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3 1833 01393 8029 

MAY 3 1909 


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THE TAFT KIN*^^. ^& 

?JI7?3[ ILLIAM howard taf t 

^i^J^ comes from straight New Eng- 
land stock. He himself was born 

in Cincinnati, but his father was born in 
Townsend, Vt., and his mother in our 
own Boston. The various ancestors back 
to the immigrants were identified in race 
.and religion with old time New Eng- 
land. The Taft homestead is in Uxbridge, 
Mass., where Robert Taft settled about 
1680. The notable reunions of the family 
take place at the ancient home. Robert 
Taft, a housewright, appears in Braintree 
before 1679, owning land, but plying his 
trade, that is, constructing frame buildings, 
transporting them to Boston and erecting 
them. Little is known of Robert Taft in 
his beginning labors in Xew England. He 

* The Taft Kin appeared as a signed article 
on the editorial pa^e of the Boston Evening 
Transcript of March 4th, 1909. Extra copies 
can be obtained by addressing the writer, Rev. 
Anson Titus, 10 Raymond Avenue, West Soin- 
erville, Boston, Mass. 

"^5- 44-6 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center 

was no mean citizen in Mendoo from 16S0 
onward, settling in that part of Mendou 
which in 1727 became Uxbridge. He had 
many acres "near the pond," and on each 
side of the Mumford River. He raised 
fiveTOsky and lusty sons, and they made 
the farms bring forth harvests, and the 
waterways to turn wheels. They erected 
and maintained their own bridge for their 
own and the town's convenience, and were 
allowed for the same by the people of 
Mendon. ' ' The bridge the Tafts built ' ' is 
a phrase often in town reports and court 
records. It was not only a landmark and 
starting point for measuring distances, but 
was an enterprise which told mightily in 
developing the new lands of the Nipmuek 
region. The value of a bridge across a 
river in a semi-wilderness or in settled 
towns can scarcely be estimated. It was 
a bold plan, earnestly executed, and the 
bridge was maintained at no small annual 
cost in labor. Robert Taft was a selectman 
in Mendon in 16S0, and in 1704 was one 
of ten men to purchase the Indian title of 
the town of Sutton, the same being con- 
firmed by the General Court. 

The five sons of Robert Taft were 


Thomas, Robert, Daniel, Joseph and Ben- 
jamin. These men intermarried with like 
good stock and reared large families. The 
son Joseph, born in 1680, was a captain in 
the Provincial Militia and a man of prom- 
inence in town affairs. His wife was 
Elizabeth Emerson, a granddaughter of 
Rev. Joseph Emerson, first minister of 
Mendon. They had sons Moses, Peter, 
Joseph and Aaron. Rev. Adin Ballon in 
his history of Milford says : "The Tafts 
were prolific and famous for large families." 
Peter Taft, born 1715, married Elizabeth 
Cheney and had sons Henry, Gershom, 
Aaron and Peter. Aaron was born 1743. 
Tradition says he took a partial course at 
Princeton College. He married Rhoda 
Rawson and had eleven children. About 
1800 he removed from Uxbridge to Towns- 
'end, Yt., where he passed away after nine 
years of toil on the new lands. Pie was a 
Minute Man and responded on the alarm 
from Concord and Lexington. Rhoda 
Rawson was of excellent descent,, from 
Edward Rawson, a principal founder of 
Boston, through Rev. Griudall Rawson, 
whose wife Susan descended from Rev. 
John Wilson, the first minister of Boston, 

aud from Rev. John Hooker, the first min- 
ister and founder of Hartford, Conn. 

Josiah Taft, a grandson of Robert Taft, 
the immigrant, was at his decease the larg- 
est taxpayer of Uxbridge, and the town 
meeting granted the right of suffrage to his 
widow during the minority of her son, and 
she exercised it with credit to her intelli- 
gence. On an occasion the Province of 
Massachusetts Bay laid special requisition 
for money upon towns for general pur- 
poses, possibly for some military emer- 
gency, and it was her vote in town meeting 
which carried the question. She royally 
displayed her patriotism by her support of 
the provincial measure. 

The military record of the Taft family 
is excellent. Captain Joseph Taft, in the 
early part of the eighteenth century, had 
kinsmen for compatriots. The perils of the 
wilderness and the ravages of the Indians 
were constant. In the struggle for Amer- 
ican Independence there were at least sixty 
of the name from Massachusetts in the 
service. There were two from Connecticut 
and five from Vermont. Aaron Taft, who 
settled in Vershire, Vermont, was a Revo- 
lutionarv soldier, and was one of four 


brothers who stood above six feet and 
weighed over two hundred pounds, re- 
sembling their father. 

Aaron Taft for long y ears was town clerk 
of Uxbridge. From the financial stress 
following the War of the Revolution he 
failed to recover himself as he wished, 
and like many another, with nothing to 
lose and everything to gain, struck out for 
Vermont. He may not have replenished 
his estate as he desired, but he contributed 
a wealth of character to the new town in a 
Vermont wilderness. His eldest son, Peter 
Rawson Taft, born 17S5, was a lad of four- 
teen, and led a cow from Uxbridge to 
Townsend. The cow was no unimportant 
factor in a growing family in a season of 
pinching want. The recuperation of the 
American Colonies following the Revolu- 
tionar}* War, by opening new lands, and 
the marvellous harvests which the virgin 
soil produced, will ever be regarded as one 
of the wonders of our national life. So 
with the Taft family as with many another. 
Stress may have been with them for a few 
years, but industry and prudence, sharp- 
ened by want, amid the bounties which new 
lands produced, replenished the family fort- 


tines. The widow of Aaron Taft survived 
many years, and Peter Rawson Taft, the 
son, entered upon the estate of manhood 
with a generous assortment of mother wit 
which stood him in need through a long 
and useful life. He was an educated man, 
though he was innocent of academic train- 
ing, but he had the gift of using the knowl- 
edge he had, and more was bestowed upon 
him. He taught school, was a land sur- 
veyed was a trial justice from 181S, judge 
of probate, 1S30-1S32, and judge of Court 
of Common Pleas, 1S35 onward. He also 
was a chief promoter of the Academy at 
Townsend. Peter Rawson Taft, in 1S41, 
removed to Cincinnati, where his only son, 
Alphonso, had established himself in the 
profession of law, and after a busy life he 
and his good wife, after a married life of 
fifty-six years, passed forward to the world 
immortal about 1S67. The wife was Sylvia 
Howard, a daughter of a sturdy pioneer of 

Alphonso Taft was born in 1S10, was 
reared among the homespun living of prac- 
tical people, prepared for college at the 
Townsend Academy, graduated at Yale 
1833 with high honors, was an instructor 


at Yale and admitted to the Connecticut 
bar in 1838, removed to Cincinnati, accu- 
mulated an extensive practice, was often 
summoned to serve Ohio, in 1865 became 
a judge, 1876 a member of President 
Grant's cabinet, afterwards minister to 
Austria and Russia, and died in 1S91, aged 
eighty years. The delight of his life was 
the preparation and deliver}- of an histori- 
cal address in 1S74 at Uxbridge before a 
reunion of the descendants of Robert Taft. 
It gave him pleasure ; he found joy in re- 
calling the traditions of his tribe, and the 
occasion will be long treasured in the 
annals of the family. 

Alphonso Taft married first Fanny 
Phelps, who was the mother of two sons ; 
and he married second Louisa Torrey, by 
whom were three sons and a daughter. 
These wives and mothers were choice 
women. Louisa Torrey, the mother of 
William Howard Taft, was the daughter 
of Samuel D. Torrey, and wife Susan 
Holman, a daughter of Asa, and a grand- 
daughter of Colonel Jonathan Holman, one 
of the marked patriots of the American 
Revolution. Maternal as well as paternal 
ancestry contributed to place the man 


whom the nation delights to honor under 
great obligations to revere the royal com- 
pany of men and women of earlier New 

The catalogues of our colleges reveal 
that the Taft family have been ambitious 
for an education. Harvard University 
registers thirteen before 1905, Brown Uni- 
versity registers twenty-six, Dartmouth 
College five, and Michigan University four. 
It is for Yale University to claim the honor 
of training William Howard Taft. Judge 
Alphonso Taft was a loyal alumnus of 
Yale. He kept in touch with its tradi- 
tions, and in its corporation was of influence 
in moulding its action. His five sous and 
several grandsons pursued their studies in 
Yale and won its highest honors. It is 
not a campus nor buildings which make a, but its students who turn adversi- 
ties into victories. Happy Yale that the 
Taft family turned to its halls of learning.