PUBLISHER: J.H.BEERS & CO., CHICAGO; 1903      P.  1290

GEORGE H. BACKUS, of the firm of Backus Bros., merchants of South Windham, Windham county, is a descendant of one of the sixteen landholders who obtained land from the Indians.

William Backus, a native of England, who came to America and located at Saybrook in 1638, was the common ancestor of the Norwich and Windham families of the name. In 1660, he removed to Norwich, as one of the original proprietors of that place, was made a freeman in 1663, and died in 1664. His two sons were William and Stephen.

Lieut. William Backus, son of William the emigrant, was an original proprietor of Norwich, Conn., and was one of its most enterprising settlers. Later he became one of the proprietors of Windham. He was one of the legatees of Joshua Uncas, from which estate he received three shares of 1,000 acres each. He married Elizabeth, a daughter of Mr. Pratt, of Saybrook, and she died in 1730. His death occurred in 1720. Their children were: William, John, Sarah (who married Edwin Culver), Samuel, Joseph, and Nathaniel.

William Backus (3), son of Lieut. William and the eldest of his family, was born in 1660, and settled in Windham as early as 1693, for his name is found in the first of twenty-two inhabitants made in that year. Previous to this his father gave him one of his 1,000 acre tracts, which was located at Windham Center. On Aug. 31, 1692, he married Mary Dunton, and he died Jan. 25, 1742. They had the following family: Samuel, Abigail (who died young), Mary, Daniel, Harriet, Peter, William, Stephen and Ephraim.

Samuel Backus, the eldest child of William (3), was born July 5, 1693, and was married Dec. 2, 1719, to Sarah Gard. They lived in Windham, and had the following named children: Mary, who died at the age of seventeen; Lemuel, who was killed by the Indians; Adonizah; Nathaniel; Abigail, who married Samuel Huntington, of Mansfield; and Ann.

Nathaniel Backus, son of Samuel, was born in 1728, and married Oct. 7, 1753, Elizabeth Hebard, a daughter of Robert Hebard. Nathaniel died Dec. 14, 1815, his wife in 1813, at the age of eighty-three. To them were born: Elijah, who moved to Vermont; Huldah; Calvin; Luther; and others.

Luther Backus, son of Nathaniel, born in 1772, died in 1855. He was three times married, and was the father of twenty-one children, the largest family ever reared in Windham. His third wife was Melinda Lyman, by whom he had a son when he was over seventy years of age.

Harry Backus, the eldest in the large family of Luther, was married Jan. 3, 1819, to Susannah D. Sawyer, daughter of Daniel and Susannah (Dennison) Sawyer, and their children were: Julia Ann, Albert Henry, John Christopher, Hulda Maria, Eliza Elizabeth, Luther F., Mary M., Chester H., and George Abbe. Four of this generation still survive: Eliza E., Mrs. George Severance, of Hudson, Iowa; Chester H.; George A.; and Mary M., Mrs. Loydon, who was born Dec. 3, 1830. Harry Backus, died in 1871.

Luther F. Backus, the father of George H., was born in Windham March 5, 1828, and died in South Windham Aug. 7, 1883. He married Ellen Canniff, a native of Ireland, who died May 1, 1895, at the age of seventy-five years. Both were buried in the Windham cemetery. The father spent his whole life in the town of Windham, engaged in farm work, and for some thirty years followed milling. His last employment was as engineer for the Adams Nickel Plating Company of South Windham. In politics he was a Democrat, became well and favorably known, and was one of the substantial and reliable citizens of his community. He was the father of the following named children; (1) William Christopher, born June 15, 1854, is mentioned further on. (**see footnote) (2) Luther Edwin, born Jan. 29, 1856, married Annie Shay, and has three children – Helen, Florence and William. His business is that of machinist for the Smith Winchester Co., of South Windham. (3) George Harlow is mentioned below. (4) James Henry died in infancy. (5) Charles Henry, born Jan. 2, 1865, is in the employ of Backus Bros. He married Carrie Shaddock, and has two children, Hazel M. and Charles H., Jr.

George Harlow Backus was born Sept. 30, 1858, at South Windham, Conn., where he has always lived. Until he was sixteen years old he continued at school, and then became receiving and shipping clerk for the Adams Nickel Plating Company, of South Windham remaining until the spring of 1879, when he became a clerk for E.H. Holmes, at South Windham. Thus he continued until March, 1880, at which time, in association with his brother, William C., he purchased the business of Mr. Holmes, and the firm has ever since that time controlled the trade not only of Windham, but of the surrounding country. They do a general merchandising business and also carry on a coal yard, and rank among the leading business firms of their part of the country.

On July 13, 1887, Mr. Backus was married to Lizzie Ann Lamb, a native of the town of Norwich, born Aug. 20, 1867, daughter of Charles Henry and Caroline Calista (Taft) Lamb. To this union has come one daughter, Calista Ellen, born Feb. 4, 1900.

In politics Mr. Backus has always been a faithful Democrat, and he has served in a number of local offices, having been a justice of the peace, and postmaster at South Windham for a term of four years under President Cleveland’s second administration. He also has been a member of the board of relief, was two years town collector for the east division, and is a notary public.

Concerning the standing of the firm of Backus Bros., we can close this article in no better way than by quoting from a recent publication: “Among the mercantile houses of high character that of Backus Bros., at South Windham, is a leading representative. This firm has been in business here for the past twenty-two years, and they handle a complete line of staple and fancy groceries, provisions of all kinds, canned goods and all articles that are required to meet the wants of the trade derived from all classes of people. They also carry a line of baked stuffs, and handle a complete stock of men’s working clothing, another branch of the business being the selling of clothing by samples. In the rear of the store is located a coal yard conducted by this enterprising firm, and with them is also located the office of the Postal Telegraph and the Southern New England Telephone.

“The individual members of the firm are William C. and George H. Backus, both of whom are gentlemen of excellent business attainments, are popular socially, and are respected for their probity, honor and business acumen. George H., gives his attention to the store, while William C. attends to the duties of station agent for the Central Vermont railroad, which position he has held for twenty-eight consecutive years. They are assisted in the store by their brother Charles H., who is well known and popular with all our people.”

Reproduced by:  Linda D. Pingel

**footnote: William Christopher Backus is profiled in a short but separate bio.


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