Biography of John Cain
Rutland County, Vt. Biographies





CAIN,* JOHN, the subject of this sketch, although not "to the manner born," passed a life of usefulness and enterprise in the varied relations of Rutland. He was the son of Thomas and Jane Cannel Cain, and born January 28, 1809, at Castle Town, near Peel, on the Isle of Man, on the estate Lhergydhoo, which has been in possession of his ancestors for many generations. He received the education of the time, such as was afforded the masses of the people. Possessed of a bold, adventurous and independent spirit, at the age of twenty three he emigrated to this country and settled in Rutland in 1832. He was an architect and builder, a vocation which he pursued diligently for forty years, planning and erecting many buildings, among them being the United States courthouse and post office, the town hall and the Bennington and Rutland Railroad freight depot, He was the pioneer in demonstrating the feasibility of building a railroad over the Green Mountains from Rutland to Bellows Falls. He advocated the theory with great persistence, but his townsmen were faithless and even derisive in their comments. Possessed of indomitable will and untiring energy, he determined to make a preliminary survey, and on the 26th of December, 1842, drew a subscription addressed to the people, stating its object and signing his own name. After much time he secured the sum of $100 in small amounts. That subscription is still in existence, and the descendants of the signers who have been enjoying the benefits of the enterprise in the town of nearly 20,000 inhabitants, as its results, would be surprised at the want of faith of their fathers as indicated by the amount each contributed. He was greatly interested in the project of the Portland and Rutland road and was president of the organized corporation. He was closely identified with Rutland interests and for more than thirty years was active in all that tended to promote its prosperity and progress. He held many positions of responsibility in the town government, having been for several years chairman of the board of selectmen. He was postmaster of Rutland from 1853 to 1860 and advanced the grade of the office and made many improvements in postal affairs, securing the erection of the United States courthouse and post office. He was an ardent politician of the Democratic school and a prominent man in his party in town, county and State, and frequently a candidate for representative and senator; was twice a candidate for Congress, and a delegate to four national conventions. In 1857 he established the Rutland Courier and was its editor until 1873, when it was discontinued. As an editor he was independent and a fearless and bold champion of every cause he espoused. He was a man of varied reading and intelligence, and a poetical writer of considerable skill; a few of his fugitive pieces attracted wide attention. His last public effort was a poem read before the Vermont Editors' Association a few years before his death. Mr. Cain was a warm friend and a sharp antagonist; a man of much more than ordinary ability; possessed of indomitable will, untiring energy and large individuality, he impressed himself upon the community.

May 24, 1834, John Cain and Mary, daughter of Avery Billings, a prominent citizen of Rutland, were married, and his widow still survive. Five children were born to them: William J., John A., Avery B., Mary (wife of Henry C. Harrison), and Jewett P. Three children survive. William J. and Avery B. died in the regular army, both in 1879. They were brave and efficient soldiers, as their commissions and the following sketches of their lives attest:-

William J. Cain was born in Pittsford March 26, 1835. He received an academic education and at the breaking out of the Rebellion was reading law. He went out as quartermaster sergeant in the Second Vermont Regiment and was in the battle of Bull Run. He resigned his position and enlisted as a private in the U. S. Light Artillery in 1862; was with General Pleasanton's advance on Antietam, and was at the battle of Fredericksburgh. He received a commission as second lieutenant in the Third Regular Cavalry in February, 1862; was promoted to first lieutenant October 9, 1865; served on the staffs of Generals Sherman, Logan and Harrison; participated in the battles of Chattanooga, Kenesaw Mountain, Missionary Ridge and Atlanta; was at the side of General McPherson when he was shot by rebel sharpshooters; promoted for gallant services March 10, 1865. After the close of the war he was stationed at Memphis, Little Rock, Fort Smith, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. In 1867 he commanded a cavalry escort to General Wright's surveying party through Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona to the Pacific Coast; after leaving the army he was a surveyor on the Northern Pacific Railway, and later was at the head of the freight department of the Missouri and Texas Railroad, at Sedalia. Two years previous to his death he was stricken with paralysis, the result of exposure in his army experience, which ended his life. He was twice married; first to Patrea Chaives, a Spanish lady, by whom he left one son, who now resides with his grandmother. He afterwards married Elizabeth, daughter of ex Lieutenant Governor William C. Kittredge.

Avery Billings Cain was born in Rutland February 18, 1840. He received the education of the Rutland schools. A vacancy occurring in the army, the Hon. Solomon Foot telegraphed his personal friend, Mr. Cain's father, tendering young Cain the place, and he was at once commissioned second lieutenant in the Fourth United States Infantry, August 5, 1861. He served in the Army of the Potomac during the entire war and proved himself an officer of most distinguished personal gallantry. He commanded his company at Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Gaines's Mill, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam and Chancellorsville. At the latter battle he won his brevet of captain for exceptional gallantry and was commissioned October 9, 1863. He commanded his regiment at Spottsylvania, North Anna River, Pottsville Creek, Cold Harbor, Weldon Railroad and Petersburgh. At the terrible passage of the North Anna River, his heroic conduct won him the brevet of major. The Fourth and Second regulars were so much reduced by the carnage of this awful campaign that only a mere remnant of two hundred men remained; they were detailed under command of Major Cain for guard duty at General Grant's headquarters, in which capacity they served until the surrender of Lee. Major Cain's regiment lost over 1,40o men during the Rebellion. After the war he was stationed in command of various military posts on the Canadian frontier, New York harbor and in the Western Territories. He accompanied General Crook in his expedition against the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians in the summer of 1876, and in the battle fought on the t7th of June, of that year, performed valiant service. In that engagement he led two companies of infantry into the thickest of the fight, and held the bluffs for over half an hour under a fearful fire from a body of Indians who outnumbered his troops twenty to one. These were a part of the same band of Indians who seven days later massacred the gallant Custer and his men. He was stationed at Chicago during the riots of 1877 and remained until order was restored.

He was married to Anna Cooper, daughter of United States Senator Cooper, of Pennsylvania, October 31, 1867. He left no children, and died at Fort Laramie March t6, 1879. Major Cain was a brave and cool officer; a personal favorite, because of his excellent military record, with both Generals Grant and Sherman, who showed him unusual marks of personal regard. A sketch of this brave soldier merits a place in the history of his native county.

* prepared by Henry Clark, of Rutland.


From:
History of Rutland County, Vermont
Edited by: H. P. Smith and W. S. Rann
D. Mason & Co., Publishers
Syracuse, N. Y. 1886


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