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Charles Brooks Hoard

Modified on 2013/03/23 12:56 by Joel Havens Categorized as Biographies

      He was born at Springfield, Vt. Jan. 28,1805. Upon the title page of this History can be read what Daniel Webster said about ancestry. Mr. Hoard was fortunate in this respect, for the family in America descend in an unbroken line from an English ancestry, mentioned as a wealthy London banker who came to Boston with his wife and children about 1635, but died soon after. The widow and children settled at Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, where she died Dec. 21, 1661. The family monuments and inscriptions were still standing and legible a few years ago. In England the family descend from Normans who accompanied William the Conqueror to that country in the 11th century, and acquired considerable estates in England, Wales and Ireland early in the 12th century. This is not a matter of guess-work, and forcibly illustrates the value of historical records, a matter much neglected in the United States. In 1821, at the age of 16 years, young Hoard went to Antwerp, where his older brothers, Daniel, Silvius, Samuel and George had preceded him and were engaged in business. Having acted as clerk for Daniel and Samuel when they went to Fort Covington, N. Y., to engage in trade, as well as receiving, at a later day, instruction under Daniel at Mr. Parish's land office in Parishville, young Hoard again returned to Antwerp, and began, with a Mr. Stevens, to learn watch repairing. This business he mastered, and then accepted a position in Mr. Parish's Antwerp land office, under Wm. McAllister. In 1828 he married Miss Susan Heald, daughter of Daniel and Anna Heald. While with Mr. Parish he was elected Justice of the Peace, and was re elected for several years after he was out of the land office. He also held the office of Postmaster at Antwerp under both Jackson and Van Buren. In 1837 he was elected a member of the Assembly from Jefferson county, and during that session (1837-38) the legislature passed the celebrated Safety-fund Banking Law, which proved of inestimable value to the people of New York, not a dollar ever having been lost by the holder of a New York safety-fund "bank bill, they being always at an eighth to half per cent premium over any other paper money then in use. and at times the premium was as high as five and six per cent, over well established New England banks. The security for issuing bills under that law was based upon mortgages of unencumbered improved farming land at one-half its assessed value. This part of the enactment was due to the ability and foresight of Mr. Hoard who was the author of the mortgage feature in the bill, and its operation in Jefferson county was peculiarly beneficial to such farmers as possessed good unmortgaged farms, but needed ready cash for improvements or to purchase lands for their sons. This evidence of Mr. Hoard's legislative ability was remembered by the people.

      In 1843 he was elected county clerk of Jefferson county, and moved his family to Watertown in 1844. Thenceforward he became a leading personality in all the affairs of the county (see the chapter upon "Political History"). He discharged the duties of county clerk with entire acceptability, introducing many needed reforms, which gave great satisfaction to members of the bar, and all who had business with the office.

      After the expiration of his term as county clerk he made a conditional arrangement with Mr. George Goulding (the originator of the machine and agricultural implement manufactory, so extensively improved by Messrs. Bagley and Sewell), to purchase an interest in that business if he elected so to do at the end of a year. At the expiration of the time he concluded not to purchase, and soon after engaged with Mr. Gilbert Bradford, a practical machinist, in the manufacture of a portable steam engine. For many years Mr. Hoard had revolved such an enterprise in his mind, for his own experience and observation had taught him the urgent need of a portable machine that could drive printing presses, lathes, or any light mechanism. Even while at Antwerp he had made some experiments with such a machine, and all the attention he had then given the matter became of value in the new enterprise upon which the firm of Hoard & Bradford embarked. As in all new applications of machinery (as was strikingly illustrated in another instance when Theodore Woodruff, a Watertown mechanic, invented the sleeping-car, and carried around his model wrapped up in a red silk handkerchief), there were many who prophesied failure and loss. But Mr. Hoard was not of the "failing" kind. The acquaintance which he had formed with Horace Greeley in the legislature of 1837. made them friends, and when Mr. Greeley chanced to visit Watertown he called at the printing office of John A. Haddock, in the Hayes block: and there examined the first engine that had ever left Hoard & Bradford's shop. It was a handsome machine, of two-horse» power, and when Greeley came in the proprietor was himself feeding his cylinder press, throwing off 1,200 sheets an hour. Greeley was delighted, and in a letter written for the "Tribune," he gave the new invention a lirstclass notice. That was the beginning of a business which proved eventually the most remunerative of any that had ever been started in that part of the State. A larger machine having been exhibited at the next Stat* Fair, it elicited much commendation from the Fair officials as well as from the journal of the society, and orders began to pile in upon the firm as unexpected as they were gratefully received. So great was the demand for the Hoard & Bradford engine that they were six months behind in their orders within a year after starting, and were never able to catch up until 1800-61. After four years of harmonious partnership with Mr. Bradford. Mr. Hoard purchased his interest for $26.000—a sum which made Mr. B. an independent man, and he congratulated himself often and in public that he had withdrawn from the business, as he really believed it had reached its "high noon." He doubtless thought otherwise when Mr. Hoard took Iiis two sons, who were then of age, into the business, and the new firm of Hoard & Sons began to make larger and lietter engines than ever before, selling them in every State of the Union, particularly in the south and south-west. It was while this business was at its height that Mr. Hoard was nominated and was elected as the Representative of the 23d (Jefferson and Lewis) District in the 35th Congress. He was so acceptable to the people that he was reelected by an increased majority. When he first ran for Congress he was opposed by Caleb Lyon, who was so popular that he had been a member of the Assembly, State Senator, and Member of Congress all within three years; and we again refer to the chapter upon " Political History " for more extended particulars than are called for here.

      We close our notice of Mr. Hoard's connection with the portable engine business with mentioning these few points: his shop was the pioneer in the building of strictly “portable" engines, a business that has now become so extensive as to be conducted more or less in nearly every State, and at several different localities in some of the States. Mr. Hoard's works at one time employed 140 men, principally skilled mechanics, besides a corps of clerks and accountants. But the Civil War greatly reduced the number of orders—the south and the valley of the Mississippi having from the start been the best sections for sales As the business promised to be much less remunerative so long as the war lasted, and perhaps for several years after its close, Mr. Hoard turned his attention to some other article which would give employment to his skilled mechanics, and keep in operation his large works, which had now spread over several acres, full of the best machinery money could buy. As a temporary matter, and principally to aid a brother who had been unfortunate in business, he undertook a gun contract (in 1862) with the Government, agreeing to manufacture 50,000 Springfield rifles at $20 each, making a total of $1,000,000. This contract was made under Secretary of War Cameron, when guns were greatly needed; but its execution was under Secretary Stanton. The delays inevitable in getting such a contract under way, threw his first delivery well along into 1864, when the Government had bought many guns abroad as well as greatly enlarged its own immense works at Springfield, Mass. Taking advantage of this condition of affairs, Secretary Stanton sought, by one pretext and another, to evade a fair fulfillment of the Government's part of the contract. He appointed unfriendly inspectors, who several times inspected each separate piece during the process of making, after which certain parts, as the barrels, locks, guards, etc., were "assembled," or put together, and again inspected. Acceptable parts were then put together as completed guns, and again inspected. So critical and apparently unjust did the inspection appear to Mr. Hoard, that he quietly took to pieces the model gun furnished him by the Government as a standard, and placed such of its parts as could not be detected with similar parts of his own make, which were submitted in the usual way for inspection, with the result that about half of the parts submitted of the model gun were returned "condemned." These and other unfavorable acts, and the failure to obtain any satisfaction from Stanton, made the gun contract extremely disastrous financially, and Mr. Hoard ceased to manufacture. He sold off his splendid machinery at any price obtainable, but at such a loss as to use up nearly his entire fortune, which had been estimated at half a million when he took the contract. The Turkish government bought most of the machinery, and it is still in use. Having discharged every financial claim upon him, and without a single lawsuit, Mr. Hoard began to look around for some other business in which to repair his losses.

Information Sources

  • The growth of a century: as illustrated in the history of Jefferson County, By John A. Haddock, 1895 pages 46-49

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