JOHN CAVENDER, 1796-1863

Compiled by Alice Cavender Badenoch © 2004. All Rights Reserved.

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Charles Cavender (Kavanagh) was born in Ireland, 1750. He escaped impressment in British Navy, fought three enlistments in Revolutionary Army, and then became a successful yoeman on wild land in the what is now Greenfield, NH. He and his wife, Eleanor Addison, reared seven children, the youngest of whom was John.

As a young man, John and two partners, owned and operated a mill in Franklin, NH. Then, in 1836, John and his wife Jane Smith and their oldest son, (together with John's brother Charles) traveled by horseback from Boston to St. Louis, where John became a merchant with Smith Brothers & Co. This store outfitted many of the Forty-Niners, including members of the Cavender family. During his professional years in St. Louis, John Cavender was also active in transportation and financial enterprises. In 1859, he participated in the formation of the People's Railway, on 4th and Morgan, and he was a partner in the Cavender and Rowse insurance and financial agency, which during Civil War years' advertised, "we will insure you against the draft."

Immediately upon arrival in St. Louis, Cavender became active in the Unitarian Church founded by W. G. Eliot. He was a corporator in 1837, when the church moved to its new building at 4th and Vine Sts. In 1846, he was a founder of the St. Louis Mercantile Library, the first library west of the Mississippi, and employees of Smith Brothers were given subscriptions. Cavender retired from Smith Brothers in 1849 and devoted himself fulltime to philanthropy. In 1854 he became a founding director and first treasurer (for six years) of Washington University of St. Louis. Politically, he is said to have worked actively to keep Missouri in the Union.

John and his wife Jane Smith had three sons, John Smith Cavender, 1824-1996; Charles James Cavender, 1828-1832; and Robert Smith Cavender, b.1831. John Smith Cavender was an officer in the Civil War (Union). When his father died, he was furloughed from the army, and then resigned to handle his father's financial affairs. The army did not accept his resignation, and he was dishonorably discharged. He returned to the service, and his good friend W. G. Eliot, pastor and founder of the Unitarian Church, immediately wrote a letter on his behalf. The problem must have been resolved as John Smith Cavender was brevetted Brigadier General. After the war he was active in the St. Louis business community and in Missouri legislature. A divided family---Robert Smith became a Confederate General in the Civil War; he was a farmer in Alton, Illinois.

Principal Documentation for the above:
Family Bible
Obituary on file, Peterborough NH library
John Smith and his Descendents, by Col. John H. Cavender (son of John Smith Cavender)
Charles Cavender, His Tale, by Alice Cavender Badenoch