Whately — Manufacturing
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The first improvement of the water-power in the town was made near Indian Hill, on Roaring Brook, by Adonijah Taylor, about 1763, and was employed to operate a grist-mill. A few years later Mr. Taylor also built a saw-mill at this place. In 1803, Thomas Sanderson became the proprietor of these privileges, and the mills have since been carried on by that family. At present they are operated by Eli C. Sanderson. Before 1820, Eli Sanderson had a mill for wool-carding and cloth-dressing near the present mills.
The best stream in the town, and one of the best for its volume in the State, is West Brook. In its course of four and a half miles within the town it furnishes more than a dozen good sites for manufacturing. Each privilege has an average of seventeen feet fall, whose power is constant, and not subject to much interruption by freshets. Beginning at the upper part of the stream, among the most noteworthy interests have been the following: A saw-mill, by Dexter Morton, was put in operation about 1830; is now operated by E. A. Warner. The next power was improved by Reuben Jenney about 1822 to operate trip-hammer; here is now a wood-turning shop, by E. A. Tenney. The power below this was used by Elihu Harvey and others, but is at present idle. On the fourth power Thomas Nash had a woolen-mill, which was destroyed by fire in 1845.
On the next power below, Jonathan Wait had cloth-dressing machinery about 1811. It was afterward otherwise employed by James Cutter, Austin Allis, Capt. Seth Bardwell, Thomas Nash, and others; Sumner Smith's jobbing-shop is at present located here. The sixth power was one of the first improved in town. About 1765, Edward Brown erected a saw-mill, which he sold in 1791 to Noah Bardwell, Asa Sanderson, and Moses Munson. It is now the property of Luther Sanderson.
As early as 1784, Moses Munson built a grist-mill on the next power below, selling it to James Smith in 1805. Twenty-five years later the building was transformed into a gimlet-factory. At present it is a planing-mill and jobbing-shop, by Covell & Smith.
The next two powers were early improved, and were used principally to operate clothing-works and knitting-machinery for Amos Pratt, Morton & White, H. L. James, and others.
On the tenth privilege Seth Bardwell, Levi Bush, Jr., and David Wells built a woolen-mill in 1833, which had ten looms. It was burned in 1839, and was rebuilt by Capt. Bardwell and supplied with twenty looms. In 1872 it was again destroyed by fire.
Below the last named, Noah Bardwell put up an oil-mill about 1780. Afterward flax-dressing, iron-casting, and tobacco-manufacturing were here carried on. It was destroyed by fire in 1877.
The twelfth power was first made to operate a lathe for Hiram Smith, and thereafter a husk-mill. At this place Harvey Moor & Son have at present grist- and cider-mills.
The next privilege has a fall of about forty feet, and was employed about 1768 to operate saw- and grist-mills for the Beldings, of Hatfield. In 1792 the property passed into the hands of a company, but was owned before 1800 by Isaac Frary. The mills were last owned by the Wells Brothers, and were destroyed by the freshet of December, 1878.
At the power below, Charles and Perez M. Wells have a grist-mill, having three run of stones, which is supplied with good machinery, and does a large amount of business annually.
The fifteenth site was improved about 1800, and has been employed to operate cloth-dressing and wool-carding machinery, a comb-factory, wood-working machines, etc. Here Justin Wait has at present a jobbing-shop.
Below is another power, on the Hatfield line. On the Whately side were iron-works at an early day, and William Wing's fulling-mill.
On Hopewell Brook, Joshua Belden got in operation a small saw-mill in 1797, which was improved after 1800. In 1850, Charles D. Stockbridge here carried on the manufacture of paste blacking, and at a later day Elisha Belden used the power to grind the mineral paint found in this locality.
Tanneries were built in town before the Revolution by Paul Belden* and Thomas Sanderson. The latter's business was continued by his son, Thomas, and his grandson, John Chapman. Solomon Adkins, Jr., had a tannery at the hamlet before 1790, which was afterward carried on by Statham Allis and Dexter Frary, on west Street. Asa Sanderson had a tannery and shoe-shop about 1795, which were very profitable to the proprietor.
From 1785 to 1792, Amasa Smith, hatter, carried on his business in the town. After this period hats were made in Whately at the shops of Benjamin and Joseph Mather, at the hamlet; Benjamin Munson, in the Straits; and Joel Munson, in the southwest district.
Small distilleries have been carried on at different times and places by Reuben and Aaron Belden, Zenas Field, Levi Morton, John Brown, and Peter Wing. At the hamlet Edward Phelps had a distillery about 1818, and in later years the business was carried on by Dexter and Noah Crafts. In 1826, R. B. and J. F. Harwood began the manufacture of wallets and pocket-books on a small scale, increasing their business until it formed an important industry. Others engaged in this branch of business were Stephen Belden, Lemuel Graves, Miles B. Morton, and W. F. Bardwell.
As early as 1778, John Locke made bricks in town, near Capt. Stiles' house. He was succeeded by Daniel Morton, Jr., and Lewis Stiles, and at later dates Thomas Crafts, Justus Crafts, Chester Wells, Oliver Dickinson, Levi Bush, and Luke Wells were brick-makers.
Stephen Orcutt was the first to engage in the manufacture of common pottery, about 1777. Thomas Crafts started a pottery in the Lane in 1802, and from 1821 to 1832 he made a large number of black tea-pots. Their manufacture was begun about 1820 by Sanford S. Perry & Co. In 1833, Thomas Crafts began the manufacture of stone-ware, and continued it fifteen years. Afterward, his son, James M., was extensively engaged as a stone-ware and tile-manufacturer, employing about a dozen hands. Other potters have been Quartus Graves, Heman Swift, Obed Wait, Luke Wait, Justus Crafts, and Ralph E. Crafts.
Before 1820, Edward Phelps made needles, probably in the Straits, making the head flat instead of round. A few of these needles are yet in the possession of James M. Crafts.
Most of the foregoing interests have long since passed away, and comparatively little manufacturing is at present carried on. Besides those mentioned, the Dickinson brothers are engaged in preparing corn-husks for use in mattresses, and Seth D. Crafts manufactures brooms. The town is well supplied with the ordinary mechanic-shops.
* This name was written in early days Belding.