History Of North Adams, Massachusetts

Reminiscences Of Early Settlers.
-Extracts From Old Town Records.-
Its Public Institutions, Industries And Prominent Citizens,
Together With A Roster Of Commissioned Officers In The War Of The Rebellion.
By W. P. Spear.
North Adams, Mass.: Hoosac Valley News Printing House. 1885.


[Transcribed by Dave Swerdfeger]

  • IN 1794 Joseph Darby built a blacksmith shop and set up a trip-hammer, probably the first in North Adams. It was located on the notch road, above Daniel Wells' residence, about two rods from the stream that flows down the notch.
  • Mr. Darby made scythes, saws, axes, hoes, steelyards, etc. The iron was brought from Sailsbury, Conn. Emigrant parties passed through here frequently bound for the "Great West," which was then western New York, and Mr. Darby did many jobs for them in iron work, such as traps, cow bells, etc., besides repairing their vehicles and shoeing their horses.
  • It was then a more dreadful undertaking to move to the shores of Lake Erie than it now is to move to the shores of the Pacific. Adventurous men, who in those days went 300 or 400 miles into the wilderness to settle, where war parties of Indians still roamed, were regarded with the same admiration for their bravery that Captain John Brown and the heroes of freedom were who emigrated to Kansas to save that lovely territory from the foul curse of slavery.
  • Captain Colgrove built the first blacksmith shop within our village limits in 1795. It stood near the corner of Pearl and Main streets.
  • David Darling built the second blacksmith shop in 1802, where the Wilson House now stands. Mr. Darling was a kind neighbor, a man of decision, with a strong sense of justice, though plain and unassuming in his ways. On a certain occasion, the use of the village church having been denied by two or three of its self-constituted guardians to a Universalist preacher, though it was built by the contributions of men of different religious beliefs, Mr. Darling
  • (who kept the key) declared that it was the agreement and understanding that the church should be opened to any respectable preacher whom the people wished to hear, when. not occupied by the Baptist society, and he would open it to the Universalist. He was as good as his word, and the Word according to Universalism was preached perhaps for the first time in our village.
  • Joseph Darby, having previously moved to this village, in 1810 built the third shop, near the corner of Main and Eagle streets, which site is now occupied by the Baptist church. Mr. Darby sold this stand to George Darling, who carried on an extensive business until his death, in 1839.
  • During the early years of this village no carpenter shops existed. The most important class of mechanics worked by the day or month, as they now do. They performed their labor either in the building which was being erected or in a shed near by.
  • Carpenters and joiners' labor was then much more laborious than at present, as the tools were of English make, coarse and clumsy, and only a few of them. The pod auger and gouge were used, the screw auger not having been invented. Circular saws, planing and mortising machines and all other contrivances for saving the human muscle and rushing jobs through were then unknown.
  • Gideon Mixer in 1805 made a venture and built an addition to his house, then standing near where Mrs. Frank Colgrove resides, on Church street. This addition Mr. Mixer opened as the first regular carpenter shop in North Adams.
  • Jonathan Torrey, in 1809, settled here and opened a carpenter shop, which he carried on for years.
  • Cyrus Burlingame, father of S. Burlingame, commenced business in the basement of the old brick factory in 1812. He afterward occupied a part of Captain Colgrove's grist mill.
  • Esek Paine, about the year 1814, carried on carpentering here.
  • Stukeley Weaver, about the year 1815, established himself as a carpenter in a building near the grist mill of Captain Colgrove.
  • Cooperage must have become an extensive pursuit here as early as 1815. When orchards had multiplied and bore abundantly cider was pressed on almost every farm, and became the common beverage of almost everybody.
  • Plenty of pine and oak lumber for barrel, cask, tub and firkin staves then grew near the village. All the labor was done by hand.
  • Peter Carver made the first drive in the hoop line by commencing cooperage, about the year 1800, in a small building near where the American House now stands on Main street.
  • Paul Stafford opened a cooper shop about 1803.
  • Martin Salisbury, in 1809, opened a shop near Ivory Witt's, on State street.
  • Several other shops were established prior to 1820. About that year Joel Fosket had a shop on Eagle street, which was afterward removed to Main street.
  • Among the men who were implicated in Shay's rebellion, in 1786-7, we find recorded the name of "George Thresher, brick-maker." He was pardoned and allowed to resume his business, having failed in threshing the state government.
  • It cannot be told whether he carried on business in the north or south village. At the March meeting in 1792, Jonathan Remington was chosen "sealer of brick moulds" for the town of Adams, showing that brick were then manufactured to a sufficient amount to require such an officer.
  • The business was also carried on near the residence of Mr. Harrison, as many tokens of that branch of industry have been found there.
  • About the year 1800, Baker Jones established a brick yard just to the north and east of where the Freeman Print Works now stand. The brick for the old factory on Marshall street were made here. It was carried on by various individuals until the year 1825, when Benjamin F. Hathaway and Evenel Estes assumed the management of the yard.
  • After a few years they were succeeded by Benjamin and James Hathaway, who were in turn succeeded by Benjamin Franklin Hathaway, who run the yard alone for a number of years. In 1859 he sold out to the firm of Homer & Hall, who conducted the yard until 1861, when their lease ran out and the property reverted to the owner.
  • After the expiration of the lease in '61 the sheds were destroyed and a building which stood on the eastern side of the property was moved down Union street and converted into a tenement, which is laid down as 32 Union street.
  • Henry Evans established himself here in the above business about the year 1800. His shop was on the east side of Eagle street, near the site of Cody & Carpenter's warehouse.
  • James Damon, about the year 1810, opened a shop on Main street, and afterward removed to Eagle street.
  • Levi W. Sterns, about 1826, opened a shop on Main street.
  • Thomas Dickinson opened the first regular wagon shop in 1798, about twenty rods north of the Eagle bridge.
  • Samuel Brown commenced wagon making about 1808 on Eagle street. In 1812 he built a shop on Centre street, which was afterward altered into a dwelling.
  • Dudley Loveland occupied a dwelling and had a wagon shop on the site of J. H. Adams' block. Main street.
  • From the best information that can he obtained it appears that no kind of wagon springs were in use in this town until the year 1808, when Shubael Wilmarth, Sr., purchased of the New Lebanon Shakers a two-horse pleasure wagon, paying for it $84, having what was termed "spring seats."
  • These springs were of the simplest possible construction, being two pieces of ash timber, one on each side, bolted to a bed-piece in the wagon box. They run up at an angle of about 30 degrees, the seat being placed on them.
  • The spring was imparted by the elasticity of the timber, and two persons found them easier riding than one. Similar springs are seen at this day on team wagons, but they are not considered "first-class," as they were eighty years ago.
  • The first cabinet maker's_ shop was established about 1788 by a Mr. Veazie from Boston, and was located where the schoolhouse stands in the Braytonville district.
  • Christopher Penniman had a shop near the present residence of Mrs. Bradford Harrison.
  • About 1800 Mr. Isbell had a shop within the village limits.
  • In 1806 Christopher Penniman had a shop and kept the turnpike gate, located about at the entrance to the fair grounds.
  • In 1824 Daniel Remington opened a shop in a small building on the south side of Main street, near the corner of Pearl.
  • In 1827 John Krigger started a shop on the north side of Main street, nearly opposite the one above mentioned.
  • In 1830 Ezra Ingraham and William Shattuck opened a shop on Eagle street. Mr. Shattuck sold out and moved to Williamstown.
  • E. Ingraham, and the firm of Ingraham, Isbell & Dewey afterward conducted the business. This shop was in a wooden building, now standing, just south of the Catholic church.
  • In 1847 Cyrus P. Isbell located on Eagle street, where his industry and accommodating spirit secured him a liberal patronage.
  • D. S. & J. H. Adams succeeded E. Ingraham in 1852 at the stand on the corner of Eagle and North Church streets. Being enterprising and trustworthy young men, their business increased, and they became favorably known throughout this region, especially as undertakers.
  • They continued the partnership until the death of D. S. Adams, when J. H. bought his brother's interest and has since conducted the business alone.
  • Oliver Parker, in 1808, began pump making and the boring and laying of logs for water works. His shop was on the site of the present residence of A. H. Potter, No. 87 Eagle street. The manufacture of lead pipe began here about 1823.
  • Up to 1859-60 Oliver Parker still continued the business on Brooklyn street, and had a machine for making lead pipe. Being a reading man, and of mechanical skill, he was well posted on all matters pertaining to hydraulic uses. He was as ready to lay a pipe as to make it, solely for the public benefit, however.
  • All the stone cutting done here in early years was for gravestones and a few facings of underpinnings, mantel pieces, fire jams and hearthstones for the better class of dwellings. All tenements and stores then had fireplaces, stoves being almost unknown. The stone cutting of olden times was done in rather a coarse, rude manner, by inexperienced men, who were employed occasionally.
  • About 1810 Solomon Sherman, a good workman, commenced the business of stone, cutting here for home trade. He was succeeded by Manson Sherman.
  • About 1830 Elijah Pike, an ingenious workman, followed this calling. As the quality of North Adams marble became known a wider market was secured, and in 1835 Mr. Pike was aided with capital by Dr. E. S. Hawks, and commenced the first regular operations at the quarry below the natural bridge.
  • In 1848 the North Adams Marble and Lime Company was incorporated with a capital of $75,000, and it continued for a number of years, turning out a large amount of building stone, chimney pieces, window caps, sills, etc., for the New York and western markets. Mr. L. B. Graves was the resident partner.
  • D. R. Allen and A. B. Hosley commenced the marble business at the quarry in April, 1855. They opened a shop on Eagle street, north of River, in the spring of 1856, and acquired an excellent reputation.
  • Charles Peck and Henry Crittenden commenced the business of manufacturing hats about the year 1804 in a building demolished about the year 1855, and which was located near the residence of H. Clay Bliss, No. 69 Eagle street. Hat making was there carried on quite extensively for many years, and the product was retailed, furnished to order, or carried to Troy and Albany to be disposed of to country merchants. Peck & Crittenden were afterward succeeded by Alvin Crittenden and Samuel G. Noyes. Enoch Chase purchased the premises and succeeded the above named gentlemen in the same business about 1816. He retailed hats and made them to order for many years, until the new inventions and cheaper methods of manufacture in the large cities made competition with them out of the question. About 1816 Solomon Bulklev made and sold hats in a building on Main street.
  • The first store for the sale of hats in North Adams was opened by D. C. Corey, about 1830, in a small building near the residence of E. D. Whitaker, No. 52 Main street.
  • William Ferguson built and opened a hat store on Eagle street, about 1835, in a building, since burned, which stood on the lot adjoining E. Ingraham's flour store, or about on the site of the building occupied by Tower & Porter at No. 20 Eagle street.
  • Theodore Hastings, in 1840, commenced the hat, cap and fur trade in the building now standing on the corner of Main and Bank streets, known as the stone office. He continued the business in town until his death.
  • The first regular tailor in North Adams was a Mr. Thomas, a Welchman.
  • Spaulding Harvey opened a tailor's shop about 1815.
  • In 1817 James Estes opened a shop on Main street, and carried on an extensive business.
  • About 1827 Alexander F. Ashley had a shop in the small front part attached to the Widow Bradford's dwelling on Main street, now the site of Bradford's block.
  • In 1828 Levi Randall opened a tailor's shop in the second story of a store on Main street, occupying the present site of the Wilson House.
  • About 1799 Dickinson & Brown erected a forge for making wrought iron from the ore. This forge was built up the stream from Eagle street bridge, about half way between that and Union street bridge.
  • Benjamin Sibley, one of the early settlers of the village, who was quite a trading man in real estate, and one of the original owners and builders of the Eagle factory, was in some way connected with the early operations of this forge. The ore was procured from Cheshire, Adams, some from Stamford, and from various other places.
  • It made a good quality of iron, but owing to some cause—perhaps the cost of transporting the raw material—it did not pay very well.
  • At a later period, about the year 1801 to 1804, during the operation of the forge by Mr. Brown, he used some ore, mixing it with pig iron brought from Salisbury, Ct., and turned out excellent wrought iron. This was called refining. The business was superintended by Edward Witherell, practical iron maker. The wrought iron business at this time paid well, from the fact that the product commanded $140 per ton. Subsequently these works passed into the hands of a Mr. Sprague, who undertook to make iron from the ore; but owing either to the poor quality of the material, which was hauled in the winter, or a decline in the price of the product, or some depressing cause, it entirely failed.
  • The town in its history can boast of having had three trip-hammer shops. The first opened was that of Joseph Darby's, on the road to the notch, and which has been described on a previous page of this work. The next was erected about the year 1800, on the site of what was afterward the Cupola furnace, on or near the present site of the Freeman Print Works.
  • About 1828 Giles Tinker had a trip-hammer shop near his machine shop, occupying the present site of Hodges' grist mill.
    About 1817 Loring Darby of this village and Buel Norton of Bennington fitted up for a cupola furnace the building which had previously been erected for a trip-hammer shop, on or near the site of the Freeman Print Works. The building was afterward used in connection with the print works under Caleb Turner.

    Darby & Norton made iron castings for mill gearing and machinery, and sold the same from six to eight cents per pound. Iron machinery was then coming into more general use, from the increased skill in its construction and the development of cotton and woolen manufacturing, as confidence began to revive from the effects of the then late war with Great Britain,were made of foreign goods in order to break down onr infant efforts at home manufacture. In consequence of this American industry wss paralyzed to some extent for a certain period. But very few stoves were then in use, or even manufactured, and these were principally cooking stoves of inconvenient and clumsy shape. Some kinds were made at the cupola furnace of Darby & Norton, such as box stoves and cooking stoves, nearly square. with two ovens, one above the other, and boiler holes on top. The plates were very thick, and held together by rods and nuts. This cupola furnace, after being in operation a short time, stopped—it did not pay. Scarcely any branch of manufacturing was permanently profitable then.

    Capital, labor-saving machinery and ease of transportation were all lacking, and the factory kings of Great Britain spared no effort to crush our republican enterprises. They were aided in this scheme by narrow-minded legislators, as they have often been in more recent days.

    About 1826, Otis Hodge, Jr., purchased the above premises, and, in connection with William E. Brayton, carried on an extensive business for some two years in the manufacture of machine and plow castings—the latter of which was rapidly coming into use. The aggregate value of the castings made the last year was about $55000. The real estate was soon purchased by Caleb B. Turner.

    The first regular machine shop in this village, and probably the first in the county, was started by Giles Tinker in 1811, in a portion of what was known as the "old yellow building," which stood at about the centre of the Davenport block, on the south side of Main street. This building was enlarged by Mr. Tinker three different times. Here all the machinery for the old brick factory was made, Mr. Tinker continued the business for several years in this shop, doing his own forging and brass casting.

    Most of the machinery was of wood, and the iron work was wrought instead of cast, Loring Darby was foreman of the shop for many years. In 1825 the business had become so extended and the need of water so great that Mr. Tinker purchased of Captain Colgrove a lot and mill privilege near the Main street bridge. In 1828, Mr. Tinker erected a brick building for preparing his own castings. It stood east of and near his machine shop, on the present site of Hodges' grist mill.

    After Mr. Tinker's decease, in 1832, Alanson Cady and Loring Darby, both practical machinists, hired the furnace and machine shop and carried on the same. Afterwards Mr. Cady rented the furnace, alone, and made castings. It was also hired and run four years by William Hodgkins. Finally the whole property came into the hands of James E. Marshall. In 1847 the furnace building was taken down.

    Caleb B. Turner (afterward Turner & Laflin) in 1831 commenced a machine shop in the building known as the Gould mill, which was built and designed for a cotton mill, located on the site of Dickinson & Brown's forge, previously mentioned.

    The first considerable lot of machinery built was for the Slater mill at the Union, then being built by Hodges, Sanford Sr, Co., and which forms the east end of the Eclipse mill. The contract to build this machinery by the job was taken of C. B. Turner by William Hall and Samuel Wilson. Mr. Hall was an experienced and very ingenious iron worker, having recently come from Patterson, N.J., and he introduced many important improvements. S. Wilson of Adams executed the wood work. Large quantities of machinery was turned out, until in 1835 the Gould mill was again devoted to manufacturing.

    About this time most manufacturers found it advantageous to connect a repair shop with their mills, and some of them constructed portions of their own machinery.

    In the fall of 1847 James Hunter bought the patterns, tools, etc., of the foundry of Mason B. Green, then located in front of the Phoenix mill. In the spring of 1848 David Temple and Abel Wetherbee bought an interest, and the business was conducted under the firm name of James Hunter & Co. During the summer of that year they started, in connection with this foundry at North Adams, another at Adams. During the winter of 1848-9, Mr. Temple withdrew from the firm, taking the Adams property.

    In 1849, James Hunter and Abel Wetherbee purchased the house and lot near Main street bridge. The land where the furnace now stands was then a low marsh; they filled it up and erected a foundry building 76x40 feet and two stories high. The whole outlay was about $3500. Mr. Wetherbee sold his interest the same year to Daniel and Stillman M. Thayer.

    In 1850 Joseph D. Clark purchased a part of James Hunter's interest, and the firm was known as Hunter, Thayer & Co. They run a grist mill for a short time, then displaced it, putting in a planing machine and made boxes. In 1855 the planing machine was removed, in order that the machine shop might be started. This was started on a small scale, having only one engine and one drilling lathe. In the same year, in connection with the furnace and other business, they erected a store for the sale of merchandise, and kept also a general assortment of bar iron, steel, etc. In 1856 Daniel Thayer sold his interest to the other partners. In 1857 J. D. Clark and S. M. Thayer sold their interest to James E. Hunter and Martin C. Jewett. The firm became James Hunter & Co. The business has gradually increased until, in 1885, it is the largest foundry in the county, and one of the largest in the state, the firm being known as James Hunter & Son.

    In 1847 William Hodgkins purchased 1 1/2 acres of land and erected a brick building near the present site of the Troy & Greenfield freight house, on State street. Machine castings and ploughs were manufactured. Mr. Hodgkins carried on business here about five years, when a mortgage which was on the property was foreclosed and he was obliged to retire. When the Troy & Boston Railroad run in here, about 1859, they utilized this building as an engine house, and it continued to be used as such until 1872, when it was demolished.

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