Jacob Huntington and Family

In a recent visit to the Amesbury Public Library our Board member Tim found this article written by local historian Sara Locke Redford and transcribed it for us to share.  Redford wrote a history of Amesbury and is well regarded as one of the City's most committed historians. 

The library also houses a small collection of family photographs of the Huntingtons. You can see a few miniatures of three members of the Huntington family in this image. 

Huntington streamlined carriage industry

by Sara L. Redford

Jacob R. Huntington is remembered in Amesbury and throughout the entire industrial world for laying the foundation of the town’s great carriage industry.

    One day in 1853 the man who later would be responsible for shaping Amesbury’s business destiny in the nineteenth century, stopped in at the office of a friend for a chat.

    During the conversation, Huntington said emphatically, “Bill, within ten years I will make a fortune equal to the biggest in town.”

    “Well, Jake,” his friend replied, “you can get it, but there is only one way to get there. If you say, ‘money, money, money’ from early in the morning until late at night and repeat it to yourself while you eat, while you work and while you ought to sleep, you can do it.”

    Shortly after that, Jake made a contract with C. H. Palmer of West Amesbury, now Merrimac, to do a paint job for $100. He went to work immediately, but was unable to find a boarding place in the vicinity. So, he walked back and forth to West Amesbury each day, a matter of 10 miles round trip.

    After six weeks he succeeded in finishing his job and with $100 in his pocket, he felt it was time for him to strike out on his own. During his daily walks to Merrimac and return, he had had plenty of time to think and his mind was constantly on the future of vehicular transportation.

    He had the conviction that all who wanted a carriage should be able to buy it, be he rich or poor. This meant that he would have to build one that would be within the price range of the average worker.

    Huntington faced many difficulties as he set out to create his first carriage in a new locality. He had to travel many hundreds of miles before he had accumulated the necessary parts in Amesbury.

    There was no one who could do the work for him, but at the end of eight weeks, the first carriage built by Huntington rolled out of the shop, complete in every way. It was similar to the later Concord carriage and was sold to a Mr. Bartlett of Salisbury for $30.

    Twenty years later, Huntington said that he saw this vehicle, still running and in fine condition. However, shortly after this, Amesbury’s first carriage was sold and Jake lost track of it.

    Up to the time of this Huntington carriage, no one had dared attempt duplication in building them. However, Huntington was firm in his belief that each customer did not necessarily require or even want a style distinct from any other. He felt, too, that more than one carriage built on the same pattern could be disposed of regardless of whether or not it had been ordered in advance. He became more determined than ever to establish just such a “duplicity” business.

    When Jake first started out with a thin purse, he had to be the boss, salesman, painter, blacksmith, paymaster, bookkeeper, as well as treasurer, training his men in each of these positions as he went along. He seemed to have an endless supply of energy and never tired although he spent many long hours of the day and night with his project.

    In 1858, feeling that it was easier to establish a large business in the west, he moved his family to Cincinnati, Ohio. He found a few factories already established in the “Queen City of the West”, but he saw the opportunity of setting up the duplicating system of which he had long dreamed.

    Today he is recognized as the father of the business which was carried on so successfully in Cincinnati. The west had no particular call for high-priced, high-grade carriages, unlike Amesbury where the wealth of the east was looking for a vehicle that was a luxury.

    At the end of a year in Ohio, his doctor told him that to save the life of his oldest daughter who was critically ill, he must return to the Atlantic seacoast immediately.

    So, he sold out all his holdings in Cincinnati and went back to Amesbury. Here he found James Hume to whom he has sold out here, doing a rushing business. Huntington quickly set himself up once more, this time in the machine shop belonging to Enoch Osgood on Elm Street.

    Twice during his career Huntington was burned out, once with an $18,000 loss covered by only $2800. The day following the fire, he finished a carriage in a room of the Hamilton Woolen Mill. Later he built a large factory on Carriage Hill where he continued until he sold out to Hume in 1875.

    Huntington was able to retire on profits accumulated between the years 1869 and 1875, but under conditions far outstripping those of today. During this same period, many of his men had saved up enough money from their earnings to leave his employ and establish themselves as carriage makers on a small scale. As fast as he discovered that a man had the ability to conduct business independently, he actually forced him out of his shop. [...]

    Among those who worked for him and who later were identified with the carriage industry as independent makers were James Hume, A.P. Boardman, E.S. Fletch, A.M. Huntington (his brother), W.G. Ellis, George J. Hunt, Charles Burlingame, T.W. Lane, Osgood Morrill, John Francis, all well known carriage men.

    To many, it might seem strange that Huntington would encourage some of his men to become his competitors. However, he knew that the industry must spread out in order to prosper. Soon, competition began to liven up the town and brought new carriage buyers to the community daily.

    Simple courtesy among the business rivals did a great deal to create a good feeling and much to lessen the jealousy and ill will. All this helped to build up peacefully the carriage business which made Amesbury almost synonymous with the word “carriage”.

    The conception and the system of building a thousand carriages or more, exactly alike and all costing the same, stand to the credit of Huntington. His western friends soon caught on to the organizing and systemizing of duplication in producing carriages, and many of them became wealthy.

    Huntington, born in Amesbury in 1830, took an active part in civic affairs and for many years was town moderator. In 1868 he was Representative from this district to the Massachusetts Legislature and was sent as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1890.    

    In 1888, he made a gift to the state of Massachusetts of the large bronze statue of Josiah Bartlett, Amesbury-born signer of the Declaration of Independence. This likeness of Bartlett still stands in Huntington Square near the Public Library.

    It has been said that Huntington gave this memorial as a salve to his conscience for having taken a certain stand on the question of temperance, much to the annoyance of many of his fellow-townsmen. We like to think he was urged by the spirit of patriotism and civic pride in helping to perpetuate the memory of an American Revolutionary patriot.

    The home of Huntington built in true Victorian splendor at the crest of Patten’s Hill, Main Street, was torn down last October, the victim of unwarranted vandalism and the inability of any local organization to raise funds to restore the home to its original beauty.

[Amesbury News Souvenir, Wednesday, August 14, 1968]

Major acquisition expands scope of collection

We are excited to announce the major acquisition of the entire collection of the Salisbury Point Railroad Historical Society (SPRRHS). This non-profit sister organization found itself in an all too common circumstance with participation and donations dwindling and a critically important collection of historic artifacts to care for. The SPRRHS  approached the ACM earlier in 2015 to determine our interest in stewarding the collection after their dissolution. 

The ACM Board considered carefully this major acquisition which includes many cool artifacts such as train lanterns, passenger schedules, original blueprints of track layouts, photographs of the station’s early years and most notably the railroad station itself which is located in Amesbury’s new Heritage Park right next to the future home of the carriage museum.  These objects will expand the scope of our collection and will facilitate a broader range of interpretive projects.  As we continue to develop our mission and vision for the 21st century we recognize the importance of expanding our scope to better understand and interpret the life, customs and community of Amesbury throughout its rich history.  As we process this new donation we will share updates and we look forward to your feedback. 

We would like to thank all the SPRRHS members, especially Peter Bryant, for all they did to make this transition so smooth and welcome you as members of the Amesbury Carriage Museum!

There are hundreds of objects and documents in the SPRRHS collection. Here is just a sampling. 

A temporary home for the Amesbury Carriage Museum!

As many of our supporters know, the Amesbury Carriage Museum co-owns the building at 29 Water Street in Amesbury (to learn more about our partnership visit the Amesbury Carriage Alliance website). This space, the Amesbury Heritage Center, will house our permanent collection and office space as well as function rooms and spaces for student visits.  Unfortunately, it will be a few years before we are fully settled into a renovated building. 

We are excited to announce that we have found a temporary home in a collaborative and innovative setting. This new space within the Chestnut Innovation Center will provide us with storage space for a selection of our carriages as well as a meeting space for our Board meetings and public events. Additionally, we will have the opportunity to display one of our carriages in the shared public meeting space in the CIC.  The arrangement affords us the opportunity to connect with new audiences. The CIC feels a natural home for us with their commitment to engineering and manufacturing innovation and entrepreneurship.  The Carriage and related industries thrived because of this same innovative spirit. 

We are still in the midst of reviewing our collection and will be moving carriages to our new space soon. Stay tuned for updates! 

Heritage Center Master Plan Presentation Recording Now Available

We know some of you weren't able to make it to our presentation on June 11, 2015. Guy Hermann of Museum Insights and Tony Hsiao of Finegold Alexander Architects joined Rick Bartley, Chair of the Amesbury Carriage Alliance to present our master plan for the Heritage Center. Here is the presentation in full. Let us know what you think! 

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT9DXwLPOoA 



Early Almanacs

Memorial Day is celebrated on Monday May 25. Traditionally on this weekend memorials and cemeteries receive an extra sprucing up.  Throughout New England this weekend is a popular time to work in the garden.  Many gardeners may be familiar with the Farmers' Alamanac, still published today, which includes weather predictions, astronomical data and recommendations for planting.  We found this 1935 edition at the Amesbury Public Library, they have a small collection of almanacs from the 18th - 20th centuries. This education of Farmer's was printed in Newburyport. 


 But Farmers' isn't the only game in town. One of the earlier and most popular almanacks published in the United States was the Astronomical Almananck (or Diary) authored by Nathaniel Ames who lived in Massachusetts. 

Perhaps the most curious Almanack we uncovered was this colorful one published in Britain in the 19th century. Clock Almanack by John Hartley was written in the Yorkshire dialect. This copy from 1871 includes short stories which were typical of this publication. The cover signals levity to the newly expanding reading public.  Unlike the astronomical, religious and even the Farmer's almanacs this publication didn't take itself quite so seriously. 

Spring arrives at Heritage Park

This warm weather has us daydreaming about future lunch breaks in Heritage Park.  We can see the possibilities now ever more clearly with the snow and slush long gone.  Here is a look at the project up close.  In addition to the progress on the plantings and hardscape we were excited to see the new sign courtesy of Coastal Trails. Located just at the entrance of the park it documents the Salisbury Point Railroad and the station which is located just inside the park. 

From the bridge over the back river you can see even more progress. Work to remove the salt shed has begin and we've never been so happy to see a "Road Work Ahead" sign! 

Crossing over the bridge further along Water Street provided an exciting view of the progress by the back river.   The Heritage Center will include a special events space. The way this space is shaping up we can see it is going to be a popular spot for celebrations.  Who is going to be first couple to get married in this beautiful new space? We can't wait to find out! 

Irish-Catholics come to Amesbury Mills Village

John F. Kellett gives us a glimpse into the history of Irish-Catholics in our region. Several of his vignettes are available for research in the Amesbury Room at the Amesbury Public Library.  We transcribed one of his works here. Read on to learn more about the Daley family who immigrated from Belfast Ireland. 

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "The Irish Remedy -- Emigration To America." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1898. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-37da-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "The Irish Remedy -- Emigration To America." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1898. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-37da-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

"William Daley and his first wife, Catherine, of Belfast, Ireland, were the first Irish-Catholics, of record, at Amesbury Mills Village, where their daughters, Margaret Mary, and Mary June, were born February 13, 1834 and October 16, 1836, respectively. The family was living in the Daley house, so-called, in Wadleigh's Court [near the present location of Hanley Court—map] as early as the 1840's and in the late 1850's the first Mass said in Amesbury was celebrated there by Rev. Henry Lennon, pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church of Newburyport, a personal friend of William Daley. William Daley, junior, elder son, was ordained a Catholic priest in 1862, the first Amesbury native to merit the distinction. Mr. Daley was a supervisor in the Amesbury-Salisbury mills for many years; later, a realtor in the twin-villages, and his status as good citizen made for easier acceptance by the inhabitants of the town of the Irish-Catholics who cam in during the 1840's and 50's and 60's. 

There were a half dozen Irish-Cathoic families living in Amesbury and Salisbury Mills villages during the 1840's, whose heads were skilled workers, who had learned their crafts in the great English textile centers of Bradford and Leeds, Bolton and Manchester. Among them were a designer, a pattern-maker, a dyer and a weaver. With a group of the native English of the second immigration who had preceded them to the mills villages, by a few years, they constituted an elite of labor, and held responsible positions in the burgeoning local industry. The names Roger Cummings, John Lambert, Roger Fallen, Daniel Harrigan and Garrett Freeman, mean little or nothing to present day members of their race and religion in Amesbury, yet there were the men, under William Daley's leadership, who helped lay the foundation of St. Joseph's Parish.

The native Americans who removed to the twin-villages from surrounding towns, to work in the cloth factories, and the English immigrants of the 1830 to 1860 period, mingled freely with the Amesbury and Salisbury inhabitants, and shared with them the cultural patterns which the latter's ancestors had evolved during their two hundred years' residence in the adjoining towns. The Irish-Catholics, on the other hand, held to their old country manner of living, insofar as that was possible in their new environment, and their contacts with the native born, other than those necessitated by commercial transactions were minimal. They were, in brief, of a different race, religion and outlook.

When the Irish-Catholics began to arrive, in numbers, Amesbury-Salisbury natives were enjoying the fruits of the local industrial revolution which had commenced in the second decade of the nineteenth century, in the textile miles on the banks of the Powow. Many natives were employed in the textile plants, and they feared that the influx of unskilled foreigners would cause a decrease in the wages paid them, due to the eagerness of the new-comers to obtain work. The Irish-Catholics were accustomed to a different standard of living and were content to toil for a price that would allow them to support themselves, frugally, and to save a little money against the day when they would buy a house and land. Neither faction understood, fully, the other's motive's and sentiments, and this lack of perception was at the root of the tragedy which marked their interrelations during the 1850's.

No record remains of secret, nativist societies in the twin-villages during the years the Know Nothing Party was preparing to enter national politics, yet me may be reasonably certain that they existed there, and in neighboring towns, also. Concerning events of the year 1856, Joseph Merrill says in his History of Amesbury:

"This is the ever memorable Know Nothing year and the vote at the Fall election was very large. Henry J. Gardner, who was the Know Nothing candidate for Governor, received 428 votes, and all others 153."

In 1857, Amesbury voted by a large majority to amend the State Constitution, by the addition to it of Article 20, which provided that voters must be able to read and write. The amendment which was approved, enthusiastically, throughout the Bay State, bore most heavily on Irish-Catholic immigrants of the first half of the 1850's. From 1851 to 1856, victims of the Irish famine, many of them lacking formal education, came to New England, mainly to Massachusetts, in ever-growing numbers. "Their presence," wrote a contemporary, "evoked a hysterical nativism, which found an outlet in various organizations, most of them originally secret and planned to resist the invidious whiles of foreign influence."

"Although the strangers quickly found work on the railroads or in the mills," continued the commentator, "it was believed, in many quarters, that they were responsible for a sudden increase in crime and pauperism." […]

Father Joseph F. Scheuer and Edward Wakin, in their book, The De-Romanization of the American Catholic Church, describe accurately, the attitude of Amesbury natives towards the Irish-Catholics who worked for and beside them in the textile factories in the Mills villages, during the 1850-60's.

"In America he (the Irish-Catholic) and his countrymen had to learn to live side by side with the analytical New Englanders, who had been bred in a theological atmosphere where intellect had been sharpened by controversy on "fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge". Such religionists felt little sympathy for the Irishman, and his priest, who had never discussed a point of doctrine in their lives. But in the end the righteous Yankees felt a responsibility for the new immigrants' condition, and gradually the old traces of Puritan contempt would disappear.

Meanwhile, in a self-imposed ghetto of Catholic awareness and activity, parochialism was nurtured. The defensive tone, deriving from the constant Catholic suspicion that there is an enemy all around, created a reactionary image. Their range of interests and spectrum of sympathies were usually circumscribed by the Catholic context. Certainly this was the abiding impression created by the public, the official and the visible in Catholic life before the aggiornaments of Pope John XXIII."

Despite the wall of ideas which separated natives and immigrants as effectually as had the Atlantic Ocean, prior to the 1850's, there was mutual respect and a measure of fraternization between certain members of both groups, from the start. It would be many years before freer attitudes permitted close social links, yet liberal souls of either class enjoyed, meanwhile, the camaraderie of a Saturday night dance in Washington Hall, in the heart of Salisbury Mills Village, the former Franklin Hall, and latterly, Amesbury Grange Hall, which was razed recently. Difference were forgotten, temporarily, under the spell of Jim Quimby's magic violin and the marvel of Alice Ahearn's superb dancing. Quimby, a barber by vocation, with a shop nearby, was a lineal descendant of William Osgood, an uncompromising Puritan, who built Amesbury's oldest house, on Congress Street [since disassembled and relocated outside of Amesbury]. Mrs. Ahearn, a large, good-looking, light-footed woman, endowed generously with Irish wit, was known to her countrymen and to natives alike as "Mother Heron". No weekly dance was a success with either local celebrity absent."

Kellett, John F. "Pioneer Irish-Catholics of Amesbury and Salisbury, Massachusetts". Amesbury, Massachusetts. (n.d.) 65p, Amesbury Public Library, Local History Collection

In the Dead of Winter - Part I

With several feet of snow on the ground and another storm churning down on us it's hard not to think about snow and ice.  A small brook runs through our backyard here in Amesbury and just before the freeze this year the brook flooded.  My children declared it a skating rink and as they slid and slipped on the frozen surface I found myself thinking of the body of water which captivated me as a kid, Lake Gardner. 

I grew up in Amesbury and after graduating from Amesbury High, moved to attend school at UMASS Amherst.  After several more moves for graduate school and work, my husband and I found ourselves in D.C. with a newborn and in need of some family support. We packed up and headed North with little in the way of a plan.  Luckily my parents rented us an apartment in my childhood home atop a small hill adjacent to the much larger Po Hill. From their third floor apartment the view of Lake Gardner below is picturesque. I remember as a kid being fascinated by the straight lines of the lake's edges and marveling at the right angles where the shorelines meet. I must have been about 9 years old when my father let me in on the secret that the lake was manmade.  It wasn't until I moved back to Amesbury and found the lake my neighbor once again that I began to wonder about the history of the water there and what purposes it served for the city.  

Many will be familiar with the story but for me it was a new discovery. In 1871 the Salisbury Mills  Company acquired the rights to flood the plains surrounding the Powow river by way of a dam.   In 1872 the job was done, the dam complete and the "pond" was here to stay.  

The lake quickly became integral to daily life of the town's inhabitants. Farmers secured watering rights for livestock and the energy from the falls powered the factories downstream. But what happened in the winter? As a child I could see the ice fishermen making their determined and frosty trek to the lake's center, and cross country skiers gliding along the untouched snow cover.  Idyllic certainly, but it wasn't always a winter recreation spot.  Until the middle of the 20th century Lake Gardner was, like many a New England pond, a source for the robust ice harvest industry. Where there are now homes lining Whitehall Road there were once ice houses, huge wooden structures designed to store the large blocks of harvested ice and keep it cool  throughout the hazy and hot summer months. 

It took very little time for the ice companies to take up residence on the lake and the two major companies in operation as early as 1875 and through the early years of the twentieth century were Joseph Pray's operation and H.H. Bean and Sons. The former operated for the longest period although the company passed hands over the years. The business came to be known as Lake Gardner Ice Company and in 1909 the owner Frank Currier sold the business to Roy H. Locke.  Lake Gardner Ice worked out of five ice houses on the West side of the lake. You can see four of them in the image below. 

R.H. Locke's ice houses lining the western shore of Lake Gardner. Image courtesy the Sara Locke Redford Papers, Local History Collection, Amesbury Public Library. 

R.H. Locke's ice houses lining the western shore of Lake Gardner. Image courtesy the Sara Locke Redford Papers, Local History Collection, Amesbury Public Library

By the time Locke became a Lake Gardner ice-man in 1909 the business of natural ice harvesting was a century old. Although wealthy families in Europe had stored ice in underground houses (much like caves) for decades the commercialization and ultimate success of above ground ice storage was an American story, and a Yankee one at that.

Frederic Tudor,  a Bostonian from a wealthy family, shipped his first load of New England ice to the West Indies in 1806.  He was familiar with ice storage because his family’s country estate, Rockwood, was equipped with its own ice house situated on the edge of their small pond located then in Lynn (now Nahant) Massachusetts. His success, however, was far from inevitable. Tudor’s business peaked and plummeted throughout the 19th century because of his own financial missteps combined with unavoidable shipping restrictions brought about by the wars.  

Ultimately, his persistence paid off and he popularized ice as a commodity throughout the southern United States and the tropics. Ice cream and chilled cocktails (mint juleps became particularly popular) gained great popularity and ice established its place as a staple in many American homes. Tudor's firm is credited with innovations involving refining methods for stacking the large ice blocks in the houses and identifying an efficient insulation method for the ice, sawdust.

Reports describe a particularly robust Amesbury harvest in 1906 of about 50,000 tons which were destined for a Boston operation to be distributed up and down the Eastern coast and possibly even abroad.  Some sources suggest that much of this harvest was done after daylight hours to avoid the inevitable melting of the ice.  The image of the houses alive with workers in the frigid and dark night is captivating.

According to Amesbury historian Sara Redford, Locke’s five ice houses were able to accommodate up to 10,000 tons of ice when fully stocked.  The buildings were packed, the ice covered with sawdust (or hay in some instances) for insulation.   An 1892 publication, The Ice Crop: how to harvest, store, ship and use ice, a complete practical treatise, suggests a 12 inch layer of sawdust between tiers of ice blocks to ensure optimal insulation.   Once fully packed the entrances were nailed tightly shut until the summer months demanded distribution.   Ice house construction included sophisticated drainage and ventilation systems and typically the houses had several doors on either end. The ice would enter on one end, the lake side, and was dispensed from the street side.  Amesbury residents would have been the primary market but households and businesses from surrounding towns received deliveries as well. 

Several publications were dedicated to the ice trade and a 1913 edition of Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal indicates that ice yields varied significantly from year to year and ice harvested during a particularly productive year could survive in storage for several seasons.  The first couple decades of the 20th century marked a unique time when manufactured ice operations competed with the natural harvest. That relationship is discussed in the excerpt below. 

Locke ran Lake Gardner Ice Company until his death in 1930 by which time electric refrigeration was increasingly common and the profits from the company were dwindling.  In 1947 fire subsumed the ice houses once again, previous fires had destroyed earlier versions of the barns in 1913, and the structures were not rebuilt. 

The frozen water trade required workers to keep the lake clear of snow to maintain access to the ice underneath.  At this time of year a century ago the lake would be buzzing with ice workers sweeping and scraping the flakes in preparation for the next cutting and racing to prepare the surface in advance of the next storm.  As fascinated as I am by the process I'm grateful to be inside my warm house today with the intermittent clattering of my refrigerator's ice maker for company.