Fairbanks Erastus, Lld
Fairbanks Erastus, LL.D.
governor of Vermont, was born at Brimfield, Massachusetts, October 28, 1792. He obtained such education as the district school afforded, and at seventeen himself taught a district school. From his youth he was diligent in self-culture. In 1812 he removed to St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and in March, 1814, he united with the Congregational Church in that place. From this time to the end of his life the interests of religion and the Church were paramount to all others in his life and habits of thought. After various vicissitudes in trade, he began in 1830 the manufacture of the patent — "platform scale," which is now in use all over the world, and from the sale of which he laid the foundation of a large fortune. The village of St. Johnsbury grew in population, wealth, and virtue, so as to have become a model place under his skillful guidance. "Drunkenness and disorder were things unknown; industry, intelligence, and thrift were universal." In 1828 he became a deacon of the Congregational Church. In 1836 he was elected a member of the State Legislature, in 1844 and 1848 presidential elector, and in 1852 and 1860 he was chosen governor of the State of Vermont. In the execution of his official duties he was conscientious and faithful, and acquired and retained, in an unusual degree, the confidence of all parties. During his second term of office the civil war broke out. "His firm having a great amount of property in the South which must be lost in case of war, it was for his pecuniary interest to keep peace. But this had no weight with him. Day and night he toiled raising troops, where, three months before, not even a knapsack was to be found, and sending regiment after regiment of the brave Green Mountain Boys forward to the seat of war." The Legislature conferred upon him almost unlimited power in the discharge of his duties, and placed at his sole disposal a million of dollars, and at the close of his official term in 1861 passed votes of approval of his labors, ability, and patriotic devotion. He never touched even the salary to which he was entitled. He was for many years a corporate member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and both in this field and in that of home missions he devoted time, talents, and money freely to the cause of God. His personal literary culture was diligently carried on during his life, and in 1860 the University of Vermont conferred on him the degree of LL.D. He died November 20, 1864. To trace the thirty-four years of his life from 1830 to his death "is to record the daily acts of a life devoted to every good and noble work. Rare must be the talent which could organize and direct such a business in the face of so many obstacles, in an inland town, remote from business centres, sand guide it safely through all the financial embarrassments to which the country has been subject. But a fact far more rare and interesting is that, in the midst of so many cares, time abundant was always found, and means equally abundant, not only for aiding in every good work, but for leading in new bencevolent movements, for which many, with far less to do thought they could find no time." "His munificent contributions to benevolent purposes and objects were proverbial long before his death, and in connection with 'good words and works' the name of Erastus Fairbanks had, to the people of his state, come to be as familiar as household words. In public life he was honored and confided in as a capable, honest, and reliable man; and in the walks of social and private life he was esteemed as a kind neighbor, a sincere friend, and a Christian gentleman." — Congregational Quarterly, 1867, No. 1.