Montague — Industries

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      The industrial centre of the town is at Turner's Falls, where the manufacturing interests are extensive and important. Chief among them is the John Russell Manufacturing Company, engaged in the production of table and pocket cutlery and plated spoon ware, the latter feature of the manufacture having been added in the winter of 1878. The origin of this company dates back to 1828, when John Russell began the manufacture of cutlery in small way at Greenfield, Mass. In 1834, Mr. Russell's new venture had assumed such proportions that he organized a stock company for the further development of the enterprise, and in that year the company built the Green River Works, on the Green River, at Greenfield, and entered largely upon the manufacture of cutlery. The business was conducted at this point until 1870, when it was transferred to the company's present location at Turner's Falls, where the erection of new works was begun in 1868, and upon their completion in 1870 the change of location was effected, as noted. In 1868, Mr. Russell retired from the active management of the enterprise, which continued, how-ever, to bear the impress of his name by assuming the designation of The John Russell 'Manufacturing Company, with a capital of $500,000, and as such is now known. This establishment is not only the oldest one of the kind in this country, but is also the largest. The works have a frontage on the Connecticut River of 610 feet, and are capable of employing a force of 1200 persons. But one-half ,that number (or 600) was employed in 1878, and in that year the value of manufactures reached $450,000.
      Next in importance is the Montague Paper Company, which was projected in 1870 by Col. Alva Crocker, of Fitchburg, Mass., and Edwin Bulkley, of New York, and organized in May, 1871, Col. Crocker becoming president, and Mr. Bulkley a member of the board of directors. The original capital stock was $125,000, and upon this, in 1871, a three-story brick mill, 128 by 55 feet, was erected just west of the Russell Company's works, and the work of manufacturing news-printing paper begun. In 1872 the manufacture of book-paper was inaugurated, and to the production of these two kinds of paper the mill is still devoted. In 1874 the works were enlarged by the addition of a wing three stories in height, and measuring 100 by 55 feet, and in 1875 the company purchased the works of the Turner's Falls Pulp Company, directly east, and consisting of a two-story brick edifice, measuring 200 by 55 feet. The latter was soon afterward enlarged, so that now, in 1879, the company has a front on the river of 560 feet. The nominal capital is $290,000, but the actual investment in mills, etc., reaches upward of $300,000. Two hundred and fifty people are employed, and the daily product is 10 tons of printing-paper and 6 tons of refined wood-pulp, aggregating an annual value of $800,000.
      The Keith Paper Company commenced operations in 1874, with a capital of $750,000 invested in buildings and stock. They employ 250 people, and produce 5 tons of fine paper daily.
      The Clark & Chapman Machine Company manufactures rotary pumps, turbine water-wheels, circular-saw mills, etc., and employs 30 hands.
      The Shawmut Manufacturing Company is the only company in this country engaged in the manufacture of leatherette,—made of paper to imitate leather, and used for bookbinding, fancy boxes, picture-frame covers, pocket-books, fans, wall-paper, etc. The company, composed of Boston capitalists, began operations at Turner's Falls in 1877, and employs a force of 12 men.
      Mr. Joseph Griswold, a wealthy mill-owner of Coleraine, Mass., has completed at Turner's Falls the erection of a brick cotton-mill, four stories in height, measuring 240 by 72 feet, with an L three stories in height, and measuring 70 by 50 feet. The mill has a capacity of 20,000 spindles, and was expected, in the spring of 1879, to he in full operation by mid-summer. In connection with the mill, Mr. Griswold has erected brick tenements, which will give homes to 200 or more of his operatives.
      The other noticeable manufacturing interests in the town are the pocket-book and wallet manufactory of Emil Weissbrod, at Montague Centre, employing 15 hands; the hayrake-factory, at the same point, of Amos Rugg, who employs about 6 men; and the extensive brick-yards of Adams & Son, at Montague City where about 50 men are employed.
      Montague cannot be called a great agricultural town, for beyond the production of tobacco on the river-lands the yield of the soil is limited. It is, however, a good fruit country, and there is also plenty of valuable pasturage, while the manufacture of butter, the raising of stock, and the growing of Indian corn are carried on to some extent. There are 132 farms in the town, and in 1875 the value of agricultural products was $175,186; that of manufactures, $1,478,446. The value of real estate in 1878 was $1,694,096, and of personal estate, $460,030, or a total of $2,154,126, upon which the total State, county, and town tax was $23,493.26, or at the rate of about 1 per cent. The debt of the town is $24,000, of which $12,000 are for school buildings and $8000 for bridges. As an indication of the advancement in valuation since 1854, it may be observed that in that year the total tax was but $3380.
      The Turner's Falls Company, through which all the great mills at the village are supplied with water-power, was called into existence in 1866, through the forceful energy of Col. Alva Crocker, of Fitchburg, Mass., who, as has already been seen, conceived, in 1865, the idea of making the great water-power of Turner's Falls the foundation upon which the wilderness then lying adjacent to it upon either side the Connecticut should rise and blossom as a rose.
      Accordingly, in that year, Col. Crocker, with a few other capitalists, purchased the rights and franchises of an old corporation known as "The Proprietors of the Upper Locks and Canals on the Connecticut River, in the County of Hampshire," which was organized in 1794 as a separate corporation, when the corporation known as "The Proprietors of the Locks and Canals on the Connecticut River" resolved itself into two parts. The last-named company was created for the purpose of constructing canals around the falls at Hadley and Montague, on the Connecticut River, for the passage of boats and rafts. The first attempt to construct a clam at Montague was made in 1792, at Smeads Island, opposite what is now Montague City, but the attempt, owing to the depth of the water, was abandoned after several months of unsuccessful effort. In the following year a clam was built at Turner's Falls, and in 1794 work on the canal was begun. In 1798 the canal was opened to traffic, and from that time until about 1845 the company pursued a profitable business, but with the increase of railway facilities the canal traffic rapidly diminished, and the enterprise was shortly afterward abandoned. The track of the old canal is still clearly marked, although in many places the bed has been tilled up.
      As before observed, Col. Crocker and others purchased the stock of this corporation in 1865, and in 1866 obtained the passage of an act of the Legislature, by which the name of the corporation was changed to that of "The Turner's Falls Company." In that year the company purchased largely of lands in Montague lying on the river-front and adjacent thereto near the falls, and built a bulkhead at a cost of $24,000, and on March 20, 1867, the present dam, costing $105,000, was completed. The width from shore to shore is upward of 500 feet, but about midway between the banks, and dividing the falls, is Great Island, a rocky and picturesque elevation, which, bedecked with foliage, is, in the bright seasons of the year, a wildly romantic-looking spot, which seems appropriately set in the midst of the turbulent and mighty rush of the majestic torrent. The fall over the dam is about thirty feet, and the full power equal to the strength of 30,000 horses. The entire fall controlled by the company is about eighty feet. The company's canal, occupying a portion of the bed of the old canal, had cost, up to March, 1879, about $173,000. The company's capital, originally $200,000, was $300,000 in 1879, in which year its assets included, besides the dam and canal, upward of 1300 acres of land, covering a long stretch of mill-sites on the river-front, and building-sites and other real estate in the village, as well as the water-right at Factory village, in Greenfield, on Fall River, just above Turner's Falls.

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