William Faxon

William Faxon, c. 1870's

William Faxon (April 17, 1822-1883) was a journalist who served as Chief Clerk of the United States Navy Department during the Civil War and a United States Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Faxon was a prominent leader in the organization of the Phoenix Fire Insurance Company. He was also the grandson of Captain Ebenezer Faxon, having been born in West Hartford in the Faxon homestead in Elmwood.

Life and Death Edit

William Faxon was born in 1822 in the Faxon Home in West Hartford, Connecticut to Elihu Faxon, the son of Captain Ebenezer Faxon, and Elizabeth Olcott. After completing some schooling, Faxon began work as an apprentice in the office of the Courant, which was managed by John L. Boswell at the time.

In 1853, the growing workload at the Hartford Courant led Boswell to make a partner of Faxon, who was a Courant-trained printer with keen business acumen. Therefore, Faxon became a member of the firm of Boswell & Faxon, proprietors of the Courant Press Company, publishers of the Connecticut Courant. Unfortunately, Boswell died of a severe bacterial skin infection on July 30, 1854, at the age of 46, leaving Faxon the sole member. Soon after, Faxon sold The Courant to Thomas M. Day, a well-to-do Hartford lawyer who had left the legal profession after becoming increasingly hard of hearing. Not long after the purchase, Faxon purchased the Weekly Expressat Amherst, Massachusetts, which he edited and published for about one year.

In 1857, Faxon formed a partnership with Joseph Roswell Hawley, Faxon & Hawley, which purchased the Hartford Evening Press, a Republican newspaper founded by Gideon Welles in 1856. They soon invited Charles Dudley Warner and Stephen A. Hubbard to join their newspaper.

William Faxon 2

William Faxon in his younger years

In 1861, President of the United States Abraham Lincoln appointed Gideon Welles as U.S. Secretary of the Navy. Welles wanted to appoint Faxon as chief clerk of the Navy at this time, but the politically influential Francis Preston Blair and his son Montgomery Blair pressured Lincoln to appoint Gustavus Fox instead. As a compromise, the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy was created for Fox, and Faxon joined the United States Department of the Navy as a clerk in March 1861, and then succeeded Fox as chief clerk on July 31, 1861. As chief clerk of the Navy during the American Civil War, Faxon was in charge of the records, correspondence, and personnel of the Office of the Secretary of the Navy and oversaw the finances of the Department of the Navy. On June 1, 1866, Faxon succeeded Fox as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, holding this office until 1869.

After the close of the Civil War, Faxon made an extended tour through Europe and to the Nile. His letters descriptive of his journey were full of interest. He made a second foreign trip a few years later. In 1878, Governor Richard D. Hubbard appointed him bank commissioner. His work in the state bureau was characterized by the same business ability and methodical system which had rendered his services so valuable in the navy department. Mr. Faxon was appointed postmaster of Hartford in 1881, but declined the office, having already consented to take the presidency of the Hartford Trust company, which position he successfully filled until his sudden death by heart disease in September 1883.