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The Bay State Monthly, Volume 3, No. 2   By:

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[Illustration: Sylvester Marsh]

THE BAY STATE MONTHLY.

A Massachusetts Magazine.

VOL. III. MAY, 1885. NO. II.

SYLVESTER MARSH.

[THE PROJECTOR OF THE MOUNT WASHINGTON RAILROAD.]

By Charles Carleton Coffin.

There were few settlers in the Pemigewasset Valley when John Marsh of East Haddam, Connecticut, at the close of the last century, with his wife, Mehitable Percival Marsh, travelling up the valley of the Merrimack, selected the town of Campton, New Hampshire, as their future home. It was a humble home. Around them was the forest with its lofty pines, gigantic oaks, and sturdy elms, to be leveled by the stalwart blows of the vigorous young farmer. The first settlers of the region endured many hardships toiled early and late, but industry brought its rewards. The forest disappeared; green fields appeared upon the broad intervales and sunny hillsides. A troop of children came to gladden the home. The ninth child of a family of eleven received the name of Sylvester, born September 30, 1803.

The home was located among the foot hills on the east bank of the Pemigewasset; it looked out upon a wide expanse of meadow lands, and upon mountains as delectable as those seen by the Christian pilgrim from the palace Beautiful in Bunyan's matchless allegory.

It was a period ante dating the employment of machinery. Advancement was by brawn, rather than by brains. Three years before the birth of Sylvester Marsh an Englishman, Arthur Scholfield, determined to make America his home. He was a machinist. England was building up her system of manufactures, starting out upon her great career as a manufacturing nation determined to manufacture goods for the civilized world, and especially for the United States. Parliament had enacted a law prohibiting the carrying of machinist's tools out of Great Britain. The young mechanic was compelled to leave his tools behind. He had a retentive memory and active mind; he settled in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and set himself to work to construct a machine for the carding of wool, which at that time was done wholly by hand. The Pittsfield Sun of November 2, 1801, contained an advertisement of the first carding machine constructed in the United States. Thus it read:

"Arthur Scholfield respectfully informs the inhabitants of Pittsfield and the neighboring towns that he has a carding machine, half a mile west of the meeting house, where they may have their wool carded into rolls for twelve and a half cents per pound; mixed, fifteen cents per pound. If they find the grease and pick the grease in it will be ten cents per pound, and twelve and a half mixed."

The first broadcloth manufactured in the United States was by Scholfield in 1804, the wool being carded in his machine and woven by hand.

In 1808 Scholfield manufactured thirteen yards of black broadcloth, which was presented to James Madison, and from which his inaugural suit was made. A few Merino sheep had been imported from France, and Scholfield, obtaining the wool, and mixing it with the coarse wool of the native sheep, produced what at that time was regarded as cloth of superior fineness. The spinning was wholly by hand.

The time had come for a new departure in household economies. Up to 1809 all spinning was done by women and girls. This same obscure county paper, the Pittsfield Sun , of January 4, 1809, contained an account of a meeting of the citizens of that town to take measures for the advancement of manufactures. The following resolution was passed: "Resolved that the introduction of spinning jennies, as is practiced in England, into private families is strongly recommended, since one person can manage by hand the operation of a crank that turns twenty four spindles."

This was the beginning of spinning by machinery in this country. This boy at play or rather, working on the hill side farm of Campton, was in his seventh year... Continue reading book >>


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