Nathan Crosby by S. P. Hadley
Nathan Crosby, fourth son of Dr. Asa Crosby, was born in Sandwich, N.
H., February 12, 1798; was graduated at Dartmouth College in 1820: read
law with Stephen Moody, Esq., of Gilmanton, and Asa Freeman, of Dover,
N. H., and was admitted to the bar in Strafford county in 1823. He
practiced law a dozen years, mostly in Gilmanton, N. H., and Amesbury
and Newburyport, Mass., until 1838, when he removed to Boston, at the
call of the Massachusetts Temperance Union, to conduct two important
features of the temperance cause,—the acceptance of the teetotal pledge
for the ardent-spirits pledge, and prohibition for license, and to
organize societies based upon those principles throughout the
commonwealth. He was also editor of the Massachusetts Temperance
Journal, the Cold Water Army and Temperance Almanac, and various
Subsequently, in 1843, he removed to Lowell, and was employed by the
manufacturing companies of that city to purchase the large lakes in New
Hampshire whose waters supply the Merrimack river, and secured for the
companies one hundred thousand acres of water. Before this service was
fully accomplished, he received the appointment of standing justice of
the police court of Lowell, upon the resignation of the late Hon. Joseph
Locke, who had held the office thirteen years. Judge Crosby was
qualified May 19, 1846. This position he still holds. He has rarely
failed of holding the civil terms of the court during his entire period
of service. In the discharge of the duties of a local magistrate,—a
position peculiarly trying, placed, as those duties are, so near the
people in all their differences, controversies, temptations, follies,
and depravities,—he has been at all times humane, conscientious,
incorruptible, and just, aiming to do right.
In all works of philanthropy and reform, no one has a kinder heart, or a
more willing or generous hand. His frequent appeals to the public,
through the press, upon the temperance issues of the day have been
characterized by great power, earnestness, and practical wisdom, and
have been widely read and approved. He has never held political office,
but has been in the ranks of the Federal, Whig, and Republican parties.
He was the first man in the country to give one hundred dollars for the
sanitary relief of Union soldiers in the late rebellion, and to form a
soldiers' relief association, of which he was president during the war.
He was the first college graduate from the town of his birth, and the
last of four of his class who received the degree of Doctor of Laws.
His literary productions consist of "Obituary Notices for 1857 and
1858," in two volumes, "First Half Century of Dartmouth College,"
eulogies upon Judge Wilde and Hon. Tappan Wentworth, "Notices of
Distinguished Men of Essex County, Mass.," the last being especially
illustrative of Choate, Cushing, and Rantoul, and letters and appeals to
the citizens of Lowell upon the temperance issues of 1880 and 1881. He
has a nervous, but animated and entertaining style. His "First Half
Century of Dartmouth College" is a model in its way, while his "Crosby
Family," a genealogical work, is not the dry and uninteresting reading
such literature usually is, but is entertaining, even to the general
reader, for its reminiscences of individuals, and its pleasant pictures
of old times in New Hampshire.
He has always cherished a deep interest in Dartmouth College, and to no
slight extent has, by personal effort, brought about events which have
been of substantial benefit to that ancient seat of learning.
Judge Crosby has been twice married. His first wife, Rebecca Marquand
Moody, was a daughter of Stephen Moody, Esq., of Gilmanton, by whom he
had nine children, of which number five are now living, namely, Frances
Coffin, wife of Dr. Henry A. Martin, of Boston; Hon. Stephen Moody
Crosby, of Boston; Maria Stocker, wife of the late Maj. Alexander McD.
Lyon, of Erie, Penn.; Ellen Grant, wife of N. G. Norcross, Esq., of
Lowell, and Susan Coffin, wife of Charles Francis, son of James B.
Francis, of Lowell, the distinguished engineer. His daughter, Rebecca
Marquand, widow of the late Z. B. Caverly, United States charge
d'affaires at Peru, a highly accomplished and widely esteemed lady,
was, with her daughter, lost on the "Schiller," a German steamer, off
the English coast, in the spring of 1875,—a disaster which, at the
time, created profound sorrow throughout the country. He married, May
19, 1870, Matilda, daughter of James Pickens, of Boston, and widow of
Dr. J. W. Fearing, of Providence, R. I., who still lives.
Personally, the judge is a fine exemplification of the good results of
temperance, self-care, and habitual good humor; and one meeting him for
the first time, and noting his firm step and erect carriage, would
hardly think him older than a man of sixty.