William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) online

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saw-mill on Leach's stream, a few rods below Highland Street.
It was however bought not long afterward by the owners of the
privilege next above. In 1852 he built a small dam on the same
stream southwest of Edward D. Williams's mill, erected a saw-
mill there, and used it more or less until his death in 1863. His
son Nahum Godfrey ran it for about two years afterward, when
it was discontinued.

Close by his dwelling-house at the corner of Prospect and
Howard Streets, Asa R, Howard had years ago a shop where
he used to make hoes. When a sufficient number were ready,
he was accustomed to take them to Calvin Brett's mill to have
them polished.

Not long after 1800, Oliver Pool put up a building at the
Centre in which to manufacture cards for carding wool. It was
located east of the church ; but the enterprise was abandoned,
and the building used for a store.

We have seen that the saw-mill privilege at what is now the
Morse place, first improved by Daniel Williams, Esq., about 1745,
was bought by Josiah Copeland in 1797. He owned the saw-
mill there until about 1825, when Hiram Copeland owned it for
a time. To this place in 1802 Josiah Copeland moved a build-
ing which he used for some years as an oil-mill, and in which
also he had a card-wool machine. This building had originally
stood on Windmill Hill, where it was erected and owned by
Samuel Guild, Calvin Brett, Josiah Copeland, and Edward
Hayward, who intended to use it for an oil-mill ; but their ven-
ture proving unsuccessful, they sold it to Mr. Copeland, on con-
dition that he would move it away within eight months.

May I, 1 8 10, Josiah Copeland, Nathan Reed, Bela Reed, Bezer
Keith, and Rufus Fuller formed a co-partnership, agreeing to
provide buildings and machinery for the manufacture of cotton
yarn at this same place. Instead of erecting a new building they
enlarged the oil-mill, adding a story to it, and set up five frames
in it, each frame containing sixty spindles. Rufus Fuller was
made superintendent of the work, receiving for his services a
dollar and a half a day. Josiah Copeland was to have any sur-
plusage of water there might be from October 15 to June i, for
the use of his saw-mill, and the wool-carding machine might


have such surplusage for the rest of the year. The business
prospered for a time, but ran down after the war, the firm ceas-
ing to exist after 1817. The property was purchased by, or came
into the possession of, David Manley, acting probably as agent
for the Easton Manufacturing Company, whose factory was at
North Easton village. At a later date, probably 1826, Sheperd
Leach bought one half of it, and in 1830 he purchased the

E. J. W. Morse first came to Easton in 1829, and not long
after that time he engaged in the cotton-thread business at the
Furnace Village. February 27, 1837, he purchased one quarter of
the property at the Morse privilege of Lincoln Drake, the latter
holding it probably as executor of the estate of Gen. Sheperd
Leach. December 22, 1840, Mr. Morse bought of Mr. Drake
another quarter of the same property. The other half Mr. Drake
sold June 21, 1845, to Robert Lunn and Daniel W. Heath. Mr.
Lunn sold his quarter interest May 14, 1853, and Mr. Heath his
quarter April 14, 1856, — both selling to Edward N. Morse.
E. J. VV. Morse at the time of his first purchase began the manu-
facture of cotton thread, having in other sections of the town
already conducted some branches of this work. The thread was
manufactured from combed sea-island cotton. In 1844 a steam-
engine was added as supplementary to the usual water-power ; it
was the first steam-engine used in Easton. This firm keep the
name of E. J. W. Morse & Co., and claim to be the oldest cotton-
thread company in the United States now in operation. They
employ about fifty hands, producing an article in general use,
which is manufactured on as expensive and complete a sys-
tem of machinery as is now used in any similar business. The
view of the Morse thread-factory here given is from the north,
overlooking a part of the pond.

In this connection may be mentioned the interesting fact that
in 1882, Alfred B. Morse, then eighteen years of age, built a
steam yacht, which he launched in Easton waters June 21. In
the summer of 1883 it was run in Massachusetts Bay, and was
found to have a speed of ten miles an hour.

At the Green there was in 1800 a grist-mill, owned by Timothy
Randall, the second of that name. In 1803 he sold his mill-
property to Ichabod Macomber, who bought it for himself and


''^"ys^r^.-r'^^ jii_miK-iv^



partner, Cyrus Alger, It was said to have been their intention to
enlarge the pond, put up a forge, and perhaps also a furnace, and
to start an extensive iron business. This move was checkmated
by Josiah Copeland, Calvin Brett, and others, who bought the
privilege below this dam, and who also bought land so near as
to prevent the enlargement of the pond as proposed. What
might have been the result upon the prosperity of South Easton
had Alger & Macomber not been defeated in their plan, is mat-
ter of interesting conjecture. Being thus balked they deeded
back the property to Timothy Randall, who took it because the
parties opposed to Alger & Macomber agreed to buy it of him.
Accordingly, February 23, 1804, it was bought by Josiah Cope-
land, Bezer Keith, Calvin Brett, and James Guild, — Copeland
and Keith taking three fourths of it, and Brett and Guild taking
the other fourth.

In 1807 Joseph Hay ward, Roland Howard, Josiah Copeland,
and Elijah Howard, Jr., entered into a partnership under the
name of Elijah Howard & Co. In 1809 the Company expended
twenty-eight hundred dollars in building a forge. Cyrus Alger,
Nathaniel Howard, and Willard Babbitt were for a time con-
nected with the Company ; but Alger's interest was bought out in
1 810, and the Company's connection with Nathaniel Howard
and Willard Babbitt also soon ceased. In August, 1810, Calvin
Brett and James Guild sold out their interest in the grist-mill to
the Company. About a year after this Elijah Howard & Co.
lost by fire a coal- house and coal worth about fifteen hundred
dollars. They had engaged in the manufacture of bar-iron, nail-
rods, etc.; but the forge business proved worthless, entailing a
loss of more than the original capital paid in, which was two
thousand dollars. The Company then began here the manufac-
ture of cut nails, a business which they had already started at
the Red Factory location at North Easton village. They also
engaged in the manufacture of cotton yarn and of cloth. Dur-
ing the War of 1812-1815 they did a large business; but the
losses by depreciation of currency and bad debts just after the
war left them for a time in a bankrupt condition. In 1823
the cut-nail business was moved to Braintree, where it flourished.
The Company ran two factories in town, that at South Easton
being called the Village Factory Co., and that at the Red Factory


the Federal Factory Co. They manufactured yarn, bed-ticking,
apron-check, and other goods. About 1840 the Village Factory
Co. sold out to Capt. Barzillai Dean, who manufactured cotton-
print goods of a light texture. Captain Dean was killed by a
distressing accident in 1848, and from that time this factory,
since enlarged, has been a machine-shop, and with the grist-mill
has been the property of T. H. and J. O. Dean. They manu-
facture pianoforte machinery, wooden slipper-heels, and other
articles. For the manufacture of wooden slipper-heels new ma-
chinery has lately been introduced, and the work is very ingen-
iously done. This Company own a valuable patent for the
manufacture of leather slipper-heels, and are doing an increas-
ing business in this line.

On the South Boston and Taunton Turnpike, east of the
Green, there is a very ancient mill-privilege. In 1757 it is
spoken of in the perambulation of Easton and Bridgewater as
the " Old Saw-mill Dam." The dam, and doubtless also the
mill, were there early in the last century, perhaps even before
1700; the sills of the old mill were laid bare by the recent wash-
out. A long and careful search among the Bristol County deeds
failed to elicit any information regarding it, and it is evident that
.the ancient mill was not within the limits of Easton, but must
have been just far enough east to bring it within the Bridge-
water boundary. This conclusion is necessitated by convincing
evidence. One of the Bridgewater Bretts owned this mill about
1780. It has been already stated that Calvin Brett and others
bought this privilege at the time that Alger & Macomber started
the forge business at the Green. In 1814 was formed the firm
of Solomon Stone & Co., who had a carding-mill at this place
on the Turnpike, the dam and buildings being reconstructed,
bringing them within the Easton line. After Mr. Stone's death
the firm was reorganized, and several kinds of business in the
course of time were done there. They had a cotton factory as
well as carding mill. Calvin Brett had also a fulling-mill there.
There were two buildings, and yarn was made in one of them.
Brett and Guild at one time manufacured satinet, and afterward
John C. Brett made shoe-pegs at the same place. In 1848 Solo-
mon W. Morse bought the whole privilege, and changed it into a
mill for the manufacture of cotton cloth. It finally came into the



possession of E. J. W. Morse. During the Civil War Franklin
Keith made shoddy there, since which time it has been called
the Shoddy Mill. It was not in use for some years, and in 1879
the buildings were burned, — a year, by the way, in which so
many fires occurred in the south half of the town as naturally to
suggest the presence of an incendiary, a suspicion since that
time strongly confirmed.

Farther south on the Turnpike Guilford White in 1850 be-
gan the manufacture of shoes, and continued it for six years.
For several years afterward the same business was carried on
by Horatio Thayer and Nathaniel R. Packard. In 1858 Lewis
Thayer built a factory north of Mr. White's, and continued in
the shoe-business until 1870. Irving and Emory Packard began
the manufacture of shoes in West Bridgewater in February,
1868, but January i, 1869, they moved into Mr. White's build-
ing in Easton. They continued in the business there until they
were burned out, August 25, 1884. They then moved to North
Easton into the building opposite Memorial Hall, where they
still remain.

Not long after the century opened, Cyrus Alger and Ichabod
Macomber built and carried on a furnace a short distance north-
east of the Thaxter Harvey place ; but the business did not
prove a success. The ruins, at least the foundations, of this old
furnace may still be seen.

In the south part of the town, in the year 1828, J. and H. M.
Poole began the manufacture of mathematical instruments on a
small scale. A strong prejudice for foreign-made instruments
was only slowly overcome. Poole's work was said not only to
equal but even to excel the imported. In 1878 John M. Poole,
who had for twenty-five years been foreman, succeeded to the
business. He manufactures surveyors' transits, builders' levels,
land and telescopic compasses, and many other instruments of
this kind.

The saw-mill at Cranberry-Meadow Pond was owned in 1800
by Dr. Edward Dean. Dr. Dean deeded it to his son James,
who deeded it to his son Edward W. Dean in 1850. It after-
ward passed into the hands of Dr. Caleb Swan, and subse-
quently became the property of Oliver Ames. It is now owned
by F. L. Ames, and is no longer used as a mill.


The saw-mill built by George Ferguson about 1750 at the
location now known as the Picker place, and rebuilt about
1786, was owned in 1802 by Captain Elisha Harvey and Ziba
Randall, the latter having charge of the work, which was discon-
tinued about 18 15. One of the first enterprises to follow it at
the same location was a cut-nail factory started by Col. David
Manley, in which Oliver Ames and Asa Waters both had some

Several such factories were built about the same time in town.
Colonel Mauley's enterprise proved unlucky, because just as he
had a large stock of nails packed the mill was burned to ashes,
and the nails and machinery spoiled. Another nail-factory was
then built at this old Ferguson dam. A grist-mill was also
erected, and the grindstones for it were brought up from the
Jonathan Randall mill at the Ames office location. In 1830
David Manley sold to Sheperd Leach " his right and title to the
grist-mill near Ziba Randall's." About this time E. J. W. Morse
hired the nail-factory building and put up in it a cotton-picking
machine, or else hired a picker previously set up, which he
worked as late as 1835 ; it was from this business that the place
became known as the Picker place. It became the property of
Oliver Ames, Sr., not long after Sheperd Leach's death, and about
1835 he set up his brother John Ames there in the manufacture
of knives, a business that was continued about ten years. After
that a trip-hammer was put up, and used in the welding of straps
upon shovels. The building was subsequently destroyed by fire,
and since that time this privilege has not been used.

Next below the last named place is the Hoe Shop privilege.
In April, 1804, Nathan Pratt, blacksmith, bought of Jacob
Leonard a tract of land which included this privilege, and
May 26 he bought also a large lot of George Ferguson. Mr.
Pratt began at once to build the Hoe Shop dam, and in less
than a year he had completed it and had also erected a trip-
hammer shop, where he began the manufacture of hoes, Lewis
Drake being connected with him in the business. Mr. Pratt
moved to Plymouth with Oliver Ames soon after the latter went
there, which was in 1807, and returned with him several years
later. Obed Harlow was in the Hoe Shop for a time. Asa
Waters manufactured shovels at Mr. Ames's Shovel Shop for



several years before Mr. Ames returned from Plymouth, though
the latter as already stated had begun that business soon after
buying the Shovel-Shop Pond privilege, in August, 1803. After
his return from Plymouth in 1814 the Hoe Shop place became
his property, and has since been used for Shovel Shop purposes.
There was a repair or wheelwright shop just below, and still
farther east a blacksmith shop which was long occupied by Na-
than Pratt, and which was a delightful resort for young children,
who felt at home with the good-natured blacksmith, and had
rare fun in his shop.

In 181 5 the Easton Manufacturing Company was organized,
Col. David Manley being the leading man in the concern. They
built their factory for the manufacture of cotton cloth on the
present location of the Ames Machine Shop. They had con-
siderable capital and a large amount of property, owning two fac-
tories, a saw-mill, a grist-mill, and two blacksmith shops ; they
also carried on "the store," which was at the present location of
the Ames store. About 18 17 their building was destroyed by
fire, and another was erected. In 1826 the Company found
themselves heavily involved. At this time Sheperd Leach ac-
quired some claim to the Company's property; and in 1830 he
became the owner of it, having possession of their two factories,
— the one just mentioned, and the Copeland, Fuller, & Co. Fac-
tory, — and also of the saw-mill and grist-mill. The grist-mill
was in or adjoining to the North Easton factory building.
Shortly after this Martin Bliss made spool cotton there. A
nailer's shop was for a time connected with it, and also a cot-
ton picker, which was run by E. J. W. Morse. About 1836 it
was purchased by Oakes Ames, who set up David Barlow, of
New York, in the manufacture of covered bonnet-wire. Six
hands were employed in this business, ten thousand dollars in-
vested, and twenty thousand dollars worth of wire manufactured
in one year.^ This factory building was finally purchased by
Oliver Ames & Sons, and in 1857 they erected the machine
shop that now stands there.

Before Oliver Ames, the founder of the great Shovel Works
in Easton was born, his father, Capt. John Ames, had begun in
West Bridgewater the manufacture of shovels. This was as

1 Branches of Industry in Massachusetts, J. P. Bigelow, pp. 134, 135.



early as 1776. His son learned the business, and shortly after
he became of age began to look about for a good place in which
to start business for himself. At just this time Eiiphalet
Leonard, the third of that name, had become bankrupt. He
had, about 1793, built the Shovel-Shop Pond dam, and erected
there a forge with a trip-hammer and a nailer's shop. He
was unsuccessful, and in 1801 failed in business, his property
going into the possession of Abiezer Alger, of Bridgewater.
Mr. Ames came and inspected the property, and August i,
1803, purchased it for sixteen hundred dollars, several other
pieces of land being included in the same purchase. He at
once and with energy prepared to engage in the manufacture of

In the "Atlantic Monthly" of September, 1870, Azel Ames,
Jr., dated the origin of this business in the year 18 12, This is a
mistake of nine years. The following items of the account
between Ziba Randall and Mr. Ames, copied verbatim from
Mr. Randall's original account book, are conclusive as to this
point. The last two items, it will be observed, are first in the
order of time : —

May 1804, Oliver Ames, dr., for plank & a hub $1.20

may 21, for bringing up Iron from Gibsons, boston . . . 5.00

Novr., for two pounds of wool .56

april 17, 1805, for Carting 6 Dousin of Shovels to boston . i.oo

April 28, 1S06, for bringing one log from Jonathan Howards 2.25

Oct., 1806, for Carting iron & Ctel from boston 4.40

April 21, for Carting Iron from Boston to the tip Shop . . 5.00

1807, for timber for 2 Scale beams, August ye 12 .... .62

Novr., 1803, for father's Joists .75

for sawing timber .75

The shovels which Mr. Ames made before those carted in
April, 1805, he probably took to Boston himself. He converted
the nailer's shop at the Shovel-Shop Pond dam into a shovel-
handle shop, as it is reported in a subsequent deed, indicating
that at that date he manufactured the handles here also. In
1807 he moved to Plymouth, thinking the business might be
more favorably conducted there, but he did not give up his enter-
prise at Easton ; it seems to have been managed during part of
the time of his absence by Asa Waters. Either at the Hoe Shop,



or at the place where he began, he was, even when absent at Ply-
mouth, interested in the manufacture of hoes, and in the space of
three months in 1808 sent about eight hundred to Boston. In
1 814 he returned from Plymouth, and for a year was in partnership
with the firm name of Ames, Waters, & Co. This partnership
was probably concerned only with the Hoe Shop business, and
lasted but one year. Mr. Ames by various purchases added
largely to his ownership of real estate, buying in 1813 the land
on which the office and his house are situated. His business
increased, but it had its vicissitudes ; and there was a period
when only his known business character and ability saved him
from complete financial disaster. Gradually, however, he was
relieved from embarrassment, and his business became a marked

In 1844 he gave his property to his sons Oakes and Oliver,
reserving a life interest in it and one third of the profits of
the business. It was then that the firm of Oliver Ames & Sons
was formed. In 1863 Oliver Ames, Sr., died, and his one third
interest was divided between F. L. Ames, Oakes A. Ames, and
Oliver Ames, 2d, they being then taken into the firm. In 1876
the firm reorganized as a corporation, with the name of the
Oliver Ames & Sons Corporation.

Prior to 1852 the business was carried on mainly in the shops
at the lower end of Shovel-Shop Pond. March 2 of that year
the buildings were destroyed by fire. Immediately the firm
sent into neighboring towns and collected a large number of car-
penters, and in three weeks had temporary shops erected and
work begun. These temporary shops were constructed with
reference to being divided and made into dwelling-houses.
Several of the tenement houses on the " Island " were made
from these works, and in the following winter of 185 2-1 85 3 the
two houses now standing on the north side of Oliver Street, east
of the railroad, were moved across the pond on the ice from the
Shovel-Shop Pond dam. In 1852, soon after the temporary
works were occupied, the Long Shop was built, which is five
hundred and thirty feet long, two stories high, and made of
stone. The large wing now known as the Machine Shop was
put up in 1857, the wooden factory building having been bought
of Oakes Ames by the Company, and moved to the north side


of Oliver Street west of the track, and made into the two houses
now standing there. Other shovel shops were added as need
occurred. The Red Factory privilege was bought of Elijah
Howard by the Company in 185 1.

In order to provide for a larger storage of water for manufac-
turing purposes the owners of the various privileges on Queset
River, both in Easton and farther down the stream, united as
early as May, 1825, and greatly enlarged the dam at the foot
of what was afterward, more appropriately than before, called
Long Pond. The original dam there was built in 1763 by
Stoughton parties, to flow the meadows above. The Hammer
Shop at this dam was built soon after the dam was finished.
The other reservoir, called Fly-away Pond, was made in 1845,
The Trip-hammer Shop was built in 1853, the Antrim Shop in
1865, the Handle Shop in 1866, and the New Shop east of the
Long Shop in 1870. Besides these numerous buildings in North
Easton, the Ames Corporation have other shops in Canton, West
Bridgewater, and South Braintree. If all the stone shops in
use by the Corporation were placed end to end, they would
reach about twenty-five hundred feet, or nearly half a mile. The
view of the Shovel Shops here presented is perhaps as good a
general view as can be taken. The point of view is the railroad
track south of the bridge, under which runs the street. About
five hundred employees work for the Corporation. They manu-
facture from 110,000 to 125,000 dozens of shovels a year. Tak-
ing the average of these figures, 117,500 dozens, it makes the
almost incredible number of 1,410,000 shovels a year, or 27,115
a week, 4,519 a day, and over 451 each working hour. From
1,200 to 1,500 tons of Swedish iron, and from 1,200 to 1,400 tons
of steel are annually used in this manufacture.

The Ames Company's vast interests at North Easton, the
large number of hands employed, and of shovels manufactured
and shipped away, the care of machinery, buildings, tenements,
etc., require careful and diligent oversight. This responsibility
rests upon Oakes A. Ames, the authorized superintendent.
Having perfect knowledge of all the details of the manufacture,
being shrewd, conservative, sound in judgment, and what is
especially important, being a man whose conduct and character
command respect, he is remarkably well fitted for his position,



to which he gives very close application ; he is one of the super-
intendents who superintends.

What is called the Red Factory privilege is at the foot of
Stone's Pond, near F. L. Ames's farm-house. There, as narrated
already, the forge business was begun about 1720. Late in the
century a grist-mill had been added. After passing through
the hands of Jacob and Isaac Leonard it became the property
of Giles Leach and Timothy Mitchell in 1802, and February 15,
1805, Mitchell became sole owner. Several years afterward it
became the property of Elijah Howard & Co. This Com-
pany began here the cut-nail business about 1808, and contin-
ued it four years, when they moved their nail machines to the
Green. December 13, 18 14, they sold a part interest in this
privilege to William G. Andrews, and the firm of William G.
Andrews & Co. began at once the manufacture of cotton yarn,
and at a later date of cotton sheeting, which they continued
to make until Mr. Andrews died, in 1828. Gurdon Stone &
Co. succeeded this firm for two years, and the business then
became known as the Federal Cotton Factory, being owned
and managed by Elijah Howard & Co. and Gurdon Stone. In
1837 Jason G. Howard bought out Mr. Stone. In 1839 nine
tack-machines were put in, and the" manufacture of tacks was

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 55 of 78)