When I was a student at Marietta College, Fayerweather Hall was a large, brick building that held male students. Students at Marietta rarely inquired about the naming of the various buildings on campus, and I doubt if very few could say Fayerweather Hall was named for Daniel B. Fayerweather. Even if students knew the name of the man for whom the hall was named, they knew nothing about him.
Fayerweather died on Nov. 15, 1890, a time announced by the New York Tribune. He was 69 years of age. Few readers knew Fayerweather was a partner in the wholesale leather firm of Fayerweather & Ladew, located near the Brooklyn Bridge, where the leather industry was located. He had worked in New York City for 36 years, and this was one of the rare times his name was mentioned in any paper.
However, people really perked up when his will was filed in Probate Court a few weeks later, revealing the fact Fayerweather was "several times" a millionaire. It also stated he had bequeathed part of his estate to 20 various colleges and five New York hospitals.
Until that time no estate in the U.S. had donated that much money to so many schools of higher learning.
Fayerweather was one of those individuals who was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth - the family was poor. When he was a small boy, his father, a shoemaker in Stepney, Conn., died, leaving his family with no means of support. Daniel was removed from school and "bound out" by the Orphan's Court to a Connecticut farmer to serve until he could become self-supporting. Although farming was a tough assignment, Fayerweather did so well he received his freedom before the term of his apprenticeship expired.
Daniel headed for Bridgeport, Conn., where he learned the shoemaker's trade, and then returned to his native village, Stepney, and set up a shoemaker's shop.
After a number of months Fayerweather came down with an occupational disease called "shoemaker's colic." He left the shoemaker's bench and went to Norfolk, Va., where he bought a tin peddler's outfit and went west to sell his wares. He was quite successful in Charlottesville, Va., and years later when he made his will, he left $200,000 to the University of Virginia, stating the gift was for the kind treatment he had received from the Charlottesville people when he was a poor tin salesman.
From Charlottesville, he traveled over the mountains, both westward and southward, selling tin wherever he could find a buyer. Because money was scarce in that region, he often bartered his tin products for animal pelts, which he sold to tanneries.
The farther he went west, the more he saw the potential for the sale of leather in an already expanding region - harness for horses, belts for steam engines, etc. It was a market he later developed and gave him very large profits. The outdoor life as a tin peddler restored his health.
With his health restored, Fayerweather returned to Connecticut and set up a shoemaker's shop in Bridgeport City; where he made frequent buying trips for leather.
One of the wholesale leather firms, the Hoyt Brothers, one of his customers, recognized his ability for judging good and bad qualities of leather, and in 1854 offered him a clerkship. He was paid $600 per year. At the end of his first year he was given a share in the business and entered a career that brought him millions of dollars.
Fayerweather's career in the leather business with the Hoyt Brothers firm, continued through his most active years, and with the Civil War and the federal requirements for harness, cavalry saddles and other leather products brought prosperity to the firm and to Fayerweather.
When the war ended he convinced the firm to expand its trade through the states of the Central West and South. On his advice the firm acquired a number of tanneries, and so his experiences as a tin peddler, confirmed his advice to the company and immense profits were made.
One of the partners of Hoyt Brothers was Harvey Smith Ladew, whose son in 1877, succeeded his father in the company's operations. Joseph Hoyt, the principal stockholder of the firm,l retired in 1884, and the firm was renamed Fayerweather & Ladew. The firm was listed in the 1890s as having capital funds of $1,250,000.
In 1884 Fayerweather decided to establish a will, an action he followed in the presence of three close friends. He left his wife his house and lot on 57th Street, with household furniture and his stable with the horses, carriages, harnesses and other personal effects, and a legacy of $10,000 in cash, created an express trust for her benefit, with plans for an annual income of $15,000, and an income to be paid quarterly, during her life, "for her sole use and benefit, maintenance and support." He had no children.
He gave a niece, Lucy j. Beardsley, $100,000, a niece, Mary Achter, $10,000, and a third niece, Emma Fayerweather These were daughters of his deceased brother.
The will was probated three weeks after Fayerweather's death and before long lawyers for Mrs. Fayerweather claimed there were faults in the document, with the annuity insufficient for her well being. The problems continued for some time, but the three friends who originally were present for the making of the will, stated they would take no funds from the estate.
Eventually, specific gifts were made to 11 hospitals and to 21 colleges, among which was Marietta College.
The old men's dorm was torn down, and the present building, named Fayerweather Hall, was built in 1906.
It goes to show in days past people lived in very difficult times but found ways to make a living and eventually become wealthy.
No one back then demanded a part of their earnings, feeling it only fair to share the wealth with those who had worked and earned it. People of the past worked their tails off, not complaining or demanding money earned by others be shared.
Joan Pritchard is a longtime columnist for the Parkersburg News & Sentinel. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org