Amesbury’s Bailey Family: Generations of Community Service

Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Barbara Bell, volunteer researcher on the Amesbury Carriage Museum's industrial survey team. She is a 20-year Amesbury resident and worked on the Massachusetts Quilt Documentation Project at the Quilt Museum in Lowell. She believes history can be studied and enjoyed in many different ways.


In 1887, Edwin W. M. Bailey joined his father, Samuel R. Bailey, as a partner in the Bailey carriage building business in Amesbury. This modest business eventually grew to be the Bailey Company, which dominated Amesbury manufacturing until 1970. During this 80-year period, the members of the Bailey family were prominently involved in the local community and the U.S. military.

 Samuel R. Bailey as a young man.

Samuel R. Bailey as a young man.

About the time Edwin joined his father’s business, he became captain of the new Company B, The Bartlett Rifles of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. The drills and parades of the young men in The Bartlett Rifles added color to the social activities of the town. A new armory (today the Amesbury City Hall) was built in 1888 to provide a home for the militia and accommodate this drilling and storage of weapons. (When you go to a city council meeting, you are seated in the drill area.)

 Edwin W.M. Bailey.

Edwin W.M. Bailey.

The U.S. declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898, and Edwin Bailey, now lieutenant colonel, and his regiment went to Kentucky to train for the war in Cuba. A bout of dysentery prevented Bailey from joining his troops in Cuba and he resigned his commission.

1917 saw the Colonel recalled to army service in the Inspector General’s Department. His oldest son, Samuel Bailey 2nd, was already in service by this time.

The Colonel died on March 8, 1940, and was buried from the Church of St. James on Main St., where he had served as vestryman. Sam Bailey 2nd became the president of the Bailey Company, Inc., and adopted the community spirit of the family.

Sam served as moderator of the Town of Amesbury for over 20 years, was a selectman three times, chairman of the town planning board, board of survey, and local citizens’ military training camp. He was also a special officer in the Amesbury Police Department, honorary member of the Amesbury Fire Department, and harbormaster for nearly 30 years. Sam was active in American Legion affairs as a captain in the Coast Artillery Reserve Corps.

Samuel R. Bailey 2nd died in May, 1951, and his brother David became the president and general manager of Bailey Company.

In 1953, the Bailey Foundation was started by the directors of the Bailey Company “for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.” The Bailey Engineering Scholarship is still awarded annually to a high school senior to help educate local young people in engineering.

Each year, the Amesbury Carriage Museum and other local organizations continue to receive gifts from the Bailey Foundation. In 2016, the museum initiated the Bailey Family Lecture – an annual event focused on some aspect of community life. (On May 16, Prof. Max Page will present “Why Preservation Matters” as part of this series.) 

 The Bartlett Rifles, Company B of the Eighth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, led by Captain E. W. M. Bailey, in front of the Amesbury Armory (now City Hall), 1889.

The Bartlett Rifles, Company B of the Eighth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, led by Captain E. W. M. Bailey, in front of the Amesbury Armory (now City Hall), 1889.

Information and illustrations from Sun on the River by Margaret S. Rice, 1955. (Available at Amesbury Public Library.)