Bradish Billings

Bradish Billings

Worth: $50,000

A farmer, and one of the right stamp.  Was once a constable, and then deputy-sheriff in Boston, where he made money; for, in consequence of his fidelity and trustworthiness, he never lacked employment when there was anything to be done.  This way of life was not an element for him to move in.  He came into the country, purchased a farm, went to work with his own hands, and thrived, like the luxuriant vegetables he cultivated.  No man in town has done more hard work; yet at the age of some years beyond “”threescore-and-ten,” he is vigorous and walks with an elastic step, that would be graceful in a man of forty.  He knows when and how to be charitable to the deserving.

Source: Dorchester section of The Rich Men of Massachusetts: Containing a Statement of the Reputed Wealth of about Fifteen Hundred Persons, with Brief Sketches of More than One Thousand Characters.  By A. Forbes and J.W. Greene.  (Boston: Published by W.V. Spencer, 1851)

This book purports to include the names of men who were “very wealthy,” defined as a reputed net worth of at least $50,000.

The wealth of the 45 men listed for Dorchester ranges from $50,000 to $500,000 and is  distributed as follows:

$50,000                       15

$75,000                       6

$100,000                     14

$150,000                     2

$200,000                     6

$400,000                     1

$500,000                     1

The combined worth of all 45 totals $5,000,000

To get a sense of the meaning of this level of wealth, one could look at the life of Marshall P. Wilder on this website.  His reputed worth as reported in this book was $100,000.

It is interesting that Dover, a town now considered wealthy, boasted not one entry in 1851, while Medway had one entry and Medfield two entries.  Milton, a town next to Dorchester, had 10 men with a total net worth of $1,600,000.  Cambridge had 37 men with a total worth of $5,200,000.

From the Introduction: Upon the announcement than an individual is in possession of a large fortune, we naturally inquire, “How did he come by it? Was it by inheritance, or marriage, or both?  Or, was the present man of wealth once obliged to toil for his daily bread like the thousands who now marvel at his possessions?  If his property came by his own exertions, what is the man? What are his strong traits of character? How did he manage? Did any one great circumstance, aside from his natural abilities, favor him? In what business did he grow rich? Has he done, or is he likely to do, much good in the world in consequence of his riches?  These are the questions which naturally suggest themselves to us in reference to the wealthy of any place, and these are questions which we have attempted to answer in reference to a very large number of wealthy men in Massachusetts.  Our leading object has been to furnish encouragement to the young, from the contemplation of success resulting from a s suitable combination of those sterling qualities, Perseverance, Energy, Carefulness, Economy, Integrity, Honesty. Another very prominent object with us has been, to excite in the minds of the wealthy, and of all who shall become such, greater attention to the importance of an enlarged system of Benevolence.  …


Posted on

July 4, 2022

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