|Hazard, Rowland Gibson, 1801-1888|
Rowland Gibson Hazard was born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island on October 9, 1801, the fourth of nine children of Rowland Hazard and Mary Peace of Charleston, South Carolina. In 1819, with his brother Isaac, he assumed control of his father’s small woolen mill in the village of Peace Dale, which had been named for his mother’s family. He had primary responsibility for marketing products to Southern plantation owners in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Hazard wintered in New Orleans from about 1833 to 1842. His experience in the South and his Quaker faith led him to work on behalf of kidnaped free blacks in Louisiana. He secured the liberation of several unfortunate captives, a feat he regarded as the greatest of his many accomplishments.
In 1828, he married Caroline Newbold (1807-1868) of Bloomsdale, Pennsylvania. They had two sons: Rowland Hazard II (1829-1898), father of noted American educator, Caroline Hazard, and John Newbold Hazard (1836-1900). The family’s woolen mill partnership, incorporated as the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company in 1848, became one of the largest businesses in the southern part of the state. Hazard eventually expanded his operations to another factory, naming it Carolina Mills in honor of his wife.
Hazard also authored a variety of books and articles, mostly on philosophical subjects. In 1849, he became a leading advocate of the regulation of railroad trusts, which led to a tumultuous series of state legislative hearings. He served intermittently in the state legislature, was a Rhode Island delegate for the founding convention of the Republican Party in 1856, drafted the economic planks of several national Republican campaign platforms, and played an important role in planning the Union economy during the Civil War. Hazard did much to sustain our national credit at home and abroad, especially when the Union cause looked bleak His newspaper articles on public finance were collected and published in pamphlet form, mainly by bankers in New York for foreign readers. These essays induced European bankers to overcome their skepticism about the war’s outcome and hold or increase their investments in United States war bonds. In this endeavor Hazard worked in concert with President Lincoln and treasury secretary Salmon P. Chace, the father of Kate Chase Sprague.
In 1866, Hazard retired from the textile business and invested heavily in the Union Pacific Railroad, with the understanding that his involvement would be purely financial and would not interfere with his retirement. After the company fell into financial disarray and became embroiled in the Credit Mobilier scandal, Hazard spent much of his final years in setting its affairs straight.
As a philanthropist and humanitarian, Hazard was a prominent supporter of Butler Hospital in Providence and Brown University. To his native South Kingstown, Hazard donated money for schools, churches, the town house, the library, and other civic improvements. He also provided steady financial support to Rhode Island’s temperance, free religion, and woman’s suffrage movements until his death at Peace Dale on June 24, 1888. Rowland Gibson Hazard was significant on the national scene for both his financial activities and his writings on philosophical subjects. He also played an important role in state politics and was a dominant force in the industrialization of the southern part of Rhode Island. He was a vocal critic of slavery, political corruption, and railroad monopolies, and was one of the few investors to emerge from the Credit Mobilier railroad scandal with his reputation unscathed.