Biography of Horace Williams Tinkham

After an outstanding career in the industrial field of Rhode Island for a quarter of a century, where he came to be one of the leading manufacturers in the State, Horace Williams Tinkham, of Warren, abandoned that occupation and engaged in agriculture. The wonderful versatility of his mental endowments was here displayed, for he quickly became an authority and for the twenty-seven years preceding his death he was even more prominent in his latter occupation than he had been in manufacturing. He made of farming an exact science and, frequently operating on lines in direct opposition to long custom, illustrated the possibility of a rare productivity beyond what had ever been accomplished under the old fashioned methods that had been handed down from Colonial times. He made a desert to blossom like the rose and he raised valuable crops where others had insisted it were useless to labor. He was of very strong mind and boundless enthusiasm, was a convincing talker and proved his assertions and claims by the results of his own experiments. He had a host of friends and throughout the whole State in rural circles he was affectionately known as “Uncle Horace.”

Born in Middleboro, Massachusetts, December 29, 1858, he was a son of Andrew L. and Dorothy (King) Tinkham. He was educated in the public schools there and in his youth became associated with the mill industry. This took him to Fall River, where he became superintendent of the Durfee Mills and later superintendent of the Laurel Lake Mills. He was also treasurer of the Fall River Manufacturing Company and of the old Robeson Mills, later operating under the name of the Luther Manufacturing Company. For twenty-five years he successfully functioned in the offices noted, then retiring on account of ill health he began the study of agriculture in which he was destined to attain wide fame. He bought a farm at Touisset, which he cultivated and where he lived for the remainder of his life, some twenty-seven years. He was a leader in the organization of the Farmers’ Cooperative Exchange and promoted the Farmers’ Market, of which he was a trustee. He was a director-at-large of the New England Milk Producing Association. He made it his business to study the farms of New England and is credited with a better knowledge of them and their general conditions than any other individual of his day. He was an authority on production and could tell at a moment’s notice whether any selected farm was producing to the full of its possibilities in quantity and quality. He was one of the first appraisers for the Federal Land Bank, in which office he served for ten years, his territory covering all of Rhode Island and Southern New England. He was officially connected with many agricultural organizations and movements and in 1922, at the request of President Harding, represented Rhode Island at the Agricultural Conference held in Washington, District of Columbia. He served on the State Commission of Agriculture, was chairman of the Warren Road Commission and was deeply interested in town welfare. He was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, affiliated with King Philip Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons; the Chapter, Royal Arch Masons; Godfrey De Bouillon Commandery, Knights Templar, and other bodies within the organization. He died January 5, 1929.

Horace Williams Tinkham married, June 14, 1882, Mary E. Slade, of Fall River, Massachusetts. Their children were:

  1. George K., a successful farmer and successor to his father as appraiser of the Federal Land Bank; married Effie Mae Cole, daughter of William and Sarah Cole, of Swansea, Massachusetts, and they are the parents of, Corrella M., Mabel C., and Henry B.
  2. Marion, principal of the George T. Baker School at Barrington, Rhode Island.
  3. Corrella, married Porter R. Taylor, son of Dr. William A. Taylor, chief of the Bureau of Plants at Washington, District of Columbia. Mr. Taylor is now connected with the Federal Farm Board of Washington, District of Columbia. Their children are: Hugh A., and Porter R., Jr.

It is generally conceded by the farmers of Rhode Island that the turn of fate that transferred the abilities of Mr. Tinkham from manufacturing to agriculture was one of the finest things that ever happened in the agriculture history of the State. It seems that he was predestined to do the work in which he made such a distinct success and his influence will be felt for years to come, for he surely made two blades of grass to grow where one grew before and in accomplishing this was a benefactor of priceless value.

Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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