Biography of Rufus M.P. Stephenson
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Rufus Stephenson, member of the Dominion Parliament since the Dominion’s formed, representing the County of Kent; is a native of Springfield, Mass., dating his birth January 14th, 1835. His parents are Eli and Chloe (Chapin) Stephenson, his father being still alive, and in his 94th year. His mother is a descendant of Deacon Samuel Chapin, a Puritan who came to Roxbury (now in Boston) Mass., prior to 1640, and settled at Springfield, same State, in 1642. His descendants form one of the most numerous families in the United States, embracing many names of a national reputation. Among them are Hon. Henry Chapin (Judge), Worcester, Mass., Edwin Chapin, D. D., N. Y. City; A. L. Chapin, D. D., President Beloit College, Wis.; Hon. Moses Chapin, Hon. William H. Seward, Hon. Solomon Foot, Henry Ward Beecher, J. G. Holland, Roswell D. Hitchcock, D. D., and scores of other persons who might be mentioned. In September, 1862, a meeting of the descendants of Deacon Samuel Chapin was held at Springfield, Mass., and between 2000 and 3000 of them were present.
The grandfather of our subject was from Lancashire, England, and was of that branch of the Stephenson family from which sprung George and Robert Stephenson, so famous as railway engineers. His grandmother was of the Murphy family, Londonderry, north of Ireland. She died in St. Catharines in 1854, at the advanced age of within a few months of 100 years. In the infancy of Rufus the family moved to St. Catharines, Ontario, where he was educated in the Grantham Academy. His father’s youngest brother, the late Colonel Eleazer Williams Stephenson of that place, was prominent as one of the promoters of the scheme for the construction of what is now called the Welland Canal, and was one of the Directors associated with the late Hon. William Hamilton Merritt, of the Welland Canal Company. He was also connected with many other enterprises which tended largely to develop the interests of the Niagara District, and especially the now flourishing city of St. Catharines. It was Colonel Stephenson who established the first Royal Mail stage coach line through Upper Canada from Niagara to Detroit, and in later years was intimately connected in business relations with those well-known enterprising Canadians, Messrs. Taylor, Chatham; Segar, London; Babcock, Brantfor; Davis, Hamilton; Haynes of St. Catharines; Bernard of Toronto, and Weller of Cobourg. Colonel Stephenson was accidentally killed in 1867 by the running away of a pair of horses he was driving. The subject of this sketch, who was with him in the carriage at the time of the accident, narrowly escaped with his life. It was Eli Stephenson who first developed the manufacture of salt at St. Catharines, his works being located on the site now occupied by that magnificent structure known as the “Stephenson House.” He learned the trade of a printer in the offices of the St. Catharines Journal, the Long Point Advocate, Simcoe; and the British American, Woodstock. In 1850 came to Chatham as foreman of the office of the Kent Advertiser and associate editor of the same; and in a short time took charge of the Chatham Planet, of which he became proprietor in 1857. He conducted that paper until November,1878, when he disposed of it to his two oldest sons, Sydney and Edwin Frederick Stephenson, who are keeping up the excellent character of the journal, published tri-weekly, as well as weekly.
Since becoming a resident of Chatham, Mr. Stephenson has held numerous municipal and other offices; has been chairman of the Common School Board; Chief Engineer of the Fire Department; member of the County Board of Public Instruction; member of the Town Council a dozen years or more; member of the County Council one term, and Mayor three terms in succession, being re-elected twice by acclamation.
He has been Captain of No. 2 Co., 24th Battalion Volunteer Infantry since 1866.
In 1867 he was the successful candidate of the Liberal-Conservatives for the first Dominion Parliament for the County of Kent, and was re-elected at the general elections held in 1872, 1874 and 1878. Among legislative measures initiated by him were, the action of the Government in regard to the status of naturalized foreigners in the British Colonial Possessions, and the coasting relations with the United States and the navigation of inland waters, besides a number of general and local improvements of substantial value to Western Ontario. His politics are Liberal-Conservative.
He is a Free Mason, and has been Secretary of Lodge 46, Wellington.
October 11, 1854, Mr. Stephenson was joined in marriage with Georgiana Emma, eldest daughter of Thomas Andrew, barrister, formerly of London, England, and granddaughter of Joseph Sparks, Esq., of the County of Kent, England, and at one time a director of the East India Company. They have nine children, five sons and four daughters. The eldest son, Sydney, is married to Georgiana Minty; Chloe Eleanore is the wife of B. H. G. Vicars, of Toronto; the others are single.