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