1846: Arthur Latham to Erastus Fairbanks

This letter was written by Arthur Latham (1802-1889), the youngest son of eleven children born to Arthur and Mary (Post) Latham. He began his education in the local schools of Lyme, New Hampshire, and then attended Dartmouth (1820-1822) and Middlebury (1822-1824) colleges, graduating from Middlebury in 1824. Arthur Latham married Caroline Hinckley, born 12 April 1804, of Thetford, Vermont, on 23 February 1825. She was the daughter of Orramel Hinckley and Lydia Strong Hinckley. Arthur and Caroline Latham were the parents of eleven children, seven of whom survived to adulthood: Orramel Hinckley, Bradford Wales, Charles Chilton, Caroline Hinckley, Mary Lucy, Arthur Winslow Chilton and Harriet Maria.

Arthur Latham and his brother, Bezer Latham, operated a general store in Lyme, New Hampshire. In the 1840s, Arthur Latham moved to White River Junction, Vermont, where he operated the A. Latham & Company and the Latham Iron Works, manufacturers of locomotives and railroad cars. This company operated for only a few years and was forced to close because of a poor financial arrangement with one of their customers. Arthur and Caroline Latham then moved to Central St. Louis, Missouri, and returned to White River Junction in July 1871 to live with their daughter, Caroline, and her husband, Noah Bigelow Safford, on South Main Street. In 1871, Arthur Latham “lost his left foot” in a railroad accident when a Vermont Central locomotive ran over his foot and lived out his years with a wooden artificial foot.

Erastus Fairbanks

Erastus Fairbanks

Latham wrote the letter to Erastus Fairbanks (1792-1864), the son of Joseph and Phebe (Paddock) Fairbanks. He married Lois Crossman (1792 – 1866) on May 30, 1815. He studied law but abandoned it for mercantile pursuits.

Finally settling in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, in 1824, Fairbanks formed a partnership, E. & T. Fairbanks & Co., with his brother Thaddeus Fairbanks for the manufacture of scales, stoves and plows. Subsequently the Fairbanks Scales, invented by Thaddeus, were so successful that the company became the largest employer in the state. Fairbanks was a member of the Vermont House of Representatives from 1836 to 1838. He was President of the Passumpsic Railroad, which completed a line from White River to St. Johnsbury in 1850. He was a Presidential Elector for Vermont in 1844 and 1848.

Fairbanks was elected the 21st Governor of Vermont in 1851 and served from 1852 to 1853. During this term, a law was passed forbidding the sale or traffic of intoxicating beverages. The law was not repealed until 1902. Fairbanks was one of the founders of the Republican Party, and a delegate from Vermont to the first Republican National Convention in 1856. He was 26th Governor of Vermont from 1860 to 1861. During his second term he rendered valuable aid in the equipment and dispatch of troops in the early days of the American Civil War. [Source: Wikipedia]

1846 Letter

1846 Letter

Addressed to Erastus Fairbanks, Esqr., St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Concord [New Hampshire]
June 9, 1846

My dear Sir,

As you ‘ere this have been apprised of the organization of the Legislature, I need not revert to any of its incidents farther than to say that Mr. Hale in the appointment of committees has so far as I can judge given us a Committee on Roads, &c., of a character not very flattering or encouraging to those asking Rail Road Charters and this was brought about by the maneuvering of Lyford who with his allies to the number of some thirty & perhaps fifty are constantly on the ground doing everything in their power by way of bargain and intrigue to defeat us but i think that on a full investigation of the matter we shall triumph. Still we shall have a desperate fight. one of my friends tells me that Swazy was in a perfect rage on seeing one of our maps this morning and I presume he is a thermometer for the whole Eastern interest although some of them have discretion enough not to show openly their feelings.

Messrs. Churchill & Hews’ democrats of Lyme came in today and Col. Cross & Gov. Williams of Lancaster & Sheff Bellows of Nothumberland are here. How much they are disposed to do for us or can do, I can not determine. Still they may do something and I have no doubt they will act honestly in the matter. Still I am of opinion that Mr. Keyes ought to be here and be in the way of meeting his Loco Foco brethren and giving correct views to them on this subject for he can approach a class of men which we can not do and they will receive from him what they will not from us. I think you had better request him to come and aid us.

Tuesday eve.

Since writing the above, I have been consulting with the lawyer and Col. Pierce ¹ and learn that the plot thickens. It seems that the interests of the Portsmouth & Concord Road are in the market and from indications they hold themselves in reserve for the highest bidder — or in other words, they mean to make our necessities help them to 100,000 of their capital stock and if our Boston friends will aid them to that amount, they will come in & make open fight for us. Otherwise they do not stand committed and may lend their influence as circumstances may seem to demand. Now among these increasing sharp points, I feel more & more decidedly of the opinion that Keyes at least should be here.

This afternoon had the pleasure of a moments interview with your brother but as the carriage was awaiting to take him to the cars, had no time for full conversation. Saw your daughter a moment & was pleased to learn of the health of my little girl & cous.

By the bye, I have heard nothing of Mr. Johnson of Derby Line. Do you know whether he will be here?

Let me hear from you when your convenience will admit & I will write when I learn anything of importance.

Your friend, — A. Latham

¹ This letter was written from Concord, New Hampshire, home of lawyer and future President Franklin Pierce, who served as a Colonel during the Mexican War. I think it is likely the “Col. Pierce” mentioned in this letter was Franklin Pierce.

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