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Hon. Ezra Scollay Stearns, Secretary of the State of New Hampshire since 1891, came to that office superabundantly qualified to meet its most exacting requirements. He was born in Rindge, N.H., September 1, 1838, son of Samuel and Mary Fitch (Moore) Stearns, his father being a native of Brattleboro, Vt., and his mother of Sharon, N.H. Through his mother he is connected with the Fitch family, several members of which were men of distinction during the Colonial period. The family was of Scotch-Irish origin; and the city of Fitchburg, Mass., was named in honor of John Fitch, a descendant in the fourth generation of the original American ancestor. The Stearns family is of English origin. Daniel Stearns, grandfather of Ezra S., at first a resident of Cambridge, Mass., moved subsequently to Vermont. He served in Colonel Nixon’s regiment from 1777 until the close of the Revolutionary War.
Ezra Scollay Stearns acquired the rudiments of his education in the public schools of Rindge. He then followed an advanced course of study at the Chester Institute at Chester, N.J., where he remained as a teacher for some time after his graduation. He subsequently became connected with publishing houses in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia; and at one time he was manager and editor of a newspaper in Fitchburg, Mass. After his return to his native State he became prominently identified with political affairs, and by his energy and ability advanced materially the interests of the Republican party there, his services doing much to perfect and strengthen the State organization. In 1864 he was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and was re-elected in 1865, 1866, 1867, and 1870. In 1887 and 1889 he was a member of the Senate. His work in both houses was characterized by the same energy and ability which had hitherto marked his career, and his committee assignments were important and laborious. He was quick to discern the merits or demerits of a measure; and as a debater his ready flow of language could, when necessary, be tinged with such biting satire as to penetrate and relentlessly expose every weak point in the most plausible arguments of his opponents. In 1891 Mr. Stearns was again a prominent figure among the members of the Lower House, and was chosen by his colleagues to fill the responsible position of Secretary of the State, to which also he was re-elected in 1893 and 1895. Entering upon his duties at a time when the department was unusually crowded with business, the act establishing the Australian system
For more than twenty years Mr. Stearns has acted as Moderator of Rindge, and it is safe to say that no town in New Hampshire can boast of a more capable presiding officer at public meetings. As a writer he has acquired more than a local celebrity, being the author of a History of Rindge, published in 1876, and a History of Ashburnham, Mass., published in 1877, both of which are valuable for their historical accuracy and literary merit. He has also contributed historical sketches and other interesting matter to current publications. Mr. Stearns is a member of the Fitchburg Historical Society, the New Hampshire, the Minnesota, and the Wisconsin Historical Societies, the New England Historical Genealogical Society, and the American Antiquarian Association. He is a close student of literature; and the degree of Master of Arts, which was conferred upon him by Dartmouth College in 1887, is a merited tribute to his scholarly ability.