William Claflin's Obituary

(Boston Globe, January 6, 1905)

Ex-Governor, Claflin Dead

In his Eighty-Seventh Year he Succumbed at His Home in Newtonville to a Complication of Troubles -- Was Prominent in Public Affairs and the Personal Friend of Men and Women Famous in the History of this Country.

At the "Old Elms," in Walnut Street, Newtonville, a historic place where he had made his home for more than half a century, Hon. William Claflin, former governor of Massachusetts, died late Thursday afternoon. He had been in poor health for some time and had suffered from a complication of troubles which, together with his advanced years, had gradually undermined his sturdy constitution. On Sunday he showed much improvement and was able to receive a few friends who called to see him, but the change for the better was only of short duration. With him at the end were his three children, Mrs. Charles W. Ellis and Adams D. Claflin, both of Newton, and Arthur H. Claflin of this city.

The Claflin home, "Old Elms," had been made famous by its assocations. Once owned by Governor Bradstreet, and later the home of General Hull, it was a constant source of pride to Mr. Claflin, and was one of the most beautiful places of the city.

William Claflin, who was the twenty-third governor of Massachusetts, was born in Milford, Mass., on March 6, 1818. He was the son of Hon. Lee and Sarah (Adams) Claflin. He went to Milford Academy in his early days and fitted for Brown University, which he entered in 1833. On account of the death of his mother he soon afterward left college, and in 1837 his father rented for him a small shop in Ashland, in whic the young man worked so hard that he became ill, and withdrew from there on that account. Later he learned the boot and shoe business from his father at his factory in Milford, and in 1841 established a wholesale business on hiw own account in St. Louis and for many years his firm there was looked upon as among the strongest and most trustworthy of any in that ity. The last style of the firm in the West was Claflin, Allen & Co. Mr. Claflin then returned to Boston and engaged in the same type of business with different partners under the firm name of Wm. Claflin & Col., and also William Claflin, Coburn & Co.

While in Missouri Mr. Claflin was a member of the Free Soil party and during the Kansas troubles of his St. Louis manufactory was several times threatened with destruction by mobs. At the outbreak of the Civil War so many debtors of his St. Louis house failed to settle their accounts that Mr. Claflin lost about $50,000, but the house met every engagement and the business was soon again in a flourishing condition.

Mr. Claflin, after returning East from St. Louis, lived in Hopkinton, and while residing there represented the town in the Legislature for four years, from 1848-49 to 1851. He was elected to the Senate in 1859-60 and in 1861 was president of that body. At the national convention in Chicago in 1860 as a delegate he helped to nominate Lincoln for the presidency of the United States. He was sent to the Republican National Convention in 1864, '68 and '72 and in 1868 was chairman of the convention which brought about the nomination and election of Grant. In 1866-68 Mr. Claflin was lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and was chosen as governor in 1870-71. In 1876, Governor Claflin was elected as representative to Congress and was re-elected in 1878.

He retired to private life late in 1978. He had been president of the board of trustees of Boston University, president of the Theological Library, succeeding Robert C. Winthrop in that office, president of the New England Historic-Geneological Society, was long a member of the board of trustees of Wellesley College from its foundations, president of the Massachusetts Club, succeeding Dr. Samuel G. Howe, its first president, was a director in the International Trust Company, was one of the founders and for years president of the Hide and Leather National Bank, and was also one of the organizers of the New England Trust Company of the Five Cents Savings Bank. He had been president of the New England She and Leather Assocation, also president of the Brown University board of trustees and a member of Boston Wesleyan Association.

For twelve years he was on the REpublican National Committee, and for four years was its chairman, and in this capacity, as the warm personal friend of the late Henry Wilson, watched and forwarded the latter's nomination to the vice presidency of the United States. Mr. Claflin, in being early in the movement against slavery, followed the steps of this father and mother in this matter. Claflin University, in Orangeberg, South Carolina, was named for him as its founder. Brown University and Wesleyan University have conferred upon him the degree of LLD.

In 1841, Mr. Claflin married Miss Harding of Milford, who died in 1842. In 1845 he married Miss Davenport of Hopkinton, daughter of S.D. Davenport. When he was elected lieutenant governor Mr. Claflin purchased the house No. 63 Mount Vernon Street, this city, which he made his winter home until within the last few years. His wife, who was always actively interested in her husband's gifts and charities, died about eight years ago, and he is survived by two sons, Arthur Bocklin and Adams Davenport Claflin, and one daughter, Mrs. Charles W. Ellis.

At the family home in Newtonville, there have been welcomed in the past and entertained such noted people as Charles Sumner, Henry Wilson (formerly vice president of the United States), John G. Whittier, Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Salmon P. Chase, late secretary of the Treasury; General Banks, the late Dr. Samuel P. Smith, author of "America"; ex-President Rutherford B. Hayes and Mrs. Hayes, James T. Fields, Edward L. Pierce, and many others whose names in their life were famous.

Of former governors of this Commonwealth these are now living: George S. Boutwell, born the same year as Mr. Claflin, John D. Long, John Q.A. Brackett, W. Murray Crane and John L. Bates.

Special honor was paid Governor Claflin when he was eighty years of age in 1898. Then the venerable president of the Massachusetts Club, his associates gave a reception and dinner for him at Young's Hotel. At dinner the late Hon. A. W. Beard, former collector of the port of Boston, as first vice president of the club presided. The late Governor Wolcott was present at the reception. Addresses, after the dinner, were made by ex-Governor George S. Boutwell, ex-Governor J.Q.. Brackett, Hon. John W. Candler, who succeeded ex-Governor Claflin in Congress; Hon. Henry E. Cobb, then mayor of Newton, representing the neighbors of the guest of honor, and by others. Letters were read by the secretary, the late S. S. Blanchard, fromthe Secretary of the Navy, ex-Governor John D. Long; from Senators George F. Hoar, whose death not long ago Mr. Claflin lamented, and Henry Cabot Lodge; ex-Senator Henry L. Dawes and Hon. Johnathan A. Lane. These letters were remarkable tributes to the character and worth of Mr. Claflin. Among these present, besides those already mentioned, were Hon. E. H. Capen (??), president of Tufts College; Hon R.T. Davis of Fall River, Hon R.O. Fuller, Dr. S.W. Duncan, George M. Whittaker, A.C. Walworth, Hon. G.D. Gilman, W.W. Doherty, Winfield S. Slocum, Hon. E.M. McPerson, Hon. Francis W. Breed, Dr. C.H. Spaulding, John Carr, president of First National Bank; John S. Brayton of Fall River, J.B.S. Churchill, Hon. Everett ware, W.E. Parker, Samuel R. Hayward, Frank E. Braddish, Dr. H. B. Blackwell, Howard L. Blackwell, Hon. Laban Pratt, Colonel E. B. Glasgow, Hon. J.J. Myers, Hon. Wilson H. Fairbanks, Hon. Arthur Whitin, C. Russell Hurd and F.T. Moreton, not all of whom are now living.