D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) Hurd.

History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) online

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most mature judgment with great strength of purpose
and of will, manufactured tacks at the mill ou the
Indian Head River at South Hanover. Both saw
the great importance of the railroad to themselves, to
the town and its industries, and went to work. En-
listing the interest and aid of the old corporators and
others, on the 20th of April, 18G4, eighteen years
after its first incorporation, they succeeded in getting
from the Legislature a revival of the charter of the
Hanover Branch Railroad. The uew act gave them
until May 1, 1866, in which to file the locatiou of
the road, and two years in which to organize. Now
the hard work commenced. Mr. Perry led all in his
zeal to raise, by subscription to its stock, the necessary
funds to build the road. In several instances he even
gave his own personal guaranty in writing that the
road when built should pay a dividend of six per
centum upon its stock, a promise which oue man is
said to have enforced when the dividend at one time
amounted to but five per cent.

Yet in spite of these two years of hard work, and
in spite of the substantial aid, both of interest and
funds, which was given by the people of East Abing-



ton (now Rockland), through which the road was to
run, the 19th of April, 18Gb', arrived aud no organi-
zation had been effected. It looked as if this uew
revival was to end in another backslidiug. Ezra
Phillips decided its fate, [lis decision announced to
his son, Calvin, " Calvin, I guess you had better go |
down and see Mr. Curtis and have a meeting called," i
saved the life of the Hanover Branch Railroad. A i
meeting was called to meet at the Hanover House, an
organization was effected, one more grand effort was
made, and the road was built.

At this meeting the following officers were elected:
Directors, Edward Y. Perry, of Hanson ; Jenkins
Lane, of East Abingtou; George Curtis, of Hanover;
Sumner Shaw, of East Abington ; George F. Hatch,
of Marshtield ; Washington Reed, of East Abington ;
Edmund Q. Sylvester, of Hanover. The directors
then chose Edward Y. Perry president. Jenkins Lane
treasurer, and Calvin T. Phillips, of Hanover, clerk.
Of these directors, Jeukins Lane, George Curtis,
George F. Hatch, and Washington Reed have de-
ceased. The preseut board of directors consists of
Edward Y. Perry, president, now of Hanover ; Albert
Culver, treasurer, of Rockland ; Richmond J. Lane,
of Rockland; Edmund Q. Sylvester, of Hanover; and
L. C. Waterman, of Hanover ; Calvin T. Phillips,
clerk, of Hanover.

The total amount of capital subscribed for on which
the road was built was about one hundred and twenty-
three thousand dollars. Joseph Smith, of Stoughton,
Mass., was employed as engineer, and under his direc-
tion the road was surveyed and located, the grades
established, and the road built. The contractors,
J. B. Dacey & Co., completed the seven and two-
thirds miles of road-bed in less than two years from
commencing work, aud iu July, 1868, but u few
months over two years after the precarious existence
of the corporation had been determined, the cars were
running regularly over the completed road. To-day
it has three engines, six passenger, and twenty-one
freight-cars (three of the latter, however, being owned
and run by the president), over three miles of steel
rails (tifty pounds to the yard), and usually pays a
semi-annual dividend of three per cent, upon its stock.

Unlike every other brauch of the Old Colony sys-
tem, the Hanover Branch Railroad retains its iden-
tity. Every other brauch has finally yielded, and
has been swallowed by the greater corporation. The
Hanover Brauch aloue still runs its own cars and en-
gines over its own road, and compels the Old Colony
to pull its cars in and out of Boston at its own fair
prices. This and the general success of the road is
due in a very large measure to the great business

capacity and splendid organizing power of its presi-
dent, who not only is president, but also superintend-
ent, general ticket ageut, general rnauager, and some-
times, when short of hands, even conductor himself.
The course of the road is generally as follows :
Commencing at the Four Corners on Broadway,
nearly opposite the residence of John Cudworth, and
southwest from the carriage-manufacturing shop of
Thomas Turner, it docs not take the shortest route to
its junction with the Old Colony at North Abington,
but curves southward to pass the rubber-works (for-
merly Curtis' forge) and South Hanover. After leav-
ing the depot at the Corners, it runs southwesterly
along the easterly side of Broadway aud Elm Street
to the rubber-works, then follows westerly aloug the
Indian Head River to "Project Dale," at the tack-
works of L. C. Waterman & Sons, reaching here its
greatest grade of from eighty-five to one hundred feet
per mile. It then bends northerly to South Hanover,
near the tack-works of E. Phillips & Sons, crossing
Broadway, opposite the residence of Isaac G. Stetson,
and Cross Street, a few rods north of the house of
William S. Sherman. It then curves still more to
the north, crosses Centre and Circuit Streets, and
reaches the village of West Hanover, at the junction
of Circuit, Hanover, and Pleasant Streets, then de-
flecting slightly, it runs between the new Hanover and
old Circuit Streets, crossing the latter at its last junc-
tion with the former, and finally leaves town at a point
on the town line about sixty-five rods northwest of the
late residence of Otis Ellis, deceased.



Ezra Phillips was born in Pembroke (now Hanson),
Oct. 10, 1810, on the old homestead, near the preseut
South Hanson Railroad Station. His father, Ezra,
Sr., married, in 1809, Mehitable Allen, of East
Bridgewater. Their first child was Ezra, the subject
of this sketch. His mother died before he was two
years old. He early developed the firmness and de-
cision that was always so marked an element in his
character, which was soon shown by his opposition to
the use of alcoholic liquors and tobacco. At that
time, when their use was so universal, and when they
were moderately used in his own home, his taking
this stand was remarkable, and showed the independ-
ence that always characterized him.

Not having a taste for the farmer's life that had

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contented his ancestors, he left home when a lad aDd
spent a short time in the employ of Lewis Keith, a
grocer at East Bridgewater, and afterwards with
Babcock it Cooledge, who kept a tavern and grocery
on the Neck, on the single street that then connected
Boston and Roxbury, at what is now the corner of
Union Park and Washington Streets. His taste,
however, was always for mechanical pursuits, and at
about the age of eighteen he went to South Abiug-
ton to learn the trade of a tack-maker of Mr. James
Soule, in the factory of Mr. Benjamin Hobart. Be-
fore his engagement with Mr. Soule was ended Mr.
Hobart offered him a place in his factory in Hanson.
Here he remained until Mr. Hobart sold this factory,
in 1848. At different times during this period,
when the tack business was dull, he engaged in the
manufacture of shoe-pegs and of soap, — in the last-
named certainly, getting the reputation of making the
very best quality.

Nov. 27, 1834, he married Catherine H. Tilden,
daughter of Dr. Calvin Tilden, of Hanson, and pur-
chased the house near the factory that had been built
aud occupied by the Rev. George Barstow. This was
his home for twenty years. They had four sons and
a daughter, the daughter and one son dying in infancy.
In 1S48, Mr. Hobart sold the Hanson factory, aud
Mr. Phillips bought one-third of it aud commenced
the manufacture of tacks for himself.

In 1853, Mr. Phillips, Mr. E. Y. Perry, and Mr.
Martin W. Stetson formed a partnership, under the
name of E. Y. Perry & Co., for the purpose of carry-
ing on the tack business, Mr. Perry having, like Mr.
Phillips, previously been engaged in it in a small
way, — Mr. Perry at Hanover and Mr. Phillips at
Hausou. They purchased the privilege known as the
Sylvester Forge at South Hanover. The financial
panic of 185li and 1S57 soon overtaking them, aud
they having but small capital and a business repu-
tation to make, Mr. Stetson became discouraged
aud withdrew from the firm, but Messrs. Perry &
Phillips, with that energy aud pluck that were promi-
nent characteristics of their lives, determined to go
ou and trust to good management and hard work for
success. The firm was admirably adapted to the
business. Mr. Perry was an exceptionally good
financier and general manager, clear-headed, a cool
and accurate calculator.

Mr. Phillips was equally good in his line, — the me-
chanical department, — a good manager of workmen,
and an excellent judge of the worth and merits of
machinery. He not only thoroughly understood the
working of every machine in the factory, but was
capable of taking any machine they then had, or

ever afterwards had, and running it so that he not
only knew how all the work should be done, but could
demonstrate that his theories were right by himself
doing what he hired others to do. This practical
knowledge was of great value to him in his oversight
of the business. No piece of machinery was ever
placed in their works that was not thoroughly un-
derstood and run by Mr. Phillips before being passed
over to the hands of an employe. The work pro-
duced at the factory of E. Y. Perry & Co. soon be-
came known as second to none in quality in their line
of business, and their business grew rapidly. In-
creased facilities were added, including a mill for
rolling zinc plates, and theirs soon became one of the
leading concerns in their line of trade.

Mr. Phillips continued in business with Mr. Perry
until 1874, when by mutual consent the old firm was
dissolved, and a new firm, under the name of E.
Phillips & Sons, was formed, Mr. Phillips associating
his two oldest sons with him in the business. The
secret of Mr. Phillips' success was his thorough
knowledge of his business, his large mechanical
ability, and his unsurpassed judgment of values and
methods. Seeking to obtain the best results from
mechanical operations was his study. Every exhi-
bition of machinery attracted his attention, and it
was a rare occurrence if he failed to gather some
ideas that could be applied to some of the machinery
at his own works. He was continually studying how
to make steam or water do the work of hands. As a
thorough practical mechanic he had few equals, and
no man of his day had a better practical kuowledge
of all the different processes connected with the man-
ufacture of tacks and tack machinery.

The following will serve as an illustration of his talent
for anything pertaining to mechanics. A professional
building-mover was employed by him to move a build-
ing to a new location ; a soft, sandy spot intervened, aud
in this they got stuck and remained for several hours,
try as they would they could not make fast their ma-
chinery in the sand, and they had given up in despair.
Mr. Phillips came along, took in the situation at a
glance, and suggested a plan of proceeding, which
they reluctantly proceeded to put in execution, pro-
testing: at the same time that it would be of " no use."
The plan succeeded perfectly the first trial. He in-
vented several useful appliances in tack machinery ;
and had perhaps a more thorough knowledge of the
minutia of the business in all that pertained to it
than any other man. His recollection extended from
the time when tacks were cut and headed by hand.
During the latter part of his life he also carried on a
saw-mill at Hanson where he first made tacks. In his



religious belief he was a Unitarian, and was a Free-
soiler and Republican in politics.

Since his death his two eldest sons continue the
business without change of firm-name.

Mr. Phillips was strictly a business man, giviug uo
attention to official honors or positions. The only town
olhce he ever accepted was that of selectman of the
town of Hanson, in 1853. He was one of the most
highly-esteemed men of his day in the community
where his life was spent ; aud all who knew him
speak of his memory with reverent regard. He died
at Hanover May 15, 1882.


E. Y. Perry was born in that part of the town of
Pembroke now Hanson, Mass., Nov. 4, 1812. The
house in which he was boru has beeu the home of
his ancestors for many generations, and is now owned
by him. It is situated a little more than a mile south-
east of South Hanover, Mr. Perry's present residence.
He is the son of Elijah aud Chloe (Stetson) Perry,
aud grandson of Seth and Hannah Perry. Elijah
was by trade an iron-moulder, but much of his time
was spent in farming. He was in the war of 1812,
and the exposure incident to campaign life sapped the
fountains of his health, and eventually caused his
death, two years later. Mrs. Perry had died when
E. Y. was but six weeks old, and so upon the death
of his father he was entirely orphaned at the tender
age of two years. He was taken charge of by his
paternal grandparents, both of whom lived to a great
age, Mr. Perry being about ninety-five aud Mrs.
Perry ninety-nine years and nine mouths at time of
death. The Perry ancestral stock belong to that class
which, more than perhaps any other, have aided in
making New England what it is, — the sturdy, honest
yeomanry of the land. They were frugal, industrious,
uncompromisingly honest, and noted for their stead-
fast devotion to the colonial cause. Seth Perry was
a soldier in the war of the Revolution, aud acquitted
himself with credit.

E. Y. Perry remained with his grandparents during
his minority, and worked as farmer's boy, tilling the
ancestral acres. Upon attaining his majority his first
venture in business for himsylf was as country mer-
chant at Hanson, where he continued several years.
In the conduct of his business affairs he was success-
ful, but, like many others have done before him, he
indorsed paper for others, and lost all he had accumu-
lated, and, what was worse yet, after yieldiug up to
his creditors all he possessed, he still owed several

thousaud dollars, much of which he afterward paid
from the earnings of subsequent years. Nut despair-
ing on account of his misfortunes, Mr. Perry began
to cast about for some other method of earning a
livelihood. With a judgment and foresight which has
proved characteristic, he saw that the future of New
Eugland depended upon its manufactures, and that to
brains, pluck, and energy a field was here opened for
success. He resolved to enter the lists in what was
then comparatively an infant industry. Accordingly,
under the firm-name of Charles Dyer &, Co., he, in
company with Charles Dyer, engaged in the manufac-
ture of tacks in the town of Hanover, at the place
where the tack-factory of L. C. Waterman it Sons
now stands. It may be mentioned as a remarkable
fact that at the time these two gentlemen set up in
business as manufacturers neither of them had a dol-
lar in the world, and both had failed in business and
were badly in debt. So much for Yankee grit and
enterprise. They started by buying a hundred or two
pouuds of iron, working it up into tacks ; and from
the receipts of the sale of these they would replenish
their stock, and thus, slowly, very slowly, they built
up their business year by year, making all the time a
little advancement, but at the end of fifteen years
their progress had been so slow that the business was
deemed too small for two partners, and they mutually
agreed to dissolve, Mr. Perry purchasing the interest
of Mr. Dyer, mostly on credit. He continued the
business alone two or three years, when he purchased
the property of the Hanover Forge Company, at
South Hanover, and shortly afterwards associated
with himself Mr. Ezra Phillips and Martin W. Stet-
son, under the firm-name of E. Y. Perry & Co. ; and
while Mr. Perry gave his personal attention to the old
factory, Messrs. Phillips and Stetson made the neces-
sary changes in the uewly-acquired works to adapt
the factory to tack-makiug instead of anchor-forging.
As soon as the arrangements were completed the
machinery waa transferred from the old to the new
works, and the manufacturing conducted there en-
tirely. After a short time Mr. Stetson withdrew.
The association of Messrs. Perry and Phillips proved
to be a happy combination of talents aud qualities,
aud it may not be out of place here to record Mr.
Perry's testimony as to the honor, integrity, and
ability of his deceased partner, Mr. Phillips, lie
says, " After an intimate business and social relation-
ship with Mr. Phillips for more than thirty years. I
consider him one of the grandest and best men I
ever knew. Our association was the most harmoni-
ous that could be imagined. The routiue of busincos
was robbed of its monotony and vexation by the tact,

<4 ^ Zu<^/



geniality, pure methods, and manly way in which Mr.
Phillips bore himself. It was simply pleasure to do
business in connection with such a mau." From the I
day of their association together their success was uni-
form aud rapid. They continued a period of thirty i
years, and became one of the largest and most intluen- I
tial tack-manufacturing coucerus in the country. The J
partnership was dissolved by the withdrawal of Mr.
Perry, whose outside interests had become so great I
and demanded so much of his time as to make any |
other business duties burdensome. During the busi- !
ness connection of Messrs. Perry and Phillips they did |
not confine themselves exclusively to tack manufac-
turing, but made many outside investments. About
1870 they established a steam-mill — grist, lumber,
aud box business — at West Hanover. About the
same time they, in connection with others, started the
coal and grain business in Rockland and Hanover.
They also established a leather- and fiudiugs-store in
Boston, under the firm name of Phinney & Phillips.
Upon the dissolution of copartnership all of these
outside interests fell into Mr. Perry's hands.

The mill at West Hanover is conducted under the
firm-name of L. Phillips & Co., Mr. Lot Phillips being
a partner. The grain business at Rockland is contin-
ued under the name of Culver, Phillips & Co. The
leather-store in Boston was finally discontinued in

1882. It had proved a very successful venture. In

1883, Mr. Perry, in company with William A. Van-
nah and E. P. Sweeney, under the firm-name of Van-
nah, Sweeney & Co., purchased the property known
as Wiuslow's mills, at Waldoboro', Me., and estab-
lished themselves in the lumber, bark, wood, grain,
flour, hay, and grocery trade.

In company with Charles E. Soule, of Pembroke,
Mr. Perry is also engaged in buying and selling real
estate, lumber, and wood. They do quite an extensive
business. Some time prior to 1801 Mr. Perry became
one of the prime movers in the agitation of the ques-
tion of a railroad from North Abiugton to Hanover.
The movement was met with the utmost indifference by
the people, and but few could be induced to invest a
dollar in the enterprise, and to the persistent, untiring,
aud aggressive efforts of Mr. Perry, more than to any
or all other men, belongs the credit of its final achieve-

An old charter had been granted many years pre-
viously, but nothing had been done further. This
charter was revived, aud the matter was gotteu on
something like a firm footing when the civil war
stopped operations. Immediately after the close of
the war Mr. Perry renewed his efforts in that direc-
tion, aud in July, 1868, had the satisfaction of seeing

the road an accomplished fact. At the time of ics
completion there was a debt of sixty thousand dollars,
which is now reduced to twenty thousand. In con-
nection with the engineer, Mr. Perry had supervision
of the building of the road, and has been its presi-
dent and active manager from its inception to the
present time. Not only does he superintend in a gen-
eral way its business and traffic, but everything per-
taining to its financial conduct passes through his

Mr. Perry has been J. P. for more than twenty
years ; he has done much probate business. He was
a member of the State Legislature in 18G7. He
was early identified with the anti-slavery movement,
and belonged to the Garrisonian organization from its
inception till the emancipation of the slaves. He is
an earnest advocate of temperance iu its strictest sig-
nification, aud in this, as all other matters, his views
are pronounced and outspoken. On the 1st of July,
1880, he stopped taking interest on any of his loans,
and on many mortgages which he now holds he col-
lects no interest. This he does, not as a matter of
philanthropy, but because he believes the principle of
exacting a rate per cent, for the use of money to be
usury, unjust, aud -opposed to the spirit of progress,
which has always been the leading element of his
character. He is, and has been all his life, au earnest,
thoughtful, active man, with clear perceptions, sound
judgment, and very marked executive ability. E. Y.
Perry is a man who in any walk iu life he might have
chosen would have been a couspicuous figure, aud
had his inclinations or fortune led him into a broader
field and wider sphere of public life, he has qualities
which would have commanded instant recognition,
and which would have served to place his uame high
on the monument of his country's history. He has
that dauntless spirit and indomitable will-power which
will not succumb to defeat, and this, united with in-
telligent endeavor, usually attains success iu whatever
channel it may be directed.

As an instance of his love of progress and improve-
ment for the community as well as himself, the fol-
lowing illustration will serve. There was a beautiful
property in the centre of the village of South Abiug-
ton, which for years had been in the bauds of parties
who refused either to improve it or sell it to others.
This property Mr. Perry finally purchased a few years
ago, established there a pleasant aud commodious hotel,
and erected on the rest of the estate handsome cot-
tages and other improvements, which not ouly serve
to bring him a revenue, but enhance the value of all
other property in the village, by adding to its con-
veniences aud attractions.



He married, July 8, 183-1, a most estimable lady,
Miss Mary B., daughter of Duvid aud Deborah B.
Oldham, of Pembroke, Mass. They had but one
child, Mary E., which died in earliest iufancy.
The fiftieth anuiversary of their weddiog occurred
July 8th of the present year (1884), and they both
bid fair to spend many more years pleasantly and har-
moniously together.


From the best information obtained from the vari-
ous works treating of the ancestry of the Sylvester
family, it appears that they are undoubtedly of
French origin. This finds confirmation in the fact
that the original coat of arms was a tree on a shield,
" Sylvester," in French, signifying a tree. They prob-
ably came to England with William the Conqueror,
as the name appears on the English records soon
after the Norman conquest. The name is one of
high respectability in that country, and many bearing
the cognomen have attained a high position in various
walks in life.

The first of the family in America was Richard
Sylvester, who resided in Weymouth in 1633, and
removed to Scituatc about 1642. From him are de-
scended many, if not all, of those bearing the name
in New England. The line of descent from him to
John Sylvester, whose portrait appears in this volume,
is as follows: Richard 1 , Capt. Joseph 2 , Beojamiu 3 ,
Benjamin 4 , JoeP, John". Capt. Joseph was a noted
Indian fighter, whose warlike spirit prompted him to
enlist as captain under Col. Church in the famous
Canada expedition which proved so disastrous. He
died while in the service.

John Sylvester was born iu Hanover, Mass., July
8, 179S, and his education was obtained in the com-
mon schools of the towu. When but a boy he went
to work at anchor-forging, and followed this occupa-
tion for some years, when, his health failing, he aban-
doned it and entered the machine-shop of the "Old
Mill-Dam Iron-Works," at Boston and Watertown,
Mass. About 1824 he returned to Hauover, and in
company with other parties, engaged in the manufac-
ture of tacks. After a short time in this enterprise

Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 88 of 118)