Sunday, March 2, 2014

Newburyport Woolen Company

From Towle Manufacturing Company, History of Newburyport & Scholfield Wool-Carding Machines

An industry inaugurated by Newburyport capital was located at the falls in Byfield. This was the Newburyport Woolen Company, established in 1794, the first company incorporated for that business in the state, and by some authorities named as the first woolen manufactory in America. The carding and other machines for its equipment were built by Standring, Guppy, & Armstrong, in Newburyport, being set up in "Lord" Timothy Dexter's stable; and were the first made in this country.

From Currier History of Newburyport Volume 2
January 29, 1794, Benjamin Greenleaf, Philip Aubin, William Bartlet, Richard Bartlet, Offin Boardman, jr., Moses Brown, David Coffin, William Coombs, John Coombs, Mark Fitz, Abel Greenleaf, John Greenleaf, Andrew Frothingham, Michael Hodge, Nicholas Johnson, Nathaniel Knapp, Peter Le Breton, Joseph Moulton, Theophilus Parsons, Ebenezer Wheelwright, Edward Wigglesworth and others were incorporated by the name of "The Proprietors of the Newburyport Woolen Manufactory."'

The company purchased about six acres of land, with a water privilege on the Parker river, in Byfield parish, Newbury, and erected a factory there, which was supplied with suitable machinery made by the Schofield Brothers and by Messrs. Guppy & Armstrong in Newburyport. It is said that the company was the first one incorporated for the manufacture of woolen goods in the United States.' The broadcloths, cassimeres, serges and blankets made there were sold by William Bartlet at his store in Newburyport. The business, however, was not financially successful, and Mr. Bartlet bought out the dissatisfied stockholders in 1803. Next year, he sold the property to John Lees, an Englishman, who converted it into a factory for the manufacture of cotton cloth.

The Above is from "Towle Book" A Newburyport philanthropist, Timothy Dexter, contributed the use of his stable. There, beginning in December 1793, the Scholfields built a 24-inch, single-cylinder, wool-carding machine. They completed it early in 1794, the first Scholfield wool-carding machine in America. The group was so impressed that they organized the Newburyport Woolen Manufactory. Arthur was hired as overseer of the carding and John as overseer of the weaving and also as company agent for the purchase of raw wool. A site was chosen on the Parker River in Byfield Parish, Newbury, where a building 100 feet long, about half as wide, and three stories high was constructed. To the new factory were moved the first carding machine, two double-carding machines, as well as spinning, weaving and fulling machines. The carding machines were built by Messrs. Standring, Armstrong, and Guppy, under the Scholfields' immediate direction. All the machinery with the exception of the looms was run by water-power; the weaving was done by hand. The enterprise was in full operation by 1795.

John and Arthur Scholfield (and John's 11-year-old son, James) worked at the Byfield factory for several years. During a wool-buying trip to Connecticut in 1798, John observed a valuable water-power site at the mouth of the Oxoboxo River, in the town (i.e., township) of Montville, Connecticut. Here, the brothers decided, would be a good place to set up their own mill, and on April 19, 1799, they signed a 14-year lease for the water site, a dwelling house, a shop, and 17 acres of land. As soon as arrangements could be completed, Arthur, John, and the latter's family left for Montville.

The Scholfields quite probably did not take any of the textile machinery from the Byfield factory with them to Connecticut—first because the machines were built while the brothers were under hire and so were the property of the sponsors, and second because their knowledge of how to build the machines would have made it unnecessary to incur the inconvenience and expense of transporting machines the hundred odd miles to Montville. However, John Scholfield's sons reported that they had taken a carding engine with them when they moved to Connecticut in 1799 and had later transferred it to a factory in Stonington. The sons claimed that the frame, cylinders, and lags of the machine were made of mahogany and that it had originally been imported from England. However, it would have been most uncommon for a textile machine, even an English one, to have been constructed of mahogany; and having built successful carding machines, the men at Byfield would have found it unnecessary to attempt the virtually impossible feat of importing an English one. If it ever existed and was taken to Connecticut, therefore, this machine was probably not a carding machine manufactured by the Scholfields. It is more probable that the first Scholfield carding machine remained in the Byfield mill as the property of the Newburyport Woolen Manufactory.

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