Biography of William Babbitt Westcott

Excepting only the first sixteen years of his life and some four years of military service during the Civil War, the late William B. Westcott spent his entire life in Providence. For many years he was widely known there as the president of one of the largest and most successful paint and hardware firms. He enjoyed a very high reputation for probity, was prominently active for many years in religious work and was a member of several patriotic, military, and fraternal organizations. In every respect he was regarded as one of the representative and substantial business men of Rhode Island’s capital.

William B. Westcott was born at Pawtuxet, Cranston, March 16, 1841, a son of Harley and Laura (Sheldon) Westcott. He received his education in the public schools of his native city, whence he removed to Providence, in 1857, at the age of sixteen years. Here he entered the employ of Thomas Merriweather, well known Providence grocer, with whom he continued until the Civil War. On December 2, 1861, Mr. Westcott enlisted in Battery G, 1st Regiment, Rhode Island Light Artillery. He served until June 12, 1865, being promoted through the various ranks and serving successively as second lieutenant of Battery H and as first lieutenant of Battery B, with which latter rank he was mustered out. Upon his return to civilian life he came back to Providence and entered the employ of Oliver Johnson, a prominent dealer in drugs, paints and similar materials. He continued in Mr. Johnson’s employ for thirty-three years until 1893, when he organized, together with Howard R. Slade and Albert E. Balcolm, the firm’s of Westcott, Slade & Balcolm. Mr. Westcott was elected president and served in that capacity until his death in 1912. The firm quickly made for itself an enviable position as a reliable concern handling paints, hardware and similar products. Much of its success was due to Mr. Westcott, who possessed an exceptionally thorough knowledge of all branches of the business and, as the result of his long business experience, was widely known in the business world. Though the major share of his time and attention was devoted to the management and development of this enterprise, Mr. Westcott, for many years, was very active in religious work. He was a member of the Church of the Mediator, of which he was a deacon and trustee. He was a member of Prescott Post, Grand Army of the Republic, the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery, and Hope Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Mr. Westcott married, in 1876, Ella B. Simmons, a daughter of Addis E. Simmons, a farmer. Mr. and Mrs. Westcott had two children:

  1. Ethel G., a teacher in the Providence High School.
  2. Lena, who married Louia K. Seagrave, of Middletown, Connecticut, and who is the mother of one daughter, Barbara Westcott Seagrave.

At his home in Providence, William B. Westcott died July 9, 1912. Though he was past seventy years of age at the time of his death, his passing away was, nevertheless, a distinct shock to his family and friends, and was felt by them as an irreparable loss. His death was also deeply regretted by the community in general for, during his long residence in Providence, Mr. Westcott had made for himself a very definite place in that city’s life. He will long be remembered for his sterling character and for his many fine qualities of the mind and heart.

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

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