This section contains articles of genealogical and historic interest on Rhode Island in general, from old Rhode Island books and newspapers.
Biographical sketches, "Town of Pawtucket" Continued
p. 126: JAMES MASON was a native of Attleboro, Mass., and married Lavinia Cartee. He came to what is now Pawtucket about 1800, and was a painter by trade. He held during his life a number of town offices, and was connected with the military for a number of years, being a major. His children were: Sarah, widow of Nathaniel Spaulding, of Lincoln; Mary, deceased, married William Brownell, of Providence; John, single, died at sea; Martha, died young, and James S., born in what is now Pawtucket, October 16th, 1812. In 1849 he went to California, remaining a year, and on his return he opened in Pawtucket the first daily market and introduced early summer vegetables from the South to his patrons. He also, like his father, held many public offices. He married Arthusa A. Cummings and had two children: Lois Maria and Lavinia C., wife of Nathan W.Whipple of Pawtucket. He died February 16th, 1889.
p. 127-130: GEORGE EDWIN NEWELL, one of the largest dealers in the country in lumber and coal, was born in the town of Cumberland, R.I., September 19th, 1830. His ancestor, Abraham Newell, sailed from Ipswich, England, to America in 1634, and settled at Roxbury, Mass. He died in 1672, at the age of 91 years. The paternal line of the Newell family has been as follows: Abraham, Jacob, Jacob 2nd, Joseph, Jason, John and George Edwin. Some of the most prominent men of the country have descended from Abraham Newell. The gifted and eloquent Doctor Jonathan Maxcy was of this family. He was the second president of Brown University, succeeding the Reverend Doctor Manning, when but 23 years of age. He was probably one of the most gifted pulpit orators this country has ever raised up. Joseph Newell, the great-grandfather of this subject, lived in Attleboro, Mass. Jason Newell, his son, was the first to come to the town of Cumberland. He was a man of marked prominence, and was a judge of the county court at one time. He married Mary Spaulding, of Smithfield. John Newell, the father of George Erwin, was a farmer at Four Corners, near Diamond Hill Plains. He owned a saw mill there, now in possession of his son, Jason Newell. He married three times, but had children only by his second wife, Mrs. Polly (Grant) Newell. She died in 1883, when George E. was but three years old. Their children were Eliza, Jason and George E.
The subject of this sketch worked on his father's farm and at the mill, attending the winter school till 16 years of age. He was then permitted to go to school at East Greenwich, R.I. His father gave him the privilege of earning money to educate himself. He first clerked in a store at Diamond Hill Plains, earning sufficient to attend Professor Quimby's Institute at North Scituate one term. In the winter of 1848-9 he taught school at Cumberland Hill, in the Pound district, attending to a drove of cattle for his father on the Brown farm. He proved a successful teacher and disciplinarian, and was urged to take the same school the winter following. The next summer he worked at home again, and in the fall of 1850 entered the Merrimack Normal Institute, under Professors Russell and Ray, at Reed's Ferry, New Hampshire. During the winter of 1850-1 he taught very successfully in Smithfield, in the Lewis Dexter district, and again returned in the spring to work upon the farm. His reputation as a teacher began to be noticed, and he was sought for by trustees before previous engagements were completed. The expenses of his education thus far were paid by himself, except the first term at East Greenwich Academy. In the fall of 1851 he entered Brown University, taking a special course in mathematics, chemistry and didactics. During the following winter he taught school again with great satisfaction to the school authorities in the Kings Street district, Franklin, Mass., in order to secure funds, but before the close of his term the trustees at the Franklin Center sought his services, and he made an engagement with them for the winter of 1852-3. In the meantime he worked for his brother Jason on the home farm. But his success as a teacher had arrested the attention of educators, and on May 10th, 1852, he received the following communication in regard to the school at Globe Village, Woonsocket Falls, R.I. The letter was from Mr. S. Newton, trustee, and was as follows:
This school was taught to the very great satisfaction of the community until time to commence the engagement made for Franklin Centre school, which began in December, 1852, and ended in the spring of 1853. Continued success had followed him as a teacher, and his advice was sought by educators in relation to teachers and teaching, but in that same year he entered into partnership with his brother-in-law, J.W. Tingley, and for one year engaged in business in a variety store in Central Falls, which they had purchased of N.K. Sherman & Co. In September, 1854, he again entered Brown University and finished the course of study he had designed to pursue, completing his work there in June, 1856. He then taught the Union High School in Central Falls, where success crowned his work. Mr. Newell is still spoken of as one of the most successful teachers Central Falls has ever had."Dear Sir, I have received your letter of the 8th instant, and hasten to say that although thirty eight dollars per month is considerably more than we have before paid for the same service, yet in consideration of the high character you sustain as a teacher we have concluded to allow it, and I think you will be satisfied with that, even though the school should number a few over fifty scholars, as we do not consider it a hard school to manage. We will expect you, then, to commence Monday morning next, and will not trouble you to come and see us before that time unless you prefer to."Respectfully yours, S. Newton."
Failing health induced him to change his course of life, and in 1857 he left the school work to enter into business with his uncle, Grant Smith, then in the grocery business at Pawtucket. At this time the wharf property was purchased of S. Budlong in May, 1857, with the view of engaging in the wholesale trade in flour and grain, but it all soon merged into the lumber and coal business, and the grocery business was sold out in 1859. Since that time the firm known as S. Grant & Co. have built up an immense trade. They started with one horse, but now employ thirty and forty, and as many more are used by outsiders who handle wood and coal for their respective patrons. About three acres of ground were originally purchased for wharfage, but this has been extended to five acres, all now covered with extensive buildings incident to the business. In July, 1885, Mr. Grant died and Mr. Newell, by purchase of all interests of the heirs, became sole owner. Besides being a dealer in coal, of which he has a storage capacity under cover of 15,000 tons (and in all, 25,000 tons) , he also handles lumber in great quantities. Of building materials he has a great variety, probably more than any other concern in the state. At his yard almost everything required to erect a house can be found: brick, lime, cement, North River stone, sewer pipe, plastering hair, mortar, stains, calcined plaster, lumber in great variety, doors, mouldings, sash, blinds, window and door frames, etc. Mr. Newell has superior facilities for handling coal in large quantities, and he supplies many of the large manufacturing establishments in and around the city of Pawtucket. He has revolutionized the handling of coal by his inventive skill, being the first to apply the dumping gear to heavy carts, and obtained a patent for the same. It was by his direction, with the assistance of his foreman, Mr. Lorin G. Ladd, that the discharging of coal from barges by the self loading steam shovel was first introduced and successfully operated. The patent coal bucket of Newell & Ladd is now regarded as a great labor saving machine. From this machine have sprung nearly all the devices for handling coal cheaply. As many as 600 tons of coal have been discharged from a coal barge in four hours time by the use of this machine.
Mr. Newell always looked after the financial part of the business, making collections and paying bills. As business increased greater facilities were needed, involving great expense quite as fast as capital accumulated, and in the financial crash of 1873 they found themselves with a large indebtedness, but they lived through the embarrassment, paying a hundred cents on every dollar they owed. After Mr. Grant's death it was supposed the business would go under, but the public reckoned without knowledge. The senior member of the firm of S. Grant & Co. was very conservative. The business then had money and the credit was good. The junior partner was careful, was just as cautious, but was far more aggressive. He was an excellent buyer, probably none more so in his line of business. Gifted with a clear view of impending booms and revulsions, he knew when to make ventures, how to figure upon margins, and he alone had been the conservation of the company in times of depression as well as its master element when the financial horoscope was bright and shining. Upon taking the business himself he boldly launched forth in speculative ventures that were truly astounding. During the first year under his management he purchased 25,000 tons of coal at a very low rate, and much of it was sold for double the purchase money. This was but the beginning of a series of successes which have followed his management, exceeding even the most sanguine expectations of business men.
Mr. Newell's success in business is largely due to the habits of his early life. He has always been strictly temperate, using neither tobacco in any form, nor intoxicating liquors of any kind, living to manhood without vitiated tastes or an enervated constitution, and he now enjoys excellent health. He has been distinctively a business man. He is public spirited but no politician. He was chairman of the school committee at one time, was one of the commissioners appointed to build the Washington Bridge, and was in 1884 a representative to the lower house of the state legislature. His great work has been in securing the necessary legislation for improving the river and the bridges for navigation. Through his efforts mainly, and at a great cost to himself, he has secured a water highway from Pawtucket to the sea. When he began the long series of fights for these privileges, the city had three drawbridges 25 feet wide, with water but eight and a half feet deep. The bridges now have 80 feet draw-way, and the river improvements nearly completed give 17 feet of water. Mr. Newell is a very charitable man and gives freely of his means for the upbuilding of all public institutions. His forefathers have been Quakers in their religious beliefs. He himself is a member of the First Baptist Church, Pawtucket, and now one of its trustees. He recognizes the church as the chief cornerstone of our nation's greatness and warmly responds to all her calls for aid.
Mr. Newell was married August 3rd, 1857, to Ermina A. Pinkham. She was a daughter of Joseph and Sarah (Moulton) Pinkham. Their children now living are: Lillian A., Carrie P., Ada L., Edwin L., Lucius H., and Arthur G. Mr. Newell has arranged to incorporate his business under the name of the Newell Coal & Lumber Company, with a capital stock of $200,000.
p. 130-131: THE PAYNE FAMILY , of Pawtucket, is of English descent, and William, a native of Warwickshire, was a die-maker by trade. He emigrated from the old country and first settled at Taunton, Mass., but came to Pawtucket about 1827. His wife was Hannah, daughter of William Cooper. Their children were: John G., who resides in Providence; William, who died in Pawtucket; Hannah, deceased, married Oliver Hunt; Charles; Martha and Mary Ann, twins, the latter died in infancy, the other died single; and Mary Ann, died aged 21 years. Charles, son of William, was born in Warwickshire, England, December 29th, 1819, and married Keziah, daughter of John and Sarah Bindley, she being also a native of Warwickshire. He died October 27th, 1869, and left the following family: George Witheredge, Charles Bindley, James Robinson, Amey, wife of Henry A. Smith, resides in Pawtucket; William Elijah, Byron Cooper, Annie Naomi, wife of Frank Hodge, resides in Troy, N.Y.; Ella Maria, wife of George B. Olney, of Pawtucket, and John Milton.
George Witheredge, son of Charles, was born in Pawtucket June 30th, 1843. His first wife was Julia McQuiston, and their family consisted of four children, two of which died in infancy. The others are Charles and Carrie, wife of George Deacon, of Boston, Mass. George W.'s second wife was Sarah Balkcom, and they have three children: Jude Taylor, Clinton Fanning and Alice. He is a member of the firm of George W. Payne & Co., cotton and woolen machinery manufacturers. Charles Bindley, son of Charles, was born in Pawtucket March 26th, 1845, married Charlotte J. Robinson, and has one child, George M. Charles B. is connected with the American Hair Cloth Padding Company. James Robinson, son of Charles, was born in Pawtucket December 27th, 1847, is single, and is connected with the company mentioned above. William Elijah, son of Charles, was born in Pawtucket September 12th, 1851, married Hannah Godfrey, and has two children: James Blaine and Jennie Bindley. Byron Cooper, son of Charles, was born in Pawtucket April 24th, 1853, married Carrie Florence Ross, and has no children. He is a member of the firm of Olney & Payne Brothers, coal and wood dealers. John Milton, son of Charles, was born in Pawtucket September 22nd, 1859, married Eva L. Spink, and has two children, Bertha S. and Howard H. He is a member of the firm of Olney & Payne Brothers.
Charles, son of George W., was born in Pawtucket August 20th, 1868, and married Josephine Tennant, of Pawtucket. He is a resident of Boston, Mass.
p. 130: JACOB NELSON POLSEY, of Pawtucket, was born in Ashton, town of Cumberland, R.I., August 31st, 1830, being the youngest son of Abner and Lydia (Sweetland) Polsey. He attended the local schools of his native town, and, his father being a carpenter, he worked at that trade a few years. He came to Pawtucket with his father about 1846. At the age of 18 he went to work for the Moshassuck Print Works, making their packing cases, where he remained nine years, becoming so expert that he made on an average 30 cases daily, all by hand. For the next few years he engaged in the manufacture of jewelry with the firm of William Hood & Co., of Central Falls. In 1857 he purchased of Luther & Ashton their packing box manufactory, located at Shad Rock, which, in 1872, was removed to its present location. He married Elizabeth M., daughter of Joseph Hood. Their children are: Mary Elizabeth, wife of Edwin A. Scott, of Pawtucket; Isabella, wife of J.W. Dennis; Jennie D., wife of Frank Mossberg, resides in Pawtucket; Charles Nelson, and Jacob Everett. He was an active member of the First Baptist Church of Pawtucket. His death occurred August 19th, 1887.
p. 131-132: JOHN BLAKE READ, one of the prominent hardware merchants of Pawtucket, was born in Eastport, Maine, December 2nd, 1802, and died in Pawtucket February 27th, 1862. He was the son of Jonathan and Dorothy (Blake) Read, both of whom lived to a great age. Jonathan Read was an old soldier and was a prisoner on board the old Jersey prison ship. He died when 91 years old. He was the father of 13 children, 12 of whom grew to maturity. John B. Read was next to the youngest child. When five years of age his parents removed to Westbrook, where he was sent to a district school until he was 14 years of age. At this time he went to work in a tin shop, living with his oldest sister while he learned his trade. In 1821 he came to Pawtucket, where he remained during the rest of his life, and for nearly a half century was in the hardware trade. His shop was opened on Main Street, where McGowan's shoe store is now. In 1842 he built his residence, where his widow now lives, on Walcott Street, and in 1850 he erected his brick block. The block next to it was built by Amos M. Read, his older brother, who was also a hardware merchant. The Reads were the oldest and most prominent merchants in their line of business for many years. Amos Read came to Pawtucket several years before John. He died in 1880, a very old man. November 17th, 1828, Mr. Read was married to Jane Thatcher Ingraham, daughter of Elias and Phebe (Thatcher) Ingraham, of Attleboro, Mass. Her father was a mechanic, and died in 1847. Mrs. Read was their only child. Mr. and Mrs. Read also had but one child, Mary Drowne Read, afterward the wife of Edward Le Favour. She died in 1858, after the birth of John Edward Le Favour, Mrs. Read's grandson and her only descendant.
Mr. John B. Read was distinctively a business man. As a public spirited citizen of the commonwealth, however, he was induced to accept various offices, such as town councilman, etc., all of which positions he filled with great credit to himself and to the best interests of his constituents. Politically he was a Whig, and at the formation of the new party before the war became a staunch republican. When Pawtucket on his side of the river was a part of Massachusetts, he was elected to the lower house of the state legislature and served four years. He was a very popular man, and was for a long time, under the laws of the state of Massachusetts, commanding general of the militate of that state.
p. 142b-142d: CLARK SAYLES was born in Gloucester (now Burrillville), RI on the 18th of May, 1797. He was the son of Ahab and Lillis (Steere) Sayles. His father was the son of Israel Sayles, who was not only a well to do farmer, but a man of more than ordinary mechanical genius; for a number of years he was president of the town council of Gloucester, and, during the war of the revolution, served in the patriot army under General Sullivan. Clark's mother was the daughter of Samuel Steere, a good representative of a worthy Rhode Island family. Mr. Ahab Sayles had five brothers: Rufus, Nicholas, Samuel, Joseph, Robert, and a sister, Martha, who married first, Alfred Eddy, and second, Augustus Winsor. The Sayles homestead lands were situated between Pascoag and Chepachet, on the line that finally, in 1806, divided Burrillville from Gloucester, leaving the family mansion in Burrillville. The children of Ahab Sayles were: Azubah, Lusina, Mercy, Nicholas, Clark, Welcome, Lillis and Miranda; only Miranda is now living(1891). The ancestors of this very respectable family, on both sides, were industrious and honored farmers of the old type, some of them being Friends, and other Baptists in their religious convictions.
The subject of this sketch was educated at home, on the farm, and in the common schools. For many years his teacher was William Colwell, afterward cashier of the Glocester Exchange Bank. Both at home and in the Chepachet Library he found and eagerly read instructive books, not missing a "library day" for many years, as asserted by the librarian, Mr. Blackman. When about 18 years of age he engaged to work for Mr. Elias Carter, a master builder in Thompson, Conn., with whom he labored in Thompson, and subsequently went to the state of Georgia and assisted in constructing the court house in Burke County. Upon his return he was employed in building the Congregational Church in Milford, Mass. Finally he entered into business for himself as a master builder, erected a residence for his brother Nicholas, and again went to Georgia, where he constructed dwellings for planters and completed a large hotel at Waynesboro. Returning from the South, he built the meeting house in Greenville, Smithfield, RI.
In the spring of 1822 he removed to Pawtucket, RI, where he engaged in the business of a master builder. He erected numerous dwellings for David Wilkinson; inserted a middle section in the meeting house of the First Baptist Society; planned and built the first Congregational Church in Pawtucket in 1828; erected a church edifice in North Scituate, and also one in North Attleborough, Mass. During all this time he was also engaged in the lumber and coal trade, being the first man to introduce coal into Pawtucket by vessels. He associated with himself in business Mr. Daniel Greene, and in the great financial panic of 1829 the firm of Clark Sayles & Co. assumed to a great disadvantage, as the result proved, the business interests previously carried on by Mr. Greene, who had failed. Mr. Sayles was chosen a director of the New England Pacific Bank, of whose board of 13 directors 11 failed, while Mr. Sayles weathered the storm. Chosen president of this bank, as successor of Reverend Asa Messer, D.D., president of Brown University, Mr. Sayles stood at the head of the institution for 17 years, and " by most remarkably skillful financiering", brought the bank safely through all its difficulties.
In 1837, closing most of his large business relations in Pawtucket, Mr. Sayles again went South and engaged in the wholesale lumber trade for the firm of which he was the head, and also as agent of another company, operating steam mill saws, one on an island at the mouth of the Altamaha River, and one on the Savannah River, opposite the city of Savannah. After remaining in the South in the lumber business for about 20 years (having his family with him during some of the winters), he returned to Pawtucket. Not entering again largely into business for himself, he assisted his sons, William Francis and Frederic Clark (whose sketches appear elsewhere in this volume), in purchasing material and in constructing additional buildings to their extensive Moshassuck Bleachery, in the town of Lincoln, RI. He was also the general superintendent in the erection of the beautiful Memorial Chapel at Saylesville, near the bleachery.
He was a strong, energetic, independent, faithful, incorruptible man. In politics he was "an old line Whig", and was subsequently identified with the republican party, but would only accept town offices, his purpose being service to his fellow citizens rather than securing political honors. He united with the Congregational Church in 1832. In every good cause, as that of temperance and anti-slavery, education and moral reform, he took an active and efficient part, and everywhere proved his great conscientiousness, his discernment, and his superior judgment. Few men have been more esteemed, trusted and honored than he. Reasonably prospered for all his good work and large enterprise, he was still more successful in building a quiet but grand moral character. His pleasant, dignified countenance, and his erect, noble form indicated the inherent and cultivated nobility of his nature and the happy proportions of his cultivated Christian graces. He was affable, kind, sympathetic, transparent, decided, firm and persevering. Though modest, he was self poised, self reliant, and serene, the model of a true gentleman. By Christian faith and consistent service in a long life of private and public rectitude, he was prepared for his calm, quiet but triumphant death, which occurred February 8th, 1885, in his 88th year.
He married, December 25th, 1822, Mary Ann Olney, daughter of Paris Olney, of Scituate, RI. She was also a member of the Congregational Church, and esteemed for her strength of mind, gentleness, of spirit, soundness of judgment, decision of character, and the purity of her Christian life. She died September 11th, 1878. Of five children, William Francis and Frederic Clark are the only ones living.
p. 137-139: FREDERIC CLARK SAYLES is a native of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and has always resided there. He was born July 17th, 1835. His father was Clark Sayles, and his mother Mary (Olney) Sayles. His ancestors on both sides are easily traced back to the founder of Rhode Island, John Sayles having married a daughter of Roger Williams. He also traces his ancestry back to Governor Joseph Jenks, son of the founder of Pawtucket in 1655. In youth he was favored with unusual home advantages, and was notably ambitious in his studies. Beginning with 1840, he spent several winters in Savannah, Georgia, where his father was engaged in the wholesale lumber business. While there he attended its best schools, and as a classmate he had Charles H. Olmstead, who subsequently, in the war of the rebellion, became famous as colonel of the confederate forces in Forts Pulaski and Wagner, and he remembers with a feeling of commendable pride that it was the Yankee boy from "Little Rhody" who bore off the premium of the school for good scholarship. After passing through the schools of Pawtucket he pursued his studies in the University Grammar School in Providence, and at the Providence Conference Seminary in East Greenwich, where he graduated with honor in June, 1853.
In July of that year he entered the employ of his brother, William F., in the Moshassuck Bleachery at Saylesville, which has since become the largest and best equipped establishment of its kind in the world. His work at first consisted of sweeping the rooms, invoicing the goods, and performing any other service which was required of him, his compensation being five schillings a day. With a firm determination to achieve success in business, so far as knowledge and faithfulness might secure it, he made a thorough study of all the mechanism and operations of the establishment, diligently engaging in every department of the work and acquainting himself with all of its details. For ten years he thus rigidly and persistently applied himself to a through understanding of the business and on January 1st, 1863, he was admitted to partnership with his brother. Since that time the Moshassuck Bleachery has been conducted under the firm name of W.F. & F.C. Sayles. Unparalleled success has attended their united efforts, and their taste, intelligence, thrift and enterprising spirit are everywhere seen in the beautiful village which has grown up around their works, and which numbers more than two thousand inhabitants. It is an unusually orderly community from the fact that the sale of intoxicating liquors of any description is not tolerated by the Messrs. Sayles. The Moshassuck Valley, with its handsome village and its railroad, bears testimony to their rare sagacity, industry, perseverance and executive ability. On an eminence a short distance north of the bleachery and overlooking the charming valley of the Moshassuck and the forest clad hills which skirt it on either side, the Messrs. Sayles have erected an elegant stone chapel in the gothic style of architecture with windows of stained glass, which is capable of seating at least two hundred people. It is called "Memorial Chapel", and was erected in memory of their deceased children. Here public worship is regularly held, and a flourishing Sunday school is kept.
It was not until the year 1886 that the subject of this sketch, although often solicited, could be induced to enter public life, his large and constantly increasing business demanding all of his time and attention. That year Pawtucket became a city, and in response to the persistent solicitations of its citizens, irrespective of party lines, he became a candidate for political honors and was chosen its first mayor. It was truly a case in which the office sought the man, and not the man the office. He brought to the discharge of his new duties the same energy and determination which had characterized him in his private business, and for two years the young and enterprising city had an administration of its public affairs which was in the highest degree creditable to its chief executive officer, and of great advantage to itself. While himself an unflinching republican, his administration was in no sense partisan, and he secured the respect and esteem of all classes of his fellow citizens. Especially was this true of the smaller taxpayers, upon whom the burdens of government rest most heavily. In his first inaugural address he said, in addressing the city council: " We are entrusted with the care of the public property and finances. Upon us devolves the responsibility of saying to every owner of property in our city, bring hither your tithes in proportion to your ability and lay them at the feet of justice, to aid in bearing your part of the public burden. We have seen what proportion of the whole number of our taxpayers the burdens rest with greatest hardship, therefore it behooves us to exercise the largest wisdom and discretion in protecting them from undue oppression."
At the end of his second term he declined to be a candidate for reelection, his public duties making too serious encroachments upon his private business. During his administration several important public improvements were made, and some projected which have since been completed, while others, notably that of the city's furnishing its own electric lights, will undoubtedly result in favorable action in the near future.
Mr. Sayles has made a number of trips to Europe, sometimes for health,
and at other times for health and pleasure combined. Among the countries
which he has visited are England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland,
Germany, Austria, Prussia, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden
and Russia. He is fond of travel, and his elegant residence on East Avenue,
in the suburbs of Pawtucket, contains many acquisitions from the studios
of famous foreign artists. He also finds much pleasure among his horses
and cattle, "Bryn Mawr" having some of the finest blooded stock in the
Besides his interest in the Moshassuck Bleachery and in the Moshassuck Valley Railroad, of which he is the treasurer, Mr. Sayles is connected with various enterprises of a public nature. At one time he was major of the Pawtucket Light Guard, an organization which sent a large number of men into the field during the war of the rebellion. He is a director in the Slater National Bank of Pawtucket and in the Merchants National Bank of Providence. He is also a member of the board of trustees of the Franklin Savings Bank of Pawtucket and is identified with other corporations and institutions in Pawtucket and Providence. He was not only the first signer of the call for a Business Men's Association in Pawtucket, but was its first president, holding the position four years in succession.
In addition to the Moshassuck Bleachery, his brother and himself are the owners of the Lorraine Mills, also situated in the Moshassuck Valley. These mills, with the best of skill and machinery known to modern times, have the reputation of producing the finest ladies' dress goods, known as French cashmeres, that have ever been manufactured in this country, challenging comparison with the best French makers.
Mr. Sayles married, October 16th, 1861, Deborah Cook Wilcox, daughter of Robert and Deborah (Cook) Wilcox, of Pawtucket. Thomas Wilcox, Mrs. Sayles' grandfather, served in the revolution, and was one of the daring party of 41, led by Colonel William Barton, who captured General Richard Prescott on the island of Rhode Island, July 10th, 1778. Mr. Sayles has had five children: Carrie Minerva (Mrs. Frederick William Holls), Frederic Clark, Benjamin Paris (deceased), Robert Wilcox and Deborah Wilcox. Mr. Sayles and his wife are members of the Central Congregational Church in Providence and prominently identified with its interests.
p. 132-137: WILLIAM F. SAYLES. It may be safely asserted that no citizen of Providence county, if indeed, of the state of Rhode Island, has so distinguished himself, by reason of his business capacity and energy, as the subject of this sketch. William Francis Sayles, who was born in Pawtucket, R.I., September 21st, 1824, is a lineal descendant in the sixth generation of Roger Williams. His father, Clark Sayles, was a master builder and merchant, and his mother, Mary Ann Sayles, was of the Olney family, long and prominently identified with the history of the state. Being desirous of acquiring a thorough classical and mercantile education, he attended the Fruit Hill Classical Institute, Mr. Amos Perry principal; the Seekonk Classical School, the late Mr. Stanton Belden principal, and spent about two years in Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. Upon completion of his education at the institutions named, he entered, in 1842, the commercial house of Shaw & Earle, in Providence, at first as bookkeeper, then he became a salesman, and finally was entrusted with the management of the financial affairs of the concern.
Mr. Sayles is most widely known in connection with the Moshassuck Bleachery, the most complete and best arranged, as well as the largest establishment of its kind in the world, its well-known trademark being as familiar as household words wherever cotton cloth is used. It is situated about two miles from Pawtucket, in a westerly direction, in the town of Lincoln, and until December, 1847, when the estate was purchased at auction by Mr. Sayles, the buildings had for some time been used as a print works. Soon after the property came into his possession he began the erection of additional buildings and converted the establishment into a bleachery of shirtings and sheetings, with a capacity for turning out about two and a half tons per day. Thought he had no previous knowledge of the business, and labored under serious disadvantages for lack of sufficient capital, at times overcoming seemingly unconquerable obstacles, yet, by close application to business and an invincible determination to succeed in his undertaking, he steadily increased the capacity of the works until in the spring of 1854 he bleached daily about four tons of the finest grade of cotton goods made in the United States. His reputation for producing good work had at that time become so well established throughout the country that about three-fourths of all the fine goods manufactured were brought to the Moshassuck Bleachery, the name given by him to the establishment at the beginning of his operations.
The water of the Moshassuck River has long been known to possess valuable properties for bleaching purposes, but the works under consideration have an additional and extraordinary advantage in a fountain of pure water flowing from a hundred or more boiling springs, and invaluable in the final processes of finishing cotton goods. These springs, which are enclosed by a wall of cut granite 300 feet in circumference, prove a very attractive feature to visitors.
In June, 1854, the entire establishment was destroyed by fire, the results of the hard work of years being swept away in a few hours. But the indomitable perseverance of Mr. Sayles prevented him from succumbing to this stroke of misfortune, and the work of rebuilding on a larger scale, with more permanent structures, was at once commenced, and in the autumn of that year an establishment capable of producing six tons of bleached goods in a day was in successful operation. The following year another enlargement of the bleachery was found necessary, and the work of extension has been gradually going on from year to year until the present time, when the capacity is 50 tons a day, or 300,000 yards. The buildings, with their surroundings, cover an area of 30 acres. They are of brick, and in point of architectural beauty are unexcelled by any others used for manufacturing purposes in this country. The spacious grounds are tastefully laid out and shaded by ornamental trees. The works are lighted by electricity, and the arrangements for protection against fire are as nearly perfect as they can be. In the construction of the buildings nothing has been left undone which could in any way promote the health and convenience of the very large number of persons to whom employment is furnished. Some of the workmen have been in Mr. Sayles' employ almost continuously from his beginning of business, and between the employed and the employer the most pleasant and harmonious relations exist. One reason for this is that Mr. Sayles has always manifested an interest in the moral and educational, as well as material welfare of those employed by him. Shortly after he began business here he was instrumental in having a district school established, and on the first Sunday in June, 1860, he organized a Sunday school, his mind having been turned to the subject of religion by the death of a young daughter to whom he was devotedly attached. From that time to the present, with a brief interval, he has held the office of superintendent of the school, performing its duties with great acceptability, notwithstanding the constantly increasing demands made upon his time and attention by his large business.
The handsome village of upwards of two thousand inhabitants which has grown up around the works in the delightful Moshassuck Valley is known as Saylesville, that being the name given to the post office when it was established.
In 1863 Mr. Sayles admitted to partnership, his brother, Frederic C., a sketch of whose life is elsewhere given in this volume, and the Moshassuck Bleachery of today stands as a monument to their combined industry and business energy. Ten years later, in 1873, to meet the recognized religious needs of the community, the brothers erected on the high grounds overlooking the bleachery a beautiful memorial chapel of Westerly granite, to the memory of their deceased children, whose names are inscribed on marble tablets upon the interior walls on either side of the pulpit. The edifice is of the gothic style of architecture, has stained glass windows, is tastefully finished and furnished, seats 200 persons, and has a fine organ. The vestry is well arranged for the use of the Sunday school, which, until the completion of the chapel, had held its sessions in the district school house from the time of its organization. In 1877 William F. erected a handsome stone tower on the corner of the chapel as a memorial to his estimable son, William Clark Sayles, who died the previous year while a student at Brown University. The entire cost of the edifice is about $30,000. A few years later the Messrs. Sayles erected a large hall for the use of those in their employ, in the basement of which is a library and reading room, and a room for the meetings of the fireman's association connected with the bleachery, and also for social purposes.
The Moshassuck Bleachery, with its numerous substantial buildings, the neat appearance of the tenement houses around it, the elevated grounds on either side of the winding stream which gives the valley its name, the pleasant homes of the permanent residents, the chapel, the school house, the public hall, the absence of the drinking saloon and its concomitants, the peaceable and orderly character of the people, give to Saylesville its enviable reputation as the model manufacturing village of Rhode Island.
In 1877 the Messrs. Sayles built the Moshassuck Valley railroad, which extends from their bleachery to Woodlawn, where connection is made with the New York, Providence & Boston and the Old Colony roads. The senior member of the firm is president of the road, and the junior member is treasurer. Passenger and freight trains make several trips daily over the road. As many as 200 tons of goods are shipped from the bleachery over this road in a single day.
About midway between the Moshassuck Bleachery and Woodlawn is the village of Lorraine, also the creation of the Messrs. Sayles. Here are the extensive Lorraine Mills, where, by means of skillful labor and the most improved machinery, the finest ladies' dress goods made in this country and known as French cashmeres are produced, rivalling those of the best makers in France. At Lorraine the Messrs. Sayles have also erected a neat chapel for the benefit of their large number of operatives.
On commencement day of Brown University, 1878, a letter from the subject of this sketch was read by President Ezekiel G. Robinson to the assembled graduates, in which the writer announced his purpose to offer to the university the sum of $50,000 for the erection of a building as a memorial to his son, William Clark Sayles (born October 12th, 1855), who died deeply lamented by a wide circle of loving friends, February 13th, 1876, he stating that he had selected commencement for making the announcement, because on that day his son would have been graduated had it pleased Heaven to spare his life. Subsequently the sum was increased to $100,000, and the large, elegant stone edifice known as "Sayles Memorial Hall" was dedicated with appropriate and impressive ceremonies on the 4th of June, 1881. On the front of the building is inscribed Filio Pater Posvit, it being a father's memorial of one of the worthiest of sons, a son in whom centered high and cherished hopes, and who gave fairest promise of their fulfillment. This structure is one of the most touching expressions of parental love known in the history of the country.
Mr. Sayles' acknowledged ability as a financier, as well as his integrity, sagacity and accuracy, has led to his appointment to various positions of responsibility and trust in moneyed circles, and caused his counsel to be often sought in financial matters where good judgment was necessary to be promptly exercised. He is president of the Slater National Bank of Pawtucket, and a director in the Third National Bank of Providence. Besides his extensive interests at Moshassuck and Lorraine, he is a large stockholder in various corporations in which he has capital invested. He is president of the Slater Cotton Company in Pawtucket, of which he was the originator, a director in the Ponemah Mills, the largest cotton manufacturing company in Connecticut and one of the largest in New England, and also a stockholder or director in mills in Massachusetts.
Although always loyal to the principles of the republican party, and one of its staunchest supporters, only once has he been prevailed upon by his fellow citizens to enter political life, believing that he could best serve the public by promoting and expanding those industries which furnish employment to such large numbers of people, thereby enabling the wage earners to become thrifty citizens and to provide comfortable homes for themselves and those dependent on them. Twice he was chosen state senator in the general assembly from Pawtucket, where his manly course and fidelity to his duties won for him not only the esteem and respect of his political associates, but of his opponents. For a number of years he has been president of the Pawtucket Free Public Library. In 1879 he was elected a member of the board of trustees of Brown University, which position he still holds. For a time he held the position of lieutenant colonel on the staff of the Pawtucket Light Guard, and during the war for the suppression of the rebellion he was a constant and liberal contributor to all patriotic objects.
He early evinced a taste for literature and art, and notwithstanding his busy life he has always found some time for its cultivation. His travels in his own country and in foreign lands have been quite extensive, and in his elegant mansion on East Avenue, overlooking Pawtucket and Providence, may be found the productions of the best thinkers and writers, and the most famous painters and sculptors.
Active and public spirited as a citizen, upright and honorable in all his dealings with his fellow men, he has won and retained the respect and confidence of the community in which he has always resided. From the beginning of his business career he has believed in the principle of hard, persistent work and honesty of purpose as the only sure ground of success. Acting upon this belief he has succeeded by his own unaided exertions in raising himself from the position of a clerk in a commercial house to the possessor of an ample fortune. Endowed with a sympathetic nature, and bestowing substantial where deserved, he strives always to make the applicant depend upon himself rather than on others. While from his door none are turned empty away, his charities are of the practical kind, and calculated to confer permanent aid, as well as to relieve present necessity. His convictions of right and duty are decided and firm and uncompromisingly maintained, and though a positive man, he views the faults of others with charity, his creed being, " That mercy I to others show, That mercy show to me."
He married October 30th, 1849, Mary Wilkinson Fessenden, daughter of the late Hon. Benjamin Fessenden, of Valley Falls, R.I. She died September 20th, 1886. Of six children three are now living: Mary (Mrs. Roscoe S. Washburn), Martha F. and Frank A.
The immediate church relations of the family are with the Central Congregational Church in Providence, of which Mr. Sayles is a generous supporter; but possessing a broad and catholic spirit, his benefactions to religious organizations are not restricted by denominational lines.
p. 139-140: ALBERT R. SHERMAN, son of Simon P. and Hannah G. Sherman, was born in Providence, January 23rd, 1838. There he spent his boyhood days and received a good education. When about 18 years of age he went to California, where he remained for several years. Returning to Providence he was employed by the A. W. Sprague Manufacturing Company in 1860, as master mechanic, and held that position for 17 years. During August, 1860, Mr. Sherman was married to Alma W. Tibbitts, daughter of William C., of Warwick. Their union was blessed by two children: Charles E., born September 30th, 1861, and Albert. The first child died quite young, the other is still living. Mrs. Sherman died November 17th, 1888. In Pawtucket Mr. Sherman has been connected with the Fales & Jenks Machine Company, United States Cotton Company, and Hope Thread Company. He is one of the prominent men of the city and is an inventor of no little fame. Since 1889 he has been chosen senator, and at present occupies that office.
p. 140: GIDEON LAWTON SPENCER. A history of Pawtucket would be incomplete without a sketch of the gentleman whose name appears above. Mr. Spencer was born in East Greenwich, R.I., September 23rd, 1803, and is the youngest son in a family of six children of Lawton and Martha Spencer. His mother was a daughter of Jonathan Niles, who was for many years high sheriff of Kent county. His father removed with his family to what is now Pawtucket in 1810. He only attended the common schools three weeks, and at the age of ten, his father being overseer in the Slater Mill, he commenced work in that mill, receiving one dollar and a quarter a week. This he followed until he was over 17 years of age, when he apprenticed himself to John Wood, of Pawtucket, to learn the tailoring trade. On arriving at manhood he commenced the merchant tailoring business himself, and was the second one in Rhode Island to open a custom tailor establishment. He followed this business till 1845, and he gained such a reputation among the Quakers of New England that he made garments for them all over that territory. During the crash of 1829-30 in Pawtucket he made his first purchase of real estate, and after relinquishing his business, he engaged largely in the purchase and sale of real estate and has owned at one time as high as 150 to 200 acres in the vicinity of Providence and Pawtucket. He owns today the old Slater Mill where he first worked as a child, besides other valuable property in Pawtucket, and is one of the largest tax payers in the city. He was one of the state commissioners on the erection of the bridge crossing the Blackstone River, and has been since the organization of the Providence & Worcester railroad one of its stockholders, also director, and is the only one living of the original board. Mr. Spencer is director in the Pawtucket Institution for Savings and was president of the North Providence Bank. He was a member of the constitutional convention in 1841. When the Pawtucket Free Library was a stock concern he donated to them the rent of the hall they occupied, they agreeing to make a free library of it. He married Susan, daughter of Job Carpenter, of Providence, and of his family of eight children five are living, viz.: Job Lawton, a manufacturer in Pawtucket; Amelia, wife of Erastus Sampson of Boston; Annie, Clara, wife of Frederic Burlingame of Pawtucket, and Frank Gideon, assistant superintendent of the Providence & Worcester Railroad.
p. 141-142: HENRY ASHTON WARBURTON. , manufacturer of cotton thread, was born in the town of Hyde, Cheshire County, near Manchester, England, November 2nd, 1837. His father, Peter Warburton, was a Quaker, and was one of the best managers of cotton spinning - so considered - in his day. His wife was Sarah Warburton. They raised a family of nine sons and three daughters. The sons were thoroughly drilled in all the details of cotton manufacturing, and put to work early in life in the mills. At eight years of age Henry Ashton was put to work as a back boy, working on cotton mules. One half of the day he spent at work and the other half at school. When ten years of age his work in school ceased. When fourteen years of age his father set sail with his family for America. He died in Lawrence, Mass. in 1879. His wife died in England in 1851. The ship that brought Mr. Warburton to America left England May 1st, 1852, and arrived in Boston on the 13th of the following June. Mr. Warburton's first work in America was as a piecer on hand mules at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. During the time spent there he availed himself of the advantages of the evening schools, but in the year 1853 he went to Lawrence, Mass.., thus cutting short again the opportunities of securing an education. At Lawrence he began the work of running a pair of mules on his own account. After remaining there seven years he returned to Portsmouth again. In 1862 he was married and at once removed to Ballard Vale, Mass., where he was employed cutting files by machinery. In 1863 he removed to Portsmouth again and became assistant overseer of cotton spinning for his brother, who was overseer in the mill. He had not remained there long before he was transferred to the thread department, which was the beginning of his successful work in that line. He remained there about two years, then went to New Market, then Exeter, and in 1867 became assistant overseer for the Hadley Thread Company at Holyoke, Mass., and remained there but a few months, when he became overseer for the Warren Thread Company at Worcester, where he remained seven years. At this time the proprietor of a distillery at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, induced him to go there and take charge of his interests. He wanted a man, he said, who could keep sober while running the business, and prevailed on him to go. He finally accepted the position, was in charge of the distillery three years and nine months, tested every barrel of liquor in the establishment from that time by taste and smell, but never swallowed a mouthful of the beverage while there employed. In 1877 he became overseer for William Warren, thread manufacturer, of New York City, of the thread winding department, and remained there till 1880 , when he accepted a position as overseer and later as superintendent for Stafford & Co., of Pawtucket. January 1st, 1886, in company with James C. Roth, he purchased the spool thread interest of Stafford & Co. and started the New England Thread Company. This was the beginning of the present successful enterprise of this firm managed wholly by Mr. Warburton because of his great experience in the cotton thread industry. Mr. Roth was in charge of the books. February 14th, 1889, Mr. Roth died , and on the 24th of May following Mr. Warburton purchased all interests belonging to his widow and is now the sole owner of the business. He employs a force at the present time of 80 hands, and does a business of $100,000 or more yearly, in the manufacture of cotton thread put up on spools, bobbins, paper tubes and cones, and various other forms.
Mr. Warburton is a man of excellent abilities and of indomitable energy, and takes a great pride in turning out goods of a quality that cannot be surpassed by any other concern in the country. He began here under somewhat unfavorable circumstances and against the advice of his best friends, but his better judgment prevailed, and in consequence it is now with difficulty his two large agencies of New York City are supplied with his products of manufacture. His goods are also called for by parties from different parts of the whole country outside of his two established agencies. During the five years just past he has quadrupled his business, and it is still increasing.
On September 8th, 1862, he was married to Miss Jane E. Critchley, daughter of William and Mary Critchley, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They have three children: Franklin E., Florence E., and Harry A. Franklin E. was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, August 19th, 1863. His education was obtained in the public schools of that place. When about 14 years of age he went to New York, where he spent three years. In 1880 he came to Pawtucket and was employed by his father as overseer of his mills. At present he holds the position of superintendent. Since his arrival in Pawtucket, Mr. F. E. Warburton has also been overseer for the Hope Thread Company. Florence E. is the wife of Frank H. Grover, who is Mr. Warburton's shipping clerk, and Harry A. is in school.
p. 142: JOSHUA S. WHITE is a native of Norton, Mass., born
November 13th, 1818. His father was Zebulon, son of Zebulon, who married
Peggy, daughter of Joel White. Mr. White was educated in the common schools
and followed farming as an occupation until 1842, when he was employed
by his father in the iron foundry in Pawtucket. By his faithfulness to
this business and with the money he had saved he was able to commence anew.
In 1860, with his brother, Mr. White started the business which they continued
together for 20 years, when he became sole proprietor. His first marriage
was to Sarah P. Inman, May 17th, 1848, who died April 7th, 1850, leaving
him no children. By his next wife, Harriet Newell, whom he married May
4th, 1851,he had four children: Harriet, born November 9th, 1855; J. Ellis,
born March 24th, 1858; William Shaw, born February 28th, 1863; and Henry
T., born August 30th, 1868. Mrs. White died May 13th, 1888.
The Newport County Reading Room Index More Biographies & History .