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J. Albert Peaslee, an important factor of the agricultural and business community of Bradford, Merrimack County, was born in this town, on the farm that he still owns, December 14, 1845. His father, John Peaslee, a son of Samuel Peaslee, was a lifelong resident of Bradford. He was the Representative of an early settled family in New Hampshire, and one whose descendants are numerous in Hillsborough County, where, in the town of Pelham, they have an annual gathering.
John Peaslee settled on the homestead farm now owned by his son, J. Albert, soon after attaining his majority, purchasing at first but ten acres. As time went on he bought other land, made valuable improvements; and at his death, which occurred in March, 1884, at the venerable age of fourscore and four years, he had one of the most valuable and attractive estates in the vicinity. He was twice married. His first wife was Chloe Maxfield, daughter of Richard Maxfield, who once owned the village of Bradford, then called Fishersfield. She died leaving two sons-Oliver, now of Bradford; and William, of Amherst, N.H. -and four daughters, namely: Margaret, wife of Stillman Parkhurst, of Bedford, N.H.; Minda, wife of B. B. Whiting, of Amherst; Hannah, wife of Timothy Morse, of Newbury, this county; and Sally, who died unmarried. He subsequently married Mrs. Betsey Presby Marshall, daughter of James Presby and granddaughter of Captain William Presby, the first settler in Bradford. Her first husband, Silas Marshall, left her a widow with several children, as follows: William P., of Boston; Ezekiel H., also of Boston; Kendall W., a former resident of Bradford, who died in 1892; Clara M. (deceased), who married B. W. Fairbanks, of Manchester; and Elizabeth M. (deceased), who was the wife of the late David Shattuck, of Cambridgeport, Mass. Of John Peaslee’s second union there was but one child, J. Albert, the special subject of this sketch. Mrs. Betsey P. M. Peaslee survived her husband but a short time, dying on the home farm in June, 1885, aged eighty-three years.
J. Albert Peaslee was reared on his father’s farm, which he began managing when but twenty-one years old. Some years later his parents, who continued to live with him, gave him a deed of the estate. In his early mature life he spent one year in Boston; but he afterward 1878, when he took charge of the county farm at North Boscawen, just after the old buildings had been destroyed by fire. He superintended the erection of new buildings, and remained there four years. He was then elected a County Commissioner. The superintendent who succeeded him at the county farm not proving satisfactory, he was asked by the Board, of which he was a member, to again take the position. He accordingly returned to North Boscawen, and stayed there until his term of office as Commissioner had expired. In 1885 he went back to the ancestral homestead, where he was actively engaged in general farming, dairying, and stock-raising, until about three years since, when he removed to the village, although he has the oversight of his farm still. He cuts one hundred tons of hay each year, and keeps from forty to fifty cows, raising his own stock from thoroughbred Holsteins, which he was the first to introduce into the town. This farm is particularly well adapted to cultivation, being well watered and remarkably free from rocks, his father having been obliged to haul the stones used in building twenty-five hundred rods of wall the distance of a mile.
The Bradford and Newbury Fair Association has held its annual fairs on his farm since 1875, fifty acres lying in a valley, about one and one-half miles west of the village, being appropriated to its use. These grounds, of which Mr. Peaslee is the superintendent and treasurer, are well improved, having fine stables, water – works, a three-story grand stand, and a half-mile regulation track, the whole being one of the best and most complete fair grounds in the State. Colonel Tappan, President of the Association the first twelve years, was one of the prime movers in securing this advantageous location, working for it in company with Alburton Peaslee, Albert D. Eaton, and John Farmer. Hiram Cheney, its second President, held the office six years, and was then succeeded by Jonathan Rowe, of Newbury, who is now holding the office. The first twenty years this was a free fair; but of late years all excepting exhibitors have been charged an admission fee, and no premiums have been given, though a few awards are made each year. These fairs, usually held the last of September, draw people from miles around, being the event of the season, the visitors numbering from three thousand to seven thousand. There is always a fine exhibition of fancy stock, and in 1896 sixty-three trotters were entered.
Mr. Peaslee has served as Selectman several terms, having been Chairman of the Board part of the time. He has also been a member of the School Board, and has held every other township office, including that of Moderator, in which position he has served some twelve years. In 1885 he represented the town in the legislature, serving on the Committee on Roads and Bridges, and on Appropriations. He is the Bradford representative of the Merrimack County Fire Insurance Company, and for twenty-five years has been Justice of the Peace. He is an active politician, supporting the principles of the Democratic party, attending all campaign meetings, where he not infrequently makes neat little speeches. He was made a Mason in St. Peter’s Lodge, F. & A. M., thirteen years ago, and has for some time been its Secretary. He is a fine musician, has been a member of the church choir since a boy, and is often asked to sing at funerals.
On November 22, 1871, Mr. Peaslee married Maria R. Smith, who was born in New London, N.H., November 24, 1841. Her father, Ira Smith, was born in New London, January 16, 1799; and he there married June 27, 1822, Amanda Dow, who was born in New London, September 21, 1799. In 1862 Mr. and Mrs. Smith settled in the village of Bradford, where his death occurred a few years later, August 1, 1867, and hers, August 2, 1883. Of their four children Mrs. Peaslee is the only survivor. Her brother James F., a boot and shoe dealer, died in Woonsocket, R.I., at the age of fifty-two years; her sister, Mary E., died at the age of thirty, unmarried; and her brother Nahum W., who was principal of the high school in Woonsocket, R.I., died there when but twenty-four years of age. Mr. and Mrs. Peaslee have had one daughter, Lura M. Peaslee. She was born March 12, 1874, and died February 10, 1897, at the age of nearly twenty-three years. She was a young lady of an unusually gentle and lovely character, and the high esteem and love in which she was held were testified to by the large number of her acquaintances, both old and young, who paid their last respects by attendance at her funeral, and by the kindly visits of sympathizing friends at the home.
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