Park, Trenor William

as found in
HISTORY OF
BENNINGTON COUNTY, VT


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
OF SOME OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS.

EDITED BY
LEWIS CASS ALDRICH
1889



PARK, TRENOR WILLIAM, the son of Luther and Cynthia (Pratt) Park, and the grandson of William Park, was born in the town of Woodford, in this county, on the 8th day of December, 1823.

When two or three years old Trenor W. Park moved with his parents to Bennington. There his meager educational advantages were utilized in such irregular manner as the poverty of the family would allow. Pluck, perseverence, and industry, however, enabled him to surmount all obstruction. From 1830 to 1836 he was known as the bright, precocious, keen witted boy, who peddled molasses candy to supply the necessities of the household. He also performed such acts of service as he was capable of doing. Among these he carried letters to and from the post-office at Bennington, which was then located in what is now called Bennington Center. This penny postal establishment between the present village of Bennington and that of Revolutionary fame was among the earliest harbingers of cheap postal service.

When fifteen years of age Trenor W. Park had prospered so much as to be the proprietor of a small candy store on North street. But his aspirations were to much higher ends than any associated with so humble a branch of commerce. He resolved to become a lawyer. Entering at sixteen the law office of A. P. Lyman, he there studied for admission to the bar, and with such success that he was received into the legal fraternity soon after the attainment of his majority.

Beginning practice in the village of Bennington, he continued to prosecute it with great success until the spring of 1852. He was also interested in the lumber trade of that section of the State, and contributed largely to its subsequent development. In controversy or argument his talents were strikingly apparent. In the village lyceum he was one of the most conspicuous figures, and judging from his success in later life, was doubtless one, of its most able and brilliant debaters.

The appointment of Hon. Hiland Hall by President Fillmore in 1851 to the chairmanship of the United States Land Commission of California, brought an entire change into the plans of Mr. Park, who was the son-in-law of Mr. HalL The commission was constituted to settle Mexican land titles in the new acquisition to the territorial domain of the country. In the spring of 1852 Mr. Park and his family migrated to the Pacific coast. Arrived in San Francisco he commenced the practice of law, and displayed so much ability in the successful management of his first case that he attracted the attention of the law firm of Halleck, Peachy & Billings, which firm be was soon thereafter in.. vited to join, and did so, the style thereupon becoming Halleck, Peachy, Billings & Park, the leading law firm of California.

Mr. Park's professional practice at San Francisco was not unattended by personal danger. Pistols were favorite arguments with disputants. But he scoffed at pistols, and relied on principles and precedents. He was counsel of Alvin Adams, of Boston, president of the Adams Express Company, throughout the long and intricate litigation in which that company was involved in California and Oregon. In the historic reform movement of 1855 he aided "James King of William" in establishing the San Francisco Bulletin. When that daring reformer was assassinated in the street for sternly upholding law and order, the memorable "Vigilance committee" sprang at once into being, and assumed the local government. Mr. Park was its attorney. Five of the more prominent ruffians were hung. The worst of their companions were deported to Australia.

In 1858 Mr. Park visited Vermont. He was then the possessor of what was justly regarded as a fortune. But this was unexpectedly diminished in his absence by a commercial panic at San Francisco. Real estate greatly depreciated in value. Yet although his available resources were suddenly circumscribed, the ability and zeal to make the most of oppurtunities remained intact. Not only was he a brilliant and successful lawyer, but he was no less distinguished for judgment and skill in real estate operations. Politics attracted his energies. He failed of election as United States senator from California by a few votes only. Next he became associated with Colonel John C. Fremont in the control of the celebrated Mariposa mine, and administered the affairs of the Mariposa estate. Prosperous himself in all his undertakings, he also made the fortunes of those who were connected with him in business.

In 1864 Mr. Park retired from business and returned to Vermont. Inaction was too wearisome for one of his temperament, and he soon emerged into active life, and established the First National Bank of North Bennington, built a fine residence, and connected himself with various business enterprises. He also embarked in State politics, was elected to the Legislature, and wielded great power in that body. One of the original corporators of the Central Vermont Railroad Company at the reorganization of the Vermont Central under that title, he furnished much of the capital required on that occasion. Not all his railroad enterprises were as remunerative as be had expected. The Lebanon Springs Railroad was one of these. Commencing its construction in i868, he hoped thereby to make Bennington an important railroad town, and to place it on a through route from New York to Montreal, but almost ruined his finances and also impaired his health in the undertaking. He wished to supply the great want for transportation experienced by Southern Vermont, but did not meet with fitting co-operation. Prior to this he had purchased the Western Vermont Railroad. Works showed the sincerity which his opponents have so freely and fully admitted.

In 1872 Mr. Park was united with General Baxter in the ownership of the celebrated Emma Mine, and while he managed it the payment of dividends was regular. Positive, energetic, and accustomed to operate on a large scale, he did not escape criticism and litigation. In the legal controversy which sprang out of the Emma Mine he was the victor. His sagacity and legal acumen were marvelous. After a jury trial of five months he was fully vindicated.

Neither trials nor claims were impending at the time of his decease, nor did any stain rest upon his character. His administration of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, of which he was for years a director, was characterized by his wonted shrewdness and force. He purchased a controlling. interest in the Panama Railroad, and was elected its president in 1874, and so continued until his decease. As manager in connection with General J. G. McCullough, he, through favor of circumstances, saw the value of its stock rise from below par to three hundred cents on the dollar; at the rate it was sold to the De Lesseps Canal Company. His was the dominant mind in the old Panama corporation, and to him the felicitous close of its affairs were mainly due. The transfer of its property and the accompanying negotiations were only completed a few months before he sailed for Panama on the trip on which he died.

Trenor W. Park was warmly and deeply attached to the locality in which the years of his youth and early manhood had been passed. He was, with E. J. Phelps. of Burlington, ex-Governor Prescott, of New Hampshire, and exGnrernor Rice, of Massachusetts, one of the committee on the design of the Bennington Battle Monument, which is intended to perpetuate the memory and preserve the spirit of Revolutionary patriotism. He was also a liberal giver. When one of the trustees of the University of Vermont he conceived the idea of donating the Gallery of Art which now bears his name. Benefactions whose good was apparent in the improved health of hundreds of poor New Yorkers (beneficiaries of the Tribune Fresh Air Fund) he delighted in. To these he gave some months of delightful rural experience at Bennington. The Bennington Free Library is also a splendid monument of his munificence.

His last and largest contemplated gift was that for the ample endowment of a "Home" at Bennington. The "Park Home" for destitute children and women is one of the most impressive memorials of the man. It reveals his heart. It was intended by him to be monumental of his sainted wife. The Hunt property north of the village was purchased, and the Home incorporated by act of the Legislature of 1882, but soon thereafter Mr Park died. Since his death the heirs, knowing his intense interest in the welfare of Vermont's soldiers, have donated the property to the State where is now established the "Soldiers' Home."

Paralysis seized him on the 13th of December, 1882, while a passenger on board the Pacific mail steamer San Bias. His remarkable career closed suddenly. In itself it is not only an illustration of the possibilities of youth in this country, but also of the intrinsic value of shrewdness, energy, and perseverance. Nurtured in poverty, he died in affluence. Reared with scanty advantages, be died an able and astute legist, a general of industry, a monarch of finance. Of course he had enemies. Such men necessarily make opponents. But he also made and kept hosts of warm and devoted friends. Short and slight of figure, head bent forward as if in deep thought, eyes small and restless, manner nervous and restrained, chin and mouth strong and firm, quick and decided in expression, a great reader and a powerful thinker-this modest and unobtrusive man was one whose memory neither Vermont nor the world will permit to perish. His funeral took place from the Collegiate Reformed Church, Fifth avenue and Forty eighth street, New York, and was attended by many political, financial, and railroad dignitaries. His remains repose in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, N. Y.

Trenor W. Park was married on the 15th of December, 1846 to Laura V. H., daughter of ex Governor Hiland Hall. Lovely and beloved, a woman who through life showered sunshine on all around her, she died in June, 1875. Two daughters and one son survive their parents. One of the daughters is the wife or General J. G. McCullough, and the other of Frederick B. Jennings, a prominent Young lawyer of New York City. The son, Trenor L. Park, is also a resident of the city of New York. On the 30th of May, 1882 Mr. Park was married to Ella F., daughter of A. C. Nichols, esq., of San Francisco, Cal., who now survives him.


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