Biography of Captain Harry C. Fay

Captain Harry C. Fay, editor-in-chief of the National Eagle, a bright and thoroughly up-to-date newspaper published in Claremont, was born in Richmond, Vt., November 30, 1830, son of Captain Nathan and Polly (Colby) Fay. Stephen Fay, his great-great-grandfather, was an early settler in Bennington, Vt., and was the father of eight children. His son John kept the Catamount Tavern, which during his day became a meeting-place for many great statesmen, who formed a legislative body, and held there meetings known as “Councils of Safety.” He, John, fell in the battle of Bennington. His son, Nathan Fay, served as a Colonel Warner’s command. Nathan, who was a cloth-dresser by trade, removed from Bennington to Richmond, Vt., about the year 1781, and established there a cloth-dressing house, which he carried on successfully for a number of years, leaving a flourishing business at the time of his death, which occurred at the age of seventy-seven. He married a daughter of Colonel Safford, a member of an old and prominent family of Bennington.

Captain Nathan Fay, father of the subject of this sketch, continued the business of clothdressing after the death of his father; but, it subsequently becoming less profitable, he turned his attention in part to farming, and at the time of his death was the owner of one thousand acres of land. A member in early life of the Democratic party, he held office continuously for twenty-five years, representing his town in the legislature at six different periods, and serving it as Selectman throughout his public career. A good penman and a close student, he possessed also a fair knowledge of the law, and transacted much legal business. He was the administrator and executor of many estates, and, with a generosity not often seen, rarely accepted remuneration for his services. He belonged to the Universalist church, toward the support of which he liberally contributed. Faithful to every public and private obligation, and of rare public spirit, his death at the age of eighty-one was widely regretted. His first wife was Maria Murray. By his second wife, Polly, who was a daughter of Elliot Colby, he had eight children-Nathan M., Safford, Mary Ann, Martha, Enos C., Harry C., Elliot, and Arnold.

Harry C. Fay was the first of this large family to leave the shelter of the parental roof-tree. At the age of fifteen he went to Montpelier, where he learned the printer’s trade in the office of Eli Ballou, publisher of the Universalist. After serving a three years’ apprenticeship, he returned to school at South Woodstock and at Thetford, Vt., having previously studied for a few terms at both institutions. Going to Potsdam, N.Y., in 1850, he there bought out William Wallace, a printer and publisher, and edited the Courier and Freeman for eleven years. He was appointed Postmaster of Potsdam, in which office he served from 1856 to 1860. When the Civil War broke out he sold out his interests to his brother Elliot, who was exempt from military duty, and at the call for three hundred thousand men in September, 1861, enlisted for three years’ service in the Ninety-second New York Regiment, in which he was commissioned Captain. He was wounded at Cold Harbor, Va., and became commander of the regiment after that engagement. At Petersburg, Va., he received a wound in the ankle, and in February, 1865, was mustered out of the service. He then returned to his native town, Richmond, Vt., and the following fall, in company with his brother Arnold, who had served as Captain of the Seventeenth Vermont Regiment during the war, went to Irasburg, Vt., where he was engaged in farming for about two years. Subsequently selling his farm to his brother Arnold, he went into the printing business at Waterbury, where he remained, however, but a short time, going thence to Burlington, Vt. After conducting business a while in Burlington, he sold out, and in 1872 entered the employ of the Claremont Manufacturing Company, with whom he served as foreman for seven years. In 1880 he purchased the National Eagle, and, taking upon himself the editorial duties, has been since thus engaged. The Eagle was established in 1834, under the direction of a Mr. Fay’s proprietorship has already lasted longer than that of any of his predecessors. Since he took charge of it, its circulation has increased more than threefold, and it is now upon a firm financial basis. It has a wide reputation for fairness, the correctness of its news items, and its able editorials. In 1890 Mr. Fay took into partnership his son, Nathan W. Fay, and his son-in-law, William H. Thompson. Besides publishing the paper, the firm has a monopoly of the job printing business in Claremont. Captain Fay is said to be the oldest living publisher in New Hampshire. He has figured more or less prominently in politics, and during 1887 and 1888 was Representative to the New Hampshire legislature. He has for many years been a member of the Episcopal church, which he has served in an official capacity.

Captain Fay married Miss Nancy L. Skinner, daughter of the Rev. Warren Skinner, a Universalist minister and one of the early pioneers of Universalism in this section, and who served with the rank of Orderly Sergeant in the War of 1812. Captain and Mrs. Fay are the parents of two children: Nathan W., who is now in partnership with his father; and Lillie. The last named married William H. Thompson, son of Samuel Liscom and Alsada Eleanor (Flint) Thompson. Mr. Thompson’s grandfather, William Thompson, who was a successful wholesale and retail dealer in meat and provisions in Worcester, Mass., had two children, one of whom died in infancy. The other, Samuel L., was engaged for some time in business with his father in Worcester, but subsequently removed from that place to Perkinsville, Vt., and thence to Chester in the same State. A Republican politically, he was largely interested in local politics, and held various public offices, among them those of Deputy Sheriff, Selectman, and Justice of the Peace. He had eight children: Moses Waldo; Ella Maria; Harriet Alsada; William, who died in infancy; William H.; Sarah, who died at the age of six years; Samuel Leslie; and one other, who died unnamed. The eldest, Moses Waldo, has been established in the clothing business in Boston for the past thirty-five years, being a member of the firm of Thompson, Willis & Nugent. Ella Maria married A. E. Snell, and resides in Lewiston, Idaho. Harriet Alsada became the wife of E. P. Mudge, Clerk of the Court in Lewiston, Idaho. Samuel Leslie is a druggist in the same place. At the age of twelve years William H. Thompson went to Cavendish, Vt., where he found employment in the store of a Mr. Pierce, a merchant and an ex-schoolmaster. During his three years there he was under the tutorage of his employer, and made rapid progress in his studies. The next five years were spent with Messrs. Chandler Brothers, merchants of Proctorsville, Vt.; and subsequently he travelled for a year as salesman for S. Washburn Holmes, a wholesale grocer. After other business experiences he removed in 1880 to Claremont, and entered into partnership with Captain Fay, as above narrated. His services as a member of the firm have contributed in no small degree to its prosperity.


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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