Frederic Thomas Greenhalge
Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1894-1896
Like many immigrants, Frederic Thomas Greenhalge changed the spelling of his name "Greenhalgh" to "Greenhalge" when he immigrated to the United States. Born in Clithoroe, England. Greenhalge was the son of William Greenhalgh, a cloth printer. The family immigrated to Lowell, where William worked for a textile company.
Mr. Greenhalge attended public school in Lowell and was admitted to Harvard College. He quit school to return home after his father's death in 1862. He taught school in Chelmsford and studied law, gaining admission to the bar in 1865. Mr. Greenhalge commenced a private legal practice and served as judge in the Lowell Police Court, 1874-1884. He was elected Mayor of Lowell, 1880-1881, served briefly as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and in the U.S. Congress from 1889-1891.
Greenhalge was already an accomplished public speaker when he campaigned ferociously running as a Republican for Governor in 1893. During his tenure, the Commonwealth retired its last Civil War debt. He declared the first Patriots Day, noting that the April 19th was the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the end of the Revolutionary War, and the start of the Civil War. The date also coincided with the 200th annual Fast Day, a legislatively proclaimed day of atonement with roots back to 1694. The start of Patriots Day in 1894 effectively ended Fast Day.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment of Greenhalge's service came in February of 1894. Socialist impulses in Massachusetts ran strong, and a protest of 5,000 people gathered in front of the State House to demand unemployment subsidies. Greenhalge came out from his office and addressed the crowd. He promised them relief and defused what appeared to be an enraged and hostile mob. Greenhalge died in office on March 5, 1896. Businesses and schools closed in respect, and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and Harvard President Charles Elliot served as pallbearers.