HON. HENRY BILL, NORWICH: Book Publisher, State Senator, Bank President.
Henry Bill, son of Gurdon and Lucy Yerrington Bill, was born in the north parish of Groton, now Ledyard, on the
18th day of May, 1824. Up to the age of fifteen he was occupied by the ordinary life of a farmer's boy, attending
the public school during the winter months. Then he was for a short time an apprentice in the printing office of
the New London Gazette, but, not being satisfied with the profession, he abandoned it and engaged in school keeping
in the neighboring town of Preston. He then engaged in school teaching in Plainfield and Groton during the winter
months and assisting his father on his farm in the summer, till he was twenty years of age. Then he entered the
field as a book agent, and for three years traveled through the Western States in this business. In 1847, having
acquired a practical knowledge of the book business, he returned to Norwich and established the subscription book
publishing business, on his own account. For more than twenty five years he followed this business with great success,
employing hundreds of agents, in all parts of the country, distributing some of the most useful and popular books
of the day. His business outgrowing his strength, he turned it into a joint stock company, put it in charge of
younger men, and nominally retired from active life, to recuperate his failing health.
In 1853 he represented the 8th senatorial district in the state senate, as a free soil democrat, and was the youngest
member of that body, but in 1856 he zealously espoused the free soil cause and cast his lot with the republican
party, with which he has since been affiliated. In 1868 he was one of the presidential electors on the Gen. Grant
ticket. With these exceptions, he has held no public office.
During the civil war he was one of the strong men upon whom Governor Buckingham relied at all times for advice
and assistance and after the war was deeply interested in the work of educating the colored people of the South,
and gave freely of his time and means in this cause. He has manifested his interest in his native town by presenting
the homestead of his family to the Congregational society for a parsonage, and by endowing a free library in connection
with the same, the good influence of which will endure forever.
Mr. Bill was married on the 16th of February, 1847, to Miss Julia O. Chapman of Groton, and has three living children,
two daughters and a son. For more than thirty years he was a vice president of the Chelsea Savings Bank, and for
two years was its president, and only resigned that office on account of declining health. From his youth up he
has been a member of the Congregational church, and since his residence in Norwich has been a member of the Broadway
church. A fact worthy of mention in connection with his business life, because worthy of imitation, is this, that
he has invested the proceeds of his enterprises almost wholly in the city of his residence, by laying out and building
up the most beautiful of its suburbs, Laurel Hill, and by holding and improving some of the most valuable of its
business property. This has proved to him not only good citizenship but sound financial foresight.
Mr. Bill is one of the best products of our old Connecticut institutions, self made, self reliant, strong to execute
whatever he plans, a good citizen, a good neighbor and friend, and one who will leave a lasting mark for good upon
the community where he has passed the active period of his life.
Illustrated Popular Biography
Compiled and Published by J. A. Spalding
Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co.
Hartford, Conn. 1891
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