Phinehas J. Bailey was born in Landaff, New Hampshire, on the 6th of November, 1787, the fourteenth of seventeen children born to Asa and Abigail (Abbott) Bailey.1 Two of his closest siblings died in infancy, but Phinehas survived to live a long and interesting---but grindingly hard---life. He became successively, a clockmaker, jeweller, silversmith, travelling tinker, teacher, printer, and minister. His crowning secular achievements were in his short-lived career as a clockmaker, jeweller and silversmith, and in his development and publication of a novel and extremely useful phonetic shorthand system which he called 'Phonography'. To his chagrin, a better-financed and -advertised system from England eventually became the standard of stenography schools. He served as a minister in Vermont and New York churches from 1823 until 1860. Phinehas Bailey died on the 14th of December, 1861, and lies buried next to his second wife in a small cemetery in East Berkshire, Vermont.
1. His mother spells his name Phinehas in her memoirs; Phineas and his daughters always spell his name without the second "h."
Phinehas' father, Major Asa Bailey, was remembered in his fourteenth child's Memoirs as of "a violent and cruel temper".2 After his 1767 marriage to Abigail Abbot in Haverhill, New Hampshire, the Major moved up the Connecticut and Ammonoosuc Rivers to Bath, and finally settled in Landaff. He accumulated a fortune in land, and supported his family in relative physical comfort. Regardless that Asa was considered to be "a man of superior intellect, perseverance and energy", several times elected Town Selectman, and awarded a commission in the 25th New Hampshire Regiment, his wife left him because of his brutality---a brutality which included wife beating, incest with his third oldest daughter, blatant infidelity with a hired woman, and the attempted rape of another hired woman. Phinehas wrote in his Memoirs , "Probably no two were ever more unequally yoked than they", and of his mother noted; "...[she] was generous and kind in all her deportment."3 Major Bailey made the separation as difficult as he possibly could. He exchanged his farm in Landaff for one belonging to his brother in Bradford, Vermont, and evidently forged Abigail's signature on the deed. He then convinced her to accompany him to a frontier farm he owned in Unadilla, New York, (now known as Unadilla Forks, about 15 miles south of present-day Utica) under the pretext of selling the farm, the proceeds from which were to be her settlement in the separation. It quickly developed that his actual intent was to reassemble his family in New York, under whose laws Abigail could not have sued for divorce, and there reassert his somewhat less than benign authority. He abandoned her---"with less than a dollar, sick with small-pox"---in Unadilla and returned to Bradford with the intent of retrieving the rest of his family. Abigail recovered and somehow made a solitary two month, 250-mile journey home, and was reunited with her children at the eleventh hour---they were already on their way to New York when their wagon was stopped in Thetford, Vermont. Her husband's behavior was such that he was eventually locked up in Haverhill, New Hampshire, and Abigail successfully sued for divorce. The Major eventually won his freedom by giving his wife $600 from the sale of his farm, as well as his promise that he would never return to the upper reaches of the Connecticut River Valley. 4
The six hundred dollars melted away rather quickly, and Mrs. Bailey reluctantly sent all but two of her children to live with relatives and friends. Phinehas, at the age of five, was fostered out (in 1792) with his recently married oldest sister Abigail, in Bath, New Hampshire, about three miles away to the west, where he spent the next year or so exploring his new home, and "swimming and picking berries." His brother-in-law, Stephen Bartlett, was a schoolteacher who treated the boy as his own, and made sure he learned his 'three R's', until he himself abandoned teaching for storekeeping and farming. Phinehas left his schoolwork after three years simply because he didn't care for the teachers who followed his brother-in-law, and spent his spare time avoiding chores by dragging his feet when sent on an errand, and by sneaking into his uncle's workshop, where he made "sleds, carts, crossbows, windmills, and almost every other mechanical enterprise", establishing a base on which he was to later build his clockmaking skills.
2. From Phinehas Bailey's Memoirs held by the Bennington Museum, (?hereafter PB--BM.)
4. Reverend Ethan Smith of Hopkinton, New Hampshire, who edited Mrs. Bailey's memoirs, appended the following note: "Major Bailey returned to New York where his credit sunk and he became wretched. In December, 1793, he found and married a vile widow---a turbulent being---who in some degree repaid his cruelities to a better companion...rumors have him to be in extreme poverty, and disgrace---to have become a Methodist preacher..." the last being a pejorative of the worst sort from a Congregationalist minister. Ms. Taves adds this note: "Methodist preachers probably did not appear in New Hampshire until the 1790s. Congregationalist clergy typically looked down on [them] because...they were theologically unorthodox and...typically uneducated."
At the age of fourteen, Phinehas was apprenticed to John Osgood, "a clockmaker, silversmith, and jeweller" in Haverhill, New Hampshire. Osgood worked in Haverhill from 1793 to 1840, making clocks and jewelry, repairing watches, and working in silver just a few miles south of Bath on the Connecticut River. (It is worthy of note that there are several Osgood clocks still in Haverhill---after 200 years, a maker's clocks are usually dispersed over the entire country.) It was in Haverhill that Bailey first felt the religious stirrings---and set his personal goal of becoming a minister---which were to dominate his life in the years to come. After completing his apprenticeship in November, 1809, at the age of 21, he found work as a journeyman clockmaker in Hanover, New Hampshire, with Jedidiah Baldwin, clock- and watchmaker, silversmith, storekeeper, and postmaster.
1809/Mar. 6 Mr. Phineas Bailey Dr To cash pd Jerh Hill 1 .14 (marked "paid")
1809/Apr 19 Phineas Bailey To cash Dr 1 .00 (marked "paid")
1809/Apr 28 Phineas Bailey Dr To cash .25 (marked "paid")
1809/Apr 30 Phineas Bailey .10 To postage to Chelsea (marked "paid")
Figure 2. Baldwin's 'Tinkering & Postage Account Book' (1806-1811) entries pertaining to Bailey. Dr means "debtor." The Jeremiah Hill mentioned in the first entry was a journeyman silversmith working for Baldwin in 1809.
Baldwin's Ledger entries (1806-1811) do not mention Bailey in the same manner as were his other journeymen, perhaps because of Bailey's extremely short term of employment in Hanover---from November to May of the next year.
Regardless, the following appears in Bailey's Memoirs: "November, 1808. I had arrived at the age of 21, had finished my apprenticeship with Mr. Osgood, and begun to look out for myself. I went to Hanover, New Hampshire, and worked the following winter for Mr. Baldwin in making clocks. Mr. Baldwin, although a Methodist preacher, was not a very honest and upright man (See Footnote 4). He gave but little evidence of piety, but he always treated me well. The circle of my acquaintance in that place were abandonly (sic) wicked.
There was a respectable Congregational church in the place, but as I was a Methodist and lived in such a [Methodist] family, I found no intercourse with respectable people. ...I found it [the shop] to be a good school." 5 This interlude as a journeyman in the company of the wicked and dishonest lasted only seven months, and in May of 1809 Phinehas moved to Chelsea, Vermont, about 20 miles to the northwest across the Connecticut River.
5. From Phinehas Bailey's Memoirs held by the Vermont Historical Society (hereafter PB‹VHS).
Phinehas went to Chelsea "[because I had] learned that there was one Nathan Hale6 who formerly worked at the clock business who had some tools to sell". Bailey struck a bargain with Hale in a partnership wherein Hale would provide the shop and the tools and stock, and he would make clocks "by the halves".
Figure 3. Baldwin's Ledger (1806-1811) has but a single entry regarding Bailey: May 7, 1809 Mr. Phineas Bailey, Clockmaker To cast steel, 17 cts. with a "Cr" (credit) entry in the "Contra" column.
Nathan Hale, originally of Rindge, New Hampshire, had moved to Chelsea about 18077 and became a rather wealthy storekeeper, innkeeper and tavernkeeper. He has variously been said to have learned clockmaking from Stephen Hasham8 of Charlestown, New Hampshire, or from the Hutchins brothers, Levi and Abel, in Concord, New Hampshire.9 Other known Chelsea clockmakers are Jeremiah Dewey, c. 1824-30, and Orsamus Roman Fyler, c. 1831-33. The latter is very likely the mysterious "experienced WOODEN CLOCK maker, from Connecticut", mentioned in an advertisement by Hale in June of 1830, as Fyler is recorded in Chelsea and Bradford at that time.10 There are no entries in Baldwin's account books or ledgers mentioning Hale.
Chelsea suited Phinehas very well. The Chelsea Congregational Church provided a suitable social framework, and he very soon dropped his adherence to Methodist tenets and joined the Congregationalists. His defection may have been due (although he claimed otherwise) to his infatuation with a young lady described to him as one of the "likeliest" in town (who also sang in the [Congregational] church choir). It took Phinehas six months of visiting her family to get up the courage to even speak to Janette, the 19-year-old daughter of John and Margaret McArthur. He must have
eventually gotten over his shyness---six months later, in August of 1810, they were married. He achieved early success in his clockmaking partnership, and confident of continued success, the couple purchased a house for $700, and within six years added two small Baileys to the household.
7.Various local histories aver that Hale was in Chelsea before 1800, however the 1800 census places Hale in Windsor, Vermont; there is no listing for Hale in 1810, and in 1820 lists him as in Chelsea. The 1810 census places his brother Harry in Topsham, Vermont.
8. Both Parsons and Carlisle, (see Bibliography) claim Hale apprenticed with Hasham. Thomas Hale, the keynote speaker at the 1884 Centennial Celebration in Chelsea, made the same claim, the evident basis for the statements made by both Parsons and Carlisle. Thomas was Harry (Nathan's brother) Hale's son.
9. Mr. Edwin A. Battison (pers. com.) leans toward the perception that Hale's work resembles that of the Hutchins "school" to a greater degree than it does Hasham's. Lather research casts doubt on this perception---Hale is considered to be an 'assembler' of clocks, in that he purchased various parts, and assembled his clocks, rather than making the movement himself.
10. George H. Eckhardt, United States Clock and Watch Patents, 1790 - 1890. The Record of a Century of American Horology and Enterprise.
It is curious to note that Bailey kept rather careful records of his own genealogy, and similarly careful records of his first wife, but neglects to note the births (and early) deaths of all but two of his own children, nor does he record their names, except in passing in his memoirs. He carefully records the dates of his three marriages, and the dates of the deaths of his first two wives. His first child, a daughter named Cyrena, drowned (without mention) at the age of 2 in the First Branch of the White River, which ran just behind his shop in Chelsea.11 He had at least 10 children, seven daughters and three sons. Two of his sons died early, as did two of his daughters. .
By 1816, the flood of cheap wooden clocks (probably from Eli Terry and his imitators) had begun to flow northward from Connecticut, and Bailey's market for brass clocks collapsed. He may have considered wooden clocks with the same distaste displayed by a Pennsylvania clockmaker who advertised in 1815: "Mr. Simon Chilicothe advertises clock and watch making and repairing...the Yankee wooden works excepted, which can only be mended by carpenters and cleaned by fire."12 His personal claim in later years was that he was the "last brass clockmaker in New England" when he quit the business in 1816.13 Nearly penniless, he took to the road with a small pushcart as a travelling repairman, fixing clocks, watches, pots and pans, and anything else that came his way, and managed to support his family, even though his charges were "extremely modest." To fend off boredom on his long trips around Vermont and across the Connecticut River to New Hampshire, he would read borrowed books---he couldn't afford to buy his own. One of these books was a small pamphlet on shorthand---Mangan's System of Stenography---a subject he found fascinating, and one he quickly mastered. He incorporated some improvements of his own, and added teaching shorthand to his long list of talents for hire. The pushcart was soon left at home as Bailey began teaching ministers, teachers, businessmen, and students his shorthand method full-time, earning as much as $100 a month---and to his delight found himself in the "...company of learned and pious men" who would further his education. Incidentally, this monthly sum of money was nearly as much as he was actually paid each year in his later career as a minister.
11. From "A Father's Legacy," typewritten (transcriptionist inknown), a highly edited biography of Bailey by his oldest daughter, Mrs. Louisa M. Whitney: Vermont Historical Society Archives.
12. James Biser Whisker, Pennsylvania Clockmakers. Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts.
Still determined to become a minister, he studied theology and its ancillary subjects in his spare time---even to the extent of spending some time as an unregistered student at Middlebury College---reading the rhetoric, logic, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin which were a part of the standard theological curriculum of the day. He trained his two sons in his (phonetic) shorthand method, which he called "Phonography," and had them take down the sermons of the Reverend Calvin Noble in Chelsea. Over the years he collected several hundred sermons in this fashion, and later wrote over 2,500 of his own.
After the Orange [County] Association of the Congregational church granted him his license to preach in 1823, this self-educated clockmaker/minister took charge of a church in Richmond, Vermont, and four months later moved to a church in Berkshire, off in the northwest corner of Vermont, just a few miles from the Canadian border. In 1827, at the "rum-raising" of the frame of the parsonage, two drunken workmen dropped a beam which just missed his head and crushed his foot, "nearly severing several toes." As a result of this accident, Bailey began to push the cause of temperance. (His reasoning is not to be faulted!)
BAILEY, Chris L., Two Hundred Years of American Clocks and Watches: Prentice- Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. 1975.
BALDWIN, Jedediah, Account Books and Ledgers, 1793-1811: Special Collections of Baker Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.
___, Papers‹1794-1810., Handwritten Mss.; Receipts, Bills, Letters, Summons; &tc. Special Collections of Baker Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.
BULLETIN of the NAWCC, #85, Pg. 251; #119; Pg. 40; #144, Pg. 143; #187, Pg. 427; #211, Pg. 463; #227, Pg. 703, & Pg. 741; #238, Pg. 607; #245, Pg. 488; #246, Pg. 46; #247, Pg. 126; #248, Pg. 215; #249, Pg 312; #250, Pg. 380; #251, pg. 463; #261, Pg. 346; #289, pg. 219; #293, Pg. 723. # 294, Pg. 219. Various references to Bailey, Baldwin, Dewey, Fyler, Hale, Hasham, and Osgood.
CARLISLE, Lillian Baker, Vermont Clock and Watchmakers, Silversmiths, and Jewelers, 1778-1878: The Stinehour Press, Lunenburg, Vermont. 1970.
CHELSEA Centennial: Chelsea (Vermont) Centennial Committee: proceedings of the centennial celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the settlement of Chelsea, Vermont, together with the Orange County Veteran Soldier's reunion, September 4, 1884: Sentinel Printing Company, Keene, New Hampshire. 1884.
CHELSEA Town Records, Book 7, Pg. 470.
CURRIER, Stanley P. and CLEMENT, Edgar T., History of Landaff, New Hampshire. Currier Printing Company, Incorporated, Littleton, New Hampshire. 1966.
GILMAN, Marcus Davis, 1820-1880. The Bibliography of Vermont; or, A list of books and pamphlets relating in any way to the state. Printed by the Free Press Association, Burlington, Vermont. 1897.
GILMAN, W. S., Committee Chairman for the Chelsea Historical Society. Chelsea, Vermont, 1784-1984, Shire Town. Northlight Studio Press, Barre, Vermont. 1984.
HOPKINS, Persis Lorette. "A sketch of her father, Phinehas Bailey." Bibliography of Vermont. Published in Gilman (supra). Printed by the Free Press Association, Burlington, Vermont. 1897.
KERN, Charles W., God, grace, and granite : the history of methodism in New Hampshire, 1768-1988. Published for the New Hampshire United Methodist Conference by Phoenix Pub. Canaan, N.H. 1988
LEE, John Parker, Uncommon Vermont: The Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont. 1926.
LORD, John King, A History of the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire: Printed for the town of Hanover by the Dartmouth Press, 1928.
MARSHALL, Jeffry D. "Occasional paper Number 9: The life and Legacy of the Reverend Phinehas Bailey." Center for Research on Vermont, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, 1985.
MEMOIRS of Rev. Phinehas Bailey, written by himself. Incomplete 55 page typescript transcribed 1902 by Louisa Bailey (Mrs. Joel F.) Whitney. Courtesy the Vermont Historical Society.
MEMOIRS of Rev. Phinehas Bailey, written by himself. These five pages were evidently edited out of the Vermont Historical Society typescript (perhaps in an effort to remove the family's domestic difficulties from the public eye) and are found in this typescript (transcriptionist unknown) held in the collections of the Bennington Museum. Courtesy the Bennington Museum.
NEW HAMPSHIRE PATRIOT [Concord, New Hampshire], 8 January, 1811. New Hampshire Historical Society Collections.
PARSONS, Charles S., New Hampshire Clocks and Clockmakers: Adams-Brown Co., Exeter, New Hampshire. 1976.
TAVES, Ann, Ed., Religion and domestic violence in early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey: Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana. 1989.
TREVELYAN, George Macaulay, History of England: Doubleday & Co. Garden City, New York. 1953
WHITCHER, Rev. William F., History of the Town of Haverhill, New Hampshire.
Rumford Press, Concord, New Hampshire. 1919.
WHISKER, James Biser, Pennsylvania Clockmakers, Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts: Adams Brown Company, Cranbury, New Jersey. 1990.
WHITNEY, Louisa M. (Bailey), A Father's Legacy: unpublished typescript (transcriptionist and date of transcription unknown) manuscript. An uncritical, and highly edited biographical treatment of Phinehas Bailey. Courtesy the Vermont Historical Society.
ZEA, Philip, Clockmaking and Society at the River and the Bay‹Jedidiah and Jabez Baldwin, 1790-1820: Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife. Annual proceedings. Boston University: Boston. 1981.
___, To making one of Saturn's moons: Jedidiah Baldwin and the Urbanization of the Upper Connecticut River Valley, 1793-1811. Typed manuscript in the Special Collections of Baker Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. 1979.
Very special thanks to the late Dr, Allan L. King, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Curator for Historical Scientific Apparatus, Curator of the Dr. Hugh Grant Rowell Clock Collection at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, for his inspirition, encouragement and assistance in research.
To Phillip Zea for permission to quote portions of his research on Jedidiah Baldwin, and to Kim King Zea for her help in locating various archival documents.