Samuel Allyne Otis, my 1st cousin 8 times removed, was born in Barnstable, Barnstable County, Massachusetts on November 24, 1740. He was the 10th of 13 children born to James Otis Sr.(1702-1778) and Mary Allyne (1702-1774). He married Elizabeth Gray (1745-1779) on December 31, 1764, in Boston.
Samuel graduated from Harvard in 1759 and became a merchant in town of Boston. He served in the State House of Representatives in 1776, was a member of the State Board of War, and served the Continental Army as a Clothier. He was also appointed a Quartermaster General for Boston in 1775.
The position of Quartermaster General originated in the Continental Army, under order of Congress. On 16 June 1775, 2 days after the birth of the Army, Congress ordered the creation of both a Quartermaster General and a Deputy Quartermaster General. During this period Quartermaster Generals would be act like chiefs of staff for the commanders of the Continental Army, acting as the prime supplier and businessmen for dealing with civilians, operated and repaired supply lines, which included the roads which they traveled upon, was responsible for transporting troops and furnished all the supplies needed to establish camps when the troops got there.
After the end of the war Samuel became a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, and was again a member of the State Legislature from 1784 to 1787, serving as Speaker in 1784. He then become a member of the Continental Congress in 1787 until 1788.
In 1789 he was elected Secretary of the US Senate, the first person to hold this position. Vice President-elect John Adams had pushed for the election of Samuel for the office. He was supremely qualified for the job as the forty-eight-year-old had been the speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a member of Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and John Adams’ long-term ally. On April 8, 1789, two days after the Senate achieved its first quorum, members elected him as their chief legislative, financial, and administrative officer. He held this office until he died.
On April 30, he had the high honor of holding the Bible as George Washington took his presidential oath of office at the start of his first term. Throughout that first session, which lasted until September, Samuel tirelessly engaged the many tasks associated with establishing a new institution. As the Senate set down its legislative procedures and carefully negotiated relations with the House and President Washington, Samuel became a key player.
When Samuel died on April 22, 1814, at the age of 74, he had not missed a single day’s work in twenty-five years. The Senators seemed to sincerely grieve his passing. The stability that he brought to the office lasted well into the nineteenth century. He is buried in the Congressional Cemetery.
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