Among the men of strong character, who stood high in the esteem of the people of Stoughton, and was by virtue of his originality and the wishes of the people a truly representative man in many ways, must not fail to mention Martin Wales, son of Joshua Wales. He was born in East Stoughton, Feb. 22, 1802, and died March 6, 1874, aged seventy-two years. His childhood was passed on his father's farm. He had the opportunities for education given by the public schools of that period, and at an early age began to show the independence and industry so marked in his whole life by learning to make shoes. After a time he was hired by his father to butcher 'animals for the Boston market, receiving for his labor one dollar per day. He was about eighteen, and after two years service here, he engaged with Oliver Belcher, of Stoughton, as butchers of beef cattle. From this time (1822) he was connected with Stoughton. After a few months passed in working for others, he engaged in the same business for himself. Continuing this a few years, he found much of his capital absorbed in debts due him, and he began to manufacture shoes in the upper part of Holbrook's (now Swan's) store. This was in a small way, and intended only to help him out in collecting his meat bills, but the business proving profitable, and there being a good demand for his goods, he entered into co-partnership with Ira Linfield, and added bootmaking to that of shoes. This partnership did not last long, each continuing to manufacture. Mr. Wales' business increased, and became very large for those days, reaching to the Southern and Middle and Western States. For many years he continued manufacturing alone, and, in company with others, accumulated wealth. In connection therewith he conducted a mercantile business from about 1840 to 1852, when he disposed of his stock to his nephew, Nathaniel Wales, whose biography is on another page. In financial matters Mr. Wales was shrewd, cautious, and conservative, and was a valuable counselor, whose advice was often sought. He was president of the, Stoughton Boot and Shoe Company during its existence, and director and president of the North Bridgewater Bank from its organization until it ceased to do business. One of the strong characteristics of Mr. Wales was his marked love of justice. A prominent business man of Stoughton, who knew him well, says, "When he promised to do anything he would do it. His word was as good as his bond." He never sued a man during his long business life, and never wanted any trouble with any one. He was a strong Anti-Mason in the days when Masonry was a political issue, and as the leader of that principle, was elected twice representative from Stoughton in the General Court, and to all the prominent public offices of the town. At one time he held nearly every office of importance in the town. He was chairman of selectmen many years, town clerk many years, treasurer several years, to say nothing of minor trusts. With all this, he was a modest, unpretentious man, caring nothing for official honors and only accepting them as the representative of a principle. He was a kind and accommodating neighbor, a good citizen, a loving husband and father, and had a large circle of acquaintances in surrounding towns and in Boston, who enjoyed his quaint and original conversation. He married Rebekah Parker, daughter of Elisha and Jerusha (Wentworth) Parker, who was born Sept. 18, 1807. Their children were Mary R. (Mrs. Caleb H. Packard), Martin (deceased), Lucy M. (Mrs. Fisher Copeland), George, Seth, and Adelaide F., a young lady of great amiability, who married William Neale, and died Dec. 31, 1882. Her death was deeply felt by the entire community. Mr. Wales was an earnest and liberal Christian. He was in full harmony with the doctrines of the " New Church," and a large contributor to its enterprises. He gave two thousand dollars towards the erection of the church of that society in Brockton, where he held a membership, and left a legacy in its behalf of five thousand dollars. He was always ready to do his part in all matters of public interest, and was sincerely mourned by a large circle of friends.
Mrs. Wales was a worthy companion for Mr. Wales, and in advanced years, holds much of the vivacity of early life, enjoys the esteem of the best portion of the community, is endeavoring to carry out the wishes of her husband in all things, and is passing on to the twilight of life with a sincere trust in rejoining her companion of so many years on the "other side."
Source: D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men. (Philadelphia, Pa., J. W. Lewis & Co., 1884), pgs. 414-415.
Martin Wales' Monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Stoughton.
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