Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

November 29, 2012

Dalton column: The Squire of Andover

Bill Dalton
The Andover Townsman

---- — He was simply called “Squire.” It was an expression of respect and endearment from his fellow townspeople.

Squire’s given name was Samuel Farrar, and he lived a long life from 1773, when he was born in Lincoln, to 1864 when he died in Andover.

Squire was a man of habits, healthy and religious habits, and in reputation and deeds he was second to none in Andover, according to Andover historian Sarah Loring Bailey. Andover’s other eminent historian, Clause M. Fuess, said that Squire was the most “picturesque and useful citizen in the first half of the 19th Century.”

The informal title “Squire” was bestowed upon him shortly after he moved to Andover; even as a young man, Fuess added, “People knew he was prudent and sane, unlikely to indulge in wild speculation.”

Squire was so habitual that he’d be considered peculiar today, but that reflects poorly on our present culture. He mentioned once that he’d allowed his family clock to run down three times in 40 years. Whether he was amused by that fact or surprised is a matter of speculation, but his demeanor, described as pleasant, would indicate he was amused.

Each morning after awaking he sawed wood for precisely one half hour and then led family prayers at 6:07 A.M., never a minute earlier or later. Every fair day he took three walks, with each walk having its own route, which he had measured with a measuring rod. The walks would begin and end at exactly the same time, and during them townspeople would confirm their timepieces, for he would pass the same spots at exactly the same times. He carried a gold headed cane, but he never let it touch the ground.

After graduating from Harvard in 1797, Farrar moved to Andover and first taught at Phillips Academy and soon became a lawyer. He gained the respect of all and never disappointed any. Before the age of 30 he was elected a trustee of the academy and became its treasurer the next year. He was one of the founding sponsors of the Andover Theological Seminary in 1808, an institution so closely linked physically to the academy that the academy took over the seminary’s buildings when the latter institution left Andover in 1908. Squire Farrar served as treasurer to the seminary as well as the academy, and Claude Fuess wrote, “The extraordinary material development of both the Academy and Seminary was attributed to his prudent management.” Purportedly, Farrar personally oversaw the planting of all the stately elms on campus.

When Mrs. Sarah Abbot, a well-to-do widow, came to Farrar in 1827 to ask what she should with her extra money, he immediately responded that she should put in toward building a female seminary. In 1829, the Abbot Female Seminary opened (known casually as the “Fem-Sem”) and Squire Farrar was a founding trustee and treasurer. It later was called Abbot Academy and merged with Phillips in the 1970s.

When the Andover National Bank opened in 1826, Squire Farrar became its first president and held that job for 30 years. Perhaps because of his philanthropy - for example, he donated his treasurer’s salaries back to the institutions he served - he never became truly rich, although he gave to deserving causes and left $12,000 to Phillips Academy at his death.

He was steadfast, intelligent, hard-working, and dedicated his life to Andover and it’s institutions. He was the only founding member of the seminary to survive to its 50th anniversary in 1858, and all those in attendance spontaneously, heartily and at length cheered and stood when he was introduced.

Following Squire’s death at age 91, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a poem dedicated to him. It asked:

Where is the patriarch time could hardly tire

The good old wrinkled immemorial ‘squire?

Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman. His email address is BillDalton@AndoverTownie.com