OLON S. CHAFFEE

& JOSEPH CONANT

BIOGRAPHY

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.  594

OLON S. CHAFFEE, for a number of years a well-known manufacturer of Mansfield, Tolland County, and now engaged in business in Montville, Conn., is a representative of an old and honored family, for many years prominent in the history of Windham and Tolland Counties.

Thomas Chaffee, the founder of the family in America, settled in Hingham, Plymouth Co., Mass., in 1637.

Frederick Chaffee, the grandfather of Olon S. Chaffee, was a prosperous farmer, and followed that calling all his life, residing in the northeast portion of the town of Mansfield. He died April 3, 1862, in Mansfield, at an advanced age. He married Katherine Knowlton, who died Oct. 21, 1875. To them were born: Orwell S., father of Olon S.; and William, who married Sophia Simmons, and was a farmer in Mansfield when he died leaving one son, Frederick, who is now living in New London.

Orwell S. Chaffee, son of Frederick, was born June 10, 1807, in Ashford, Conn., came to Mansfield with his parents when a boy, and was reared upon a farm. When he attained to manís estate he engaged in the silk mill (soon after his marriage) of his father-in-law, Joseph Conant, at Conantville, and was later taken into the company, continuing in that line for many years. Later Mr. Conant retired from the business and the management of affairs fell upon the shoulders of Mr. Chaffee, who so continued for some years. Finally the business was disposed of, and in 1838 Mr. Chaffee purchased a factory site at what is now Chaffeeville, tore down the old building and erected a large building; he also constructed a good dam. There he engaged in the manufacture of silk, which he continued the remainder of his life. In later years he took his son, Hon. J. Dwight Chaffee, into partnership, and in 1872, a factory was started at Willimantic, under the title of O.S. Chaffee & Son, the institution at Chaffeeville being also kept in operation. The product of these factories was silk thread and braid, which found a ready market all over the world. Mr. Chaffee was active in business until his death, which occurred April 2, 1887, and he is buried at Gurleyville, Conn. In politics he was a Republican, and was always active in his work for the success of the party. He held many of the town offices, representing the town in the State Legislature for two terms. Socially he was a member of the Eastern Star Lodge, A.F.& A.M., of Willimantic. He attended the Methodist Church of which his wife was a member, and to which he gave his active support. In personal appearance Mr. Chaffee was about five feet, nine and one-half inches in height, and weighed 225 pounds when in good health, and his death was occasioned by acute Brightís disease. Being essentially a self-made man, his success was well merited, and he shared his prosperity with those less fortunate.

Mr. Chaffee married Lucinda Amelia Conant, who was born August 30, 1814, in Northampton, Mass., daughter of Joseph Conant, and died Feb. 27, 1879. The children born of this union were as follows: Maria died at the age of fifteen; Col. J. Dwight is mentioned below; Olon S. is mentioned below. Mr. Chaffee was married, a second time, to Bertha Perkins, a resident of Mansfield. No children were born of this marriage. Mrs. Chaffee later married a Mr. Gridley.

Col. J. Dwight Chaffee, the second child of Orwell S. Chaffee, was born Aug. 9, 1847, attended the common schools, and at the age of sixteen entered his fatherís factory at Mansfield, where he thoroughly learned the process of silk manufacturing, later becoming his fatherís partner. Later he became president of the Natchaug Silk Company and director of the W.G. & A.R. Morrison Machine Co. Since 1890 he has resided in Willimantic. In politics he is a Republican, and in 1874 was elected to the State Legislature; in 1885 he was the choice of his constituents for State senator. In January, 1887, he was appointed on the staff of Gov. Phineas C. Lounsbury. He married Martha, daughter of George B. Armstrong, of Mansfield, and three children have been born to them: Arthur D., Howard S. and Gertrude A.

JOSEPH CONANT, the maternal grandfather of Olon S. Chaffee, was born March 28, 1792, in Mansfield, near what is now Mansfield Centre, one of the twelve children, six sons and six daughters, of Sylvanus Conant, all of whom grew to maturity and attained the age of at least sixty. Being brought up upon a farm, all of his school life was ended by the time he was twelve, and, as his mother died about that time, child though he was, the little fellow set out to win his way in the world. His first work was upon a neighborís farm, where he remained until he attained his majority, when he erected a small factory upon the site of Chaffeeville and began the manufacture of augers and steelyards, although he had but little capital and employed but few men. For a number of years he followed this occupation, meeting with a fair measure of success. Later he embarked in silk manufacturing at that place, and after some years went to Northampton, Mass., where he was employed in the silk mill for a year, became the manager of same, and later the owner. Being successful, he took several partners. In time he sold the plant, and erected another in the same town, operating the factory in conjunction with Dwight Swift, under the title of Conant & Swift. Mr. Swift died a few years later, and Mr. Conant sold the property and located in Mansfield, erecting the silk mill at Conantville, which place was named after him. At that time only one house was standing upon the site of the now prosperous town. There he continued the manufacture of silk for eighteen years, or until his death, which occurred Oct. 10, 1870, after a short illness, of Brightís disease, and he is buried in Willimantic. Being captain of the local militia, he was familiarly known as Capt. Conant. Mr. Conant was a man of commanding presence, being six feet tall, and weighing at least 230 pounds, when in the prime of life, and until his later years enjoyed almost perfect health. Not only did he interest himself in his factory matters, but also dealt extensively in real estate, buying old property, and repairing and disposing of it at a considerable advance. Public-spirited to a marked degree, he took a great interest in improvements, and a number of the good roads in the vicinity were made and kept in repair at his expense. Having won his own way in the world, he was able to appreciate the struggles of others, and was very generous. In politics, he was a Whig and later a Republican, and twice represented the town of Mansfield in the State Legislature; socially he was a Mason. He attended and supported the Congregational Church, and in his death the town lost one of its best and mostly highly respected citizens. His first wife, Sophia Huntley, was born in Mansfield, and their only child, Lucinda A., was the mother of our subject. Mr. Conant married Parmelia Gaylord, of Ashford, Conn., for his second wife; there were no children by this union. On April 13, 1845, Mr. Conant married Caroline Williams, a native of Mansfield, born in June, 1820, who is still living, and resides in Mansfield. Mr. Conant was one of the pioneers in the manufacture of silk, and to his efforts is due much of the advancement made in that industry. Being of a very genial nature, he made many friends, and was loved by all who knew him.

Olon S. Chaffee, our subject proper, was born Nov. 20, 1855, in what is now Chaffeeville, in the house that stands immediately south of his present residence. During his boyhood he attended the common schools of his native town, and then went for three years to the select school of Dr. J. C. Fitch, at Norwalk, Conn. After returning home he went to work in his fatherís factory, first on a finishing machine, and later was employed in all the various departments, until he secured a thorough knowledge of the business. In 1888, after the death of his father, he assumed full charge of the factory, conducting it under the name of O.S. Chaffee. In February, 1902, he moved all his business to Montville, Conn., where he conducts a much larger business, his factory there having twice the capacity of his former mill.

In politics, Mr. Chaffee is a Republican, and he represented Mansfield in the State Legislature in 1882, at a time when Hon. John M. Hall, now president of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railway Company, was speaker of the House; Mr. Chaffee served on the committee on Stateís Prisons. In 1903 he represented the 24th District in the State Senate, and was on the committees on Manufactures and Senate Appointments, serving as chairman of the former.

Mr. Chaffee has never married. He is at all times a pleasant, genial companion, and a staunch friend. Personally he presents a fine appearance, being six feet four inches in height, and weighing at least 265 pounds. In all of his transactions he proves himself a worthy descendant of those two excellent men, his father and grandfather, whose insight into business life and methods he clearly inherits, along with their pleasing personalities.

Reproduced by: Ellen Bisson

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