Abiathar Richards, a retired merchant of Newport, was born here, October 8, 1825, son of Seth and Fanny Richards, of Dedham, Mass. He is descended from Edward Richards, one of the twelve immigrants bearing that surname, who, England to this country at different times in the period between 1630 and 1728, and whose descendants are to-day represented in the learned professions, the arts, commerce, and the general business of the country. Edward Richards, who arrived in 1632, was the sixth of the twelve referred to. With him, a fellow-passenger on the ship “Lion,” was his brother Nathaniel, who afterward joined the party led by the Rev. Mr. Hooker through the wilderness to the valley of the Connecticut, and was among the founders of Hartford. While a resident of Cambridge, Mass., on September 10, 1638, Edward married Susan Hunting. He was afterward one of the sixty-two original proprietors of the town of Dedham, near Boston, where many of his descendants are to be found to-day. He spent the rest of his life in Dedham, and died there in 1684.
From Edward the line of descent comes through John (first), John (second), John (third), and Abiathar to the sixth generation, represented by Sylvanus, who in the beginning of this century moved with his family to Newport, N.H., and settled on a large tract of land in the western part of the township, on what is known as the “old road” to Claremont. Sylvanus Richards was for some years one of the largest land-owners and tax-payers in the town. In addition to conducting his farm he kept a wayside inn. About the year 1812 he moved to Newport village, and there became the proprietor of the Rising Sun Tavern. His wife, Lucy Richardson Richards, bore him four children. Of these Seth Richards, born in Dedham, February 20, 1792, grew up, and ultimately succeeded to the proprietorship of the Rising Sun. Captain Seth Richards, the name by which Seth was generally known, was an active business man of strict integrity, yet genial and benevolent, a gentleman of the old school. He was often called on for service in town offices, and in 1833 he was chosen to represent the community in the State legislature. After a time he gave up the hotel and turned his attention to store keeping. In 1835, when the Cheneys retired from Newport, he purchased their stock in trade, together with the old stand, and afterward carried on the business successfully for many years. He relinquished this occupation in 1853, when he became interested in the Sugar River Flannel Mills. Finally he retired from active life about the year 1867. Captain Richards married April 8, 1817, Fanny Richards, of Dedham. They had two sons and six daughters. One of the sons was the Hon. Dexter Richards, who is well known throughout the State in business, social, political, and philanthropic circles.
Abiathar Richards, the younger of his parents’ two sons, attended the schools of Newport, and was given a term at the Windsor Academy, Vermont. He began his mercantile career at the age of seventeen as a clerk. At the age of thirty, he opened a general store in Newport, which he afterward carried on most successfully for many years. In the year 1895 he retired from active business, and he has since been enjoying a well-earned rest in his beautiful home in Newport. He was married February 7, 1854, to Esther A. Durant, who was born December 16, 1830, daughter of Isaiah and Esther C. (Reed) Durant, of Langdon, N.H. He has two sons-Fred W. and Dexter A. Fred W., born in Newport, January 31, 1856, who is in business at Omaha, Neb., married Sarah E. Barton, of Newport, who has had one daughter, Christine, born October 30, 1883. Dexter A., born in Cambridgeport, Mass., November 11, 1868, who is a travelling salesman for a drug firm, married Ella M. Furlong, of Charlestown, Mass. Mrs. Richards is a member of the Congregational church. The father, Abiathar Richards, is a Democrat in politics. For forty-seven years he has been a Mason of Mount Vernon Lodge, and has served in many of its offices. He is also connected with the Knights of Honor, Mount Coit Lodge, No. 86. A prominent man of his town, a good citizen, and a fine old gentleman, Mr. Richards is a worthy representative of the family.