By Frank D. Myers, All rights reserved.
This poor-quality photo, lifted from an 1890s group shot, shows Deming Jarves Thayer and his wife, Jessie (Mallory) Thayer.
Deming Jarves Thayer, who by marriage became the fourth member of Chariton’s tightly-knit Mallory family, remains its most enigmatic figure.
He was born Oct. 3, 1852, on Cape Cod to Harlow Hooker Thayer and his wife, nee Mary P. Nye, according to William Ogden Wheeler’s massive “The Ogden Family in America,” published in Philadelphia in 1907. Annie (Ogden) Mallory’s lineage was included in this volume and it seems likely that either she or Jessie provided the information about Deming that appears on page 399.
Harlow Thayer, although well connected, was not a prominent man, so records of him are scarce and scattered. But George Adams’ “The Massachusetts Business Directory for the Year 1856,” published in Boston, does list Harlow H. Thayer as a lumber dealer in Sandwich in that year, when Deming would have been 4 years old.
Harlow had been named after an uncle, Harlow Hooker, married to Betsey Thayer. Harlow's parents were Solomon Alden Thayer, Betsey’s brother, and Abby (Stutson) Thayer. As might be expected, Solomon Alden Thayer was descended from John Alden.
Abby (Stutson) Thayer was widowed quite young and seems to have bounced around a bit, although she never remarried. Fortunately for the Thayer fortunes, her sister, Anna Smith Stutson, married well --- to Deming Jarves, the source of Deming Jarves Thayer’s name.
Deming Jarves, a wealthy Boston resident and former agent of the New England Glass Co., founded the Boston & Sandwich Glass Co. at Sandwich with two partners in 1825. The operation he developed there as principal owner and manager became known worldwide for its pressed-glass innovations and the quality of its products. It also became widely known for its benign treatment of company craftsmen and their families.
Perhaps at the behest of Anna (Stutson) Jarves, several members of her family came to Sandwich to live and/or work, including her sister, Abby Thayer, and nephew, Harlow Hooker Thayer. The lumber operation Harlow acquired and operated had been founded by Deming Jarves as part of the Sandwich glass operation.
So it must have seemed honorable (and perhaps useful) to Harlow H. and Mary Thayer to name their firstborn in honor of his great-uncle in 1852.
Online tombstone inscriptions from Sandwich Mount Hope Cemetery show that Mary P. Thayer, wife of Harlow H. and mother of Deming, died June 28, 1859, at the age of 34, when Deming was 6 years old.
That death probably caused Harlow to break up his home at Sandwich and move to Boston, where he was enumerated in the 1860 census at age 35 as a coal weigher living at the Tri-Mountain House hotel. I have found no sign of Deming in the 1860 census, but it seems likely he was living with relatives.
Harlow’s mother and Deming’s Grandmother, Abby S. Thayer, was living as a boarder in Sandwhich when the 1860 census was taken, then died seven years later and was buried, too, in Mount Hope.
There are some indications that Harlow Thayer remarried as his second wife a woman named Susan, had two additional children, Ephraim H. and Josephine, and lived in Boston until his death during 1892. His professions as listed in various census and city directory entries range from surveyor to horse car operator. The degree of his involvement in the life of his son, Deming, is unknown.
By 1865, when Deming enrolled at age 13 in the Lawrence Academy, his residence was given as Groton, where the academy is located. The duration of his time as a student there isn’t known, but he probably graduated four years later. His obituary identifies him as a graduate of “Girton Academy,” most likely intended to be Lawrence Academy at Groton.
In the fall of 1869, Deming enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then located in Boston. He seems to have spent the academic year 1869-70 there.
During 1870, Deming applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., but apparently was not admitted. It seems likely that he began working then as a civil engineer.
Deming’s 1898 obituary states that early in his career he “was connected with engineering work in the building of some of the branches of the Burlington road,” suggesting that he came west to work in Illinois or Iowa or both. It is entirely possible the he first encountered Smith H. Mallory at that time.
His next appearance in public records, however, is in Central and South America as a full-fledged civil engineer during the later 1870s.
During November of 1877, age 25, he was identified by Francisco Javier Cisneros, a civil engineer, Latin America railroad pioneer and Cuban revolutionary, as his assistant on the Colombian Cauca Railway project.
That daring 85-mile project was designed to connect Buenaventura, Colombia, on the Pacific coast, with the inland Cauca River valley. Work on the project began in 1878 with Deming as resident engineer on the first section of the line, from Buenaventura to Juntas.
Deming may have joined the staff of the exiled Cuban some years earlier in the United States, where Cisneros had opened an engineering firm after permanent exile from his homeland.
Extant arrival records for the Port of New York show that Deming landed there on the ship Colon from Aspinwall, Panama, on the 18th of October 1876, perhaps returning to the United States between projects.
Another arrival in New York from Panama, this time aboard the City of Para, occurred on Oct. 18, 1882.
Deming was carried from 1881-83 in congressional records as a commercial agent attached to the U.S. Consulate in Buenaventura, suggesting that his employment on Colombian projects lasted several years, perhaps from the mid-1870s until 1883.
Beginning in late 1883 and continuing into 1884, Deming was working as an engineer for James B. Eads' Tehuantepec Ship Railway project, a proposed alternative to the Panama Canal that would have moved fully loaded ships from Atlantic to Pacific oceans by rail. From January until July of 1884, he supervised field engineering crews along the proposed route.
But about 1885, Deming returned for good to the United States, highly qualified to rejoin the rush to build new rail lines westward from the Missouri River and beyond.