Avis, Samuel Roszel


  The career of Samuel Roszel Avis illustrates most clearly what may be accomplished through determined purpose and well defined plans. For years the name has been closely associated with gun manufacturing in New Haven and more recently with extensive real estate operations. While Mr. Avis has in part retired from active management of his business interests, he is still the president of the Avis Gun Barrel Manufacturing Company and has extensive investments in real estate.

  He was born in Berkeley county, Virginia, December 26, 1843, a son of William Avis. He attended the schools of Bolivar and Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and also continued his education in the Fairview Academy, a small private institution of learning which was destroyed at the beginning of the Civil war. It, too, was located in Bolivar. For a time Samuel R. Avis engaged in teaching in Loudoun county, Virginia, and at the time of the John Brown raid at Harpers Ferry he was a member of the Virginia militia, belonging to the Jefferson Guards of the Second Virginia Regiment. It was this company which did guard duty during the imprisonment, trial and
execution of Brown and his party at Charlestown.

  When the Civil war broke out his father, who was intensely Union in sentiment, removed with the family to Springfield, Massachusetts, and afterward Samuel R. Avis learned the trade of gun making in the employ of the firm of Field & Horton, manufacturers of firearms for the United States government. Subsequently Mr. Avis resided successively in Yonkers, New York; New York city; Philadelphia; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Ilion, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island, in all of which places he worked at the gunsmith’s trade. In 1881 he became a resident of New Haven, his purpose in removing here being to enter the employ of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, in which he was made the head of the barrel department. He continued with that concern for a period of a quarter of a century and then retired in large measure from active business. In 1906, however, he took up the real estate business and at the present time is president of the Malba Land Company, the New Haven and New York Realty Corporation, the Urban Realty Company and other realty companies, representing in the aggregate more than three million dollars’ worth of property. While in considerable measure he leaves the active work to others, his sound business judgment constitutes a most valuable asset in the successful conduct of the interests of these various companies.

  Mr. Avis has always taken a most helpful part in public affairs. He served for two terms on the New Haven board of aldermen and for one year represented that board on the park commission. He was also for six years a member of the board of education and served as its president for two years, doing effective work in this connection for the further development of the school system of the city. He has been a member of the New Haven library  board for seventeen years and was president of that body. He was likewise a member of the committee in charge of the erection of the new library building in 1909. He was one of the advocates of securing the present system of free textbooks in the schools of New Haven and at all times he has stood for progress and improvement in public affairs, advancing new ideas in relation to the schools and to other public interests which have resulted in bringing about higher civic standards. He is prominent in Masonic circles and holds membership in Trumbull Lodge, F. & A. M., of New Haven; in Franklin Chapter, R. A. M.; in Harmony Council, R. & S. M., and the New Haven Commandery, K. T. He attends the First Methodist Episcopal church of New Haven and his entire life has been actuated by high and honorable principles. His course has indeed been one of value to the city for he has ever combined practical effort with high idealtity.

  On the 6th of May, 1863, Samuel R. Avis was united in marriage to Miss Emma Elizabeth Lee, of Jefferson county, Virginia, who was born March 16, 1843, and died April 23, 1892. She was a daughter of Henry and Ann (Waters) Lee. For his second wife Mr. Avis wedded Mrs. Carrie Attwater Elliott, of New Haven, a daughter of James and Lydia (Attwater) Barker and the widow of George H. Elliott. His children were all born of the first marriage. William Henry, the eldest, born April 24, 1864, married Anna L. Chard, of Greenwich, Connecticut, and their children are: Dolly Ann; Emma Elizabeth; Susan; and Catherine. The family resides at Whitneyville, Connecticut, and William H. Avis is connected with the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Woodburn Roszel, the second of the family, born in 1866, was graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Baltimore, Maryland, with the degree of M. D., and is now practicing in Boston, Massachusetts. Martin Luther, the third of the family, died in infancy.

  George Elmer Avis, born June 10, 1874, the fourth member of the family of Samuel R. Avis, is a native of New Haven and a graduate of its schools. He became engaged in the real estate business and also in the manufacture of gun barrels in connection with his father. He is active in the management and control of the Avis Gun Barrel Company, which is one of the leading manufacturing concerns of this kind in the country today, its main plant being located on Campbell and Brown streets in West Haven. The company is incorporated under the laws of the state of Connecticut, with Samuel R. Avis as the president and George E. Avis as vice president and treasurer. The business has enjoyed a steady growth. Wisely managed, its sales have now reached extensive proportions, making this one of the important industries of New Haven county. In addition, Mr. Avis operates in the real estate field with his father and controls important interests in that connection.

  George E. Avis was united in marriage to Miss Caroline Quigley, of Hartford, Connecticut, and to them was born one child, who died in infancy.

  Dolly Avis, the fifth member of the family of Samuel R. Avis, was born in 1879 and died at the age of eight years.

  Samuel Walter, the youngest of the family, born in 1885, was graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University in 1907 as a mechanical engineer and is now engaged in the automobile business in New Britain.

  Such in brief is the history of the Avis family represented in New Haven. Through the years of their identification with the city, covering more than a third of a century, they have taken active part in promoting not only the material but also the intellectual and moral development of the community, and the family name is closely associated with many interests and projects which have contributed to civic activity and civic honor.

Modern History of New Haven
Eastern New Haven County


Volume II

New York – Chicago
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company 

pgs 888 - 890

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pages / text are copyrighted by
Elaine Kidd O'Leary &
Anne Taylor-Czaplewski
May 2002