Biography of Hosea Ballou Carter

Hosea Ballou Carter, son of Susan Shannon (Merrick) Carter and Tappan Sargent Carter, was born at East Hampstead, Rockingham County, N.H., on September 5, 1834. He was educated in the public schools of Hampstead and at Atkinson Academy, where he was a classmate of General William Cogswell, of Bradford, Mass., and later of Salem, Mass.

The intrinsic inwardness of modern political and legislative contests has drawn to the service of political managers and corporate magnates the sagacity, shrewdness, and fidelity of a peculiar class of men, not infrequently found in New England, especially in New Hampshire, who, being of humble or obscure origin, finding themselves unable to demonstrate or promulgate their ideas, inventions, and schemes (not possessing the capital required therefor), enter the line of service indicated for the twofold purpose of compensation and education.

The subject of this sketch, born and reared among the granite hills of New Hampshire, is an exponent of what an uncultured bucolic lad from the backwoods may accomplish when sustained by an equitable supply of sand tempered with ironic silence and commonplace courtesy. At the age of ten years he had learned the trade of shoemaking to aid his father in furnishing the meagre comforts of the humble home of that industrious New England mechanic, who has for more than threescore years daily continued to toil at the work-bench, and who now, at the ripened age of eighty-three years, may be found at the shoe bench for eight hours each day, which he recognizes as the proper hours for work-day for willing labor.

“Hozee,” as he is familiarly known throughout New Hampshire, leaving the family fireside in 1849, began the battle of life first as Hampstead to the State House at Concord are many and interesting. In fact, his career marks an epoch in the political history of the State.

He was located in Boston in 1858-59 and 1860, engaged in the sale of an extensive line of popular patented novelties, through a band of travelling salesmen (then known as “street fakirs”), shrewd youngsters, to whom he had taught the practical science of street-corner demonstration of “chin-and-hand” commerce, whereby credulous spectators were induced to insist upon the immediate exchange of the novelties exhibited for the current “coin of the realm.” When the war of the Rebellion came, in 1861, these young salesmen were among the first men in Boston to volunteer their service in defence of the national honor.

Mr. Carter then became a private detective, which calling he followed until 1866, receiving from the start eminent patronage, and enrolling among his somewhat remarkable clientage many officials of high rank in the service of the Federal government, among which we find the name of Abraham Lincoln. He was at the (so-called) Peace Conference of Colorado Jewett and Horace Greeley at the Clifton House, Niagara Falls, in 1864, and continued shadowing Confederate leaders at Hamilton, Toronto, St. Johns, Quebec, and Montreal, during that historic fall and winter of 1864-65, covering that period when the famous “Rebel raid” upon the banks at St. Albans, Vt., was perpetrated; and he was on duty constantly during that peculiar trial (by a Canadian court at Montreal ) of the Confederate Colonel Bennette H. Young and his infamous band of Confederate highwaymen. He also witnessed the discharge of the entire band by that same Canadian court, which also returned to Colonel Young and his band the funds taken from the banks at St. Albans.

Returning to Washington in June, 1865, Mr. Carter testified as witness for the United States in the trial of Mrs. Surratt and the assassination conspirators, after which he returned to his New Hampshire home, where he received an appointment as Postmaster of his native village. But the next year, becoming restless through the Puritanic restraint of that quiet borough, he accepted a position as commercial traveller at a liberal salary; and for a quarter-century he followed the fortunes of a commercial tourist, covering New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont. He represented New Hampshire from 1876 to 1880 as Commissioner of the Boston & Maine Railroad upon the Interstate Board with the Hon. James G. Blaine, of Augusta, Me.

Visiting every town in New Hampshire at all seasons of the year, and having personal, political, and commercial association with prominent men of each county, it was possible for him to perform valuable service for his patrons in legislative proceedings and other matters. The varied experience he acquired by constant attendance upon more than twenty consecutive sessions of the legislature of the State made him an available expert wherewith in 1890 His Excellency Governor Goodell and the Honorable Council could fill a vacancy caused by the decease of the Secretary of State, to which position they by unanimous vote elected Mr. Carter -namely, official editor of the State Manual for the General Court, a duty previously performed by the late Secretary of State.

The works of his head and hand abound. A complete “blue book,” covering the official succession of New Hampshire for more than 1680 to 1891, published by the State, attests his superiority as an editor, collator, compiler, and statistician. “The Town and City Atlas of New Hampshire ,” published in 1892, which contains more than six hundred distinct maps, showing location of counties, townships, and city wards, also mountains, lakes, rivers, streams, railways, post-roads, highways, with city and village streets, also the precise location of public buildings, manufactories, hotels, private residences, etc., gave in detail the names of owners or occupants thereof. This comprehensive work, edited by Mr. Carter, is perhaps the most complete publication of geographical and statistical information ever issued in America, indorsed by official and educational patrons throughout the State.

“The Grand Souvenir Album of Eminent New Hampshire Men” contains four hundred and eight biographical sketches and half-tone plate portraits of each of those prominent and illustrious sons of the Granite State. This work, published in 1893, does his talent credit.

His Excellency Governor John B. Smith, in his message to the legislature of 1893, advised the recognition of the interests of wageearning labor; and in compliance therewith a Bureau of Labor was created, of which Mr. Carter was made chief clerk. He continued in that service until May, 1896, when he was promoted to the position of Deputy Commissioner, in charge of the Labor Bureau office at the State House, Concord.

In politics he would in modern parlance be termed “a middle-of-the-road Republican,” as he had the distinction of “rapid transit” in true amateur statesmanship, having served with the Free Soil pioneer guard of the Republicans of the “Fremont-and-fried-dog” campaign of 1856, and continuously thereafter until the Republican State Convention of New Hampshire in 1884, at which he served as Chairman of the Committee upon Credentials. Yet the very next day he was made Chairman of Committee on Credentials at the Democratic State Convention of New Hampshire, as a “Cleveland and reform” convert. Now, in the “free-silver-craze” campaign of 1896, he has had his political luggage transferred across the gulf to the McKinley reservation, as he cannot fully comprehend that financial scheme requiring the flying of a “twin-tailed” kite for the relief of that class of debtors who absolutely refuse to labor, yet do insist upon a “free-lunch” administration of every branch of the Federal government.

On September 19, 1854, Mr. Carter married Catharine Elizabeth Martin, of the town of Dickinson, St. Lawrence County, N.Y. They have two children, namely: Nettie Belle, wife of John F. McCollister, now of Bradford, Mass.; and Susie Isabelle, wife of Joseph G. Norman, residing at the Carter homestead, Hampstead, Rockingham County, N.H.


Biographical Review Publishing Company. Biographical Review; containing life sketches of leading citizens of Merrimack and Sullivan counties, N. H. Boston. Biographical Review Publishing Company. 1897.

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