CYRUS WHITE

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. 208

CYRUS WHITE, late president, treasurer and manager of the White Manufacturing Company, and president of  White, Corbin & Company, Rockville, was born at Richford, Vt., November 18, 1814, the eldest of eight children of a farmer of moderate means.  He was early inured to the toils and privations of life in a newly settled region, and thereby gained a hardy physical development, and laid the foundation of industry, frugality and self reliance, which served him so well in his subsequent career.  With the limited educational privileges of a few weeks each year in the district schools, he gained a fair knowledge of the rudimentary sciences (reading, writing, and arithmetic), and at the age of nineteen started out to learn the blacksmith’s trade, serving an apprenticeship of three years in the little hamlet of East Enosburg, about ten miles distant from the paternal home.  Here he learned, literally and figuratively, to strike while the iron is hot, a practical lesson to keep ever in mind.  At the close of this term, in November, 1836, the chances for obtaining employment in Northern Vermont being less favorable than in other localities, he made an engagement with a man in Ware, Mass., and went there to find that his intended employer had died suddenly a few hours before his arrival.  This left him without business among strangers, with only three dollars in his pocket, but providentially he heard of an opening for employment at Vernon Center, Conn., with a chance to work his passage thither by helping a drove of cattle to that place.  There he remained until April 1, 1838, receiving about eighty cents per day and his board for his services, from which during the seventeen months he managed to save $100 in cash; and with this capital he hired a shop at Rockville, employed two assistants, and thus commenced business for himself.  On January 1, 1839, he engaged in a matrimonial partnership with Miss Sarah A. Grant, of Ware, Mass., formerly a school companion in Vermont.  This union proved a very fortunate and happy one, and continued until his death.  Of five children born to them, three are yet living, namely: Sarah Jane, now Mrs. P.Gorman; John W.; and Lillian F., wife of Edward White, all of whom live in Rockville.  During the next few years, Mr. White acquired considerable real estate and built the residence in which he lived at the time of his death, also White’s Opera House and other buildings.  In 1848 he bought a half interest in the iron foundry business, and about two years later the firm of C.White & Co., which had at this date bought tools and started a machine shop business in connection with the foundry and smelting business, with Milton G. Puffer employed as a patternmaker and ingenious mechanic, inaugurated a series of experiments which resulted in the production of an improved machine capable of folding and pasting 10,000 letter envelopes per day, Mr. White discovering in this a chance for a permanent and profitable enterprise, began to lay the foundations for the eminently successful business of C.White & Co.  In this his partner had less faith, and in 1855 sold his interest to L.A. Corbin, when the firm was changed to White& Corbin and the foundry and blacksmith shop were sold, a water-power purchased, and early in the spring of 1856 a four story building, 83 x 39, was erected for an envelope factory.

On July 4th, following, three or four of these improved envelope machines were started in the new factory, and the business was placed on a more permanent basis, Mr. White devoting his time exclusively to the general management of the business, and to the building up of a trade of envelopes and paper.  Sales were small and means also; hence the firm had to proceed slowly.  A business of about $8,000 the first year, more than doubled the next, and so continued to increase until a condition was reached where sales amounted to $325,000 in a single year.  Machines were added as fast as they could be made by the company with their limited facilities.  In 1866 William H. Prescott, who had been their bookkeeper for several years, and who by his ability and strict attention to business had made his services indispensable to the firm, was at the instance of Mr. White, admitted as a partner, with an equal interest with the two former partners when the firm became White, Corbin & Co.  In May, 1870, Mr. White having other business requiring his attention, retired from the management of the envelope and paper business and thereafter for years the managerial duties devolved upon Mr. Prescott.  The business continued to develop to such an extent that in 1881 gave occasion for the purchase of the “Florence Mills” , one of the largest and finest mill buildings in Rockville, and which it became necessary to enlarge by extensive additions some years later in order to accommodate the still increasing business, which became among the most extensive of its line in the world.  As ability, integrity, and success had great value to the name of Cyrus White, it was frequently sought as a means of obtaining credit by others less fortunate.  By his kindness of heart, which too often led him to disregard warnings to avoid surety, he became involved by the failure of parties he had assisted during the autumn of 1869, in liabilities amounting to nearly $200,000.  This necessitated taking certain mill properties, assuming private encumbrances thereon, and likewise a further outlay to make the property available as a source of income for reimbursement for obligations he had assumed.  This led to the commencement of the White Manufacturing Company, of which Mr. White was principal owner and manager at the time of his death; he also then held a one-third interest in White, Corbin & Co.  He also owned the Highland farm, located within the city limits, which he himself carried on and managed.  He took great pleasure in improving its well-tilled fields, and in its fine herd of cows and young stock.  He also owned a large farm in Enosburg, Vt., well stocked, together with two fine sugar orchards of over two thousand trees.

In Rockville Mr. White did a large grain and milling business, the extensive “City mills” being then run by the White Manufacturing Company.  Various enterprises with which Mr. White was at that time, and had been, identified had kept him a very busy man.  Notwithstanding he was almost an octogenarian at the time of his death, he still attended to the direction and general management of his business with the energy and vigor of a man in the prime of life.  A recital of the struggles and triumphs through which he had passed affords a fine picture of a life which illustrates the possibilities of undimmed vision and spirit as buoyant as in earlier a success of enterprises undertaken under adverse circumstances, and in some cases almost without any previous practical knowledge of their details.  His success is not measured by his own personal profit only, but in the advancement of the interests of others with whom he was associated, and in contributing largely to the material wealth, prosperity, population and industries of his adopted city, notwithstanding the many obstacles that would discourage or dismay the average man, but which Mr. White resolutely met and overcame.  To the very last he looked on the bright side of life with undimmed vision and spirit as buoyant as in earlier days; and while he carried a full share of the burdens and responsibilities of life, he extended a hearty greeting of a friend, and richly deserved the reputation he won, and the magnificent success he achieved.

From early boyhood Mr. White was a devout Methodist and in the early days of the church at Rockville he threw himself into the work with great energy.  To him more than any other one man was due the building of the handsome church edifice on Main street.  Politically he was a Whig, then a Republican, but at time his sympathy was strongly with the Prohibition party, as he was a strong advocate of temperance.  Mr. White died at his home at Rockville, May 10, 1891.  His estimable widow yet resides at the old home of her deceased husband, and is remarkably well preserved for one of her years.

Reproduced by:

Linda D. Pingel – great-great granddaughter of Cyrus White

 

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