AS RECORDED IN:
COMMEMORATIVE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF
TOLLAND AND WINDHAM COUNTIES CONNECTICUT.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF PROMINENT AND
REPRESENTATIVE CITIZENS AND OF MANY OF THE EARLY SETTLED FAMILIES
PUBLISHER: J.H.BEERS & CO., CHICAGO; 1903 P. 44 - 47
HON. JULIUS CONVERSE. The Converse family of the town of Stafford, Tolland county, in which town several generations have figured conspicuously from the very dawn of its settlement in the early part of the eighteenth century, is one of the oldest of New England families, and one of prominence. For the past one hundred years such men as Asa, Solvin, Capt. Solva, Capt. Parley, Eliab A., and Hon. Julius and others of the name, have been among the foremost citizens of Stafford, largely instrumental in founding, fostering and developing her great industries and building up her trade centers.
Away back in the misty past of bygone centuries, the titled family of De Coigniries held a distinguished place among the Norman nobles of that day, and were in possession of large estates around the Chateau of Coignir. Roger de Coigniries, a member of this family, who was born in Waverly, France, in 1010, accompanied William the Conqueror in his invasion of England in 1066, and was one of his trusted and able chieftains, and so distinguished himself at the battle of Hastings that his name was entered upon the roll of Battle Abbey.
After the Conquest, the family name was changed to Coniers or Conyers, and tracing the line on down to the present day, we find: Roger de Coniers, son of Roger; Roger (3), son of Roger (2), born in 1134, and died in 1174; Galfrid, son of Roger (3); John Conyers, son of Galfrid Conyers; Sir Humphrey, son of John; Sir John, son of Sir Humphrey; Roger, son of Sir John; Sir John, son of Roger; Robert, son of Sir John; John, son of Robert; Sir Christopher, son of John; Sir John, son of Sir Christopher; Sir John, son of Sir John; Sir Reginal, son of Sir John; Richard, son of Reginal; Christopher, son of Richard; Deacon Edward, son of Christopher, born in England in 1590, came to Woburn in 1630, where he died in 1663; Sergeant Samuel, son of Deacon Edward Convers, was born in Woburn, Mass., in 1637, and died in 1669; Samuel, son of Sergeant Samuel, was born in Woburn, Mass., in 1662, and later settled in Thompson, Conn., where he died in 1732; Henry Converse, son of Samuel, was born in Woburn, Mass., in 1696, settled in Thompson, Conn., and died in 1784; Asa, son of Henry, was born in Thompson, Conn., in 1730, and came to Stafford; Solvin, son of Asa; Solva, son of Solvin; and Julius, son of Solva.
Edward Convers, given in the ancestral line as Deacon Edward, was the first American ancestor of the Stafford branch of the Converse family, the name changing from Conyers to Convers, and later to Converse, in this country. This Edward was born in 1590, and in 1630 he came with Winthrop to America, and with him settled in Charlestown, near Boston, where he was a man of considerable prominence, and was one of the founders of the first church, now known as the First Church of Boston, and also as the First Church of Charlestown. The town of Woburn, Mass., was incorporated in 1642, and he was one of the first settlers and became one of the founders of the first church in that town. With him from his English home, came his wife, Sarah, after whose death he married Joanna Sprague, and died in Woburn, in 1663. His children were: Josiah, James, Samuel and Mary, from some of whom descended the Thompson, Conn., Converses. (The History of Windham County says that Samuel Converse, son of Samuel and Judith (Carter) Converse, and a grandson of Edward, the emigrant, settled in 1710, in Thompson Parish, town of Killingly, in which he was among the very first settlers). From this town came Asa Converse, the son of Henry, the head of the Converse family under consideration, in the town of Stafford.
Asa Converse, son of Henry Converse, of Thompson, Conn., married, and his children were: Solvin, James, Darius, Asa, Alpheus and Sybil.
Capt. Solvin Converse, son of Asa, was born in 1758, in Stafford, and in 1780 was married to Sarah, daughter of Josiah Holmes and granddaughter of Deacon David Holmes, who was a son of John Holmes, one of the first settlers of Woodstock, Conn. Deacon David Holmes was the great-grandfather of the famous Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes. The children born to Capt. Solvin and Sarah (Holmes) Converse were: Josiah; Sally, who married Olney Brown, of Union; Lucy, who married David Brown, of Union; Solva, who married Esther Blodgett; Parley, who married Sally Alden; Washington, who died Dec. 29, 1814, at the age of thirteen years; John, who married Wealthy Dimock and died July 5, 1845, at the age of thirty-one years; George, whose wife’s Christian name was Mary; and Freeman, who married Emily Miller. Two of this family, Capt. Solva and Capt. Parley, became especially conspicuous characters in Stafford. Capt. Solvin died in Stafford May 13, 1813, at the age of fifty-five years, and his widow survived until July 5, 1845, when she had reached her eighty-fifth year.
Capt. Solva Converse, son of Capt. Solvin, was born on April 1, 1790, in Stafford, and received only limited educational advantages. Reared on a farm, he followed agricultural life only for a period as he saw a larger field of operation. In his young days there were no railroads, and freight of all kinds was brought to and from Hartford or other points, by teams, and in this business, in connection with his brother Parley, he engaged largely. For thirty or more years he was also extensively interested in the lumber business, and conducted a most successful meat business also, supplying the whole surrounding country with fresh meats.
Mr. Converse was one of the founders, and one of the largest holders of stock in, the Mineral Springs Manufacturing Company’s first woolen mill, erected in the village of Stafford Springs, in 1839, and he became the company’s first agent, a position he held for some time, later succeeding to the presidency of the company, holding that position for some years, and under his guidance a great and prosperous business was developed. Beginning life with very little, Mr. Converse, through his great industry and good management, coupled with rare judgement and fine ability, forged his way to position and wealth, leaving at his death a good name, and probably the largest estate ever accumulated in this town. Mr. Converse possessed good sense, was far-seeing in business matters, and his counsel was often sought and his advice followed, as it was considered safe. In public matters in his town, he frequently served as selectman, and about 1840 he represented the town in the State Legislature. Always public-spirited, he did much for the town, and a large portion of the borough of Stafford Springs stands today as monuments to the name of Converse – to the names of Solva, Parley and Julius Converse, whose memory will long be cherished by those of the borough who are on the stage of action today, and by those who follow after them.
Capt. Converse, a title also acquired by his father, and two of his sons, from their service as commanders of companies in the old militia, was a member and a liberal supporter of the Methodist Church of Stafford Springs, and he was among the first to contribute to the building of the first edifice of that denomination in 1832, and again to the erection of the building in 1866, which replaced the former one.
In 1812 Capt. Solva Converse was married to Esther Blodgett, who was born Oct. 12, 1790, and died July 5, 1880. She was a daughter of Deacon Alden Blodgett, and a granddaughter of Joshua Blodgett, said to be the first white child born in Stafford, whose father and his brother were among the first settlers of the town, coming from Woburn, Mass. To this marriage were born: Adeline, who died in childhood; Almeda, who married L.H. Whiton; Alden S., who died in young manhood; Orrin; Josiah; Julius, who married Mira C. Lord; Hannah B., who married M.H. Washburn; and Francis E., Henry S., Washington and Welcome, all died in infancy. Capt. Solva Converse, the father of these children, died Nov. 22, 1877, and the mother passed away in 1880.
Capt. Parley Converse, son of Capt. Solvin, and brother to Capt. Solva, was born May 6, 1792, in Stafford, and was reared among agricultural pursuits, receiving only such education as the neighborhood common schools afforded, and as was customary to the general farmers’ sons. Like his brother, he was ambitious and saw a wider field of operation, and one that seemed more profitable than the farm, so he joined Capt. Solva in the business of teaming, and in the other enterprises, as previously noted, and he, too, was one of the founders and promoters of the Mineral Springs Manufacturing Company, soon after coming into possession of a large amount of the company’s stock. It was but a short time after the company’s organization, until the entire property passed into the hands of these two Converse brothers. In 1854 Capt. Parley sold his interest to his brother, and in association with his son-in-law, Benjamin Wells Patten, built what was known as the Converseville mill, in Stafford Springs, and in it was actively interested the remainder of his life.
Capt. Parley Converse was also a stockholder in various other enterprises, and was ever keenly alive to the interests of his native town, and did much to further its advancement. Public-spirited and enterprising, he left many monuments to his memory, not only in Stafford Springs, but at other points in the town. Like his brother, he began life poor, but with a good constitution, and an indomitable will power and energy that overcame all obstacles, rose to wealth and to the first rank of citizenship, and became a keen, sagacious and far-seeing business man, and he worked hard and long even after he had progressed far beyond any necessity for it. Probably no larger estates were ever accumulated in the town than those left by Capt. Solva and Capt. Parley Converse. Each was a strictly self-made man. Parley was averse to holding public office, yet often served his town in the capacity of selectman, represented it in the General Assembly, and also his district in the State Senate. In any and every capacity he was faithful to duty, and his acts were characteristic of the man, performed with wisdom, judgement, and ability. In religious belief, he was a Methodist, ever steadfast and faithful, and he gave liberally to the Church and to all good causes. In 1866, he was made president of the Stafford National Bank, and he remained such until the time of his death, in 1869. For many years he was president of the Stafford Springs Savings Bank, organized in 1855, and served as its first official in that position.
On Oct. 3, 1816, Capt. Parley Converse was married to Sally Alden, and to them were born these children: Judith B., deceased, married Henry Gay; Orrin is mentioned elsewhere; Emeline married Henry Thrall, and died in 1860; Washington died in 1830; Laura A. married Benjamin Wells; Phronema married Dwight Clark, now deceased; Louisa married Robbins Patten; Amanda died in 1860; Minerva married Henry Thrall; and Jennett D. died in 1834. Capt. Parley Converse died on Nov. 25, 1869.
Hon. Julius Converse, son of Capt. Solva Converse, was born March 1, 1827, in Stafford, in which town he was reared, and in its local schools received his elementary education, attending later the Ellington high school, and a private school in Brimfield, Mass. After his schooldays were over, he became identified with the Mineral Springs Manufacturing Company, in Stafford, entering the manufacturing department, and there obtained a practical knowledge of that branch of the business. Later he was taken into the office, where he soon became acquainted with the accounts and the financial affairs of the company. As the years passed, young Converse rose step by step, through his force and usefulness, until he became the company’s treasurer, and in 1866 its agent also. Inheriting many of the characteristics of his father, and through his good judgement, he was successful in managing the business and it continued to grow to large proportions with increasing success. Mr. Converse became a large stockholder, and finally, in 1885, the sole proprietor of the concern, continuing as the same until the time of his death, June 7, 1892. In other corporations he was largely interested also, among these being the woolen mills of Ellis & Converse, at Orcuttville, while in a number he was the controlling spirit.
Mr. Converse was one of the incorporators of the Savings Bank of Stafford Springs, and in 1872 became its first president, a position he held until 1874, in which year he succeeded Moses B. Harvey as president of the Stafford National Bank, serving until 1878, for many years having been a director in these banks. Mr. Converse was most active all his life, in advancing the town’s interests, aiding all good measures, and he was zealous in his efforts in the upbuilding and beautifying of the borough of Stafford Springs.
In 1886 Mr. Converse purchased the Mineral Springs and the hotel property, which today is one of the attractive features of the borough, the hotel being modern, commodious and beautiful, and the pride of the town. To all worthy benevolences he had given freely of his wealth, his charities were large, and at the time of his death he had become one of the most popular citizens of this section of the country. An earnest and active Republican, Mr. Converse was a number of times elected by his fellow-citizens to fill public offices where his ability was always recognized, and his efficiency commended. In 1865-66, he represented the town of Stafford in the State Legislature; in 1872, he was a Presidential elector on the Republican National ticket, and cast his vote for Grant and Wilson. In 1877, he was elected from his district to the State Senate, and in that body served on the committee on Finance. In 1888, Mr. Converse was chosen a delegate to the Republican National Convention, at Chicago. Upon the incorporation of Stafford Springs as a borough, by the General Assembly, in May, 1873, in which Mr. Converse took a leading part, he was made the first warden of the borough. Although a very busy man with many absorbing problems always demanding his attention, he was ever ready to assist in his town’s welfare, although often, by doing so, he interfered with his personal interests. For a number of years Mr. Converse was also a director in the Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance Company.
On June 11, 1854, Julius Converse married Miss Mira Clark Lord, who was born April 13, 1835, a daughter of John Knight and Sally (Spellman) Lord, of Stafford, and to them were born eight children: Lilla Adelaide, born Dec. 15, 1856, married Oct. 13, 1880, William Lee, superintendent of a mill near Auburn, N.Y., and their children are, Eugenia Converse (born on Dec. 23, 1882, a student in the Poughkeepsie Female Preparatory school), Ralph William (born July 8, 1885), James Howard (born May 15, 1887), Arthur Julius (born July 3, 1890), Marian Susan (born Jan. 10, 1892), Jesse Edward (born Dec. 26, 1893) and Hattie Mira (born Sept. 30, 1895); Freeman, born Sept. 2, 1858, died Nov. 19, 1858; Byron Lord, born Feb. 23, 1860, died Oct. 12, 1863; Eugenia Hovey, born Jan. 2, 1861, married Alba Mathews, who is engaged in the real estate business in Chicago, and they have one child, Louise Mathews; Julius Carl, sketch elsewhere; Louis Seymour, born June 4, 1868, was formerly connected with his father’s business, but now resides in Salem, Ohio, and is engaged in the mercantile business, as the head of the Converse Dry Goods Co. (he married Jean Russell, of Stafford, and has three children, Margaret R., Dorothy R. and Julius); Willie Worth, born June 1, 1870, died in September of the same year; and Eddie Gibbs, born Feb. 7, 1873, died April 20, 1873.
It may be stated that as a public-spirited man, Julius Converse had no superior and few equals. In all of the affairs of the town he was active and took a prominent position in every project for the betterment of either town or county. No other citizen of Stafford has contributed so much of influence, time and means to improve and beautify this locality. The spacious grounds leading to his late residence, “Woodlawn,” which is one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in Connecticut, have been transformed from an unsightly alder swamp, and the elevated site of the residence, itself, was formerly covered with a heavy growth of wood. Woodlawn Terrace, an attractive street, was laid out and largely built by Mr. Converse.
The ecclesiastical societies, especially the Methodist, owe much to Mr. Converse’s unbounded liberality. His death removed from the community one whose life had been spent, to a great extent, in helping others. To him selfishness was unknown; he delighted in benefactions, and many of those who were in the habit of benefiting by his quiet and unostentatious charity, have missed the generous hand and the friendly spirit. Hon. Julius Converse, not only so in name but in very truth honorable, passed to the Great Beyond June 7, 1892, survived by his bereaved widow and four children, who lost a loving husband and devoted father, a wise friend and counselor, and a worthy example.
Linda D. Pingel – great-great granddaughter of Cyrus White of Rockville, CT.
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