“He was the center of a great commotion…”

William Cothren, Woodbury’s 19th century historian, tells the following story about Mr. Bacon in his  History of Ancient Woodbury (1854) :

“Jabez in early life exhibited the qualities that afterwards secured his great prosperity. He was first apprenticed to a tanner and currier,- there is no evidence, however, that he continued at this vocation beyond his apprenticeship, but he early betook himself to the business of selling needles, pins, tapes, &tc., &tc.- in short, all the paraphernalia of a pedlar’s box, from which, by his indomitable perseverance and business ability, he soon stepped into a lucrative position, and became the very first man in business, mercantile credit and wealth, in this section of the state.

“As a man he was one to make an impression on every one that came near him. The energy of the man was amazing, and, this directing all his powers to the single business of accumulation, wealth flowed into his coffers on every side. He was for years the sole merchant of this town and all the neighboring towns; and so large at times was his stock in trade, that, it is credibly reported, merchants from New Haven sometimes visited Woodbury, and purchased from Jabez Bacon goods to retail afterwards in that city.

“His ways of doing business was often rash, apparently, and seemingly no safe rule for others. An aged merchant of New York told the writer of this many years ago, that he (Mr. Bacon) would sometimes visit his store, make him a bid for a whole tier of shelf goods from floor to ceiling, amounting in value to thousands of dollars, and have the whole boxed and shipped in an hour to the sloop at the foot of Peck Slip bound for Derby. His vast wealth also, together with his business skill, sometimes gave him the command of the New York market so that, to a degree moderns can hardly credit, he could, with a turn of his hand, “put the screws” on an article, and make its price in the great metropolis rise and fall like a barometer. An anecdote, and unquestionable fact, illustrates this. He was a larger dealer in pork, this being the “circulating medium”, it would seem, for this region, judging from the vast quantities of it that found their way to “the old red store in the hollow”, as it was called, thence down to the “Darby Narrors,” where it was shipped to New York. The old gentleman had once shipped an exceedingly fine lot of this article for the city, but when he arrived there he found his purchasers indisposed to his price, as two immense ship loads were that day expected from Maine. The old gentleman merely set his teeth firm, an ominous trick of his in a bargain, and left the store. He instantly took a horse, rod some six miles up the East River shore, to about what is now Blackwell’s Island, boarded the sloops as they came along, and purchased every pound of their cargoes, staking his whole fortune for it. This at that day put the whole New York market in his hands, and tradition says he cleared forty thousand dollars by this single operation.

“…it was as a business man where he deserves to be noted where he deserves signal mention for posterity. He was the center of a great commotion; the main-spring of a mighty watch, such as we in this day almost consider apocryphal; and with him has passed away a businss era, such as shall not soon be seen in this valley again.

“the old store, in which his vast wealth was accumulated, still stands. And if a man has nothing else to do, it may be instructive to pass into it, look up at its old beams, its huge, old fashioned door, and wind through its passages up and down, thinking of the great past that once existed there, and feel it impressed on his whole nature – “what shadows we all shall be.”‘


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