David Hubbard Sumner (1776-1867)

From History of Windsor County Vermont, 1891, Authors Lewis Aldrich and Frank Holmes

Colonel Benjamin Sumner was a land surveyor, and a man of considerable wealth and prominent in the early history of Claremont. He took an active part in the controversy respecting the New Hampshire Grants. Of his thirteen children, David Hubbard was the ninth. He was born in Claremont, N. H., December 7, 1776. Having given a number of his sons a liberal education, it was the purpose of his father that he also should take a collegiate course, but after fitting for entrance to college he expressed a decided preference for mercantile life, and was accordingly placed in the store kept by the Lymans at White River, Vt., as a clerk. After some service there he commenced business for himself. In 1805 he married Martha Brandon Foxcroft, daughter of Dr. Francis Foxcroft, of Brookfield, Mass. She died in March, 1824, and left no children. Soon after this marriage Mr. Sumner removed from Claremont to Hartland, Vt., and engaged in trade at that place. This business he continued for many years, and with considerable success. During the War of 1812 a militia company formed at Hartland, and much to his surprise Mr. Sumner was elected as their captain. In 1813 and 1814 he represented Hartland in the State Legislature. He also served many years as justice of the peace. About 1814 he was appointed postmaster of Hartland, which office he retained for nearly twenty years. He was a Democrat during his entire life, but in the War of 1812 imbibed such a dislike of any factional opposition to an administration engaged in carrying on a war and upholding the national honor, that he could not oppose the war to suppress the rebellion, although he never confessed to any sympathy with the Republican party in respect to the matters out of which the rebellion sprang. Soon after coming to Hartland Mr. Sumner interested himself in the development of the town by building roads, some of them at his own expense, also in bridging the Connecticut River between Hartland and Plainfield, and in establishing mills. The first bridge built by the company of which he was one of the incorporators, having been swept away by a freshet, Mr. Sumner, who had become its sole survivor, in 1841 completed another bridge which was destroyed in a freshet March 1859, after which time he maintained a ferry at that point. Mr. Sumner was one of the original incorporators of a company organized for the purpose of rendering the Connecticut River navigable at Water Quechee Falls, where canals and through locks were put in. Extensive mills were maintained at the same point by Mr. Sumner for many years. The mills were lost by freshets, and a small portion of the old canal walls is nearly all that is now left to indicate what was once one of the busiest parts of the town. Mr. Sumner was largely interested in a company organized for the purpose of carrying on an extensive lumber and timber trade on the Connecticut, the company owning for that purpose whole townships of land in New Hampshire and Vermont. In 1817 he purchased of the widow and heirs of the Royal Governor Benning Wentworth all the unsold lots of land in Vermont and New Hampshire known as the Governor’s Rights. These lands were the 500 acre lots reserved by the governor to his own right in each charter of his New Hampshire grants. These lands being widely scattered, the purchase threw upon Mr. Sumner considerable labor, and the defense of them involved him in some litigation.

As a business man Mr. Sumner had great grasp of mind, was hopeful, progressive, and quick to avail himself of all improved methods. He was strong in his personal attachment to his friends, and would never suffer them to be misrepresented in his presence. In personal address he was a gentleman of the old school, somewhat formal, dignified and precise, but at the same time affable, hospitable, and possessed of a keen relish for wit and humor. Though earnest in his business, and active in every legitimate effort to win success, he was still scrupulously conscientious, and not only so lived as to preserve to himself the consciousness of rectitude but also so as to inspire others with entire confidence in his integrity. He was married to his second wife, Wealthy Thomas of Windsor, April 25, 1839. There were two children of this marriage, Martha, born May 19, 1840, widow of the late Judge Benjamin H. Steele, who owns and occupies the old homestead, and David H., jr., born November 8, 1842. The son, after a brief illness, died August 18, 1867, but a short time before the death of his father, which occurred August 29, 1867. The death of his only son, who had already taken upon himself the responsibility of his father’s affairs, and whose loss was deeply felt, not only by his relatives, but also by the public, undoubtedly hastened the death of the father. A few days after the funeral of the son the remains of the father were carried to the grave by the Masonic Fraternity of the vicinity, to whom he had been warmly attached in life, and among whom he had stood as a senior member. The memory of Mr. Sumner is still green and fresh in the hearts of many with whom he labored, and whom his generous and hopeful energy encouraged in later life. His wife, Wealthy, died at her home in Hartland, February 7, 1887, a devoted mother, a faithful friend, kind to the poor, unsparing in sympathy, whereby she attached to herself a large and delightful circle of friends. Her heart and hand were given to every good work.

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