Orange — Industries

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

      The manufactures of Orange are extensive and valuable, and form the basis of the town's present prosperity. The foremost representative of this interest is the Gold Medal Sewing-Machine Company, located on Miller's River, at Orange Centre. In 1863, Hon. Andrew J. Clark, the president of the company, began with Wm. P. Barker the manufacture of the New England single-thread hand-machine upon the site of the present works. They employed but two men at first, and their productions were small in quantity, but the business steadily grew, and when, in 1865, Mr. Clark purchased Mr. Barker's interest, the employes numbered forty; and the aggregate number of machines made was from 300 to 400 per week. Mr. Clark continued the business alone until 1867, when he organized the firm of Johnson, Clark & Co., materially enlarged the works, and began the manufacture of the Gold Medal sewing-machine, in connection with the New England machine. In 1869 the firm became a corporation, under the name of the Gold Medal Sewing-Machine Company, with Andrew J. Clark as president, and in 1870 replaced the Gold Medal machine with the manufacture of the Home machine, which in turn was succeeded in 1877 by the New Home machine, which is now the chief product. The manufacture of the New England machine was discontinued in 1877, and now, besides the New Horne, the company makes also the Home shuttle-machine. The production in 1803 was 39,000 machines, the second largest number returned by American manufacturers to the Sewing-Machine Journal in that year, and for 1879 the estimate is 50,000. The main works, on the north side of the river, cover three-quarters of an acre. On the south side of the river the company has a manufactory of sewing-machine cases and machine wood-work, and has also a half-interest in the Orange Iron-Foundry Company, where their castings are made. The total number of persons employed in the interests of the company at Orange number about 450.*
      The Rodney Hunt Machine Company, on the south side of the river, is the outgrowth of a manufacturing business started by Mr. Rodney Hunt, in 1840, at Orange Centre. The works of the company are extensive, and the manufacture is largely of woolen-mill machinery, turbine water-wheels, and general mill-work. The company's capital represents an investment of upward of $75,000, and they employ from 75 to 100 men. This company, with the Gold Medal Sewing-Machine Company, controls also the Orange Iron-Foundry Company, located on the south side of the river, and engaged in the manufacture of turbine water-wheels, sewing-machine castings, and general mill-work. The company has a capital of $50,000, and employs a force of from 60 to 70 men.
      L. Kilburn & Co., on the north side of the river, do a thriving business in the manufacture of cane- and wood-seat chairs. The firm was organized in 1862, and now occupies a factory, of which the main building is three stories and a half in height and measures 80 by 45 feet, the wing being two stories and a half high and 52 feet in length by 24 feet in width. In 1878 the firm manufactured fifty thousand chairs, and estimated its product for 1879 at double that number. Twenty-five hands are employed in the factory, and about 250 men, women, and children are employed at their homes as seaters. Kilburn & Co. have also an interest in the Chase Turbine Manufacturing Company, and own a saw-mill in Orange, whence they obtain material for their manufactures.
      The Chase Turbine Manufacturing Company, adjacent to the works of the Gold Medal Sewing-Machine Company, was organized in 1874, as the outgrowth of the Turbine Water-Wheel Manufacturing Company, which, upon the same site, began operations in 1865. Turbine water-wheels, circular-saws, and general mill-machinery are among the manufactures of this corporation, whose capital is $30,000, and whose employes number from 12 to 30.
      A Co-operative Furniture Company, containing the. interests of from 15 to 20 people, has recently been set in motion in the establishment originally occupied by J. S. Dewing & Co. for a similar industry.
      Besides the manufacturing interests here named, which are located on Miller's River, at Orange Centre, there is in the same village a brick structure, formerly used as a steam furniture manufactory, which was erected by H. H. Whitney, at a cost of about $20,000. Mr. Whitney failed in 1876, and since that date the establishment has been idle.
      G. A. Whipple, at Orange Centre, employs many people in various parts of the town in the manufacture of palm-leaf hats, of which commodity he produces $10,000 worth annually,
      The Eagle Mill Company, in Eagleville, near the Athol line, was organized in 1867 with a capital of $20,000, and has been engaged since that time in the manufacture of shoddy cloth, of which 150,000 yards are produced yearly. The company's mill is 140 by 32 feet, and the average number of hands employed is 27.
      At Fryville there is a small shoddy-mill, under the management of Rufus Frost. At Furnaceville, H. R. Stowell employs 20 persons in the production of furniture, and F. G. Holden 6 men in the manufacture of chair-stuff, match-woods, etc.
      There are many excellent and profitable farms in the north part of the town, where agriculture is the chief interest. The soil is sandy and loamy, and yields a fair return for the labors of the husbandman. In 1878 the town raised $7500 to defray town charges, $2500 for highways, $2600 for interest on the town debt, and $4100 for schools.

*An extensive conflagration at the village of Orange, in March, 1879, destroyed the buildings of the Orange Manufacturing Company, operated by the Gold Medal Sewing-Machine Company for the production of sewing-machine cabinet work. The total loss reached about $50,000.

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