been Councillors, Senators and Representatives. Five have
been judges of the Supreme Judicial Court, five have been judges of the
Superior Court or Court of Common Pleas, ten have been Members of
Congress, and many have held office under the United States Government,
and one has been a Foreign Minister.

This Fire Society, organized in 1793, was precisely like one formed by
Benjamin Franklin, in the city of Philadelphia, in 1735:—The number of
members limited to thirty, the same equipments, the same rules and
regulations. No person could be admitted under thirty years of age, and
none over sixty. The Fire Society in Philadelphia was in existence when
this was formed.

Governor Lincoln gave his reminiscences of the twenty-two original
members in 1862. Eight years after, in 1870, a member of this society
gave a written account of the next _fifteen_ members. Both of these
historic papers were published by this society. Subsequently Judge
Thomas, in his fascinating language, gave a graphic biography of the
_next_ fifteen members, commencing with Governor Lincoln, and ending
with Edward D. Bangs. The object of the present historic sketch is to
give some account of the members from Edward D. Bangs to the oldest
living member, all of whom have long since passed to the “spirit land.”
Among them were distinguished scholars, statesmen, lawyers and
physicians, and five of them were graduates of Dartmouth College.

                            SAMUEL JENNISON

Was no ordinary man. He did not enjoy the advantages of a college
education, still he became a learned man and a very able writer. Some of
the choicest articles in periodical literature were from his pen. He was
born in the town of Brookfield, in 1788, and at the age of twelve years
came to Worcester to reside with his uncle, Hon. Oliver Fiske. In April,
1810, he was elected accountant in the Worcester Bank. In August, 1812,
he was elected cashier of said Bank, and continued to hold the office
and discharge the duties with promptness, fidelity and accuracy, for
more than thirty-four years. During much of the time while he was
cashier he was treasurer of the American Antiquarian Society, treasurer
of the State Lunatic Hospital, treasurer of the Worcester County
Institution for Savings, treasurer of the town of Worcester, and clerk
of the town, discharging all the duties of these offices, much of the
time without any assistant. No _irregularities_ were ever found in his
accounts. He was one of the Council of the American Antiquarian Society,
and was a member of many historical and literary societies. He was
admitted a member of this Society in October, 1816, and remained an
active member more than forty years, till his death, March 11th, 1860.

Mr. Jennison was a modest, unassuming man, a gentleman in his
deportment, a man of rare taste and discrimination, and of wonderful
executive talent. He would accomplish more business in a given time than
any man I ever saw; yet it was done quietly. He was loved and respected
by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. He wrote much in prose
and verse; his style was clear and lucid as a mirror. He gathered much
valuable biographical material, part of which he passed over to the Rev.
Dr. Allen just before the publication of the second edition of his
Biographical Dictionary. The large remainder is now in possession of the
American Antiquarian Society.

                             REJOICE NEWTON

Was born in Greenfield, October 18th, 1782. He was graduated at
Dartmouth College, in 1807, and was a classmate of George Ticknor and
Sylvanus Thayer. He commenced the study of the law with Judge Newcomb,
of Greenfield, and finished his studies in the office of Hon. Elijah H.
Mills, of Northampton, in 1810.

Mr. Newton then removed to Worcester, and formed a co-partnership in law
with Hon. Francis Blake, which continued till April, 1814. He was
selected by the citizens of Worcester, in 1814, to deliver an oration on
the fourth of July. This oration was published, and accelerated his
rising fame. Soon after, he was appointed County Attorney, which office
he held for ten years, when he resigned the position. In 1825 he formed
a co-partnership in law with William Lincoln. His talents and capacity
were appreciated by his fellow citizens, and he was elected to the House
of Representatives in Massachusetts, in the years of 1829, 1830, and
1831, and a State Senator in 1834. He had great equanimity of character,
and never lost or gained a case but the result was precisely what he
expected. Hence he was perfectly satisfied with the result of every
case. He was honest, confiding and capable. He became a member of this
society in October, 1816, and remained an active member for forty-seven
years, when his health became poor and he withdrew. He was long a member
and officer in the American Antiquarian Society. He died in Worcester,
February 4th, 1868. Major Newton married a sister of the late Governor
Lincoln, and was a resident in Worcester for more than half a century.
He was honored with important and responsible positions in the military,
legislative, and executive departments of the government of the State;
all the duties pertaining to these offices he discharged with ability
and fidelity, and to the entire satisfaction of his constituents.

                          SAMUEL M. BURNSIDE.

His ancestors were Scots. He was a son of Thomas Burnside, and was born
in Northumberland, New Hampshire, July 18th, 1783. His education was at
the common schools in New Hampshire, except nine months at an academy,
preparatory to his entering Dartmouth College.

After he was graduated from college, in 1805, he took charge of a Female
Academy in Andover, Mass., for two years. He read law with Hon. Artemas
Ward, so long Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. He was
admitted to practice in 1810, commenced the practice of the law in the
Spring of 1810, in the town of Westborough, in this County, and removed
to Worcester in the autumn of the same year. He married the daughter of
Judge Foster of Brookfield.

Mr. Burnside was a well read lawyer, and it is no disparagement to any
lawyer of the Worcester Bar to say that none excelled him in his
extensive knowledge of the law. He was also well posted in theology, and
took a deep interest in our public schools. He was trustee in Leicester
Academy, and for many years was a member of the School Committee of
Worcester, a member of the American Antiquarian Society, and one of the
Council of said Society at the time of his death. He delivered an able
address before the schools of Worcester in 1826, and represented the
town in the Legislature the same year. In 1831 he was selected by the
citizens of Worcester to deliver an oration on the fourth of July, which
was considered a very able production. He was admitted to this society
in January, 1817, and remained an active member for thirty-three years.
He died in Worcester, July 25th, 1850, much respected by a large circle
of friends.

Mr. Burnside was a good classical scholar, an upright and honored
citizen, and a kind christian gentleman.

                             REUBEN WHEELER

Was a member of this society from 1817 to 1822. He came from Rutland,
where he was born, to Worcester, to execute the purposes of certain
members of the Fire Society, who had become convinced that the business
of _tanning_ was very profitable. They raised thirty thousand dollars to
put into the business—Mr. Wheeler was superintendent and manager—a large
yard was built on Market street, the largest in the county—Mr. Wheeler
built a spacious house on the corner of Main and Thomas streets, and
business went on swimmingly for five or six years, Mr. Wheeler always
assuring the proprietors that the business was very profitable. Some of
the proprietors having had no dividends for several years, succeeded in
raising a committee to investigate the affairs of the company, when it
turned out that the concern was bankrupt. It was a South Sea bubble on a
small scale. Wheeler left town, and the tannery rotted down. “_Sic
transit gloria mundi._”

                          BENJAMIN F. HEYWOOD

Was the son of Hon. Benjamin Heywood, of Worcester, who was judge of the
Court of Common Pleas for nine years.

Benjamin F. was born in Worcester, April 24th, 1792, and graduated at
Dartmouth College, in the class of 1812. He attended the medical
lectures at Dartmouth College, and at Yale College, and took his degree
of M. D. at Yale, in 1815. He formed a co-partnership with Dr. John
Green, in the practice of medicine, which existed for twenty years. Dr.
Heywood was councillor and censor in the Massachusetts Medical Society,
and became a member of the Society of Cincinnati in 1859, in the right
of his father, who was an original member. As a physician he was very
popular among his patients. He had the confidence of his fellow
citizens, being repeatedly elected to both branches of the City
Government. His manners were pleasant and agreeable—a man of good
judgment and sound discretion. He was admitted a member of this society
July, 1817, and remained an active member for more than fifty-two years,
till his death, December 7th, 1869.

Dr. Heywood married for his first wife, and also for his second wife,
sisters of Dr. John Green. He was a skillful physician, a good citizen,
honorable in his dealings; a man of few words, kind and courteous,
honored and respected by those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance.

                             ABIJAH BIGELOW

Was born in Westminster, county of Worcester, Dec. 5th, 1775. He was
graduated at Dartmouth College, in the class of 1795, studied law, and
was admitted to practice in 1798, and opened an office in the town of
Leominster, served the town as town clerk for five consecutive years,
was twice elected by his fellow citizens a member of the General Court
of Massachusetts, and was elected a member of Congress in 1810, and held
the position till 1815.

Mr. Bigelow removed to Worcester in 1817, was elected a member of the
American Antiquarian Society, and a trustee of Leicester Academy. From
1817 to 1833 he held the office of Clerk of the Courts in the County of

In 1838 he was appointed Master in Chancery for the county of Worcester.
He held the office of Justice of the Peace for about fifty years. He was
admitted to this society about a year after he was appointed Clerk of
the Courts, to wit, in 1818, and continued a member till 1848, when he
withdrew from the society. In the evening of his life he devoted much of
his time to horticulture, agriculture, literature and poetry. Some of
his choice poetical productions are in print. He died in Worcester,
April 5th, 1860, at the ripe old age of eighty five years, and is well
remembered by most of the living members of this society.

                               JOHN MOWER

Was a son of Ebenezer Mower of Worcester; he received his education at
the common schools and at Leicester Academy. He entered the mercantile
business, and opened a store on the corner of Main and Thomas streets.
He married Dolly Chamberlain, a daughter of William Chamberlain. He was
a bright, intelligent and well educated young man; was popular with the
young men of the place, and especially with the young lawyers.

Soon after he was twenty-one years of age, high sheriff Ward appointed
him deputy sheriff for the county, and for years, by the prompt and able
manner in which he discharged his duties, he did a larger business than
any other officer in the county. He was a member of this society less
than a year, when he emigrated to the South, and died at Fort Gibson,
Mississippi, April 15th, 1828.

                              SAMUEL WARD

Was born in Guilford, Vermont, June 9th, 1793. He was educated by his
uncle, Capt. Ward, of Lancaster; came to this place when a young man,
and married into one of the oldest and most respectable families of

He was admitted to this society in 1819, and remained an active member
for eleven years. In the military department of the government he was
deeply interested. At this time every able-bodied citizen, between the
ages of eighteen and forty-five years, was obliged to perform military
duty at least five days in each year. Worcester, then with a population
of little more than three thousand, had full and well disciplined
companies of artillery, cavalry, riflemen, and two very large companies
of infantry. Mr. Ward took great pleasure in military affairs, and was
ambitious to excel and become a good disciplinarian; and he succeeded
remarkably well. He was promoted from one position to another, till he
was finally elected Colonel of the Sixth Regiment.

The next morning after he was promoted from Major to the office of
Colonel, he was walking down Main street, in his most dignified manner,
very straight—a little more than perpendicular, when Israel Whitney, who
wanted to see him on business, called out, “Major Ward!” Ward walked on.
Whitney called a second time, louder, “Major Ward!” No attention was
paid to the call. He called a third time, “_Colonel Ward!_” Ward turns
immediately and walks towards Whitney, and says, “Good morning, Mr.
Whitney. I am glad to see you. _I did not hear you the first two times
you called!_”

Colonel Ward was a gentleman in his manners, intelligent, kind and
courteous; prompt, energetic and faithful in the discharge of his
duties, and agreeable and entertaining in conversation. He died in
Boston, March 1st, 1842.

                            SAMUEL HATHAWAY

Came to Worcester in the early part of this century, from the town of
Taunton, in this State. He became the owner of the Central Hotel, on
Main street, standing where the Bay State House now stands. At that time
there was a large farm connected with the hotel, and Mr. Hathaway
carried on the farm and kept the hotel. He was admitted to this society
in 1819, and remained an active member as long as he lived.

The society frequently held its meetings at his hotel, where the members
were always sure of having good fare.

About 1823 Samuel Hathaway sold out his estate on Main street, purchased
a farm at Washington Square, and built a hotel. His farm included all
the land occupied by the Boston & Albany Railroad, and on both sides of
Grafton street. He became a wealthy man, and built for himself a house
on Front street, retired from business, and died in Worcester, March
16th, 1831, much respected by his fellow citizens. Mr. Hathaway was a
man of good common sense, fond of wit and anecdote, very pleasant and
agreeable in conversation, and was willing to give and take a joke in a
pleasant and agreeable manner.

                             WILLIAM EATON

Was a lineal descendant from the first settlers of Worcester. His
influence with his fellow citizens was seldom surpassed. For twelve
years, from 1810 to 1830, he was elected one of the selectmen of the
town of Worcester. For ten years he represented the town in the
Legislature of Massachusetts. He held office under the United States
Government in the war of 1812. For many years he was one of the County
Commissioners for the county of Worcester, and for many years a deputy
sheriff within and for said county. All the duties of these various
offices he discharged with kindness and ability. He was a man of strict
integrity, upright and honorable in all business transactions, and
commanded the respect and esteem of all who had the pleasure of his
acquaintance. He was a member of this society for thirty-three years. He
died in Worcester, May 4th, 1859, at the age of ninety-three. His
daughter now owns and occupies the estate on the west side of Main
street, where Mr. Eaton resided most of his lifetime.

Very few men have lived in Worcester who understood the workings of the
human mind among the masses better than William Eaton. Hence he never
was at loss to know how to approach a man and control him under any
circumstances. His gentle and kind manner enabled him to exert a
powerful influence over his fellow citizens. This was the secret of his
great power among the people.

                           GEORGE A. TRUMBULL

Was born in Petersham, in 1793. He removed to Worcester and opened a
book store on the site on the west side of Main street where the house
of Harrison Bliss now stands. His agreeable manners attracted customers
to his store, and he had a lucrative business for ten years, till he
sold out his stock and store to Clarendon Harris.

He was elected cashier of the Central Bank in 1829, and held the office
till 1836, when he resigned, and was chosen cashier of the Citizens
Bank. He held this office for eighteen years, when he resigned, and his
son-in-law was elected in his place. Mr. Trumbull wrote a beautiful
hand, was a good accountant (never any irregularities in his accounts),
strictly honest, easy and agreeable in his manners, a gentleman in his
deportment, modest and retiring, always declining any public office
offered him by his fellow citizens, and always had about him a large
circle of warm friends. He was a member of this society for eleven
years. Few men have lived in Worcester more respected than George A.
Trumbull. He was the father of a large family, and moved in the first
society in Worcester, lived in a house situated on what is now called
Trumbull Square, and now occupied by Mrs. Trumbull, which was occupied
by his father before he came into possession of it.

                            JOHN W. HUBBARD

Was a relative of Rev. Samuel Austin, D.D., so long the pastor of the
Old South Church. Dr. Austin adopted him and gave him his education. In
1811, at the age of seventeen years, he was selected by the Federal
Party to deliver a fourth of July oration at Worcester, which was
printed. His production was well received and gave him character for
talent and ability. He was born in Brookfield, Vermont, in 1794, and
graduated at Dartmouth College, in 1814, in the same class with the
famous Thaddeus Stevens and Governor Dinsmore; studied law with Governor
Van Ness, of Vermont and Samuel M. Burnside, of Worcester, was admitted
to the Bar in Worcester County in 1817, and practiced law in Worcester
till his death, September 19th, 1825. Mr. Hubbard possessed a well
cultivated mind, clear and discriminating, and had an extensive
practice. He formed a co-partnership in law with the late Judge
Kinnicutt, but lived only a few weeks after the co-partnership was
formed. He was a member of this society only four years. Mr. Hubbard
owned and occupied an estate on Main street, including some ten or
fifteen acres of land on each side of Austin street. He was a gentleman
in his manners, upright and honest in business transactions, energetic
and persevering in his profession; an able and well read lawyer.

                              OTIS CORBETT

Was a native of Milford, came to Worcester in the early part of this
century, and opened a jewelry store on the west side of Main street,
opposite Mechanics Hall, where he acquired a very snug property in his
business. He was much respected by his fellow citizens, and was elected
a representative to the General Court from Worcester in the years 1824,
'26, '27, '28, '30 and '31. He was also chosen one of the selectmen of
Worcester in the years 1825, '26 and '29. In May, 1829, he was chosen
cashier of the Central Bank, and resigned the office in the autumn of
the same year. Mr. Corbett remained an active member of this society for
twenty-seven years. He was a man of stern integrity, strictly honest,
and commanded the confidence of all who knew him intimately. For many
years he was one of the trustees of the Worcester Academy, and took a
deep interest in the public schools of Worcester, and was for many years
a member of the School Board.

Mr. Corbett owned and occupied a house on Front street, where the
meeting house of Dr. Cutler now stands, for twenty years. He then became
the owner of the house on High street, where Deacon Upham now lives.
Here he lived until his death, February 6th, 1868. Mr. Corbett received
his education in the common schools, still he was better educated than
many who had received a collegiate education. A man of sound judgment,
discreet and honest, kind and courteous, and a wise counsellor.

                            CHARLES WHEELER

Was a son of Theophilus Wheeler, so long Register of Probate for the
county of Worcester. He was born in Worcester, August 10th, 1793; was
educated a merchant and kept a store for many years, on the east side of
Main street, in the modern building next north of the Wheeler mansion.
He was somewhat eccentric in his character, had no fondness whatever for
womankind, and always lived a bachelor. He was very modest in his
deportment, and strictly honest in all his dealings. He was admitted a
member of this society July, 1823, and withdrew from it in April, 1826,
and died in Worcester, March 6th, 1827.

                           SAMUEL B. THOMAS,

While he resided in Worcester, was a portly, polite and pleasant
landlord. He succeeded Col. Reuben Sikes, one of the founders of the
first line of stages from Boston to New York, as the proprietor of the
public house on Main street, now called the Exchange Hotel. It may not
be inappropriate to mention here, that all the fuel that Capt. Thomas
used for heating his hotel for years, was Worcester anthracite coal,
procured at two dollars a ton. This coal was found in the northeasterly
part of the city, where there is an abundance, when the enterprise of
citizens shall develop it. He was admitted to this society in October,
1824, and after his admission the society held its quarterly meetings at
his hotel. The fare was crackers and cheese, ham, or tongue, and wine,
and each member paid twenty-five cents for his entertainment. At the
annual meetings a sumptuous supper was provided, with wines and liquors,
and the charge was one dollar for each member.

Of course Capt. Thomas was a popular member, and remained an active
member for sixteen years, until his death.

He was born in Brookfield in 1779, and died in Worcester, April 24th,
1840. Capt. Thomas was pleasant and agreeable in his manners, popular
with his fellow citizens, and was chosen a representative to the General
Court, from Worcester, in 1834, and had many warm admirers.

                  *       *       *       *       *

_Gentlemen of the Society_:

In obedience to a request of your Committee on Publication, I have
hastily drawn up these historic sketches of the fifteen members of the
Society next preceding the oldest living member. If I have been so
fortunate in my sketches as to meet the approval of the members of the
society, I shall feel myself amply compensated for the labor of
gathering facts from history, and from the records of towns and
counties, and taxing the recollections of our venerable citizens, in
order to accomplish the object requested of me by the Committee.

                                                            ISAAC DAVIS.

WORCESTER, April, 1874.


                                                 W^m. J. Burton Esquire
                                                 with the regards of the



                            FIFTEEN MEMBERS

                                 OF THE

                        WORCESTER FIRE SOCIETY.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber’s note:

Capitalization and inconsistencies in spelling have been left as in the

Inconsistencies in punctuation in headings have been left as printed;
the person’s name seems to be treated as the first word of the paragraph
of text that follows.

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