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History of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical

NY: The American Historical Society, Inc. 1920

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REV. DANIEL LEACH, D. D., son of Apollos and Chloe Leach, was born in Bridgewater, Mass., June 6, 1806.  His early education was such as the schools at that time afforded.  In these he was studious, and laid a solid foundation for the higher departments of learning to which he subsequently devoted himself.  Possessing an active, self-reliant spirit, he, at the age of sixteen years, left the quiet of his native town to engage in mercantile pursuits in Boston.  After becoming familiar with the rules and customs of trade, his mind, seriously impressed with the great truths of Divine revelation, inclined to the Christian ministry, and the more suitably to prepare himself for his duties he entered Brown University in 1825, and was graduated in 1830, his term having been extended one year on account of ill health.  While in college he became greatly proficient in mathematics.  His knowledge of the ancient languages was also marked.  The study of Hebrew, for which he had a special fondness, he continued to puruse after leaving the University, and made himself a thorough master of the nice shades of meaning to be drawn from the original tongue of the Psalter.  He studied divinity at Andover, Massachusetts, two years, and one year with Bishop Griswold, by whom he was ordained an Episcopal clergyman in 1833.  He settled in Quincy, Massachusetts, and remained five years, when he retired from the rectorship and accepted the position of principal of the Classical School in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in which he continued four years, and then opened a private school, which he taught six years with eminent success.

His interest in the cause of popular education led to the engagement as an agent of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, an associate of Dr. Barnas Sears.  In the discharge of the duties of this office he examined the condition of the school houses (more than one thousand in number) and the schools throughout the State, noting their defects, besides devoting much time to advising with school committees on points which conduce to the highest prosperity of the schools.  In 1853, in a report to the board, he presented an improved system of ventilation for school houses, devised by himself, which was soon introduced where needed, to the increased comfort and health of pupils.  This system has also been introduced into school houses and other buildings in Providence, with entire satisfaction.  In 1855 Dr. Leach was called to succeed Professor Samuel S. Greene as superintendent of the public schools of Providence, Rhode Island, the duties of which office he discharged for more than thirty years.  His previously large and varied experience, no less than his thorough knowledge of the philosophy of education, eminently qualified him for this position, and under his energetic and judicious management, the public schools of Providence gained distinction in some of the best methods of teaching.  The quarterly and annual reports of Dr. Leach bear the impress of a discerning and discriminating mind, and have been eagerly sought by educators both in this country and Europe.  In 1866 Rev. Dr. Frazer, a commissioner appointed by the British Government to inspect the schools of the United States, visited Providence, and in his report to Parliament spoke of the public schools of that city as among those he deemed worthy of special commendation, and particularly the remarkable accuracy of the pupils in spelling.  In 1873 Dr. Leach prepared a series of directions to teachers of the primary and intermediate schools, embracing the best methods of teaching the alphabet, spelling, reading, geography, arithmetic, general exercises, and object lessons, together with judicious counsels in the administration of discipline.  The methods thus indicated have contributed much to the advancement of schools and have been adopted in many places other than Providence.  The educational views of Dr. Leach are comprehensively expressed in the following extract from an address delivered by him at the dedication of the Providence High School in 1878:

'The first as well as the highest aim of education should be to develop in harmony and to strengthen all the powers and faculties both of mind and body, by judicious training, beginning with the simplest elements of thought, to lead the pupil on, step by step, to think clearly, to reason correctly, and to classify all the materials of knowledge according to their true relations.  The memory should be the repository only of important and well-attested facts, systematically arranged, and not burdened with useless details and words without meaning.  An education that is chiefly ornamental and showy, instead of thorough and exact, creating and fostering a distaste for labor, and fitting one especially for a life of leisure, rather than for its active work, and responsible duties, fails of one of its noblest purposes.  But all true culture, to be valuable, must have a moral as well as an intellectual basis, ever inspiring noble aims and aspirations for a pure and elevated character.  It then adorns and ennobles every condition of life, the humblest as well as the highest.  The education we have thus designated is now demanded by the spirit of the age, as an essential and vital element in all human progress.'

In 1870 Dr. Leach was elected a member of the Rhode Island Board of Education, which office he held until the time of his death.  He was for more than twenty years a vice-president and director of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction.  In 1875 Brown University conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and in 1877 he was elected a trustee of the University for life.  Besides the numerous reports before referred to, he has published an Arithmetic, a Complete Speller, and a Manual of Geography. The rules and definitions of the former were based upon the decision of the highest mathematical authority.  All of these publications have been in extensive use.

Dr. Leach married, in May, 1834, Mary H. Lawton, daughter of Captain Robert and Penelope (Brown) Lawton, of Newport, R. I., three children being the issue of the marriage, two of whom are now living, Henry B., and Mary C., wife of G. W. Wilcox, M. D., of Providence.  Mrs. Leach died July 2, 1879, aged seventy-four years.

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ARTHUR WHITMAN CLAFLIN  --  In 1842 the name Claflin first became known in Providence, Rhode Island, in connection with the drug business. In that year George Lyman Claflin came to the city, a young man of twenty, and entered the employ of the drug firm John H. Mason & Company, whose store was on Weybosset street nearly opposite the old City Hotel. In 1869 another Claflin entered the same business, Arthur Whitman, and in 1873 the firm of Geo. L. Claflin & Company was organized. In 1884 Arthur W. Claflin became a partner in that firm, and for two years father and son were thus closely allied.  Then the elder Claflin yielded to the inexorable demand that comes to every  man, the son continuing and being now the honored president of the Geo. L. Claflin Company, wholesale and retail druggists, incorporated in 1903.  Thus for seventy-five years, Claflins, father and son, have been intimately connected with drug activity in Providence, this review being devoted to their lives and work.

George Lyman Claflin, of the sixth American generation of the family founded in Wenham, Massachusetts, in 1661, by Robert MacClaflin, son of Lyman and Rebecca Gay (Starkweather) Claflin, was born at Pawtucket, R. I. (then in Massachusetts), Dec. 22, 1822, and died in Providence, April 4, 1886.  He was educated in public and private schools, completing his studies at the Academy in Pawtucket taught by Frederick Vinton. In 1842 he came to Providence and became a drug clerk in the John H. Mason & Company store, continuing with their successors, Earl P. Mason & Company, with whom he remained many years, becoming a partner, the firm reorganizing later as Snow, Claflin & Company.  This arrangement continued until 1873, when Mr. Claflin bought the stock, fixtures and good will of the store on South Main street, conducted by J. Balch & Sons, and continued the business under the firm name, Geo. L. Claflin & Company. He was senior member of that firm for thirteen years, building up a very large business in drugs, both wholesale and retail.

His connection with Providence business interests was not confined to drugs, but he was widely interested, and as the years passed he rose to influential position.  He was one of the organizers of the Northern Bank in 1856, became a member of the first board of directors, and ever held that place in the bank's management.  He was also a director of the Coventry Savings Bank (Anthony, Rhode Island); Jackson Institution for Savings; of the Second National Bank; Roger Williams Insurance Company; and the Union Mutual Insurance Company.  He considered it a patriotic duty to answer every demand upon him, and in that public spirit consented to hold office, although he had no liking for public life.  In 1870 he was elected councilman from the First Ward, served three separate terms in that body, then in 1874 was elected representative to the State Legislature, and in both positions served with ability and fidelity.  Church affairs always attracted him, and he labored zealously for the advancement of the Congregational church which he joined in 1843, soon after coming to Providence, the congregation worshiping then in Westminster Hall, Rev. Thomas T. Waterman acting as pastor.  When the Central Congregational Church was organized, Mr. Claflin at once identified himself with all its interests and became responsible for a large addition to the building fund.  He became superintendent of the primary Sunday school, December 4, 1859, and for over twenty-five years held that position, one which only a man of tact, resource and love for the work could successfully continue, as he did for such a period.

Mr. Claflin married, Sept. 3, 1850, Louisa Sisson Whitman, born in 1828, died Oct. 19, 1892, daughter of Christopher A. Whitman, a manufacturer, bank president, and State Senator of Coventry, Rhode Island.  In 1864-65, the Claflin mansion, at the corner of Halsey and Pratt streets, was erected by Mr. Claflin's orders, and there he resided the remainder of his life, no man taking a greater pride nor a deeper pleasure in his family and home.  Mr. and Mrs. Claflin were the parents of four children:  Arthur Whitman, of further mention; George Lyman, died young; William Lyman, born June 18, 1862, died Jan. 24, 1903; George Edwin, born April 4, 1866, married, April 18, 1894, Susan Emily Talbot, of Providence.

Arthur Whitman Claflin was born in Providence, R. I., Oct. 10, 1852, and there was educated in the public schools and at Mowry & Goff's English and Classical High School, completing his courses with graduation, class of 1869.  His father was then a member of the drug firm, Snow, Claflin & Company, located on Canal street, and for three and one half years  Arthur W. was connected with this firm, learning the drug business.  In 1873 the Geo. L. Claflin & Company firm was organized on the J. Balch & Sons drug business site on South Main street, Nos. 62-72, the business of the new firm being conducted with both wholesale and retail departments.  Until 1884 Arthur W. Claflin served the firm as an employee, being his father's assistant, but that year he was admitted a partner.  In 1886 he succeeded his father as senior member, and on January 1, 1903, became executive head of the new incorporated Geo. L. Claflin Company, one of the leading wholesale and retail drug houses of New England.  Mr. Claflin continues as president and treasurer of the corporation, the business yet being located at Nos. 62-72 South Main street.  He confines his activity largely to his own company, although he has had official banking connections in the past, and is now a director of the People's Savings Bank.  He is a member of Central Congregational Church of Providence, and in politics a Republican.

Mr. Claflin married, March 15, 1881, Mary Alice Howard, daughter of Lieutenant-Governor Albert C. Howard, of East Providence, a descendant of Thomas Howard, born in 1643, of Enfield and Lynn, Mass.  Mr. and Mrs. Claflin are the parents of two children:  Louisa Howard, born March 7, 1882; Albert Whitman, born Jan. 31, 1885; married, Feb. 23, 1918, Harriet A. Fuller, daughter of R. Clinton Fuller of Providence, and is now a member of the Geo. L. Claflin Company, and assistant treasurer.

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THOMAS HENRY HANDY, treasurer of the Contrexeville Manufacturing Company of Manville, and one of the most prominent men in the community, is a member of an old family which has for many years held a distinguished place in the affairs of this region.  The name was originally spelled in several different ways and we find Handy, Hendy and Hendee in the early records of New England.  The  early history of the family is somewhat obscure, but we have a record of one Samuel Handy, age twenty-five years, a passenger in the month of July, 1625, in the ship 'Assurance de Zo' sailing from England for Virginia.  In 1730 again Hannibal, Isaac, John Zacheus, Richard and Cornelius Handy were heads of families in Sandwich, Massachusetts, and through various portions of Bristol county lying adjacent to Rhode Island, and in a number of towns in the latter State the family has been represented for generations.  The records are, however, fragmentary, especially in connection with the Rhode Island branches.

The immediate ancestor of that branch of the family with which we are concerned was Stephen Handy, who spent his early days in that part of Gloucester, Rhode Island, which is now Burrillville, where he followed the trade of shoemaker, taught in the local school and also operated a small farm at Herring Pond, where he built his house.  It is illustrative of the primitive times in which he lived that Stephen Handy himself forged the nails with which he built his house.  He was in many ways a remarkable genius, possessing that extrordinary ability to handle difficult practical conditions which is so marked a characteristic of the Yankee character.  He removed in the early thirties with his family to what is now the village of Manville, where he spent the remainder of his life.  Stephen Handy married Deborah Ballou, a native of Gloucester, now Burrillville, and they were the parents of the following children:  Sarah, born April 6, 1814, became the wife of James Andrews; Celinda E., born July 22, 1822; Esther W., born June 10, 1823, became the wife of Thomas W. Lawton; Amey Ann, born March 5, 1825; George D., born Dec. 29, 1828, married Mary Corey; Russell, mentioned below; and John, born June 12, 1834, married Mary Knox, and resided at Whitinsville, Mass., where he died.

Russell HandyRussell Handy was born Feb. 25, 1830, at Burrillville, R. I., but was still a child when his parents located at Manville.  His educational advantages were decidedly meagre, and he was still very young when he started work in the mills at Manville, where he began at the bottom round of the ladder.  He was exceedingly bright and capable, however, and was rapidly promoted until he became superintendent and subsequently a shareholder in the Manville mills.  During his superintendency he made many improvements, including the building of the large mills of the Manville company and enlarging the dam. He was a man of great enterprise and capability, and while still superintendent of the Manville mills established a manufacturing business of his own at Kinderhook, New York, the conduct of which he placed in the hands of his sons, who were very capable young men.  The mill at Kinderhook, however, was destroyed by fire, whereupon Mr. Handy withdrew from the Manville mills, and in association with his son started the manufacturing business at what is now Contrexeville.  He purchased a large tract of land in 1887, known as the Lapham place, upon which he erected a mill, much of the machinery of which was of his own invention, but his death occurred Nov. 21, 1887, only a few months after the mill began active operations. Russell Handy was a man of unusual ability who, with very scanty opportunities, by his own efforts, reached a place of great prominence in the community and was known generally as one of its most successful men.  He was a member of the Emanuel Episcopal Church at Manville and for many years was a vestryman thereof, contributing liberally to the support of the parish and its charitable work. He married, Dec. 24, 1857, at Fishkill, Dutchess county, N. Y., Euphemia Ketcham, a native of New York City, and a daughter of Ebenezer and Lydia (Rogers) Ketcham, both of whom are natives of Harrison, New York. Russell Handy and his wife were the parents of the following children: Edwin Rogers, a sketch of whom follows in this work; Thomas Henry, mentioned below; Russell, Jr., who died at the age of twelve years; and Ruth Louise, who died when four years old.

Thomas H. HandyThomas Henry Handy was born March 12, 1863, at Manville, R. I., and was educated at the Mowry & Goff English and Classical School.  Upon completing his education, he engaged in business with his father and elder brother and became treasurer and secretary of the Contrexeville Manufacturing Company, which was incorporated in 1887 with a capital of one hundred thousand dollars.  The company manufactures cotton, jute and flax plushes and velveteens by a process of which it holds the patent, and it was for a number of years the only concern engaged in this line in the country.  At the time that Mr. Handy became associated with it the mill consisted of a large brick building two stories in height and which was then equipped with the best devices known in this line of industry.  The death of the elder Mr. Handy was followed by that of the elder son, Edwin Rogers Handy, since which time the subject of this sketch has been associated with Russell H. Handy, son of the late Edwin R. Handy, now serving as president of the company. The great business has during this period doubled its former proportions under their most capable management and many improvements have been added. The plant is situated about one mile from the Manville Railroad station, in a very attractive locality, and employment is given to above two hundred hands there.  Mr. Handy himself is greatly interested in agricultural pursuits and spends much of his leisure time engaged in this way.  He makes his home on a very handsome two hundred acre farm, which he keeps in a high state of cultivation and improvement, and from his house one can overlook the mills of the Contrexeville Manufacturing Company.  In his religious belief Mr. Handy is an Episcopalian and attends the church of that denomination at Manville.  He is a strong Republican in politics, but the demands upon his time and energies are so onerous that he can give but little attention to this aspect of the community's life.  He is, nevertheless, rightfully regarded as one of the great benefactors of Manville and the surrounding country, and has played an important part in the material development of the region.

Thomas Henry Handy married, Nov. 3, 1889, Susan Ellen Waterman, of Cumberland Hill, a daughter of William W. and Abby Green (Sayles) Waterman, old residents of that place.  To Mr. and Mrs. Handy the following children have been born:  Thomas Henry, Jr., who attended the public schools, and took a course at the Fall River Textile Institute of Fall River, Mass.; Abbie Waterman, educated in the public schools, and is now taking a course at Russell Sage College for Domestic Science; Susan Westcott, educated at the public schools, and now a pupil at Wellesley College; William R., who attended the local public schools, and was a pupil at the Massachusetts School of Technology, in Boston.  He died Nov. 1, 1918.

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Edwin R. HandyEDWIN R. HANDY, president of the Contrexeville Manufacturing Company, of Manville, from 1887 to 1904, figured prominently in manufacturing circles in the State throughout that period, and at the time of his death bade fair to become a leader in the textile manufacturing industry.  He was born in Wilkins Falls, N. Y., October 2, 1858, the son of Russell and Euphemia (Ketcham) Handy, and a descendant of Samuel Handy, founder of the family in New England.  He was educated in the public schools of Manville, and later attended the Mowry & Goff English and Classical School of Providence.  On completing his studies he at once identified himself with the manufacturing business of his father.  After a comprehensive study of all phases of the business he assumed charge of the plant at Kinderhook, New York.  Mr. Handy remained at the head of the plant at Kinderhook until its destruction by fire.  In 1887 Russell Handy purchased a large tract of land at Manville, Rhode Island, known as Lapham place, and here erected a mill, installing in it machinery of the most modern and efficient type, in the invention of which he and his sons had collaborated. His death in 1887, a few months after the mill had been put into operation, threw the arduous task of laying the foundations of a new business on the shoulders of his sons.  Edwin R. Handy, at the time assistant superintendent of the Contrexeville Manufacturing Company, under which name the business had been incorporated in 1887, succeeded to the office of president. Under his able direction the business was developed rapidly, and soon took a leading place among similar enterprises in the State.  Edwin R. Handy was an able executive and organizer; a man of shrewd judgment and keen foresight; he was thoroughly familiar with every phase of the industry in which he engaged, and an expert in his line.  He was widely known and eminently respected in business circles.

He married Eliza C. Howard, and they were the parents of four children: Ruth Louise; Russell Howard, who succeeded his father as president of the Contrexeville Manufacturing Company, married Caroline B. Vose; Edwin Rogers; John Ketcham.  Edwin R. Handy died in Manville, R. I., May 1, 1904.


These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project. Transcription and pictures 2001-2 by Beth Hurd

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