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Lot 376: [VERMONT] Benj. Swan (1762-1839)
29 October 2016
Wells, ME, USA
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Description: [VERMONT] Benj. Swan (1762-1839) an interesting Vermont person. Known as Major Ben Swan, was born in Worcester, Mass. At Worcester and in Boston, Benjamin received a most thorough mercantile education in the house of Messrs. Samuel & Stephen Salisbury, a firm whose standing and credit for a series of years gave them the highest reputation in the commercial community, both in Europe and America. Mr. Swan was for some time in a mercantile house in Montreal, where he became quite thoroughly versed in the French language, then more generally spoken in Canada. In 1791 he began business in Woodstock, Vermont, in connection with the Chandlers. In the general theory and the various details of the business of a merchant he was probably the best-educated man in Vermont. His unvarying rectitude in all his affairs won for him the confidence of every one, while his cheerful manners and the good-humor with which he enlivened his various business transactions made him a favorite with all classes of the community. After Mr. Swan retired from mercantile pursuits, he sustained a variety of offices and trusts. For many years he was the principal officiating magistrate in Woodstock, and in the numerous trials of cases which came before him the parties rarely, if ever, resorted to a jury. He was the first postmaster in this town [Woodstock]. In 1796, on the resignation of General Morris of the office of county clerk, Mr. Swan was appointed to that place, and from that time to his death, a period of forty-three years, retained the position of clerk of the Supreme and County Courts. In the year 1800 he was appointed by the legislature treasurer of the State, and thenceforward, for thirty-two years, the freemen of Vermont honored themselves and reflected honor upon him by electing him annually to that office, and generally without opposition. For a large portion of the time during which he served as treasurer, while banks were still scarce, and poor at that, he acted as a kind of general banker, to whom all classes of people resorted who were wishing to borrow, for an emergency, a moderate sum of money. The following is an instance among many that might be mentioned. When Zadock Thompson was ready to have his first Gazetteer printed, he needed money to run the paper. This was to be made at Wells River. His father said he would go to Benjamin Swan and see if he could raise the money from him. When he mentioned the matter to Major Swan, and asked if he could do the favor, the major answered, " Yes, yes, hum-m-m," and sat down and wrote to the paper-maker thus: "Mr. Thompson wishes to buy fifty dollars' worth of paper for his Gazetteer, for which he shall be good. "Benjamin Swan." Many of the loans, however, which Mr. Swan made in his function of general banker, proved detrimental to bis pocket, if not to his peace of mind. After his death there was found on the upper shelf of the bookcase in his office a long row of files of notes, embracing many thousand dollars in value, all outlawed, or otherwise wholly worthless; notes taken for sums of money lent to people in needy circumstances living in the neighborhood, to young men going West, and to various classes of people who called on this patient and forbearing man for help out of some difficulty. From this fact it would appear that the words of Scripture, "from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away," Mr. Swan regarded more in the light of a rule to live by than as merely a piece of fine sentiment. No man was ever more highly esteemed by the people of this State of Vermont than Major Benjamin Swan, and no man was ever more deserving of such esteem. Yet, notwithstanding the regard in which he was held, and the universal deference paid to him, in his deportment and in his heart he was a man of great modesty and humility. This was in keeping with the kind and benevolent spirit he exercised towards all classes of people with whom he came in contact, whether in business affairs or in the private walks of life. Offered here is a State of Vermont, legal writ, 1811, signed twice on front. Approx. 7-1/4 x 12-1/4". VG - expected aging.
Condition Report: VG - expected aging.