Whately — Industrial Pursuits: Tobacco

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

      Agriculture has always been the principal occupation of the people of Whately, although other interests have received considerable attention. The abundant yield of hay in the meadows, and the good grazing qualities of the uplands, early directed attention to dairying and stock-raising. But these interests did not maintain their prominence, and gave way to other pursuits, chiefly to

Tobacco Culture.

      This plant was cultivated and used in town before the Revolution, but it was not grown for the market much before 1800. About that time Joshua Belden, Levi Morton, and Perez Wells were among the largest growers, and sent the tobacco out by peddlers for sale in the hill-towns of the county, but it was not until 1845 that the culture of seed-leaf tobacco as a field crop was introduced. Horace Dickinson and Lewis Wells procured some seed from Connecticut, and planted about an acre apiece, selling the crop at two cents per pound for fillers and six cents for wrappers. The next crop was sold at an advance, and the acreage was largely increased. At the end of ten years 69 acres were in cultivation, from which $9165 were realized. In 1865, with tobacco selling at twenty cents per pound, the value of the crop in Whately was $105,344. About 300 acres are now cultivated annually, yielding 1600 pounds per acre, the variety being the Connecticut-seed leaf, although lately the culture of Havana-seed leaf has been begun. Among the principal growers are J. W. C. & S. W. Allis, cultivating 20 acres, and preparing it for the manufacturer; Elihu Belden, who owns a warehouse holding; 600 cases; Alfred Belden, employing from 10 to 30 men; Rufus Dickinson & Sons, John White & Sons, Henry K. White, Walter & Alonzo Crafts, S. E. Allis, E. G. Crafts, E. H. Wood, and others.
      The raising of broom-corm and the manufacture of brooms was begun in Whately about 1805 by the Belden Brothers, but the business did not assume much importance before 1827, when Francis Belden devised machinery which enabled them to produce a better and neater article at a smaller cost. Others engaged in growing the corn and manufacturing brooms, among them being R. T. Morton, Abel W. Nash, Solomon Mosher, Carlos Swift, J. M. Cooley, Lucius Graves, and Eliphas H. Wood. The latter is yet engaged in the business at East Whately, his sales in some years amounting to $30,000, but the general cultivation of broom-corn has greatly decreased, and now reaches only a fraction of its former proportions.

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26 Jun 2005