ANER SPERRY, HARTFORD: Trustee in Settlement of Estates.
The subject of this sketch was born in the town of Russia., Herkimer County, New York, February 5, 1812. For a
great many years he was in active business in Hartford, and well known throughout the city and county. He practically
retired years ago, and has since devoted his attention to the settlement of estates. His erect form is still a
familiar one on the streets of Hartford; and, although nearly eighty years of age, his step is firm and his eye
bright. He has personally prepared a sketch of his life, which is printed verbatim below, and will be read by his
acquaintances with greater relish than anything which the editor could offer in its place.
Mr. Sperry writes: " My father and mother went from New Haven, to Russia, N. Y., in the year 1800, and settled
on a farm in the wilderness. They had then one daughter, Laura; they constructed a log house in which they lived
several years, but the family increased and a larger house was required. It was built at the foot of a small hill,
of logs, and in this house I was born. I take great pleasure in visiting the spot where the old log house stood,
and looking at the little babbling brook near by where I have taken so much comfort in wading in the water, building
dams, and after school filling my fish basket with speckled trout, or picking twelve quarts of blackberries ands
carrying them to 'the corners,' one and a half miles away. I could generally get two cents per quart, but if the
market was dull Esq. Frink would take them and give me a yard of cotton cloth that was worth one York shilling.
Mother could always find use for it, as I had five sisters and two brothers. The school house was one and a half
miles away, and I did not spend much time there. Father was a tailor and spent most of the winters in whipping
the cat,' and that left the chores and wood chopping for me to do. The old bay mare 'Cub' was a great help to me
in getting up the wood; she also carried us to mill and to meeting. We had about three acres of orchard and I remember
the names of nearly every tree. Father built a frame barn and one of our neighbors had a frame house; he died one
day and father bought the house for fifty dollars, and the neighbors that had oxen came and moved the house to
our place and we dug a cellar under it and that made us a very good home. It was a hard struggle for our parents
to clear up the land and raise so large a family. We were all brought up in the Methodist faith and the fear of
hell was before our eyes; but I did not see it' Our advantages for knowing what was in the future were very limited.
The answer to any and all questions was faith. Our farm was very hilly and it made lots of hard work. The soil
was good. A brook ran through the south part of it, and a spring supplied the north part; we had a good sugar bush
Our neighbors were kind and agreeable. I took lots of comfort attending singing school.
"At the age of sixteen I left home and went to live with John Graves in the fall, and did chores for my board
and went to school. Perhaps some of the sixteen year old boys of the present day would like to know what chores
I had to do. Well, the first was to get out of bed at four o'clock A. dress and go to the barn and milk six cows,
feed forty cows, two oxen, and five horses, then go to another barn and feed twenty calves and forty sheep; then
go to a haystack half a mile away and feed five colts, shovel away the snow and cut a hole in the ice for them
to drink, feed six hogs, - all of which must be done before daylight. Who can guess how much hay has been handled?
Now breakfast is ready. After eating in a hurry the cows are all turned out to water, and put back if stormy, horses
led out to water and all of the stables cleaned out; now comes wood sawing and filling the woodbox in the kitchen,
and then I am now ready for school. At twelve I must hurry home and feed all the cattle, and get back to school
for the afternoon. As soon as it is closed I am seen running home to do the chores, which are not finished until
about eight o'clock; then when supper is over I am soon between the sheets. This is repeated every day until spring
arrives. I then go to work for seven dollars per month. This is followed up for five years; the last summer the
wages reach ten dollars per month. My father takes all of my wages for the five years. I then arrive at the age
of twenty one: During my boyhood, when at home, my father gave me a small patch of ground on which I raised watermelons
and sold them at general trainings and picked up a little money of my own. I enlisted into the artillery company,
Twenty sixth regiment, N. Y. S. artillery under David Joy. Dr. Walter Booth commanded the company afterward., and
our general trainings were held at Herkimer. F. E. Spinner was colonel, he who was aftenvards United States treasurer.
On the 26th of July, 1830, I was appointed corporal of the company and received my warrant from Colonel Spinner
on that day. Our uniform was blue, trimmed with gilt braid, bell crowned caps made of patent leather and brass
trimmed, with tall red feather, sword, and belt. I enlisted when I was seventeen. When I became twenty one I was
sick of farming and decided to look for some other business. Father said If you will stay here and take care of
me and mother, when we get through you shall have all that is left. I thanked him for his very kind and generous
offer, and said to him, You have worked all of your life so far and got together a farm of fifty acres, and it
is well stocked and worth about $1,500. Now I shall decline the offer for two reasons: first, I have brothers and
sisters, and would not take it all; second, I think I can do better.' I was then twenty one and had thirty dollars
in my pocket. I left Russia about. the 4th of April, 1833, for New Haven, by stage; could not get work, and my
thirty dollars was reduced to one dollar and seventy five cents. Left New Haven at eight A.M., arrived in Hartford
at four P. M., having walked thirty six miles; applied at the Retreat for work without success; went to Mr. Johnson's
house near by and staid over night; told him my situation, and he gave me my supper, lodging, and breakfast, and
it was valued higher than any gift that I ever received. Next morning went over to the Retreat and obtained a situation.
Was employed in the house for six months; then went outside and drove the team seven and one half years. My stay
there was very pleasant and agreeable. I had fifteen dollars per month for two years and twenty dollars per month
for six years. The managers made me a present of fifty dollars when I left. Dr. Todd was superintendent and Phineas
Talcott steward when I went there, and Dr. Brigham was superintendent and Virgil Cornish steward when I left. The
boys there wanted to use their money faster than they earned it, and I lent them money every month at a large interest.
I saved my money and the big interest helped me out. I spent but very little. I attended dancing school two winters.
The first thousand dollars that I earned I put into the grocery trade with a partner, who managed the business
two years and then left with all of the funds. I left the Retreat in the spring of 1841, and manufactured root
beer for five months; cleared $575. Then I formed a copartnership with Frederick F. Taylor. We bought out Solomon
Smith's livery stable, price $2,500. I had $2,200, and Mr. Taylor had $300. We were located on Front street. Mr.
Smith still owned the office, which we afterwards bought for $700. Then we bought of Christopher Colt a barn for
$1,200; then bought of Griffin Stedman a house on Talcott street for $1,500; then sold the whole to Daniel Buck
for an advance of $500. We then bought of Wm. Kellogg a barn corner of Front and Talcott streets for $4,000. On
this ground I built my first house; it was a neat little house of four rooms. August 18, 1844, I was married to
Nancy B. Miller; she was from East Hampton, N. Y.; she was six years younger than myself. We were married at the
Methodist Church. I played the bass viol there five years. I think Nancy was the best housekeeper in the wide world.
We lived together thirty nine years; she died August 31, 1883. Mr. Taylor and myself bought, in the spring of 1847,
the old Goodwin livery stable in rear of the Exchange Bank State street, for $13,200. Mr. Taylor's health failed
in 1850 and I bought him out and paid him $8,000. I continued the business until 1859. I had ten hacks and twenty
five single teams, and generally kept fifty horses and attended to most of the funerals. I employed fifteen men
and had a large run of business. Kept my own books. My hacks cost generally from $1,200 to $1,500; I had one that
cost $2,000, and Mrs. Sigourney had the first ride in it. I lost over fifty horses, the value of which was at least
$10,000, and bad debts on my books $10,000. My barn was burned and the loss, over the insurance, was $8,000. I
gave Geo. K. Reed $5,000, Mrs. Sharp's family $2,500, Geo. W. Loveland $3,100, Frederick S. Sperry $300, Philena
Fithian $250, Polla Osborn $250, and many other smaller gifts, also S. A. L. $2,200. Lost by endorsements and otherwise
over 520,000. The aggregate amount of losses and gifts $70,000. The interest added, this amount would, at this
time, make the whole amount considerably over $100,000.
"I bought ten hacks here, three in New Haven, thirty five in Bridgeport. My livery property would generally
inventory about $3o,000. When I commenced the business, our capital being but $1,500, I was obliged to have some
credits. I got Robert Buell to endorse for me. He was on my paper most of the time. I gave him what riding he wanted,
which amounted to about one hundred dollars per year. I have been interested in the hack business outside of my
own business with James Givin, Mr. Boyington, Mr. Briggs, John White, E. P. Cottrell, James Tehan, C. B. Boardman,
Gee. Govt, I. A. Chamberlain, and Merrick Freeman I finally wound up by selling out to Freeman. I took a house
of him on Pleasant street and lived there one year; changed that for a farm on Windsor avenue. In the spring of
1860 I bought my house on Ann street. During 1859 and 1860 I was out of business, and it was the two hardest years'
work that I have ever done. At that time Hewett & Rogers failed in the livery business, and theirs was the
first estate that I ever settled; but I have followed the business ever since, and my list numbers now 175. My
fees will amount to about $17,000.
"When I first started out to take care of myself the main object was to provide for myself a good home. I
have denied myself many things in my youth that would have been pleasant to enjoy, but by so doing I have accomplished
my object. I have got my long desired good home, although in getting it I have passed through many storms; but
the storms are over and the sun shines bright."
Since the above sketch was prepared, Mr. Sperry has married, May 6, 1891, Mrs. Emily j. House of Hartford.
Illustrated Popular Biography
Compiled and Published by J. A. Spalding
Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co.
Hartford, Conn. 1891
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