Benjamin Alford was engaged in the West Indies trade and a large dealer in ivory, making many trade voyages from New York to the islands. On one of his return voyages he landed in Savannah, Georgia, to attend a sale of ivory. His brother, Will, was a merchant there. Sadly, as was the reality of the early 19th century, Benjamin contracted yellow fever while in Savannah, and after a short illness, died of the disease.
Benjamin, born in Newburyport, was the son of William Alford of that city and Lydia Fellows of Ipswich. Benjamin first lived in West Springfield, before making his home in Westfield with his wife Elizabeth Chapin, a descendant of Deacon Samuel Chapin, a founder of Springfield, Massachusetts. With her, he would have 5 children, but only three that would survive beyond infancy, and only the two brothers, John B. and Samuel Dwight, would live to adulthood.
Samuel was eleven years old when his father died in Savannah. He remained at home with his mother and elder brother, assisting with the work on the homestead farm until he was sixteen years old. At that time, young Samuel went to Hartford, Conn., where he served an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker, at which trade he worked in Connecticut and New York, particularly Batavia and Lansingburg, until 1832. It was in the latter that he would marry the first of his two wives, Miss Sally Willard, in 1825. Sally died in 1828, after bearing two children, Benjamin and Roxana (who died in infancy). With her passing, Samuel committed the care of Benjamin to his grandmother, who resided in Westfield, Massachusetts.
Samuel then engaged in the sale of clocks, traveling with his wagon as far north as Montreal, Canada. His business soon became so prosperous that he placed a number of traveling salesmen on the road, and he continued at this line of work until he formed a mercantile association with Almon Smith and Lucius Wheeler at Berkshire Center, Vermont. He retired from the firm in 1840, and removed to West Haven, Vermont, where he was in business for two years, subsequently removing to Fairfax, where he established himself in business, and continued to reside there until his decease. In 1865 Mr. Alfred retired, transferring his business to his son, John B. Alfred.
Mr. Samuel Alfred was a very strict man. In business his goods were all marked, and he never varied from the price. The youngest child could be sent to his store and was sure to get the goods as cheaply as the parents could. Said one who served a three years’ apprenticeship in the mercantile business with Samuel: “When boys we used to think that Mr. Alfred was an awful mean man to work for. But I now know that the three years I lived with him were worth more to me than all the rest of my schooling. I feel that to Mr. Alfred I am indebted for all I am.” Every apprentice who served with him has turned out a successful business man.
Mr. Alfred knew the value of good credit. In 1857, when everybody was failing, his oldest son was in business in Illinois. In the fall he wrote that he would not come East, as he could not meet his bills. Mr. Alfred wrote his son to send on a list of goods that he wanted, with what money he could raise. He then went to his own creditors in New York, secured an extension, which was readily granted, after buying what goods he wanted. He then went to his sons creditors, paid his bills and ordered his goods, thus giving his son a high rating, which he always maintained. It was a great wonder to the New York merchants how a western man could meet his bills, and they never knew how it was done.
When an effort was undertaken to procure Newhampton Institution and move it from Newhampton, New Hampshire, to Fairfax, Vermont, Samuel was one of the prime movers and donors. For many years after its removal he gave largely of his means and time to its support. It was one of the leading schools of that time.
On November 25, 1832, Samuel married his second wife Miss Polly Smith for Fairfield, Vermont. The couple would have 10 children, including Almon Smith Alfred.
Like his father before him, Almon was a merchant and salesman and entered the paper manufacturing business at an early age. He was a part of several stationary companies, and traveled the country and even beyond its borders.
“For twenty-five years I have made two trips each year from New York to the Pacific Coast. I can remember distinctly when I used to come to Grand Central here in Omaha and the managers would supply me with wines to quench my third until we got out of the Alkali District.
“On my first trips I carried a trunk containing samples and personal effects altogether weighing sixty pounds. Now I have a separate trunk for my clothing and 80 pounds of of samples…yes, fifty-two round trips from New York to California makes a traveler out of a man and I find no state more pleasant to travel in than Nebraska.”
For several years he was the personal representative in the United States and foreign countries of one of the largest paper manufacturing concerns in the industry, and one of the most widely known paper manufacturers and salesmen on the Pacific Coast.
He made his home in Brooklyn, New York, where he met one Lucy Appleton Ives, the daughter of Dr. John Hall Ives. Their marriage would bring them three son and four daughters. He was in Los Angeles annually in the winter months for twenty years, and with each coming his enjoyment increased. He even brought his daughter with him.
“There is a particular charm to the Southwest which grows each time I come here,” said Mr. Alfred. “It has grown to such proportion that I shall soon retire and come here to make it a permanent home. To me there has been nothing so wonderful in the entire United States as the growth of this city. On each succeeding visit I have been forced to marvel at the building developments. Years ago we looked upon Los Angeles as more or less of a joke, but I am afraid that the joke is all on the doubters.”
One of his daughters, Helen, though she never married, became well known for her advocacy. She would become Secretary of the National Public Housing Conference, having studied as the University of Southern California, Columbia University, London School of Economics, and the New York School of Social Work. She was even a candidate for State Assembly in New Jersey as a member of the Socialist Party.
His son Clarence, originally employed by National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), would become manager of the production division of the American Sugar Refining Company in New York, better known as Domino Sugar. He had several patents to his name, including “a container of novel construction” for easy shipment and another “readily opened for discharge of the contents.”
He would marry Elizabeth Gilbert in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in 1907, and have two daughters, Jean and Marion.