Key Figures: Thomas Talbot History

Governor Thomas Talbot
Wor. Bro Charles Kohlrausch
Bro. Eugene C Vining

Brother Thomas Talbot (September 7, 1818 – October 6, 1886) was the 31st Governor of Massachusetts. He was born in Cambridge, New York, and grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts, attending public school and later working there in a textile mill. In 1840, he opened a broadcloth factory with his brother, which prospered over the next twenty years. In 1861, Talbot entered politics, serving until 1864 as a Representative in the Massachusetts Legislature. He served on the Governor’s Council over the next five years and was Lieutenant Governor from 1872-1874.

In 1874, fellow Republican William Washburn resigned the Governorship to succeed Charles Sumner in the U.S. Senate. Mr. Talbot served as acting Governor, vetoing legislation to repeal Massachusetts’ prohibition law. He supported limiting laborers’ workdays to ten hours. Though Talbot retained his party’s support, he lost his bid for reelection in 1874.

Mr. Talbot was reelected in 1878 (and served until 1880.) Governor Talbot proposed an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution to provide women equal voting rights. He proposed reforms in education and the management of the Commonwealth’s prisons, creating the Commonwealth’s first Prison Commission. He cut the state’s budget, while extending legal equality and improving the state government’s operations. Talbot declined to run for reelection and retired from public life.

Brother Charles H. Kohlrausch, although born in Lowell, became a true son of Billerica and one of the town’s most loved and respected citizens. For many years Mr. Kohlrausch was president of Talbot Dyewood and Chemical Works and manager of the plant in North Billerica. He was the founder and a charter member of the Thomas Talbot Lodge (which was located above the vestry of the North Billerica Baptist Church).

Charles Kohlrausch served Billerica in various capacities acting on practically every important town committee at some time during his life. Though serving the town in numerous positions, he was best known in the capacity of moderator of the town meetings. During the fifteen years Mr. Kohlrausch held this position he gained the reputation of being one of the best parliamentarians in the county of Middlesex. In addition to the North Billerica playground which was a gift to the town by his wife, he is memorialized by the fine clock in the Selectmen’s meeting
room and by the fountain on the River Street Common.

“In the death of Charles H. Kohlrausch, the town of Billerica has lost one of its foremost and most valued citizens, a man of high ideals, whose good traits and qualities will live long and be remembered for years to come by those who knew him.” Quote from April 1912 Obituary Article.
This article was extracted from the Spring 2000 edition of The Yankee Doodle Times, newsletter of the Billerica Historical Society

Brother Eugene Conrad Vining was a teacher, a Billerica high school principal, and Superintendent of Schools. Born in Durham, Maine, on July 27, 1874, Mr. Vining spent his early childhood and young adult years in various towns including Durham, Auburn and Brunswick. He attended the Edward Little High School in Auburn, Maine and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Bowdin College in 1897 with an almost perfect undergraduate record.

Mr. Vining later studied at the Andover Theological Seminar for a year. Shortly after, he decided to pursue teaching as his life’s work. He knew Braille and taught at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in South Boston and at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H. At the Perkins Institute, he met Ellen Blanchard Ewell whom he later married in 1903. According to the plaque in the Vining Elementary School, Mr. Vining assisted Helen Keller as she prepared to take entry tests for Radcliffe University.

In 1901, Mr. Vining came to Billerica as the assistant at old Howe High School. He later became Principal and in 1915 was elected Superintendent of Schools. He held this position until he retired in 1941. While in Billerica, Mr. Vining was a member of the Thomas Talbot Lodge, A.F. & A.M. and held Master and Grand Master positions. He was also an active member of the First Congregational Church in Billerica and the Billerica Historical Society.