Sketch of Holyoke|
by George H. Allyn, page 5
Thomas H. Wellington kept a livery stable on Maple street, till about the early 60's, and was also deputy sheriff and a terror to evil doers.
The panic of 1857 struck Holyoke right between the eyes. Banks and business houses went to smash all over the country and the Hadley Falls Company went down with the crowd. But the town, founded on a basis of hard work and hustle, was game. In 1859 the Holyoke Water Power Company. with strong financial backing, took over the Hadley Falls Company's holdings, including the dam, canals already built, the two cotton mills, and the "Big Shop." as the Hadley Thread was then called. The purpose and scope of the Water Power Company, backed by a large amount of Connecticut capital, was far more comprehensive than the Hadley Falls Company's idea of building up a "cotton city."
The Water Power Company planned for varied industries and a beautiful city of homes, and its influence in developing Holyoke on broad lines can hardly be overestimated. The portion of the city controlled by them was the most admirably planned for residence, business and manufacturing sites, with reserve places for possible park and school sites. A more extensive canal system was built and a mill power equal to eighty-nine horse powers was leased for an annual rental of two hundred and sixty ounces of silver, or about $300 in currency.
Of paramount importance also was the company's liberal policy with enterprising and sterling manufacturers who sought to establish themselves here. Financial assistance was freely given in many instances, and the two greatest of our local industries today, the Skinner and Farr manufactories, would hardly have located here in the early 70's, but for the wise and generous assistance of the Water Power Company.
Soon after its organization the company sold the Hadley mill to John C. Whiting, who successfully conducted it as a machine shop till 1863.
Under the new regime Holyoke made good progress. When the war broke out a number of business blocks had been erected, and the town was commencing to feel its oats.
The hostilities were a severe blow to the cotton industry, the Lyman Mills selling off their stock of cotton at a high price, and shutting down operations. This was such a setback that J.F. Sullivan relates that his employer, James F. Allyn, leased a store in the Fuller block for an annual rental of $100 a year "so long as the Lyman Mills remained idle." As a matter of fact the mills afterwards bought cotton at an even higher price than they had sold theirs and started again. But the shutdown was a serious thing, especially for the French people, who had come down from Canada in considerable numbers on the prospect of steady work, and who already were showing the thrift that has made them an important factor in Holyoke's progress. They had already begun to pre-empt a corner of the town near the dam, and in the 60's a dead line was established between the Irish and French boys, the crossing of which meant a scrap in about four seconds. The writer will not attempt to geographically locate this line at this day, but a French boy could ascertain it very easily in the late 50's and early 60's.
We are also informed (not by either of the participants) that a Homeric combat was also fought between William S. Loomis, champion of the "Yanks," and one Ludden, champion of the Irish youth, but after a rough and tumble lasting about an hour, victory stubbornly refused to perch upon the banner of either, and it was unanimously declared an indecisive contest.
William Whiting in his youth was also quite an athlete and adept in boxing, getting instructions from a little "English Irishman" named Burke, and it is said that "Big Tom" Sheehan was about the only boxer able to hold his own with the future mayor and congressman.
Evil days and poverty came upon Jimmie Burke in after years, and his former pupil is said to have seen to it that he did not suffer.
The old Northampton street village still remained largely as a section, having its own post office at Crafts' Tavern till about 1870, as the writer's memory serves him.
The Prentiss wire business was first initiated by George W. Prentiss in a small mill owned by the Parsons Paper Company in 1857. Later the Holyoke Water Power Company built him a mill, but the present plant was not built till 1869.
The newspapers up to the Civil war period had been the Hampden Freeman, later the Holyoke Freeman, and later the Holyoke Weekly Mirror.
Holyoke, according to the authorities compiled, furnished about four hundred soldiers during the war. John H. Clifford was captain of Company I, of the Tenth, and Michael Cleary recalls seeing him draw up his command before the North Chestnut street school. The Tenth and Forty-sixth regiments contained the greatest number of Holyokers, Company B of the Forty-sixth comprising mostly Holyokers, while a number enlisted in Company I of the Tenth. Many were enlisted also in the Twenty-first, Twenty-seventh, Thirty-first, Thirty-fourth, Thirteenth Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, First Massachusetts Cavalry, and other regiments. Considerable fun has been poked at the Forty-sixth, because its term of service was but nine months, and because it saw few battles. It has been said that the only man killed in Company B was accidentally shot, etc. But the fact remains that no more patriotic, intelligent and courageous regiment was probably enlisted during the war. Circumstances prevented long and severe service, but the regiment did its duty under all conditions.
Oscar Ely was a most unique and lovable character in war and peace. A college graduate, of fine literary ability and culture, with a keen sense of humor and a disinclination to activity, he made a corporal of unusual calibre. It was a volunteer soldiers' war, and for a long time the private thought he was just as good as his officers (as indeed he was at home) and chafed at stern militarism. Corporal Ely complained to his captain one day: "Captain, my men do not obey my commands promptly, and when I quietly remonstrate with them they tell me to go to h--l."
One day Corporal Ely with a detail of privates was ordered to go from camp and cut some turf. It was a sweltering day and the entire force laid down and rested as a preliminary. Suddenly a mounted officer on a richly caparisoned steed dashed up. "What are you men doing here?" "We are ordered to cut some turf." "Why don't you do it then?" "It's so hot we are resting awhile," nonchalantly replied Corporal Ely.
The officer dilated with wrath. "Do you know that I am General Wessels?" he angrily queried Oscar rose to his feet. "General Wessels I am pleased to meet you. I am Corporal Ely of Holyoke." General Wessels' countenance broke up, he wheeled his horse, sank his spurs and was off like a bird.
Thomas W. Mann
During the war John C. Whiting sold out the "Big Shop" (as the Hadley Thread Mill was then called) and then was organized the Hadley Company spool Cotton Manufactory with Jones S. Davis agent, and William Grover superintendent, and a capital of $60,000. The mill buildings covered about four acres and there were six blocks of cottages which still stand today, containing over eighty tenements, of which the American Thread Company recently sold some sixty.
The Hampden Mill, which John E. Chase took charge of in 1860, employed some 600 to 700 hands in the manufacture of cotton goods and ginghams, and the Holyoke Paper Company (the second oldest in the town) had been successfully launched, and Stephen Holman and William Whiting were one-time important factors in its management, later on 0. H. Greenleaf taking command.
The Holyoke Machine Company was organized in 1863 by S.S. Chase, Stephen Holman, N.H. Whitten, and others and grew to be a vast industry.
About 1862 the Newton brothers, James H., John C., Daniel H., and Moses, came to the city, organized the Hampden Paper Company, and for forty years or more were strong factors in Holyoke's progress. In 1866 James H. established the Franklin Paper Company, later the Wauregan, the Norman built a large number of cottages, and was interested in the Holyoke Water Power Company.
John C. Newton, in company with D.H., built mills and shops, blocks and buildings galore. In 1862, the first year of his advent, he built the Elm street high school, and the wire mill, afterwards used as Whiting Paper Mill No.1. In 1863 he built A.T. Stewart's New York woolen mill, and the Holyoke Machine Company's plant. In 1873, largely by tremendous personal force, he with others raised capital for the establishment of the Farr Alpaca Company here, built their original mill, also the Skinner silk mill, the following year. He was a human dynamo, and all the brothers did great work for Holyoke.
William Whiting, first connected with the Holyoke Paper Company, and later the Hampden, purchased in about 1864 the wire mill built by Mr. Newton and by 1865 had organized the Whiting Paper Company, and transformed the mill into Whiting No. 1.
The Germania Woolen Mills were organized in 1865 and the Beebe-Webber Company Woolen Mills and Valley Paper Company in 1864. In 1865 Timothy Merrick came here from Mansfield, Conn., where he and others were in the cotton thread spooling business, and organized the Holyoke Thread Company, soon afterward changed to the Merrick Thread Company for the manufacture of spool cotton. Large mills were built, covering three sides of a square, and a splendid business built up.
From this brief resume one can see that since the advent of the Holyoke Water Power Company, with its ample capital, comprehensive liberal policy, and scientific administration Holyoke, backed by its natural advantages, had found itself. Able men had thrown themselves into its development, and had established a morale whose basic principles were hustle, hard work, and pure democracy.
Holyoke had inherited no wealth but what the Creator had given it. As a town (aside from its West Springfield memories) it had no history and no ancestry. It must work out its own destiny. Work and achievement must be the regime, and despite early racial and religious prejudice the democracy of work and industry prevailed.
The war was ended; a host of workshops and workers had come in, and the courage of Holyoke's pioneers was high.
But as there was no suburban development, and the business section was largely confined to a small part of the present High street and a few stores near the corner of Dwight and Main streets. A. & S.B. Allyn had built a block at the corner of High and Dwight streets, where the Holyoke Realty Trust building now stands, but they found it a little too far south, and sold it in 1869 so as to erect a building farther north. From Lyman to John streets on High was the best business center, and the Exchange block, a little south of Lyman street on the west side, was regarded as the creme de la creme of business locations, and when it burned to the ground, Holyoke felt it as a crushing blow.
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