Chapter 4

Biographical Sketches

It seems quite appropriate that the active factors in the building of the hall should be recognized in this pamphlet. Three men have been selected as representing three different classes of agents—those who contributed means; those who contributed enterprise and effort; and those who helped to fittingly dedicate the completed structure. As chief among contributors stands Mr. Darius Goff, for whom the memorial was named; as first among the workers in the enterprise is Rev. Geo. H. Tilton, its originator and leading spirit; as most prominent of those who officiated at the dedication, is Hon. Thomas W. Bicknell, LL.D., of Boston, orator of the day. Portraits and biographical sketches of these gentlemen are included in these pages, those of Mr. Goff and Mr. Bicknell being immediately subjoined, while that of Mr. Tilton appears in connection with the presentation of his picture to the Society, which occurred during the afternoon exercises.


Darius Goff, son of Lieut. Richard and Mehitable (Bullock) Goff, was born in Rehoboth, Mass., May 10, 1809. His father was a manufacturer, and in 1790 built a fulling and cloth dressing mill, and furnished it with the best of machinery. His mother was a daughter of Hon. Stephen




Bullock. His grandfather, Joseph Goff, lived in Barrington, and his great grandfather was Richard Goff. The children of Lieutenant Richard and Mehitabel Goff were, Richard, Otis, Horatio, Patience, Nelson, Darius and Mary B. Darius Goff was educated at home and in the common schools. At an early age he entered his father’s factory in Rehoboth, and spent four or five years in the coloring department of the mill, and in trade in a variety store. He was subsequently employed for a short time in the woolen mill of John & Jesse Eddy of Fall River, Mass., and for six years served as clerk in the grocery business, first with William Woodward, and afterward with Tillinghast  Almy, in Providence. Returning to Rehoboth, he and his brother, Nelson, purchased the Union Cotton Mill and commenced, in 1835, the manufacture of cotton batting, which business they prosecuted with success. Soon afterward, they began to make glazed wadding, sizing it by hand, a sheet at a time, on a table covered with sheet lead, then hanging it, on racks with a common lath to dry. Finally they conceived the idea of making it in a continuous sheet, and after experimenting for about two years accomplished the object, placing the cards over an endless apron, conveying the web of cotton from each doffer of the cards to the apron, which run at the same speed with the surface of the doffer, the thickness of the wadding being determined by the number of cards operated. This plan of making wadding is now universal. Its success called for a larger mill, which not being attainable then, experiments were made to color the continuous sheets as they came from the cards, and were, after two years or more, successful in the object. A new mill was built, about two hundred feet long, and the old machinery was started in it about 1842, but in about a month it was destroyed by




fire, at a loss of over six thousand dollars. E. A. Brown of Rehoboth soon afterward bought out the interest of Nelson Goff, and a new firm was formed, Goff & Brown, who changed the business to the manufacture of carpet warps and twine, and this was continued under the special direction of Mr. Brown, till 1868, when the firm was dissolved.

As early as 1836, Mr. Goff had given special attention to the business of buying and selling cotton waste as paper stock. This material hitherto had literally been thrown away. In this new business, in 1846, he formed a co-partnership with George Lawton of Waltham, Mass., and commenced dealing in waste paper stock, in Boston, on Gray’s wharf. Mr. Goff came to Pawtucket and in 1847 erected a wadding mill near the railroad station. It was run by a steam engine, the cotton being carded in the white state, carried through all the processes of coloring and sizing, and brought out in endless sheets. The mill was burned in, 1851, but was at once rebuilt on a larger scale. In 1859 the partnership of Goff & Lawton was dissolved, Mr. Lawton taking the Boston business in paper stock, and Mr. Goff taking the wadding mill in Pawtucket. Mr. Goff then united with John D. Cranston and Stephen Brownell of Providence, under the firm-name of Goff, Cranston & Brownell, and carried on a general business in paper stock and wadding. The mill was burned in 1871 and rebuilt in 1872, in larger proportions and with more perfect machinery. It is driven by a Corliss engine of 300 horse-power. The mill and necessary adjoining buildings occupy an area of about four acres. There are about two hundred cards run, turning out an average of about seventy-five miles of yard-wide wadding and batting per day, being twice the size of any





wadding manufactory in the world. In 1878, the two companies—Goff, Cranston & Brownell and Union Wadding Co.—the latter of which though previously formed, was chartered in 1875, with a capital of $300,000, were merged into one under the name of The Union Wadding Co. The capital stock has since been increased to $750,000, with Darius Goff, president; Lyman B. Goff, treasurer, and Henry A. Stearns, superintendent. The company runs machinery of its own invention and construction, which in a large measure accounts for the remarkable success of the business.

In 1861 Mr. Goff with his son, Darius L., and W.F. and F. C. Sayles formed the American Worsted Co., for the manufacture of worsted braids—then a new industry in this country. This company was dissolved in 1864, and a new firm for the same business was immediately organized, the name being D. Goff & Son, Mr. Goff’s son, Darius L, being the junior member. Lyman B., the younger son, was admitted in 1876. During the years 1867 and 1868 by the efforts of Mr. Goff, the business received protective legislation from Congress, and at once became an immense and flourishing branch of industry, the product, alpaca braids, being well known in the market as "Goff’s Braids." In 1884 the firm was incorporated, with a capital stock of $6oo,ooo; Darius Goff, president. and D. L. Goff, treasurer. The firm is the leading one of the kind in America.

Mr. Goff served in the Town Council of Pawtucket, and in 1871 was elected State Senator. He was a director in the Franklin Savings Bank from its incorporation to a recent date; has been director of the Pawtucket Gas Co., and the Pawtucket Hair Cloth Co., from their origin, and is also one of the directors of the First National Bank. For many years he has been a devoted and influential




member of the Pawtucket Congregational Church, and has largely contributed to its support, being one of four to enlarge the old church, lie was also a member of the Building Committee in the erection of the new edifice, and in the liquidation of the debt subscribed ten thousand dollars. Politically he has been a Whig and a Republican and was always a strong opponent of slavery. During the Rebellion his voice, hand and purse were given to the support of the patriot army and the Union. To every good cause he has freely and earnestly given his aid and his influence. Notwithstanding his extensive business relations he has found time to indulge his taste and increase his knowledge by travelling over nearly all parts of our country. His vigor of body and mind, sterling qualities of heart and executive abilities, well entitle him to be counted as a representative man of New England. He married first, in May, 1839, Sarah Lee, whose only child died; second, Harriet Lee. These were sisters, and daughters of Israel Lee of Dighton, Mass. The children by the second marriage are Darius L., Lyman B. and Sarah C. Mr. Goff’s sons, as already stated, are now associated with him in business. His daughter, Sarah C. married Thomas Sedgwick Steele of Hartford, Conn.



Hon. Thomas. W. Bicknell, orator of the day at the dedication of the Memorial Hall hereafter described, descended from that Zachary Bicknell who, in the spring of 1635, set sail from Gravesend, Kent, England, for America and settled in Weymouth, the first home of the founders of Rehoboth. His grandson of the same name came to Swansea, now Barrington, about 1705, and there in 1834, the subject of this sketch was born.





He received his early education in district and private schools in Barrington until sixteen years of age, when he left home to attend school at Thetford Academy, Vt., living in the family and working the farm of Enoch Slade, Esq. While at the Academy, under the very efficient principalship and instruction of Hiram Orcutt, he decided to take the studies preparatory for college, and in 1853 graduated from the Academy, delivering the Greek oration on Grecian Mythology. He taught his first school at Seekonk, Mass., 1853-4; was admitted by examination to Dartmouth and Amherst Colleges, and entered the Freshman class of Amherst, September, 1853. At the close of Freshman year he was elected by his class as a prize-debater. He left college in 1854, to recruit in health and funds. He taught school as principal of the public school and high school, Rehoboth, 1854-5. Went West in 1855, and taught as principal of the academy at Elgin, Ill. In the summer of 1856, he joined a Chicago emigration company to settle in Kansas; was taken prisoner by border ruffians on Missouri River, and sent back to St. Louis under escort of Colonel Bufford’s South Carolina and Virginia. sharpshooters. He came East and conducted the Rehoboth High School from September, 1856, to December, 185 7,and entered the Sophomore class of Brown University February, 1858, and graduated with degree of A. M., 1860.

He was appointed Commissioner of Public Schools of Rhode Island by Governor Padelford, June 1869, and continued in office till January r, 1875. While Commissioner, he secured a State Board of Education, of which he was Secretary; the re-establishment of The Rhode Island Schoolmaster, of which he was editor for nearly ten years; the re-establishment of the State Normal School;




secured town school superintendents in each town in the State; dedicated over fifty new school-houses; advanced the school year from 27 to 35 weeks average, throughout the State; and school appropriations were nearly trebled during his administration. He aided in the revival of the American Institute of Instruction, and in the establishment of the New England Journal of Education, and as joint proprietor and publisher with C. C. Chatfield, edited the Journal, which united the several monthly magazines of New England in one paper, issued weekly at Boston, Mass; established and edited the Primary Teacher, a monthly magazine, in 1876. In 1880, he established and became conductor of Education, a bi-monthly Review on the Science, the Art, the Philosophy, and the History of Education; at the same time continuing the editorship of the Journal, and Presidency of the New England Publishing Company, formed in 1875. His present business is that of editing and publishing educational papers, books and magazines.

The events and honorable positions of his active life are many, some of the more important of which are here given. He has been president of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction, the American Institute of Instruction, and the National Educational Association. He aided in the formation of the Boston Congregational Sunday-school Superintendent's Union, and was elected its president May, 188o. Was a delegate to and attended the Raikes Sunday-school Centenary at London, 1880 He is a member of the Massachusetts Historic Genealogical Society, of the Rhode Island Historic Society, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of the American Social Science Association, and an honorary member of the Pennsylvania Historical Society. The Bicknell Family




Association was formed in Boston in December, 1879, and Mr. Bicknell was elected its president. In 1872, he was elected an honorary member of the Phi Beta Kappa, and received the honorary degree of Master of Arts from Amherst College in 1880 and LL.D., Drury College, 1882. Mr. Bicknell was President of the R. I. Sunday-school Union from 1872 to 1875; was a delegate from the Rhode Island Conference to form the National Congregational Council, and was a delegate from the Suffolk South Conference to the Triennial Council, held in Detroit, Mich., October, 1877; was Commissioner from R. I. to the Universal Exposition at Vienna, Austria, in 1873, and a member of the Postal Congress held in New York, 1878, in forming the Postal Code, adopted by Congress in 1879. Also, he was president of the following societies: Massachusetts Congregational Sunday-school Union, 1881-1885; New England Sunday-school Association, 1885-1886. International Sunday-school Union, 1884-1887; Chautauqua Teachers’ Reading Union, 1886.

Mr. Bicknell has travelled extensively through the United States, and has made three European trips. In 1873, he travelled through Scotland, England, France, Holland, Belgium Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Austria, and Bavaria. In 1879, he revisited England, and in 1880, with his wife, visited Scotland, England, France, Belgium, and Holland. He cast his first Presidential vote for John C. Fremont, in 1856 and still holds fast to the Republican party. He was married in 1860 to Amelia Davie Blanding, daughter of Christopher and Chloe Blanding of Rehoboth. The Blanding Library of the new Memorial Building is named in honor of her contributions to it.