Hazard family

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Members of the Hazard family were among the first settlers of the State of Rhode Island. Descendants have been known for military achievement, business success, philanthropy, and broad social activism spanning such causes as abolition of slavery, treatment of the insane and alcoholics, family planning, and innovative employee programs.

The family fortune derived largely from its textile manufacturing business at Peace Dale, Rhode Island, mining, railroad, and chemical interests, including the Solvay Process Company.

Many of the descendants of the historic Hazard family still live in Rhode Island today and are actively engaged in their communities. Today the Patriarch is Charles Michael Hazard, an investor and venture capitalist in the Boston area and founder of Westfield Capital.[1]


Hazards have been known through generations for many contributions:[2]

  • Thomas Hazard Sr. "College Tom" (1720–1798) was always called in the family "College Tom" to distinguish him from his numerous namesakes. He was one of the original "Fellows of Rhode Island College," now Brown University and contributed to its founding. In 1748, he was clerk of the Council, and for forty years was a preacher of the Society of Friends. He was perhaps the first man of much influence in New England who labored in behalf of the freedom of the African race. His life mission was to abolish slavery and he fought for his conviction that it was wrong to hold negroes in bondage. Thomas Hazard helped with the creation of 1784 Act.
  • Rowland Hazard (1763–1835) was a substantial merchant in his time. He entered a mercantile partnership in 1789, which operated under the names of Hazard, Robinson & Co, then Hazard & Ayrault, and other names. His trade was largely along the Atlantic coast and the Caribbean, with Charleston, New York and Rhode Island serving as hubs, and his cargo included everything from salt to spermaceti oil to cheese. In 1802, Hazard began to invest in the textile industry, acquiring a half interest in a South Kingstown fulling mill, and in 1804 a carding machine in the same location. This was the beginning of the Narragansett Cotton Manufacturing Company. After 1810, Hazard's son Isaac P. Hazard came to play an important role in this business. In 1819, Isaac and another son, Rowland G. Hazard, took full control of this company and developed it into the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company, which became one of the dominant businesses in southern Rhode Island.
  • Benjamin Hazard (1770–1841) was a Rhode Island legislator, attorney and member of the secessionist Hartford Convention.
  • Jonathan J. Hazard (1744 – c. 1824) was an American statesman and anti-federalist and delegate from Rhode Island in the Continental Congress.
  • Nathaniel Hazard (1776 – December 17, 1820) was a U.S. Representative and Speaker of the House from Rhode Island.
  • Oliver Hazard Perry (August 23, 1785, South Kingstown, Rhode Island – August 23, 1819), Commodore in the United States Navy and "Hero of Lake Erie", famous for his battle cry Don't Give Up the Ship!, was the grandson of Mercy Hazard.[3]
  • Matthew Calbraith Perry (April 10, 1794 – March 4, 1858), Commodore in the United States Navy and brother of Oliver Hazard, compelled the opening of Japan to the West in 1854.
  • Rowland Gibson Hazard (1801–1888), was an American industrialist, politician, social reformer, and philosophical writer who corresponded with John Stuart Mill and was a friend of William Ellery Channing, founder of Unitarianism. Hazard was involved in a number of public activities, participating in both social reform activities and in Free Soil and Republican Party politics. He served both as a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives and as a member of the Rhode Island Senate. Hazard was also a prolific writer who produced a long list of works on philosophy, economics, and politics, including Language (1835), Causes of Decline of Political Morality (1841), Freedom of Mind in Willing (1866), and Causation and Freedom in Willing (1869). Hazard's efforts ultimately gained the freedom of nearly one hundred people being held as slaves, and the following year a New Orleans grand jury instructed prosecutors to charge several officials who had been holding the people. Hazard's granddaughter Caroline claimed that he regarded his actions gaining the freedom of these men as the greatest effort of his life.
  • Rowland Hazard II (1829–1898), was the grandson of Rowland and financial backer of the Solvay Process Company. He attended Brown University and remained active in University activities after graduation. Rowland Hazard was an influential man of his time. He traveled much and was active in politics, religion, and industry. He was involved not only in the matters of his home community of Peace Dale, Rhode Island, but also in the major national and international issues of the day.
  • Caroline Hazard (1856–1945), sister of Frederick R. Hazard and granddaughter of Rowland, was a prolific author, artist, and president of Wellesley College, 1899–1910. As president of Wellesley, Hazard introduced household economics into the curriculum, placed the department on an academic basis, established a department of hygiene and physical education, founded the college choir, and had built with her own funds the home subsequently occupied by Wellesley College presidents. As well as being an educator and author, Hazard was an active member of many philanthropic and cultural organizations. Her activities included the Gilbert Stuart Memorial, Inc. (president), the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (honorary president), Rhode Island Historical Society (life member), and many more.
  • Frederick Rowland Hazard Sr. (1858–1917)
  • Frederick Rowland Hazard Jr. (1891–1962)
  • Charles Michael Hazard (born 1931)

Social activism[edit]

The family in Central New York was long active in May Memorial Unitarian Church, Syracuse, which linked many social activists. The family has been known especially for social concerns such as abolition of slavery, treatment of the insane and of alcoholics, as well for innovative employee programs. Guild Hall, built in 1890 by the Solvay Process Company to serve as a community center, provided the first public library facility which served the high school as well. Guild Hall was the first of five such buildings the company constructed for health and recreational use of the entire community.

The family's Peace Dale textile manufacturing company was one of the first in America (1878) to distribute a percentage of profits to employees. Mrs. Frederick R. Hazard (Dora G. Sedgwick) of Solvay was daughter of the prominent Syracuse lawyer and abolitionist Charles B. Sedgwick. The Sedgwick residence was a landmark designed by important American architect, Alexander Jackson Davis. Dora Sedgwick Hazard was an early American proponent of family planning, an organizer in central New York of the National Women's Party, and of programs for African-American young people (which evolved into the Dunbar Center). Mrs. Hazard founded the Solvay Guild in 1887 and was instrumental in establishing its many local programs in areas of education, public health medical and dental clinics, day care center, sewing, cooking and Americanization classes, and the first kindergartens not merely in Solvay but in Syracuse. The Hazard Branch of the Onondaga County Library System contains a memorial plaque recalling the public service of Dora Sedgwick Hazard.

The Hazard family has been culturally oriented. Historic artifacts collected by Rowland G. Hazard II (1855–1918) became the Museum of Primitive Culture Records at Peace Dale, The family commissioned architects to design their projects. Douglas Smyth designed the company headquarters (1888) and probably designed nearby Guild Hall (1890), both of which are now razed.

Notable homes[edit]

Upland Farm, the Frederick R. Hazard residence built in 1899; Joseph Lyman Silsbee, architect

The Hazards contributed land and resources for the Village of Solvay to grow. The residential neighborhood of Piercefield was developed as Upland Farm, the Hazard estate. The landmark Hazard mansion, designed by the nationally distinguished architect, Joseph Lyman Silsbee (1848–1913), unfortunately was demolished about the time of World War II. Silsbee also designed a fine residence and carriage house for Solvay Process Company engineer Edward N. Trump (1889), extant at 1912 West Genesee Stree, Syracuse. Trump was one of the first company engineers, hired in 1882. Silsbee is well known for his landmark Syracuse Savings Bank building on Clinton Square, Syracuse. After moving his practice to Chicago, Silsbee employed the major American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Two architecturally notable homes of Hazard daughters remain nearby in Piercefield, the Edwin Witherby House, c. 1912 (515 North Orchard Road) and the Martin Knapp House, 1910 (404 Piercefield Drive) Taylor and Bonta, architects, New York City. They were also architects of the University Club (extant, Washington Street on Fayette Park) and YWCA building (East Onondaga Street, demolished), both in Syracuse, New York.

Offspring and Marriages[edit]

Dorothy Hazard and husband Edwin Chaplin Witherby had three children: Constance Witherby, Thomas Hazard Witherby, and Frederick Roland Hazard Witherby, all born at Solvay. Edwin Chaplin Witherby died at Boston. Dorothy Hazard remarried at Narragansett, Rhode Island and with second husband, Stephen Foster Hunt, had a daughter, Deborah Hunt. Sarah Hazard and husband Martin Hobart Knapp moved from Solvay to Cazenovia, New York There were four Knapp children: Robert Hazard Knapp, Peter Hobart Knapp, Sarah Knapp Auchincloss, Judith Knapp. Hazard family houses at Upland Farm, Piercefield in the Village of Solvay appear in that article.

Through the marriage of Commodore Mathew Hazard Perry's daughter Caroline Slidell to financier August Belmont the extended Hazard family includes brothers Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont (1858–1908), American socialite, United States Representative from New York, and builder of Belcourt Castle, Perry Belmont (1851 – May 25, 1947), United States statesman, and August Belmont, Jr. (1853–1924), American financier, builder of New York's Belmont Park racetrack, and major owner/breeder of thoroughbred racehorses.


  1. ^ http://hazardfamily.weebly.com.  Missing or empty |title= (help); External link in |website= (help);
  2. ^ http://hazardfamily.weebly.com.  Missing or empty |title= (help); External link in |website= (help);
  3. ^ http://www.clayfox.com/family/individual.php?pid=I737&ged=bradleys.ged


  1. ^ Hazard, Whitney. "Hazard Family". Retrieved 6 March 2015.