Mr Herbert Fuller Chaffee, 46, was born on November 20, 1865 at Sharon, Litchfield County, Connecticut, the son of Eben Whitney Chaffee and his wife Amanda Fuller Chaffee. Members of the Chaffee family had lived in Sharon since the Revolutionary War.
Herbert was educated in the common schools in Sharon, a seminary in New York, and the Williston Seminary, a scientific school in Easthampton, Massachusetts. He graduated from the latter school in 1885. In 1887 he was living in Ellsworth, CT and in that year he entered Oberlin College in Oberlin OH where he studied at the Conservatory of Music. He enrolled for 2 years but probably moved to North Dakota to help run the family firm as he did not graduate.
While at Oberlin he met his future wife Carrie Constance Toogood of Manchester, Iowa. They were married on December 21, 1887 and a son was born on September 28, 1888 in Amenia, ND.
Herbert's father came from Litchfield Co., CT and came to Dakota in 1875 where he founded the bonanza-farming business "Amenia" -- Amenia-Sharon Land Co (organized with bondholders of the Union Pacific Rail Road) which had its headquarters in Amenia ND. Herbert Chaffee eventually became the chief executive officer of the family business which, at its greatest extent, controlled 42,000 acres of prime farmland, 34 grain elevators, a grain-trading firm, and three company towns with dozens of smaller company-owned businesses. Its holdings were worth perhaps $150 million in today's dollars. H. F. Chaffee, who routinely worked a 72-hour week, felt that this was only the beginning. He had developed sophisticated management systems and was constantly expanding the operation.
He continued in business in North Dakota, purchasing the interests of the remaining investors of the Amenia & Sharon Land Company in 1893.
"Through his sound scientific and business judgment he established a farm business that is unique and stands today as a memorial of his faith in the future of his adopted state and his unswerving fidelity to high ideals." (Lonsberry 1917).
Chaffee was a Republican and a member of the Congregational Church.
Chaffee and his wife had been on a European trip and boarded the Titanic at Southampton, travelling in first class (cabin E-31). They were returning to their home in Amenia, Cass County, North Dakota.
Herbert died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
After Chaffee's death, remaining family members ran the firm jointly but continually disagreed on business strategy. In 1922 the company was dissolved and its assets distributed. Very little of its holdings remain in family hands today.
References and Sources
Clement A. Lonsberry (1917) North Dakota History and People. Vol. II, p. 877-878. Chicago, S.J.Clarke Publications.
Hiram Drache The Day of the Bonanza: A History of Bonanza Farming in the Red River Valley of the North.
Oberlin College Records
John Chaffee, USA
Homer Thiel, USA
Tammy L. Martin, USA (Oberlin College Archivist)
Articles and Stories
Evening Tribune (1912)
Shore Press (1912)