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Quimby S. Backus - Inventor and Toolmaker


History Overview


Quimby S. Backus, an enterprising and successful business man of Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont, who has established a reputation in the commercial circles of the United States, is a descendant of William Backus, a native of Saybrook, Middlesex County, Connecticut, where he was born in 1638.

Gurdon Bacus, father of Quimby S. Backus, was born in Windham County, Connecticut, in 1800, and after acquiring a literary education in the common schools of his native town, entered a theological seminary and was ordained a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal denomination. He officiated as pastor at Bridgewater, Windham County, Vermont and also acted in the capacity of presiding elder for a number of years.

The Rev. Mr. Gurdon Backus was married three times, his first wife having been Wealthy Ann Hoisington, mother of Hon. Quimby S. Backus. The second wife of the Rev. Mr. Gurdon Backus was Perley Flint, and his third wife was Sarah Chapman, to whom the following named children were born: Phoebe Hawkins, Caroline, Emeline, Justin, Harriet, Anna, Rev. Gurdon, Joseph, Clark, and Martin Backus. The Rev. Mr. Gurdon Backus died at Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont, in 1871, at the age of seventy-one years.

Quimby S. Backus, son of Gurdon and Wealthy Ann Backus, was born 23 July 1838, at Bridgewater, Windham County, Vermont. His preliminary education was obtained in the public schools of his native town, and this was supplemented by attendance at the public schools of Brandon, Rutland County, and the Brandon Seminary, from which institution he was graduated at the age of sixteen years.

He then removed to Woodstock, Windsor County, Vermont, where he learned the trade of machinist, which he followed with success for many years, being employed by the Howe Scale Company and having the distinction of making the first scale made in Brandon for the company. In 1861 he was engaged as a tool maker in a gun shop in Windsor, Windsor County, Vermont, the firm having a contract for supplying guns to the United States government; later he was employed in the railroad shops at Rutland, Rutland County, Vermont, and subsequently engaged in the manufacture of all kinds of machinery at Winchendon, Worcester County, Massachusetts.

Mr. Quimby S. Backus patented and was for several years employed in the manufacture of vises; he later patented a bit brace, the first made that could be adjustable to any size of bit. He then removed to Millers Falls, Franklin County, Massachusetts, where he manufactured machine specialties, which were all his own patents, and in this line of business he continued until 1876.

He invented the Backus heater and established a manufactory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1888, remaining until 1892. He next located at Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, where he conducted business until 1901, removing at that time to Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont, where he erected a large manufactory and foundry, which gives employment to sixty-five people. The plant and yards cover an area of five acres, and they established offices or stores in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, San Francisco and other large cities, besides giving the agency of the heater to private dealers throughout the country.

Mr. Quimby S. Backus is a staunch adherent of the principles of the Republican party, a strong local option man, and takes an active part in all campaigns. He was elected Senator from Rutland County in 1902, was a member of the committee on claims and the standing committee of the Manufacturers' Library, and also served in the capacity of chairman of the committee on joint rules, taking an aggressive part in all discussions. He is a member and serves as Second Lieutenant of the "Allen Grays," a company of Vermont militia, but being engaged in making guns during the progress of the Civil War, was exempt from active service, but sent a substitute. He has attained a prominent position in the Masonic fraternity, having taken the 32nd degree of the Scottish Rite, and is a Noble of he Mystic Shrine.

In 1858 Mr. Quimby S. Backus was united in marriage to Lavina A. Lawrence, a daughter of Oliver E. and Emeline (Wood) Lawrence, the former named being born in Chittenden County, Vermont, and the latter in Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont.

The two children born to Mr. and Mrs. Backus are: (1) Fred Ellsworth, born at Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont, 03 August 1861, who acquired his education at Brandon and later in Stebbins' Institute, a business college of Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts. At the present time [1903] he is a member of the firm of the Backus Company, he having the management of the manufacturing department, while his father attends to the financial and sales departments.

He, like his father, is connected with all the Masonic bodies up to and including the 32nd degree, has been secretary of the chapter, senior deacon of blue lodge, and held offices in the consistory. Mr. Fred Ellsworth Backus married, in June 1898, Maud M. Peck, who was born in Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont, a daughter of Darwin Peck; they [Fred E. and Maud M. (Peck) Backus] have one daughter, Beatrice Carile Backus, born 19 July 1900. (2) Nellie Everetta, youngest child of Hon. Quimby S. and Lavina A. Backus, born at Windsor, Windsor County, Vermont, married John O. Bowman, a prominent lawyer of Philadelphia [Philadelphia County], Pennsylvania, and their children are Fred Quimby and Miriam Lawrence Bowman.

Mr. Quimby S. Backus came from genuine old New England stock; he was the son of Rev. Gurdon Backus, a highly useful local preacher of the Methodist Episcopal church in his day, and Wealthy Ann (Hoisington) Backus; the latter was a direct descendant of captain Joseph Hawkins, who was given a large tract of land to settle in Bridgewater, Windsor County, Vermont. The Hawkins family trace their lineage to the English general, James Wolfe, who was killed at the battle of Quebec on 13 September 1759, in the hour of his victory. The Backus family were old Puritan stock and came from Connecticut, where they were the original owners of one-twentieth of the site of the city of Norwich, New London County, Connecticut.

Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. Carleton, ed.
New York & Chicago: Lewis, 1903, pp 536-537

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