John McDuffee by Rev. Alonzo H. Quint, D. D.
To men of their own energetic stock, who, refusing all political
preferment, have given comprehensive abilities, sterling integrity, and
sagacious industry to the development of business, many New Hampshire
towns owe an imperishable debt. John McDuffee's record is in the
prosperity of Rochester.
The name itself suggests that strong Scotch-Irish blood which endured
the siege of Londonderry, in which were Mr. McDuffee's ancestors, John
McDuffee and his wife, Martha, honored in tradition. John and Martha
McDuffee had four sons, viz., Mansfield, Archibald, John, and Daniel.
Mansfield went to London, England; the other three came, with their
parents, to America in the emigration which gave New Hampshire the
powerful stock of Derry and Londonderry. John, the father of these sons,
settled in Rochester in 1729, on land on the east side of the Cochecho
river, adjoining Gonic lower falls,—the farm of eighty-five acres
remaining without break in the family, and now owned by the subject of
this article. The Rochester settler was, as just stated, the father of
Daniel McDuffee, and also of Col. John McDuffee,—a gallant officer in
the old French and Revolutionary wars, lieutenant-colonel in Col. Poor's
regiment,—who, never marrying, adopted his brother Daniel's son John,
and eventually made him his heir. John, the colonel's heir, was a farmer
in good circumstances, married Abigail, daughter of Simon and Sarah
(Ham) Torr, and was father of John McDuffee, the subject of this sketch,
who was born on the farm once the colonel's, about a mile and a half
from Rochester village, on the Dover road, December 6, 1803.
Of course, while working on the farm more or less, he had, for five or
more years, the advantage of a good school, kept at the village by
"Master" Henry H. Orne (D. C. 1812), of severe discipline and good
scholarship, who supplemented the public school with a private one each
autumn. Mr. Orne was a very successful teacher, and among the associates
of John McDuffee in this school were Thomas C. Upham, Nathaniel G.
Upham, John P. Hale, and Noah Tibbetts. In 1818, at the age of fifteen,
the boy entered Franklin Academy in Dover, the first day of its
existence, Thomas E. Sawyer and Richard Kimball being among his
associates, and Rev. Mr. Thayer being its principal. Here he fitted to
enter college as sophomore, but returned home, and, at the age of
eighteen, he went into the store of his uncle, John Greenfield, at
Rochester. It was a large country store, where everything was sold.
After two years' experience, being only twenty years of age, he began
the same business for himself on the same square; was successful, and,
after two years, took into partnership his uncle, Jonathan H. Torr.
During this period he was commissioned postmaster of Rochester, being
not of age when appointed, and he held this office until removed on
Jackson's accession to the presidency.
In the spring of the year 1831 he went to Dover, and began the same
business on a broader scale, first in the Perkins block, and, in the
autumn, as the first tenant of the northern store in the new Watson
block, on the Landing, Ira Christie his next southern neighbor. This
locality, now at an end for such purposes, was then the place of
business and offices. Steady success continued to reward his energy and
industry; but in February, 1833, selling to Andrew Pierce, Jr., he
returned to Rochester to settle the large estate of his wife's father,
Joseph Hanson, who, dying in December previous, had made him executor.
Mr. Hanson, whose daughter Joanna (by his marriage with Charity Dame)
Mr. McDuffee had married June 21, 1829, was one of the three old and
wealthy merchants of Rochester, Nathaniel Upham and Jonas C. March being
the other two. The settlement of this extended estate and business was
completed, and the accounts settled, by Mr. McDuffee's energy, in seven
months; and it caused his entire abandonment of trade, although he had
been eminently successful.
There was no bank in Rochester. Old traders had some connection with the
Strafford Bank in Dover, and the Rockingham Bank in Portsmouth. They
loaned money, instead of getting discounts. Mr. Hanson's safe, where he
kept all his securities, was a small brick building back of his store,
with a sheet-iron door fastened by a padlock. He kept some deposits,
however, in Strafford Bank, and was a stockholder in that and in the
Rockingham Bank. The three principal traders used to go to Boston twice
a year, on horseback, to buy goods. Mr. McDuffee saw that a bank was
needed. He prepared the plans, secured signatures, obtained a charter
from the legislature in 1834, and the Rochester Bank was organized with
ninety stockholders and a capital of one hundred thousand dollars, later
increased to one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, with one hundred
and thirty stockholders. Of the original ninety, only two besides Mr.
McDuffee now survive. On the organization he became cashier, his
brother-in-law, Dr. James Farrington (member of the twenty-fifth
congress), being president. This bank was the frontier bank, no other
existing between Rochester and Canada, and it was the first bank which
the counterfeits from Canada naturally but uselessly struck. It was a
favorite of the people, and was so managed that its dividends were eight
or nine per cent. It is well known that the business was really left to
the probity and skill of its cashier. Cashier for twenty years, on the
then renewal of its charter, Mr. McDuffee resigned the cashiership in
favor of his son Franklin, and became president. The bank did not become
a national bank until 1874, and in the six years previous he and his son
formed the house of "John McDuffee & Co., private bankers," took up the
old bank's business, and successfully carried it on. In 1874 they merged
it in a national bank, the one being president and the other cashier, as
before, and the two taking two-fifths of its stock. It is an interesting
fact that no bill has ever been issued by either Rochester bank without
the well known signature of John McDuffee, either as president or
cashier; and he still actively administers the interests of the bank he
originated in another form forty-eight years ago.
In addition to this Rochester interest, Mr. McDuffee was one of the
original grantees of the Dover National Bank, and for a short time was a
director; but his interest became more in the Strafford Bank, at Dover,
of which (new charter) he was the second heaviest stockholder, Daniel M.
Christie being the first. He became a director in the Strafford National
Bank in 1870, and still actively holds that position. The stock of this
bank (par, one hundred dollars) has this year sold at one hundred and
The Norway Plains Savings Bank, at Rochester, was chartered in 1851, and
Mr. McDuffee became its treasurer, being succeeded by his son Franklin
in 1867, and himself becoming president,—an office in which he still
remains. It is worth, recalling, that, although this bank was ordered,
in the panic, to pay out only five-sixths of any deposit, it
subsequently petitioned for leave to pay, and did credit to every person
affected, the remaining sixth.
Mr. McDuffee early saw the advantages of manufacturing to a community.
By his own means and a liberal allowance of banking facilities he has
greatly aided their development, the first such enterprise in Rochester,
the Mechanics' Manufacturing Company, being decided to locate there by
the new banking facilities. Mr. McDuffee was a director. It was a
manufacture of blankets, and its successor is the Norway Plains
Manufacturing Company. The original company Mr. McDuffee carried safely
through the crisis of 1837. The mill-property at the Gonic Mr. McDuffee
bought in 1845, to lease to N. V. Whitehouse, that business might not be
given up. He held his purchase for about ten years. The effort was
successful, and the property was eventually taken by a joint stock
company. Stephen Shorey, owning some facilities for manufacturing at
East Rochester, came to Mr. McDuffee to see if the bank would advance
means to build. Mr. McDuffee at once pledged the means, and the mills
were built. A stock company afterwards purchased mills and machinery,
and the thriving village of East Rochester owes its prosperity to Mr.
McDuffee's liberal policy. Thus have been developed the three principal
water-powers of Rochester.
Mr. McDuffee's personal interests in manufacturing were also in the
Great Falls Manufacturing Company, in whose great business he was a
director for four years; capital, one million five hundred thousand
dollars. In 1862 he bought large interests in the Cocheco Manufacturing
Company, and has there remained. Since 1874 he has been a director of
that corporation. As such, he advocated the erection of the great mill,
now No. 1, and the replacing of all the old buildings by new and
magnificent mills, unsurpassed in the United States,—a work now rapidly
progressing. The remarkable success of this company certifies alike to
the sagacious boldness and the considerate policy of its directors.
The need of railroad facilities at Rochester was early apparent to Mr.
McDuffee. In 1846 he entered into two enterprises,—the Cochecho road,
from Dover to Alton Bay, and the Conway road, from Great Falls to
Conway. Each was to and did pass through Rochester. In each road Mr.
McDuffee was the largest individual stockholder, and of each was the
first treasurer. When the Conway road reached Rochester, Mr. McDuffee
resigned its treasurership. The other road, after various difficulties,
became the Dover & Winnipesaukee, by the incorporation of the
bondholders, and Mr. McDuffee continued to be a director. With "friend"
William Hill, he visited Boston more than thirty times to treat for the
lease of this road to the Boston & Maine. The effort was finally
successful, and the road, by itself weak, became a fine piece of
property. Rochester was thus doubly accommodated; but another avenue was
needed, and Mr. McDuffee took part in the Portland & Rochester, which
secured a route eastward, of which road he was a director; and he
invested liberally in the Rochester & Nashua, which opened a line to the
West. The result has been that Rochester is a "billing-point," and its
various manufacturing interests have felt its impetus.
The beauty of "McDuffee block" in Rochester, built by him in 1868,
exhibits the owner's public spirit. It is an elegant brick building of
four stories, containing six stores, twelve offices in the second story,
a public hall in the third, and a Masonic hall, one of the finest in the
state, in the fourth. In the use of the public hall the liberality of
its owner to benevolent objects is well known. As a Mason, he joined
Humane Lodge on the very day he became "of lawful age."
Of other real estate, Mr. McDuffee has, besides various pieces in
Rochester, including such as the Gonic farm, the New Durham
"powder-mill" estate of nine hundred acres of land and eleven hundred
acres of water; and in Barrington, two hundred acres on Isinglass
river, held with a view to future manufacturing needs.
In religion, Mr. McDuffee was brought up under good old Parson Joseph
Haven, and has remained a liberal supporter of the Congregational
society. In politics, he was an earnest Whig. His first vote was for the
electors who chose John Quincy Adams president, and his postmastership
was ended by Andrew Jackson. He has always been a decided Republican.
Mr. McDuffee's great amount of labor has been possible only by the
vigorous constitution which he inherited. The boy, who, before he left
home, "carried the forward swath" in the hay-field, made the man who now
accomplishes an amount of work which would surprise many younger men.
Monday is always given to the Strafford Bank, at Dover; Tuesday, he
presides at the Rochester Bank meeting; Wednesday, at the Savings Bank;
and no day is idle.
Of Mr. McDuffee's happy domestic relations nothing need be said. Of his
eight children,—naming them in the order of birth,—(1) Joseph, who
followed the sea, died (single) on the ocean at the age of thirty-five.
(2) Franklin, who graduated at Dartmouth College in 1853, died, after a
successful financial career, November 11, 1880, greatly lamented; he
married Mary Fannie, daughter of John Hayes, of Farmington, and left two
sons, John Edgar (now in the Chandler Scientific Department of Dartmouth
College), and Willis. (3) John Randolph, graduated at the Chandler
Scientific Department in 1857; was a civil engineer in Rochester, and
died single, aged twenty-five. (4) Anna M., is the wife of Frank S.
Brown, of Hartford, Conn., of the firm of Brown, Thompson & Co. She has
one son and two daughters. (5) Mary Abbie, is the wife of Charles K.
Chase, a merchant in Rochester, and has two daughters. (6) Sarah died
single. (7) George, the only surviving son, is engaged in extensive
grain, mill, and lumber business in Rochester; he married, first, Lizzie
Hanson, who died leaving a son; afterwards he married, second, Nellie,
daughter of Dr. James Farrington, of Rochester, her father being nephew
of Dr. James Farrington, M. C. (8) Oliver, died in infancy.
Judged by the success of his work as the banker, as developing by a
liberal and wise help every worthy manufacturing enterprise, and as
foremost in the building of the various railways centering in Rochester,
it is clear that Mr. McDuffee nobly comes into the list of those spoken
of in our first paragraph, whose record is in the prosperity of his
native town, where ability, sagacity, integrity, and kindliness have
united to make that record, as well as his own personal success.