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[p. 167]

Deacon Samuel Train.

[This brief memoir is the substance of a most enjoyable informal talk by Mr. Hall at a Saturday evening gathering in the rooms of the Medford Historical Society.]

IT is remarkable that neither Brooks's nor Usher's history makes any mention of Deacon Samuel Train, who was for many years a well-known and highly respected citizen of Medford. He was born at Weston, Mass., on the twenty-first of July, 1781.1 His first wife was Mary Nickerson, of Provincetown, who was born June 26, 1784, and died in Boston, July 24, 1800, leaving three children, Elijah Nickerson, and twin brothers, who died in infancy. Mr. Train's second wife, Hannah Putnam Flint, of North Reading, died in Medford on the thirty-first of December, 1850, leaving seven children. Mr. Train moved from Boston to Medford in 1827 and died in this town April 7, 1874, at the age of ninety-two. His business was in Boston, where he began life as a merchant at No. 1 Codman's wharf in 1806. He was an importer of hides and leather and afterwards established a large shipping business and foreign trade with South American and Cuban ports. His partner was the late Enoch Train, and after some years of great activity in business and the building of ships for their trade, Samuel Train retired from the firm, his son, Elijah N. Train, taking his place. Mr. Train went to Boston nearly every week day, and even up to his last and fatal illness he personally managed all his affairs, and maintained his interest in all the mercantile, [p. 168] political, and charitable work of the day. He was careful in giving his advice or opinion, but his judgments when given were sound and true. His spirit was calm and dignified, and under a quiet and sometimes stern exterior he bore a warm and kind heart. A devoted lover of Boston, he lived to see the city grow to great proportions, and it was his pride and delight to tell of his early life when it was so small a town. He was charitable and kind in his religious belief, and in his own simple, quiet way was helpful in every good cause and work. He inherited from his mother, Rebecca Hammond, of Dedham, sister of the late Samuel Hammond, of Boston, his strong character and Puritan love of all that was good and noble and improving, together with an earnest desire for knowledge.

The Boston Traveller, under the heading ‘An Old Boston Merchant,’ said a few days after Mr. Train's death: ‘He was born in Weston. Shortly after his birth his father removed to Hillsboro, N. H., then almost a wilderness. Here he remained until his majority, and then started for Boston on foot to seek his fortune, coming down on the old Derry and Andover pike. He halted at Medford to eat his frugal meal on the spot where he afterwards built his home and where he died. He began business in Boston as a dealer in boots and shoes, near where the Quincy Market now stands. By degrees he added thereto a trade in hides and leather, and was among the first, if not the first, to embark in the importing of hides from South America, and for many years was the leading importer, having established the house of Flint, Peabody & Co., at Buenos Ayres. About forty years ago he associated with him as partner the late Enoch Train. At one time he was one of the largest ship-owners. At the time of his death he was, next to Timothy Dodd, our oldest living merchant in this city. His immediate contemporaries and business associates were Robert G. Shaw, Benjamin Bangs, Samuel C. Gray, Thomas Wigglesworth, George Barnard, and the Pickmans, [p. 169] Silsbees, and Rogers, of Salem. He was remarkably regular in his business habits, frugal in his living, but liberal to a fault. He retained his full vigor up to the time of his last illness. He leaves three sons and a daughter by his second wife. His only son and child by his first marriage died many years ago in Cuba. His eldest son by his last marriage, Samuel T. Train, died shortly after returning from the war. His eldest daughter, Mrs. George L. Stearns, of Medford, died several years ago. Few men have had so successful a business career. Few men have so long enjoyed immunity from all the ills of life.’

No one who knew Mr. Train would question his sincere piety. He proved it in his daily life, as well as in the intercourse of his family and near friends. He was at all times a gentleman, one of the old school, that is so rarely seen in our day, a great lover of nature, especially of fruits and flowers, a keen observer, and extravagantly fond of fishing. Candor compels me to admit that in describing some of his experiences the good Deacon would exaggerate beyond belief. Not that he intended to deceive, but he seemed to hold an idea that if he did not describe an incident in the most extravagant style his listener would not appreciate the situation. As an illustration, he once told me that the day previous his son William had given him a gallon demijohn of choice whiskey. He carried the same safely as far as his back yard. There was a high step at the entrance to his wood-shed, and not stepping high enough to clear it, he fell, smashing the demijohn into a thousand pieces. The whiskey, he declared, for ten feet all around was six inches deep, and on entering the house his clothing was so saturated with the liquor that his niece thought he was intoxicated. To my look of astonishment, he responded, ‘Well, it was not quite so bad as that.’ One day I happened to be present when he returned from a fishing-trip at Phillips Beach. He had for a companion the late Rev. Dr. Adams, an [p. 170] eminent divine of New York City. Replying to my question of ‘What luck?’ he said, ‘It beat all’ (a favorite expression of his). ‘The cod and haddock were so thick swimming about the boat that you could scoop them up with your hands.’ The surprised look of Dr. Adams I shall never forget, but it did not induce the Deacon to qualify his description. He told me one day of his experience in haying. He said that in the morning there were indications of thunder-storms, and having considerable hay mown, he was determined to get it in, if possible, before it rained. He said ‘it beat all’ how hard he worked. He succeeded in housing the hay, but was completely drenched with perspiration, and when he took off his clothes he threw his shirt down, and it struck the floor like a green calf-skin. As the Deacon was at one time a dealer in hides and skins, he was familiar with their solid nature. The last time I saw the Deacon alive he was standing by the platform in Boston, in the old station in Haymarket Square, in deep meditation. He told me he was thinking that it was only a few years ago when there was not a railroad in existence, and now no one could go a rod without stumbling over forty of them.

I have stated briefly a few facts and some original sayings of this highly respected citizen, leaving to more competent hands a fitting account of his life and character, and would simply submit this incomplete narrative as a nucleus for some able writers of this Society to enlarge upon, and to do justice to one of Medford's old and prominent residents, promising to assist in finding or to give any information which I have or can obtain to aid them in the undertaking.

1 I am indebted to Mr. Train's daughter Rebecca (Mrs. George H. Lemist, of Sheffield) for much valuable information. I quote from her letter, dated May 23, 1899: ‘He was a man of few words, but he was always interested in all the young men, who enjoyed his quaint and bright chat on different subjects. I wish I could do his character justice, but we never value our parents until they are gone or until we ourselves are nearing the close of life. The memories of those days are sweet and precious. I am hardly the one to write of my father. To me he was a most remarkable man, retaining to the very last, at ninety-two years of age, his fine intellect, his strength of purpose, his judgment unimpaired.’—H. D. H.

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