STAPLES (Taunton family). The Staples name is one of long and honorable standing in New England and the country. The family has been a continuous one in the Bay State for two hundred and seventy and more years, and at Taunton, in this Commonwealth, have lived generation after generation of the name down to the present – a worthy race, one representative of the best type of citizenship. Such men in more recent generations as the two Sylvanus Staples, father and son, and the latter’s son Sylvanus Nelson Staples, and the two Ebenezer Staples and Abiel B. Staples – all in line – have played well their part in the affairs of their communities in their day and generation.
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The Taunton Staples spring from the ancient Weymouth family of the name, from John Staple (the common spelling both in England and America at that period omitting the final “s”), who appears on the records of that town, it is said, in 1636. His wife’s name is given as Rebecca by the late Joseph W. Potter, of Bangor, Maine. John Staple became a freeman of the Colony May 10, 1648. He died July 4, 1683, in Dorchester, leaving according to his will, children John, Jr., of Braintree, Joseph of Taunton, Abraham of Mendon, Rebecca, wife of Samuel Sumner of Dorchester, and Sarah, wife of Increase Sumner, also of Dorchester. John Staple’s son Abraham was a proprietor of Mendon. He married in 1660 Mary, daughter of Robert Randall, of Weymouth, was a weaver by trade, served in King Philip’s war, and was known – probably from service in the militia – as Sergeant Abraham. The territory of Mendham (Mendon), as it was originally named, comprised, besides the present town, the whole or portions of Milford, Blackstone, Bellingham, Upton and Uxbridge, and was set off to proprietors principally of Weymouth and Braintree, and settlement was made and houses built by 1663. It is a matter of history that the first blood shed in King Philip’s war, within the Colony of Massachusetts, was the massacre in Mendon of the families of Rockwell and Puffer, July 14, 1675. The town was finally abandoned, and the houses were burned in the following winter. The place was again occupied between 1677 and 1680.
After a short residence with his son Jason, in Taunton, Abraham Staples died in Mendon Oct. 20, 1704. One of his descendants was the late Rev. Carlton Albert Staples, of the Unitarian denomination, whose service in the ministry covered a period of fifty years and more, nine of which he was pastor of the First Congregational (Unitarian) Church at Providence, R.I., in which city had lived before him the distinguished jurist and author, Hon. William Read Staples, chief justice of the Supreme court of Rhode Island. Other distinguished men of the locality in question of the Staples name were Hon. Hamilton B. Staples, judge of the Superior court of Massachusetts, and Samuel Elias Staples (1822-1902), founder and first president of the Worcester Society of Antiquity.
As stated, one of the sons of John Staple, Joseph by name, settled in Taunton, Mass., the home town of the Staples family under consideration. Joseph’s children were:
- John, born Jan. 28, 1671;
- Amy or Ann, born April 3, 1674;
- Mary, born Jan. 26, 1678;
- Joseph, born March 12, 1680;
- Hannah, born May 17, 1682; and
- Nathaniel, born March 22, 1685.
Of more recent generations of the Taunton Staples (2), was born in Taunton, Mass., Aug. vanus Nelson Staples, were Sylvanus Staples and Sylvanus Staples (2).
Sylvanus Nelson Staples, son of Sylvanus Staples (2), was born in Taunton, Mass., Aug. 2, 1811. His father was born there Nov. 24, 1783, and married Aug. 24 or 25, 1805, Sally, daughter of Capt. Jacob Phillips. She was born June 25, 1783, in Taunton, Mass. Of this union there were eleven children, namely:
- Asenath married Robert Abell;
- Sally A. married Jabez Irish;
- Rebecca A. married Albert Carpenter;
- Sylvanus Nelson is mentioned fully presently;
- Eliza N. married Adam Reed;
- Abiathar F. married Esther Jones;
- Hope Ann married George Edgar;
- Tila married Nathan Maker;
- Deborah married Abel Reed;
- Henry died unmarried;
- John was drowned at the age of nine years.
Sylvanus Staples, the father, was a brickmaker by trade and a Democrat in politics. Both Mr. and Mrs. Staples were members of the Baptist Church at Pawtucket, R.I., whither they had gone to live in 1830, and where their youngest two children were born. Mrs. Staples died Sept. 25, 1851, and Mr. Staples died Feb. 25, 1852, both aged sixty-eight years, three months.
Sylvanus Staples, father of Sylvanus and grandfather of Sylvanus N., was a native of Taunton, was a farmer by occupation, and died at a ripe old age. He married a Miss Pierce. They had four sons and two daughters, of whom Sylvanus, father of Sylvanus N., was the eldest son.
Sylvanus N. Staples, son of Sylvanus (2), received a common school education, working for his grandfather, Capt. Jacob Phillips, during the summers and attending school winters. He commenced a seafaring life as cabin boy when not more than ten years of age and gradually rose through the various grades until he became master of a sloop at the early age of eighteen. He continued in the coasting trade, visiting the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico, until he was twenty-eight. In the meantime he had several vessels built for his trade. In 1836 he commenced dealing in the wholesale and retail commission flour and grocery business with Frank D. Williams as partner, under the firm title of F.D. Williams & Company, Hiram Burt being the company, though not actively engaged in the business, as he was constantly at sea – After several years Mr. Staples bought his partner’s interest and associated with him Messrs. James M. and Horatio Williams. They had various establishments at Taunton and the Weir, doing business under the firm names of S.N. Staples & Co., at New Bedford, James M. Williams & Co., and – at Norfolk, Va. – Williams, Staples & Williams. Their business extended to the West Indies and all along the Atlantic seaboard. Their West Indies enterprise did not prove altogether successful and in 1850 the partnership was dissolved.
Mr. Staples began life again at the bottom of the ladder, and by the timely aid of his friends built a vessel called the “William Mason,” named after one of Taunton’s most enterprising and wealthy citizens. Mr. Staples ran her a few years, was successful and gave her to his brother Abiathar, who ran her until she was sunk in collision with the “Queen of the West,” off Tortugas, in 1861. Mr. Staples began commercial business, dealing in iron, coal and lime and doing a general freighting, with William H. Phillips in 1857, under the firm title of Staples & Phillips. They were very successful in this business from the first, a success which continued until the dissolution of the firm, in April, 1888. Since May of that year the business has been continued as the Staples Coal Company.
Mr. Staples was also interested in various manufacturing industries, in all of which he was unusually successful. He was a director of the Bristol County National Bank, trustee of the Taunton Savings Bank and director of the Dighton Furnace Company. In politics he was a Republican. He held several local offices, but never aspired to political honors. He was a charter member of Alfred Baylies Lodge, A. F. & A. M., Weir; member of St. John’s Commandery, K. T., of Providence, and had attained the thirty-second degree. He was also a member of the I.O.O.F. He belonged to the Unitarian Church at Taunton and was one of its liberal supporters.
On May 22, 1835, Mr. Staples married D. Adaline Hood, daughter of Nathaniel and Fannie Hood, of Taunton. She died Feb. 23, 1888. Their children were:
- Elizabeth, born July 1, 1836, died Nov. 19, 1872, married Jan. 23, 1867, Stephen A. Jenckes, of Pawtucket, R.I.
- Adelaide N., born May 19, 1838. married Sept. 22, 1870, Lewis Williams.
- Harriet F., born Jan. 31, 1842, died Feb. 10, 1862.
- Edwin Sylvanus, born July 21, 1845, died April 17, 1873. He married Oct. 12, 1872, Cora F. Cook. He was a member of Alfred Baylies Lodge, A.F. & A.M., at the Weir, and of St. John’s Commandery, K.T., at Providence.
- Herbert M. was born March 20, 1848. (6) Adell L., born May 20, 1850, died Feb. 13, 1888.
Herbert Mason Staples, son of Capt. Sylvanus Nelson Staples, was born in Taunton March 20, 1848, and died Feb. 14, 1904. He was educated in the public schools of his native city, at Bristol Academy, and at Bryant & Stratton’s commercial college in Providence. Having commercial tastes he early busied himself with the complicated affairs of Staples & Phillips, when they were the largest coal merchants and ship owners of Taunton and vicinity. He showed such an aptitude for the work, and such a grasp of commercial operations, that promotion followed promotion. When the old firm was dissolved and was followed by the great corporation known as the Staples Coal Company he took a leading position in that concern, being made general sales agent for the company, and his part was well done from the beginning to the end, the burden being increased by the death of Mr. Lewis Williams, his brother-in-law, and Mr. Joseph Stickney. Whatever he had to do, he did well, and in a genial, courteous, kindly way that was characteristic, and made him a friend-maker, one who had the good will and respect of everybody. He had no taste for public office, but had decided political convictions and was an active Republican, and a friend of good municipal government. His public spirit was shown by the interest he had in other commercial enterprises besides the coal business, and like his father he always had a large share in building up the varied industries of his native city and in enlarging and improving the volume of business on the river. In a word, he was an alert, sagacious and progressive business man, who put his heart as well as his hand into his work.
Mr. Staples was much interested in the First Congregational Society and a liberal contributor to its work. He gave efficient service on the prudential committee, and in all ways was ready to strengthen and enlarge the influence of the church just as his father had done before him. In his death Taunton lost one of its progressive citizens, and his wife and son a good husband and father. Mr. Staples was a member of Alfred Baylies Lodge, A. E. & A. M., of Weir, of St. Mark’s Royal Arch Chapter of Taunton, and of St. John’s Commandery, Providence.
On Oct. 3, 1869, Mr. Staples married Alice Moore Presbrey, daughter of Henry Moore and Sally Maria (Cushman) Presbrey (she a daughter of Alva Cushman), and granddaughter of Barney and Abigail (Godfrey) Presbrey, the latter a daughter of Brig. Gen. George Godfrey. Mr. and Mrs. Staples had one son, Arthur Carleton, born July 16, 1871, who married June 6, 1900, Grace Gordon Briggs (born March 16, 1876), and has two sons:
- Carleton Lewis, born July 26, 1901; and
- Herbert Mason, born Dec. 18, 1906.