Hon. Dexter Richards, of Newport, who was born here, September 5, 1818, son of the late Seth Richards, comes of distinguished English ancestry. Sylvanus Richards, who came here from Dedham, Mass., in the first of the century, and took an honorable position among the early settlers of the town, was his grandfather. His father, a gentleman of the old school, was a lifelong resident of Newport. The other children of Seth Richards were: Emily, born January 2, 1820, who married Perley S. Coffin, now deceased; Elizabeth, born November 19, 1821, who married the late John S. Parmelee, and now resides in Newport; Fanny, born July 23, 1823, who married J. Addison Gleason, and died in 1857; Abiathar, born October 8, 1825, now residing in Newport; Helen, born December 14, 1828, who married Moses R. Emerson, now deceased; Ann, born December 30, 1832, who married Arthur B. Chase, and resides in Newport; Catherine, born January 13, 1834, who married the late Ira Mitchell, and now resides in Des Moines, Ia.
Mr. Richards was educated in the common schools and at Ludlow, Vt. Early in life he was employed as a clerk. Later he became associated in business with his father and his brother Abiathar. In 1853, with his father he became a part owner of the Sugar River Mills, the other proprietor being Perley S. Coffin. In 1867 he purchased Mr. Coffin’s interest, and became the sole owner. He took his son, Colonel Seth M. Richards, into partnership in 1872, under the firm name of Dexter Richards & Son. Some time after, his youngest son was given an interest; and the firm name of Dexter Richards & Sons was then adopted. The Sugar River Mills, since Mr. Richards became interested in them, have been operated with marked success; and it was in the business connected with them that he laid the foundation for his success in after years.
Since 1875 Mr. Richards has been a Trustee and the President of the First National Bank of Newport. He has also been prominently connected with the Newport Savings Bank, which was incorporated in 1868. It was mainly through the agency of Mr. Richards, who was a member of the legislature at the time, that the Sugar River Railroad, now known as the Concord & Claremont Branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad, was chartered in 1866. When the road, which first connected Concord and Bradford, was extended through to Claremont Junction, and towns and individuals along the line were called upon to aid in its construction, Mr. Richards contributed heavily toward the enterprise. He has built extensively in Newport. Some years ago he erected the fine brick structure known as Richards Block; reconstructed and enlarged the Dr. Thomas Sanborn dwelling-house, thus changing it into a substantial block; and erected the fine house which he now occupies as his residence. At various times he enlarged his mills, and he erected many other buildings in different parts of the village. An esteemed member of the Congregational Church of Newport, he has served it in the capacity of Deacon for upward of thirty years. He has also been called upon to fill various official positions of trust and responsibility. In his younger days he was Town Clerk and Selectman. He was elected to the General Court in 1865, 1866, 1870, and 1895. In 1872 he was a delegate to the National Republican Convention, and in 1871 and 1872 he was a member of the Executive Council of the State. He was twice a delegate to the conventions for revising the State Constitution, and he was State Senator in 1887. He has also been and is now a trustee of various institutions, among which may be mentioned Kimball Union Academy, the Orphans’ Home, and the New Hampshire Asylum for the Insane.
But Mr. Richards is, perhaps, best known in the rôle of a public benefactor. Among his gifts to the public may be mentioned that of the Richards Free Library to the town of Newport. Including the fine brick buildings, a museum in one part of the building, and a collection of three thousand volumes, its cost Mr. Richards has made from time to time, and which have been large and numerous, are withheld from the public knowledge.
On January 27, 1847, Mr. Richards was united in matrimony with Louisa Frances Hatch, who was born in Hillsborough, April 10, 1827, daughter of the late Dr. Mason and Apphia (Andrews) Hatch. Dr. Hatch, who with his family became a resident of Newport, was for years one of the best known physicians of the town. Mrs. Richards has had six children, of whom three are deceased. The others are: Colonel Seth M. Richards, now the State Senator from this district; Mrs. Josephine E. Gile, the wife of Professor M. C. Gile, of Colorado College, and the mother of five children; and William F. Richards, a graduate of Harvard College, and, as before mentioned, now actively connected with the Sugar River Mills. Colonel Richards, born June 6, 1850, in Newport, was educated in Kimball Union Academy, and later was engaged in business in Newport and in Boston. Taken into partnership by his father in 1872, he assisted him in carrying on the great business. Since the retirement of his father the business has been continued under the old firm name of Dexter Richards & Sons. In politics Colonel Richards is a Republican. He was Town Treasurer early in life, a legislative Representative in 1885, a member of the staff of Governor Sawyer in 1887, and Town Treasurer again for two terms. He is now the Senator from District No. 7. He is Vice-President and Director of the First National Bank, Trustee of the Newport Savings Bank, President of the Newport Improvement Company, Trustee of the Electric Light Company, and President of the Board of Trade. He is also President of the Sullivan Musical Association, and a member of the I. O. O. F., Sugar River Lodge. On October 9, 1878, he married Lizzie M. Farnsworth, who was born in Newport, daughter of Oliver T. and Caroline (Hunt) Farnsworth. They have three children-Edith J., Louisa F., and Margaret E.