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SKETCH OF THE LIFE
WILLIAM BLANCHARD TOWNE, A,M.
FOUNDER OF THE
arobmr jwemocfal ipnntt
NEW-ENGLAND HISTORIC, GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY.
BY /Ony WABDDEAX,
ir or UK Hiitoriul ud Qecmkigical Re;;IMu.
Printat at lie clutrge qf Mid F^ad.
PUBLISHED BY THE N. B. HISTORIC, GBNEALOGICA
18 SoMERBET Street.
This i$ thefir$t toork issued at the charge of the
Towne Memorial Fund.
Pbess of David Clapp Ji Son.
This biographical sketch of one of the principal benefactors of the New
England Historic, Genealogical Society, waa prepared for the New Eng-
land Historical and Genealogical Register, anil appeared iu the
number of that periodical for January, 1878. A Binalt edition has been
reprinted at the charge of the -"Towne Memorial Fund," which fund was
founded in 1864, by him, for the publication of memoirs of deceased
WILLIAM B. TOWNE, A,M.
WILLIAM BLANCHAED TOWNE, an efficient officer in
the New England Historic, Genealogical Society, and the
founder of the " Towne Memorial Fund," was born in Bow, N. H.,
Monday, October 12, 1810. He was the eldest of ten children of
Jonathan Towne, of whom a biographical sketch has been printed
in the Register (ante, xxix. 326) ; and was. descended in the sev-
enth generation from William Towne, of Yarmouth, in Norfolk,
England, who emigrated to this country, and after a short residence
in Salem, Mass., removed to Topsfield, where he died about 1672.
A genealogical record of this family, by the subject of this sketch,
has been printed in this periodical.
His mother, Clarissa Hoyt, daughter of Capt. John Hoyt, whose
ancestry will be found in David W. Hoyt's genealogy of that family
(see p. 83 of that work), is still living, in the eighty-eighth year of
her age. She is a woman of remarkable vigor of body and mind.
One, who remembers her in her prime, writes : " She had not a
peer within my knowledge."
William began to attend school at the age of five years, and at-
tended it till he was twelve. He then remained at home, assisting on
the farm during the summer and going to school during the winter
months, till he was fifteen.
When he was about twelve years old, he began to have a strong
desire to strike out for himself and depend upon his own efforts to
maintain himself. When told by his father that a boy of his age
could not get a living among strangers, he replied, " If you will let
me try, I will never call on home for assistance to the value of a
farthing." The spirit of self-reliance and desire to try his fortune
in the world increased as he grew older, and he persuaded his
mother to use her influence with his father to obtain permission
to make a trial. At length his wish was gratified. When he
was sixteen years old, Dr. Josiah Crosby, Of Concord, the family
physician, was one day in Bow at the house of Mr. Jonathan Towne,
and expressed a wish to find a boy to take care of his horse and do
errands for Mrs. McClary, with whom he boarded, Mr. Towne
said he thought that his son William would suit, and arrangements
were accordingly made for the doctor to take him home on his next
visit. As Dr. Crosby did not visit the family the next day, the boy
became impatient ; and packing his bundle, he started on foot for
Concord, four miles distant. The day of his leaving home he has
himself recorded as the 20th of April, 1827. It is probable that
he went on trial to this place ; for he records, in 1834, that a sup-
posed residence of a fortnight in Concord had then been prolonged to
seven years. One motive which attracted him to this place was no
doubt the opportunity which it afforded for medical advice, for he
states that he was then seriously affected with a lung complaint which
had preyed upon him, till at times it was with diflSculty that he
could sit up all day, and this continually growing upon him, it was
thought he needed the care and direction of a physician. The change
of situation and medical advice had a beneficial effect, for he savs :
" The germ of health soon made its appearance in the feeble consti-
tution, and continued to spread till it pervaded the whole system."
The Hon. Moses T. Willard, M.D., of Concord, whose acquaint-
ance with Mr. Towne dates from their boyhood, furnishes me with
some facts, obtained from his own lips, concerning his early days in
Concord, as follows :
His work being light, he had much leisure time, and a teacher of a pri-
vate school, boarding at the same house, observing that he was not inclined
to play with the boys in the street, invited him to his school one afternoon.
Instead of gazing around as most boys would have done, he opened a book
on natural philosophy, and became so interested that he did not raise his
eyes from it till the school closed. This was the stepping stone to his
future usefulness. The teacher, thinking him a remarkable boy, furnished
him with books and gave him tuition. The father called occasionally to
see his son, well pleased that he was prospering so well. At the end of
many months his wardrobe was in need of being replenished ; but he per-
sistently refused to accept assistance from home.
According to his mother's recollection, however, he did accept
articles of clothing which were sent him from home while he was
with Dr. Crosby. This may have been after he had made sure of
being able to maintain himself; for Dr. Willard writes :
1 remember that he told me that his father at one time brought hina a
pair of shoes, which he refused to accept. When his father said, " You
will need them, and they were purposely made for you,'* he replied, " Well,
I don't want them." His father then said, ** If you will not take them,
I will give them to this boy ;" and he did give them to a boy standing by.
When Mr. Towne told me this story, he gave as a reason why he refused
them, that he wished to give his hope of getting his own living a fair trial.
He spent two years in this situation, attending school eight months
the first year and ten months the second. He expresses in his diary
gratitude for the friends who surrounded him " on every side," and
states that he improved his time " to as good advantage as youth
usually spend this precious season, hut not so well as it might and
should have been."
He had now arrived at a period when it became necessary to select
some occupation for life. His own preference was for the printing
business, but his father did not approve of this choice, and he con-
cluded to try a mercantile life. In April, 1829, in his nineteenth
year, he entered the dry-goods and grocery store of William West,
as a clerk, where he continued two years or more. He was next
employed, in the summer of 1832, in the store of John Leach. The
ensuing autumn he took charge of a store for Nathaniel H. Osgood
& Co., with which firm he remained one year. From tKe fall of
1833 to the spring of 1834, he was in the employ of Samuel Evans.
On the first of April of the latter year, he engaged with Daniel
Carr, and went immediately to Boston to purchase goods for his
employer, spending eleven days in that city. During his stay there
he took particular care to visit the prominent landmarks connected
with the events of which he had read.
On the 14th of April, 1834, after his return from the trip to
Boston, he commenced a diary, which he* kept for a little over four
years, the last entry being November 30, 1838. It is still preserv-
ed, and its two post-octavo volumes show the writer's characteristics,
neatness and method. He prefaces this diary with an account of
his ancestry and a sketch of his life to that time. Very little is
afterwards recorded of his business, and nothing concerning it after
he had taken up his residence in Boston. The diary is chiefly de-
voted to the sermons and lectures he heard, and what he saw in a
few journeys which he made, some of which were visits to his
parents, while others no doubt were business trips. His entries
show a strong desire for self-improvement and spiritual culture, and
a fear that he had failed in doing his whole duty. There are some
notices of and reflections on his reading, and an early reference to his
study of Mason on " Sdf-Knowledge."
It seems from the diary, that in 1831 he began to have decided
religious impressions, and on Sunday, January 1, 1832, he joined
the First Congregational Church in Concord, the pastor of which
was his life- long friend, the now venerable Rev. Nathaniel Bouton,
D.D. Dr. Bouton writes me that he remembers Mr. Towne as
** an amiable, obliging, courteous and very intelligent younof man."
In the summer of 1832 he begran a sabbath school in a section of
the town called the " Colony." In a letter to his father dated No-
vember 1, 1832, he gives this account of the sabbath school:
*^ There are six families and about twenty-eight children, and but
one of the fathers of the children could read at the commencement
of the season, and though the school has closed for this season, I go
up every sabbath mom and teach them to read, and two of the men
have learned to read quite well." The sabbath school was soon
reopened at the ''Colony," and was. kept through the winter. He
then commenced one on the '' Hopkinton road." While with Mr.
Evans he had *' a class of boys ten years of age," probably in the
sabbath school connected with Dr. Bouton's church.
His diary shows that he early took a decided stand in the temper-
ance and anti-slavery causes, which were then beginning to agitate
the community. We have proof that on one occasion he refused to
accept a desirable situation till he was assured that his employers did
not intend to keep ardent spirits for sale.
He remained with Mr. Carr but for a few months, and on the
24th of July, 1834, he left Concord for Boston, where he soon
found employment as a clerk, and five days afterwards returned to
Concord to settle his affairs. After spending about a fortnight there,
on the 13th of August he bade farewell to his friends in Concord
and took up his residence in Boston.
For a year or two after his arrival in Boston, he was employed as
a clerk, and during this time he gained a reputation for honesty and
ability. Having accumulated a few thousands of dollars, he became
a partner in the house in which he had been clerk, the new firm be-
ing Bowker, Towne & Co. He was afterwards a member of the
firms of Keegan, Towne & Waldo ; Towne, Waldo & Co.; and
Towne, Hunt & Co. His partners in these firms were severally
Joel Bowker, Jr., George P. Hay ward, Augustine P. Kimball,
Patrick Keegan, Charles F. Waldo, Austin Sumner, Francis A.
Hunt, Samuel Hathaway and Wellington L. G. Hunt. About the
year 1852, he became connected with the firm of James M. Beebe
& Co., where he held the position of confidential clerk and adjuster
of losses till the year 1865.
On the 15th of June, 1842, he married Miss Nancy French Hill,
daughter of Jeremiah Hill, a commission merchant in Boston. She
was born Nov. 26, 1817, and was the seventh generation in descent
from Ralph Hill, an early inhabitant of Billerica, Mass. For a
ehort time they boarded with his wife's father at 48 Chambers Street,
and then removed to 71 Temple Street, where he resided a few
years. About the year 1846 he removed to Brookline, Mass. Here
his wife died, May 3, 1858, at the age of forty.
He was chosen assessor of Brookline in 1863, and held the posi-
tion five years. For a time he was a trial justice for that district,
and conscientiously discharged the laborious and diflScult duties of
the office. He also held commissions as justice of the peace for
Suffolk and Norfolk counties.
On the 28th of March, 1866, having a respite from business,
he sailed for Europe, and after making a tour of about four months
in the land of his ancestors and on the continent of Europe, he re-
turned to Boston in July of that year. On the 23d of April,
1867, he was married at Washington, D. C, by the Rev. Charlea
B. Boynton, D.D., chaplain of the U. S. House of B^presentatives,
to Miss Jennie S. Putnam, daughter of Daniel Putnam, of Milford,
and sister of the wife of the Hon. Bainbridge Wadleigh. He then
removed to the village of Milford, N. H., the estate which he
purchased being about a half a mile distant from the family home-
stead, where his parents then resided, and where both his father and
grandfather were born. He continued to reside in Milford till his
death, which took place at the residence of his son, at Jamaica
Plain, Boston, Mass., April 10, 1876, at the age of sixty-five.
He has left a widow, who, during their nine years of wedded life,
did much to. lighten his cares and encourage him in his literary and
other labors ; and three sons, all members of the legal profession,
namely, William Henry of Boston, and Charles Edward and Arthur
French (a life member of the N. E. H. G. Soc.) of Chicago.
On the 15th of September, 1852, he became a member of the New
England Historic, Genealogical Society. In an introduction to his
genealogy of the Towne family, which he left in manuscript, he
states that his researches into family history commenced in 1827,
when he was a lad at school ; and in 1834, he prefixes to his diary
a record of his ancestors, running back four generations to his tre-
sayle, or great-great-grandfather, Joseph Towne, living in Topsfield,
1684. In obtaining the facts recorded, he no doubt received assist-
ance from John Farmer, the father of American genealogy, who
was then a resident of Concord, and with whom Mr. Towne, as he
notes in his diary, became acquainted in 1832, two years before
this record was made. In 1844 he had prepared an extensive gene-
alogy of the name of Towne, to which he continued to add till his
death. About 1852 he had printed for private distribution a large
genealogical chart, giving a record of the families of all his ances-
tors bearing the surname Towne, and ending with that of his own
family. In 1866 he commenced printing in the Register (xx.
367-71 ; xxi. 12-22, 217-22) a full genealogy of the Townes ;
but the publication was suspended before the completion of the fourth
generation. The remainder of the work is preserved in manuscript,
and is now deposited with the New England Historic, Genealogical
From 1861 to 1871, he held the oflSce of treasurer of this socie-
ty, and was chairman of the finance committee after that date. In
January, 1875, he was elected vice-president for the state of New
Hampshire, as the successor of the Hon. Ira Perley, LL.D., and
held the office till his death. He was a director of the society from
1861, and a member of the publishing committee from 1865. For
nine years, from October, 1865, to October, 1874, he was chair-
man and treasurer of the Register Club, and conducted gratuitously
the business affairs of the Eeoister, In 1871, when he retired
from the oflSce of treasurer of the society, after ten years' service,
during which he had discharged the duties of the office with great
ability and fidelity, and without compensation, and had rendered
other important services, he was invited by the society to sit for his
portrait, as a testimonial of its appreciation of what he had done
for it. This portrait now hangs in the society's hall.
He was an efficient aid to the Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, president
of the society, when he solicited and obtained donations for the
purchase and refitting of the Society's House, and the endowment
of a fund for the support of a librarian. The exertions of these
gentlemen, with occasional assistance from the late Hon. George B.
Upton and the Hon. John Cummings, were crowned with wonder-
ful success, upwards of fifty-five thousand dollars being raised for
these objects. In 1864 Mr. Towne established the Towne Memo-
rial Fund, by his own donations, which fund now amounts to over
four thousand dollars. The income derived from this fund is to be
expended in the publication of memoirs of deceased members of
Besides the genealogy of the Towne family, he wrote a " History
of the First Church in Amherst," which was printed, in 1874, in
the volume containing the proceedings at the celebration of the one
hundredth anniversary of the dedication of the congregationalist
meeting-house in Amherst. He made large collections for the his-
tory of Milford, N. H., which are now deposited with this society.
In 1872 Dartmouth College conferred on him the honorary degree
of Master of Arts.
Mr. Towne was also an influential member of the New Hamp-
shire Historical Society. He was elected a member, June 8, 1870,
and was chosen on the standing committee, June 14, 1871 ; on the
committee to solicit funds for the library, June 12, 1872 ; and on
the publishing committee, June 9, 1875. He was also a member
of other important committees. In 1869 he paid one hundred dol-
lars for rendering the society's building fire-proof, and a short time
before his death subscribed two hundred dollars for a fund to sup-
port the library. He was also an active member of the Hillsborough
County Agricultural Society ; and at the time of his death he held
the office of vice-president for New Hampshire of the American
In religion he was a trinitarian congregationalist, and, as before
stated, united with the Rev. Dr. Bouton's church at Concord, on the
first sabbath in the year 1832. He was dismissed July 2, 1835, to
the First Free Congregational Church in Boston, then recently or-
ganized, of which the Rev. Charles Fitch was the first pastor. This
church was of anti-slavery tendencies. It had a brief existence of
less than a dozen years ; and it is not known that Mr. Towne united
subsequently with any church, though he was a regular attendant
and communicant at the churches of his denomination in Brooklme,
• •• •••••• • *
• •• • * • *
• • • • • •
Mass. , and Milford, N. H. It has been intimated to me, that like many
anti-slavery men in that day, he was not satisfied with the position
of the churches in relation to slavery, on which question he took an
early and decided stand, being its ardent and uncompromising oppo-
nent. There is preserved by his family a manuscript volume in his
handwriting, recording the '* Proceedings of the Boston Anti-Slavery
Conference of Church Members, organized in April, 1835," from
April 2, 1835, to February 17, 1836. It does not appear to be the
official record. Throughout his diary his feelings on this , subject
are manifest. His friend, William Lloyd Garrison, Esq., the pio-
neer in the anti-slavery movement, and its leader till its final tri-
umph, thus writes concerning Mr. Towne's position :
He was an early subscriber to the Liberator, and remained such till the
close of its existence, taking a warm interest in its support and circulation ;
for several years voluntarily making an index for the same annually. While
he sought no conspicuity in the anti-slavery cause, and was not a public
speaker, he gave to that cause a zealous, persistent and generous support,
truly remembering those in bonds, as bound with them, and nobly doing
Lis part toward their emancipation. I hold his memory in fragrant re-
He took a deep interest in the cause of education, to which he
devoted much study. As an evidence of his practical interest
in it, it may be stated that several young men obtained from him
the necessary funds to defray their expenses in college, he taking
the risk of being repaid after their education was completed. He
was always a warm supporter and advocate of the interests of the
Milford Free Public Library, of which he was appointed a trustee
in 1869. In 1870 he was chosen president of the board, and con-
tinued to hold this office till 1874, when, his term of office having
expired, he declined being again appointed a trustee. He enriched
the library with many valuable contributions, and gave a great deal
of time to the promotion of its interests.
He represented Milford in the New Hampshire legislature for
the years 1873 and 1874, and was an influential member of the
On the 21st of August, 1871, he was chosen associate and trus-
tee of the Milford Five Cents Savings Institution, and on the same
day was appointed a member of the board of investment. He was
elected president of the institution, September 16, 1872, and held
the oflSce till his death. He gave the institution the benefit of his
best judgment in its management, and was always active in his
eflTorts to promote its interests.
He was chosen a director of the Souhegan National Bank of Mil-
ford, January 9, 1872, and the same day was elected president,
which office he held till his death, faithfully performing its duties.
On the 20th of October, 1874, about three o'clock, masked robbers
forced the cashier to open the vaults of the bank ; and bonds and
other securities to a large amount, the property of the bank and in-
dividuals, were carried off. Mr. Towne was then in New York. He
was at once notified of what had happened, and returning to Mil-
ford, he immediately instituted vigorous proceedings to discover who
the robbers were, and prevent the sale of the stolen securities.
After months of tantah'zing labor and perplexing anxiety, during
which he displayed remarkable sagacity, coolness and daring, he
was able on the fourth of January, 1875, to return to Milford with
all the securities, except such as were negotiable by simple delivery,
namely, the cash and government bonds, and a one-thousand dollar
bond which was subsequently recovered. But the strain on his
nerves was too great for one who had been in feeble health for seve-
ral years, and it was soon followed by nervous prostration, from
which he suffered till his death.
C. S. Averill, Esq., of Milford, vice-president of the Spuhegan
National Bank, thus writes concerning Mr. Towne :
As a citizen he was highly esteemed for his probity and business energy,
and for his active support of whatever tended to promote the interests of
the town and its educational progress. He took a lively interest in the
schools, and actively supported every measure for their improvement, advo-
cating a generous expenditure in their behalf as a true economy. He was
respected by his fellow townsmen, and his loss has been deeply felt by a
large number who remember him by the many courtesies which he extended
Austin Sumner, Esq., one of his partners in business, furnishes
the following facts concerning his mercantile career :
The writer was associated with Mr. Towne in the dry-goods business,
under the firm of Towne, Waldo & Co., in 1843, *4 and '5. At the expi-
ration of the copartnership in December, 1845, the firm dissolved, Mr.
Towne at the time being very ill and anxious to retire from business. Dur-
ing this period the amount of business would not compare at all with that
of later years, and yet, with moderate expenses and a reasonable commis-
sion on our sales, it left; a fair margin of net profits. Mr. Towne was very
cautious in regard to credits, relying more on the real character of the pur-
chaser than on his reputed capital, and was far more anxious to do a safe J
and moderate business than a large one with its additional risks. He took
a lively interest in the welfare of the young men in our employ, which they
were quick to perceive, and the result of which was mutually beneficial.
Mr. Towne was not only a high toned business man, but a very agreeable
person to be associated with, one whose name recalls many pleasant memo-
ries of an old friend and partner.
Wellington L. G. Hunt, Esq., another of his partners, writes :
My earliest recollections of Mr. Towne go back to about 1842, while I
was in business in Westboro', Mass., of which town I was also postmaster.
Mr. Towne frequently came up in the summer season for a short visit,
stopping at Brigham*s Hotel, which for ten years was my home. Many
Boston families were there in the summer, among them Mr. Jeremiah
Hill, whose eldest daughter Mr. Towne married.
• • • •
•v: :V ..•
In the autumn of 1847, 1 came to Boston to reside, being in business with
my brother, of Hunt & Hathaway, 45 Milk street. In the winter of
1847-8, Mr. Towne and myself joined my brother and Mh Hathaway,
making a new firm, Towne, Hunt & Co. In less than a year the firm was
Mr. Towne was unusually active, always on the move, prompt, very exact
in everything and yet always honorable — a man of the strictest integrity
and always purposing some good accomplishment. His intense and incessant
activity was always too much for his nervous temperament and physical
endurance. I feel sure that he was a true christian and a worthy follower
of our divine Master.
The Hon. George C. Richardson, an eminent merchant of Boston,
who for a short time was a partner in the firm of James M. Beebe
&Co., while Mr. Towne held a position in that house, and who
previously had had business transactions with him, writes as follows :
Mr. Towne, with whom I was acquainted for many years, was well known
to the dry-goods trade as a man of strict integrity. He was a very exact
and methodical man, and exhibited such peculiar ability in the adjustment
of complicated accounts, that Mr. James M. Beebe, with whom he was a
long time associated, entrusted him with this part of his business. During
this connection, which lasted until nearly the close of Mr. Beebe's business
life, he had the charge of various securities, real estate and other assets,
requiring great skill and care in their disposal and conversion, in which he
acquitted himself with great credit, and to the entire satisfaction of all
Mr. Towne's brother, John Parker Towne, Esq., a lawyer of
high standing in Edgerton, Wisconsin,' furnishes these recollections
of his brother :
Being some sixteen years my senior and having left home not long after
my birth, my acquaintance with him is limited to his visits and our corres-
pondence, which was uninterrupted from the time I was fourteen years of
age till his death. The happiest moments of my young days were when the
Nashua stage-coach rolled up to the door of our home and brought brother
William for his sunamer visit. This was the great event of the year. All
the family, hired men and all, welcomed him and he them with delight. In
my memory, he seemed to think no tour so pleasant as the one to Milford,
and no watering place so attractive as our humble home with its plain fare
and rustic inmates.
While on his visits he habitually went into the field and spent a part of
the day at work with us. He criticized our work in a friendly way, and
inspired us with an ambition to improve our manner of labor. When work
was over and play commenced he contrived to make our sports more attrac-
tive than ever He frequently went in bathing with us, and one
day taught us to swim. He led one at a time into the water nearly to our
necks, put his hand under our chins to keep our heads above the water,
and said, "Now strike out and swim." And to our great surprise and
delight we did swim. Two or three efforts apiece enabled us all to
While he took great pleasure in our games and pastimes, and often brought
to our home useful presents, he never purchased for us toys, confectionery
or trinkets. He taught us self-reliance, and how to use what was about us
for pleasure and profit rather than to depend on the luxuries that money
' can purchase.*
He always manifested much interest in the welfare and happiness of every
member of our large family, and all looked up to him as the embodiment
of all the wisdom we needed in our undertakings He took
a lively interest also in the welfare and success of his younger brothers
and sisters, While he never told them his business affairs, said nothing to
the family of his enterprises, successes or failures, he always interested
himself in everything which concerned them, and gave them the best of
When I was in my teens, at work on my father's farm, with plenty of
books to read and content with my situation, he frequently asked me, " Well,
John, what business are you going to follow?" The invariable answer was,
"I don't know. What do you think I had better do?" **I can't tell," he
said. Finally when I had matured a plan to quit home and farming and
gain an education, being without money or other resources, I went to hira
with my plans. After I had laid the matter before him, I said, I have no
money and cannot do anything unless you help me. His only reply was,
*^ Go ahead," in his usual quiet tone. That was enough, and was as satis-
factory to me as his bond would have been. As he advanced me money he
took my notes, thus teaching me to be independent and self-reliant, as well
as to render to each his due. To his encouragement and aid, I owe my
education and position in society ; and he once (|uietly told me that I was
not the only one he had assisted to the same extent.
So far as I could judge, he practised the most rigid economy, not for the
sake of acquiring wealth, but to enable him to do the most good with his
means. And in so doing, he seemed to be anxious that no one should know
of his beneficence beyond the beneficiary. He well expresses this in a letter
to me written in 18G8, in which he says he is endeavoring to do good to all
around him in a quiet, unostentatious way, without anything very great or
good being accomplished.
The Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, president of the New-England
Historic, Genealogical Society and of the American Pomological
Society, of both of which institutions Mr. Towne was a vice-presi-
dent, thus writes :
It was my privilege to be acquainted with Mr. William B. Towne for a
long course of years, and I am most happy to state that during this long
period I have never been associated with any gentleman in whose sterling
worth and integrity I have had more confidence. In the discharge of various
duties of honor and of trust, he had the same uncompromising regard for
justice and for truth. As a merchant and as confidential clerk of one of the
largest mercantile firms of this city, he was highly respected for his honesty
and fidelity. This is also true in regard to the various offices which he held
in this city, andjater in New Hampshire, his native state. His love for
historical and genealogical research led him to connect himself many years
since with the New P^ngland Historic, Genealogical Society, in which ho
ever evinced a deep and lively interest by years of official services an(ij|
constant devotion to its welfare. As an efficient working member of th
society his loss was deeply deplored. His labors in its behalf were untirin
and judicious. As treasurer for ten years, as member and chairman of t
finance committee, member of the publishing committee, and in many other
positions, he rendered important services, frequently advancing money when
the society was too poor to meet its wants. His interest in the welfare of the
society, especially in the acquisition and investment of funds, led him to
constant watchfulness of its financial affairs, and it is very gratifying to state
that these investments have been securely made and yield regularly more
than usual interest. In the acquisition of funds, Mr. Towne was a member
of the committee to purchase and rebuild the Society's House, and to raise
a fund for the librarian's salary. For more than three months Mr. Towne
accompanied me most of the time in these solicitations. His donations to
establish the Towne Memorial Fund, with the accrued interest, amount to
over four thousand dollars. This fund will constitute an enduring memorial,
not only to his name but to those with which it will be associated. The loss
of Mr. Towne has been severely felt, and his memory will be gratefully
cherished by all who knew him.
Albert H. Iloyt, Esq., now of Cincinnati, Ohio, for eight years
editor of the Historical and Genealogical Register, and for
many years associated with Mr. Towne in the publishing and other
committees, furnishes these reminiscences of his friend :
My acquaintance with the late William B. Towne began in the year 1867.
He was then one of the most active and influential members of the Historic,
Genealogical Society, and such he continued to be until his final sickness.
His long business training and habits fitted him for usefulness in various
departments, of the society's interests, and he gave to them much time, labor
and care. This is especially true of the financial department.
It was chiefly owing to his solicitations that I was induced to undertake
the editorial management of the Register, in 1868 ; and during the period
of eight years following, he was one of my associates in the committee of
publication. In that relation his cooperation, counsel and judgment were
invaluable. He originated measures and cordially supported measures sug-
gested by others, for the improvement and success of that periodical ; and
to him, as much as to any one, its present prosperity and respectable standing
are justly due.
Of Mr. Towne's gifts to the Society and of his other services in its behalf,
the fund which bears his name, other funds which were created in whole or
in part through his agency or at his suggestion, the Society's House, — the
fruit of labors in which he took no inferior share, — and the records of the
society, furnish sufiicient evidence. To him indeed in every way, the
society, and the objects it seeks to promote, are largely indebted. He was,
moreover, a friend to all kindred institutions, and a benefactor of several of
With very limited early advantages for education, and with scanty oppor-
tunities for self-improvement in after life, Mr. Towne acquired a more than
respectable amount of knowledge of American history and of general litera-
ture. He bought many good books and read them with intelligence. He
remembered also what he read, and formed very sensible opinions of their
contents. He did not affect literary tastes or culture, nor parade his know-
ledge, but he often showed unexpected familiarity with literary and historical
subjects of interest.
He had made very considerable progress in compiling, and some advance
in printing, a genealogy of the Towne Family. To this end he visited
England in 1866, and there obtained valuable materials from original
sources. In some instances he also assisted others, engaged in like pursuits,
with itooney and friendly services.
After he removed to New Hampshire and while he was a member of the
Legislature of that State, he aided in inducing that body to continue and
complete the publication of the series of volumes of State Papers, which
has been so successfully carried through under the editorial conduct of the
Rev. Dr. Bouton ; a most timely and praise-worthy undertaking.
Mr. Towne was a thoroughly honest and sincere man. He was a good
man in the best sense of the word. His prudence and sagacity were seldom
at fault. He had no whims, no jealousies, no vanity, no suspicions of his
associates or neighbors. He was modest and simple in his tastes and habits.
His memory survives without even the shadow of a stain. The currents
of his emotional nature ran deep and smooth ; but he had a tender heart that
beat quickly in response to every worthy appeal of friendship or huinanity.
Of his domestic life we may say only this, that he was a devotedly affection-
ate father and husband.
In all the essential attributes of a good and strong character, Mr. Towne
was a rare man ; such a friend was and will be even more rare.