Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College History

Academics

1865

Laban Morey Wheaton dies

Laban Morey Wheaton died on 17 January 1865, at the age of 69. He left the use of most of his property and investments to his widow, Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton, for her lifetime.  The most valuable asset, the estate on Winter Street in Boston, was willed to the Seminary after Mrs. Wheaton’s death.

Mrs. Wheaton assumed responsibility for the Seminary, although she had no official role in its administration.  One of her first acts was to forgive a $3500 note owed by the Trustees to her late husband, even though she was in financial distress because of the effects of the Civil War on the family's business interests. In Mrs. Wheaton's biography, Julia Osgood, a student in the 1860s wrote,

Mrs. Wheaton...for seventy years worked out plans for the welfare of the school, gave it her love, her intellect, her fortune. In my period she was not personally known to the pupils till they became seniors and passed on into the Alumnae. Years later I realized that with full power to help or hinder, in the ultimate analysis, Mrs. Wheaton had always been the force that advanced the school. She it was who guided and upheld the able lieutenants in the field. In final results, the Seminary was what Mrs. Wheaton willed it to be.

For many years she was in closest contact with the beloved institution, hearing daily from the principal and head assistant every detail of life and work at the Seminary. So close was Mrs. Wheaton's union with these beloved instruments of her bounty that she could not bear the long separation entailed by the summer vacation, but made Miss Stanton and Miss Pike her guests during hot weather, season after season, at the Isles of Shoals, where she spent her days planning for and brooding over the future of the Seminary.

[Harriet E. Paine, Life of Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1907, p. 166-167]

As her husband's executrix, Mrs. Wheaton sold outright or at auction many of the mills, stores and factories in which Laban Morey Wheaton had invested.  She concentrated her business acumen on investments in transportation, commodities, and rental properties.  Mrs. Wheaton would prove herself an able "entrepreneur", as she described herself on a later census.

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