Winfield Nevins's Biography (Books)
In many branches of progressive endeavor in Essex county the name of Winfield Scott Nevins will long be remembered. Author, journalist and historian, familiar with the records of the past, and looking upon the activities of his day with the vision of the idealist, he was nevertheless broadly practical, and bore a part in those civic affairs which most closely have to do with the daily welfare and comfort of the people.
Mr. Nevins was a native of the State of Maine, and a son of Amos Harris and Mary A. Nevins. The father was a teacher in early life, and followed that profession for some years, later being engaged in farming until his death. He was a man of considerable prominence in his home community, for many years, New Gloucester, Maine, serving on the board of selectmen of that town. His scholarly tastes were a lifelong habit, and he kept his interest in literature and educational affairs until his death, one of the significant memorials of New Gloucester being the free public library which he founded.
Winfield Scott Nevins was born in Brunswick, Maine, December 6, 1850. His early education was acquired in the public schools, but he later covered a comprehensive course in letters at Gorham Academy, Maine, and there the talents, inherited from his father and augmented by his affluent nature, gained the impetus which carried him far in the profession of his choice. Coming to Salem in his youth, Mr. Nevins was for many years connected with the daily press of this city and of this section, m one capacity or another, and his writings later were given more permanent form. He contributed innumerable articles and some fiction to the magazines, and a number of his more significant works were published in book form. He was the author of Old Naumkeag," an historical sketch of Salem and the surrounding towns; the "North Shore," a local guide; "The Intervale," a sketch of the White Mountains; "Education and Salem Schools," etc., etc. Probably his most permanently important work
was "Witchcraft in Salem Village," on which subject he was a recognized authority. In a footnote to his article on "Witchcraft in Massachusetts," posthumously published in the "Americana" magazine (First Quarter, 1922), Mr. Nevins said, in regard to that article, and broadly in regard to his writings on witchcraft.
Nevertheless, Mr. Nevins brought to his work in this field not only the perspective of a later century, but the intimate insight into motives and the keen discrimination in determining values which only a mind of rare breadth can compass. Mr. Nevins also won considerable note on the lecture platform, treating a wide range of subjects, both with and without accompanying stereopticon illustrations.
The practical side of Mr. Nevins' nature was continually evident in his civic and business relations. He was for many years proprietor and manager of the Salem "Evening Telegram," for thirty-four years an active member of the Essex Institute, of Salem.
President of the School Board during the first four years of its existence, his membership in that body covered a period of eleven years and embraced much constructive activity. He was one of the original members of the Salem Sewage Commission, and for several years was identified with the Salem Planning Board. His work in these various capacities was not that of the novice.
Mr. Nevins had traveled much, both in the United States and abroad, having made nine trips to Europe. These subjects of vital civic import had for years been his study during his travels, and he accumulated information the comprehensive and exact nature of which was of the greatest assistance to various Salem bodies having these matters in charge. In fraternal circles Mr. Nevins was very prominent. He was at one time president of the Loyal Protective Association of Boston; was past grand master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and past noble grand of Fraternity Lodge, of Salem, in the same order, and was twice an appointive officer of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows. He was a member of Starr King Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, and for a number of years was manager of the famous "Ye Honorable Boarde," a social club, of which he was a charter member. He was a man of deep religious convictions, and a member of the Universalist church.
Mr. Nevins married, in Salem, June 22, 1881, Mary Elizabeth Leavitt, daughter of Israel P. and Eliza- beth A. Leavitt. Mrs. Nevins still survives him and resides in Salem.
The death of Mr. Nevins occurred on October 23, 1921, and in his passing, the city of Salem, as well as the large circle of personal friends of which he was the center, has sustained a loss which will be felt for many years to come. He has left the world richer for his interpretations of various phases of the past and the time of which his activities formed a significant part.
** I make no claim to originality of material. That was exhausted years ago by the many writers on this subject.