Benjamin F. Prescott by William E. Stevens

The first person by the name of Prescott in the province of New Hampshire, was James, who came from Dryby, in the county of Lincolnshire in England, and settled in Hampton, in 1665. On his arrival he began farming operations in what is now Hampton Falls, upon the farm now known as the "Wells Healy place," and remained there until he moved to Kingston, in 1725, when that town was granted to him, and others. In 1668 he married Mary, daughter of Nathaniel and Grace Boulter, who was born in Exeter, May 15, 1648. From this couple sprang the Prescotts in New Hampshire. James was the second cousin of John, who came to Massachusetts and settled in Watertown in 1640, from whom sprang the Prescotts mainly in that state, and among them Col. William, the hero of Bunker Hill, and his grandson, William H. Prescott, the eminent scholar and historian. James is represented to have been an influential man, honest in his dealings, upright in character, sound in judgment. His opinions were sought and respected. They had nine children, five sons and four daughters. Their fourth child was Jonathan, who was born August 6, 1675. When he grew up, he settled in that part of Hampton, which, since 1737, has been known as Kensington. In 1696 he was at Fort William and Mary and remained there some time, and in 1710 served under Capt. John Gilman in a scouting party. He had four sons and two daughters. His first child was named Jonathan. He was married, April 3, 1721, to Judith, daughter of Ebenezer and Judith (Sanborn) Gove. He was appointed, by Gov. Benning Wentworth, captain in a company, in the celebrated expedition against Louisburg, on the island of Cape Breton, under Sir William Pepperell. While on this expedition he died of fever on the 19th of January, 1746, leaving eleven children, four sons and seven daughters. His eighth child was named Nathan Gove Prescott, and was born March 13, 1735. He married, February 24, 1757, Patience Brown, of Kensington. Near the time of his marriage he moved to Epping and began work as a farmer and blacksmith. His brother Micah settled near him, on the opposite side of the road, and was engaged in the same occupation. They both signed the "Association Test," in 1776, with two hundred and seven others in the town.

Nathan Gove Prescott had five children, three sons and two daughters, born upon the farm where he settled. He died November 13, 1825, aged nearly ninety-one years. Nathan was his first child, and was born June 25, 1759. He became a carpenter and went to Monmouth in the province of Maine, but returned to New Hampshire and died at an advanced age. He married Anna Wells and had nine children, four sons and five daughters. His fourth son was Asa, who was born in Deerfield, May 2, 1787. He was a farmer and blacksmith. He married Polly Clark, of Greenland, and by this marriage had nine children, six sons and three daughters. He died in Epsom, March 27, 1867, aged nearly eighty years. His oldest son was named Nathan Gove Prescott, after his great-grandfather. He was born upon the homestead, November 1, 1807. He became a farmer and was successful in his work. He possessed excellent judgment on all matters relating to his occupation, and was considered by all who knew him as an excellent and thrifty farmer with the limited means at his command. He was honest, frugal, and upright. His word was never questioned, his judgment was relied upon, and his opinion respected and valued by his townsmen. On the 9th day of May, 1832, he married Betsey Hills Richards, daughter of Captain Benjamin and Mehitable (Hills) Richards, of Nottingham, who was born December 21, 1811. She is a lady of fine presence, vigorous constitution, and cultivated manners. She still resides in Epping with her son. Her husband, Nathan Gove Prescott, died July 7, 1866, aged nearly sixty years. They had only one child, Benjamin Franklin Prescott, who was born on the family homestead, February 26, 1833. Thus the line of ancestry has been traced from 1665.

The families on both sides can point to a fair and honorable record. The subject of this sketch inherited from his paternal and maternal line a strong constitution and great power of endurance, which have aided him much in his career. Like the rest of the boys in his neighborhood, he attended the district school a few months in the summer and winter, and worked upon the farm the remainder of the time. He made commendable progress in his studies, and as soon as his age would allow, his parents, feeling the want of a liberal education themselves, determined to give their son the advantages of the higher seminaries of learning. In the fall of 1847 he was sent to Blanchard Academy, in Pembroke, where he remained a portion of the time till 1850, when he entered Phillips Academy, in Exeter. He remained at this distinguished institution until the summer of 1853, when he entered the sophomore class in Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1856. While at Exeter he delivered an oration before the "Golden Branch," a literary society, at its annual anniversary, which at the time was well received. While in college, in the winter of 1855, he taught school in Chester. At his graduation he had an oration, and was for a time president of the United Fraternity, a public society in the college. After his graduation, in the fall and winter of 1856 he taught two district schools and one private school in Epping, and in February, 1857, he entered as a student in the law firm of Henry A. & Abel H. Bellows, in Concord, and after studying the requisite time was admitted to the bar, in August, 1859. He began the practice of his profession in Concord, and remained in it until May, 1861, when he became associate editor of the Independent Democrat, during the absence of Hon. George G. Fogg, United States minister to Switzerland, until the summer of 1866.

Mr. Prescott was, from his youth, strongly opposed to the institution of slavery, and on reaching his majority allied himself with the Republican party, and cast his first presidential vote for John C. Fremont. His father was also a Whig and then Republican. About 1858 or 1859 he was elected secretary of the Republican state committee, succeeding the Hon. William E. Chandler, and filled that position for fifteen years, during which time many of the important and successful political campaigns were conducted.

While connected with the Independent Democrat, he was appointed a special agent of the United States Treasury Department for New England, his duty being, unless otherwise directed, to examine and report upon the custom-houses and their business, light-houses, revenue-cutters, sub-treasury and marine hospitals. He held this position less than three years, and was removed early in the administration of Andrew Johnson because he openly denounced the policy and course of the President. He served as secretary of the colleges of electors for New Hampshire in 1860, 1864, 1868, 1872, 1876 and 1880; he was elected secretary of state in June, 1872, 1873, 1875, and 1876. On the 10th of January, 1877, Mr. Prescott received the nomination as the Republican candidate for governor, and on the second Tuesday of March following was elected, by a majority of thirty-six hundred and thirty-two over his competitor, Hon. Daniel Marcy, of Portsmouth. On the 9th day of January, 1878, he was unanimously renominated at the state convention in Concord, and on the second Tuesday of March following was re-elected by a majority of nine hundred and fifty-six over his regular competitor, Hon. Frank A. McKean, of Nashua, and a plurality of fifteen hundred and twelve. On June 16, 1862, he was elected a resident member of the New Hampshire Historical Society, and was for several years vice-president of the same. In 1876 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of Great Britain, also president of the Bennington (Vt.) Battle Monument Association, also president of the Provident Mutual Relief Association. On May 6, 1880, he was elected a delegate-at-large to the Republican convention in Chicago, and while there was chosen chairman of the New Hampshire delegation. On the 8th of December, 1881, he was elected an honorary member of the Marshfield Club in Boston. In 1874 he was appointed a trustee of the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts, and in 1878 he was elected a trustee of Dartmouth College, both of which positions he holds at the present time.

While governor, he was frequently called upon to address public and private gatherings, and when it did not interfere with his official duties he seldom failed to respond. His first address was at Epping, on the occasion of a public reception given him by the citizens of the town, without distinction of party, on the day after his inauguration. The occasion was brilliant and highly complimentary. He also was present at the inauguration of Rev. Samuel C. Bartlett, D. D., LL.D., as president of Dartmouth College, and gave an address of welcome to this eminent scholar. The governor visited, with a large detachment of the state militia and distinguished citizens of the state, the centennial celebration of the battle of Bennington, Vt., and spoke there for the state at the banquet on that memorable occasion. He was also at state and town fairs, and meetings of various kinds held within the limits, and without the state, on all of which occasions he acquitted himself creditably, both in matter and manner, his style of speech being graceful and forcible.

Gov. Prescott was married, June 10, 1869, to Mary Little Noyes, daughter of Jefferson and Nancy (Peart) Noyes, of Concord. Mrs. Prescott was born in Atkinson, May 6, 1839. She is a lady of refined manners and a favorite in society. They have had only one child, who takes his father's name. He was born June 16, 1879, upon the family homestead. Gov. Prescott is an excellent and successful farmer, and has a large farm under a high state of cultivation. In 1876 he erected a spacious dwelling-house and other buildings. He has a large and well selected library.

Under Gov. Prescott's administration the laws of the state were revised, the new prison constructed, the militia re-organized, and judicial appointments made. The prison was built within the appropriation. In all his official acts Gov. Prescott was animated by a purpose single to the welfare of the state, and upon his retirement to private life, at the end of his term, he took with him the respect of its people, irrespective of party or sect. Pre-eminently a man of the people, without ostentation or pride of place beyond that which is befitting one who has filled the office of chief magistrate, he has always been as approachable to the humblest citizen as to the most exalted personage.

From the beginning of his public life, Gov. Prescott has taken a deep interest in all that appertains to the welfare of his native state. For its institutions of learning he has shown a high regard. His alma mater, Dartmouth College, is an object of solicitude, and no other son has done more for her in proportion to his means and influence. Many of the portraits of eminent graduates, presidents, and benefactors that now adorn the walls of the college, were procured through his thoughtful and persistent efforts. The portraits and marble busts that grace the hall in Phillips Academy, in Exeter, with one or two exceptions, were secured to it through his indefatigable zeal and wise action. This declaration will apply with equal truth to the collection of portraits by eminent artists in the state-house, and also the Historical Society at Concord. His interest in the history of the state is very keen, and few of New Hampshire's sons have done more to vindicate the fame of her Revolutionary heroes, and secure for them and their state the credit withheld by partial or poorly informed historians.

Gov. Prescott has a fine presence. Erect of body, with broad massive shoulders indicative of great physical strength; features regular, strongly marked and of kindly expression; agreeable manners, genial and open-hearted; outspoken at all times, but never censorious; hospitable, and considerate; a strict partisan, but never intrusive or arrogant; impatient of shams, but a firm friend of all philanthropic undertakings,—he has filled with credit to himself and luster to his state and country every place of honor and trust to which the favor and good judgment of his fellow-citizens have called him.