SAW MILLS.—CONNECTICUT RIVER .—CLAY
ISLAND—THE NARROWS.—CANOE FALLS, AND EARLY MILLS THERE.—THE RYEGATE PAPER
Co.—BRICK MAKING.—THE GRANITE BUSINES5.—THE GRANITE MANUFACTURERS’
ASSOCIATION.—THE GRANITE CUTTER’S UNION.
N a new country the first thing to
be done is to rear a shelter of some kind as a protection from storm and
cold, which may at first be a mere hut to be superseded by more durable
habitations, and in most new towns at the era of the settlement of Ryegate
all the buildings for severed years were of logs. But our colonists had
located near a town already well provided with mills, and framed buildings
were erected in the earliest year of the settlement. But it was many years
before they became common, and nearly all the early settlers were forced
to content themselves with log houses and barns. One reason for this was
the scarcity of all articles made of iron, especially nails, which in 1775
cost about eighteen cents per 100. Consequently the nails used in a
building cost quite a sum and few of the colonists could afford to use
many of them. The first barn built by Wm. Nelson was almost without iron
of any kind, the boards being fastened to the frame with wooden pins.
We have given an account of the first mill built by
the colonists, which was outside the town limits, but it was not many
years before other mills began work in different parts of the town. For
the first seventy-five years all the saw mills were of the vertical or
up-and-down kind, which did good work in their day, and, with the
exception of the crank and the saw all the machinery could be made and
fitted by the local carpenter and blacksmith. They went out of use about
forty years ago, and the names of their parts would be strange to the
young people of the present day. Indeed so far has the old fashioned saw
mill passed into oblivion that in an article upon Daniel Webster in the
Century in 1901, an illustration represents the future statesman
working in his father’s saw mill—a fully equipped circular saw
mill, which had only begun to come into use fifty years later.
It is not possible to give the
history of all these mills in this town, but we may mention some of them.
James Henderson built a mill on the stream which flows out of Ticklenaked
pond, in which he and his son after him did a large business for many
The first mill on Wells River in
this town, according to Mason, was built about 1802 by John Craig at what
is now South Ryegate, but which was for many years called "Craig’s Mills."
" He also built the first grist
mill there. After him the saw mill had several owners until it came into
the hands of Dr. J. B. Darling, who carried on a large amount of business.
When the Montpelier and Wells River railroad was built he furnished the
lumber for the fences, bridges and stations between Wells River and the
Summit, boards selling at that time for $12 per M., and bridge timber from
$16 to $18. By the failure of the company he lost about $2,000 but gained
much experience. In 1876, he sold a half interest in the mill to his
son-in-law, M. F. Sargent, who later bought the other half, and is now
sole owner. Dr. Darling bought and cleared several tracts of timber land,
employing a large number of men, and erected some fourteen houses in the
In the 50’s this miii was owned by
Walter Buchanan, who built a new dam and its erection brought upon him a
suit at law by Bradley Morrison who owned and occupied a farm one and
one-half miles up the river. The latter claimed that the new dam being
much higher than the old one had caused an overflow of his meadows, and
much damage to the growing crops. The case was in court for some years,
entailing a large amount of costs, but was finally settled by arbitration.
Judge Batchelder of Bradford and two others were the referees, the
plaintiff’s attorney being Thomas Wason, while Hon. I. N. Hall represented
The second saw mill on Wells River
was built at what is now called the Quint place, by Alexander Miller, who
bought land there in 1809. Here he erected buildings, a saw mill and a
grist mill, where he made great quantities of oat meal and hulled barley.
The locality was called "Miller’s Mills" for many years.
In the northwest part of 4he town
John Hunter bought in 1822, Lot No. 6, in the 2d range of the north
division, on which he built a saw mill on Mill Brook which was run till
1850. The machinery was then sold to W. F. Gibson who built a mill half a mile down
the brook in 1852, and sold it in 1860 to Amos W. Abbott. It is now owned
by his widow. A mill at the outlet of Symes’ Pond was in operation many
years. This mill, with a tract of adjacent lumber was sold to the Parker &
Young Co., of Lisbon, who cut the lumber and moved the mill away.
Connecticut River and its mills are
worthy of a more particular notice. In March, 1781, Mr. Whitelaw surveyed
the river from the southwest corner of Bath to its northwest corner, and
found the distance, as the river winds and turns, to be a little over
fourteen miles, the distance between the two points in a straight line
being 6 miles, 133 rods. In a clay bank known as Clay Island is a
remarkable deposit of clay stones which have been noted for more than a
century. They are beautiful and attractive, of almost every conceivable
variety in size and shape of which great quantities have been carried
away. The most remarkable of these stones are of a round or disc shape and
vary in size from an inch in diameter to three or four inches, and are of
very rare occurrence. Clay stones, say the geologists, are clay cemented
by carbonate of lime, and where the matter is free to move in all
directions are completely round, but in general they are flattened by the
pressure of the bank above them.
A short distance above the mouth of
the Amonoosuc and near the southeast corner of this town is one of the
wildest spots in the whole extent of the river. The current, which a
quarter of a mile above is about 300 feet wide is here compressed into a
gorge 60 feet in width between the base of the mountain on the Bath side
and a curiously shaped rock on the Ryegate side. A descent of several feet
here increases the velocity of the current, and the spot, which is
secluded by overhanging woods on the Vermont side, is rendered wild and
stern by the mountain on the other shore. Even at low water the spot is
worthy of a visit, but when the stream is swollen by spring or autumn
rains the river rushes through the Narrows, as the place is called, with
terrific velocity, which is checked by an abrupt bend in the wildest part
of the stream, and the whole torrent of water is hurled against the ledge
with a violence which seems to shake the mountain itself. It is the
wildest spot on the river above Bellows Falls, and lies in the midst of
some of the most tranquil scenery in the Connecticut valley.
In 1828 the river road in Bath which
before had climbed to a considerable height along the mountain side, was
brought down to its foot and a new highway was constructed at considerable
expense between the river and the rock. It is impassable at high water,
and its abrupt turns, with the wild and savage grandeur of the scenery,
invest its passage with an interest not unmixed with terror.
Halfway from Barnet line to Newbury
line the current of the river is broken by a ledge over which the stream
passes, and by rapids which form an insuperable barrier to navigation. The
first settlers of Newbury and Haverhill called them the Canoe Falls and in
an account of Ryegate written in 1824 for Thompson’s Gazetteer, Mr.
Whitelaw calls them by that name, by which they were still called by old
people in Mr. Miller’s boyhood. Yet they have gone by the name of Dodge’s
Falls, and for no other reason than that, many years ago, a family by the
name of Dodge lived in Bath, near the falls. They were transient people,
not identified with the spot in any way, but by a perversion of justice
the falls have been called by their name. The old and euphonious name
should be restored.
The river, at the two spots
mentioned, has claimed many victims, and Rev. David Sutherland in his
address delivered in 1854 stated that during his pastorate of fifty years
fourteen persons had been drowned in the river. Several lives were lost
there before and after that period, rendering the Falls and the Narrows
two of the deadliest spots on the river.
The falls at East Rvegate have been
utilized a part of the time since the town was settled. In 1790 William
Nelson built a wing dam which extended from the Vermont bank to a small
island in the middle of the river. At that date a few Indian families
still lingered in this part of the country, and they. used to congregate
upon the rock and view the proceedings with much curiosity. Mr. Nelson
erected a saw mill, and later a grist mill which did much business for a
time. But the dam was washed away, and part of the saw mill with it. Mr.
Nelson owned large tracts of land on both sides of the river, and in
Monroe, and was one of the earliest to engage in the shipment of sawed
lumber down the river.
In 1808 a charter was obtained from
the New Hampshire legislature, and Mr. Nelson employed Calvin Palmer, who
had constructed several dams on the river, to build a new one. In a
description of Bath prepared in 1814 by Rev. David Sutherland, and
published in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society for
1815, he stated that there was a saw mill and a grist mill on the west
side of the river, but that no mills had been built on the east side. The
saw mill did a large business for many years, and was fitted up with "gang
saws," by which several boards or plank could be sawed at the same time.
After passing from Mr. Nelson’s hands the mills were operated by a Mr.
Richardson, and by Samuel Hutchins and Jared Wells, and later by Samuel
Moore and brothers, after which the property was allowed to go to decay,
and the dam was washed away. In 1884, Capt. A. M. Beattie bought the land
and mill privilege for a Mr. Marshall of Turner’s Falls. While the mills
were in operation a number of houses and a large boarding house were built
near them, which have all disappeared. In 1829 a charter was obtained to
construct a canal around the falls on the New Hampshire side but the canal
corporation never got farther than its organization.
Mr. Henry C. Carbee says that about
1843 a slip to run rafts of sawed lumber was built on the Bath side, which
was in operation till the railroad was completed to St. Johnsbury. This
vast water power stood idle for many years, and several schemes for its
development never materialized.
In 1903 a corporation called the
Ryegate Paper Company was organized with a capital stock of $250,000, and
incorporated under the laws of New Hampshire, which purchased the water
privilege and adjacent land, and began in April, 1905, the construction of
a paper and pulp mill. This mill was completed Sept. 1st, 1906, and began
at once to operate. The mill, which is of brick, is constructed in the
most thorough manner, and equipped with the latest improved machinery for
the manufacture of paper from wood. The daily production is about twenty
tons of ground wood pulp, and twenty-five tons of high-grade newspaper.
Although designed for a newspaper mill, some of the finest half-tone
paper, made especially for cut and picture work, with special book and
coating paper have been manufactured. It is claimed by high authorities
that this mill, although comparatively small, is one of the most compact
and best arranged mills in the country. It employs sixty men, and has
proved a financial addition to the town. In the four years of its
operation it has made a name for itself in the paper business of the
country, and helps to advertise the town whose name it hears. A village
has sprung up around the mills and the brick yards, which bids fair to
become of considerable size.
For some years all the brick used in
Ryegate had to be brought from Newbury. A few brick were made at different
places in town. The large chimneys of those days required a great many
brick, and brick houses came into fashion about 1820. In many places,
especially in the vicinity of Montpelier, large two-story brick houses
were built, but only two in this town. It is often remarked that when
lumber was more plentiful and much cheaper than now, brick houses were
often built, while now that lumber is high, brick houses are seldom
erected in the country. The reason is that wood working machinery had not
at that time come into general use, all the planing, and the making of
doors and sash was by hand. Shingle were made by hand also, and clapboards
were split. But brick could be made for about $1.25 per M, and a brick
layer’s wages in 1825 were usually $1.25 per day. Consequently it cost
very little more to build a brick house than a wooden one, and the love of
our ancestors for having things look substantial was gratified.
Not far from 1825 John McLure began
to make brick on his farm, where his grandson, Charles H. McLure lives,
the yard being between the latter’s house and the main road. Large
quantities of brick were made there, and their manufacture was continued
till about 1859, supplying most of the brick within a radius of several
miles. Lime was burned in small quantities, many years ago from a bed of
marl near the outlet of Symes’ Pond.
In 1890, Martin H. Gibson opened a
brick yard and began the manufacture of brick at East Ryegate. For the
first six years he used two Gage machines which produced about one and a
half million of brick a year, hut in 1896 he put in a steam brick plant,
and thereby greatly increased the production. The brick manufactured at
East Ryegate have a beautiful cherry color, probably the finest produced
anywhere in northern New England, and have been used in the construction
of numerous large buildings in northern New Hampshire and Vermont. Among
these are the Washington County jail and jail house at Montpelier and the
Avenue House at St. Johnsbury which were built by Mr. Gibson, the
Merchants Bank Block, the Citizens Savings Bank Block, and other buildings
at the latter place, the Catholic Church at Lyndonville, the Barton High
School building, the Newport School building, and Odd Fellows Block, the
school building at Plymouth, Bank building at Bradford, Tenney Memorial
Library at Newbury, the Remick building at Littleton, the Stoughton Block
at Whitefield, the Bailey Block at Lancaster, the Catholic Church, Savings
Bank building and others at Berlin, N. H., the brick block at South
Ryegate and many others, were constructed of East Ryegate brick.
Since the opening of the works Mr.
Gibson has made several million of brick, and employs a large number of
men, and uses many cords of wood annually.
The business by which Ryegateis most
widely known, which employs the largest capital and the greatest number of
men, is the Granite industry, for whose manufacture Blue Mountain
furnishes an inexhaustible supply. The first settlers discovered that they
had a valuable asset in the possession of this mountain of granite of the
finest quality. This granite lies in sheets, varying in thickness from a
few inches to twenty feet. This arrangement of the stone in layers affords
a great advantage in allowing easy quarrying. Many varieties of granite
are found on the mountain. There are quantities of fine, medium and coarse
grained granite, both dark and light in color. One vein of very nice
stone, run-ning around the mountain, has been traced for nearly half a
Another important characteristic is
the lack of iron, black knots or other blemishes in the rock. A further
remarkable and distinguishing feature is the bright lively color of the
stone, even after eighty years of
exposure to the weather, as is
evidenced by the granite used in the brick house of Archibald Miller, and
in the brick house at the Corner. At one time the state prison had a good
prospect of being located here, and would have been, it is said,
but for the
opposition of one of the leading citizens of the town. It was the design
of the state officials to use the prisoners in cutting the granite, as was
afterwards done on Mount Ascutney when the state prison was built at
Among the emigrants from Scotland in
the 18th century were several experienced quarriers, as they are called in
Scotland, and the state was glad to secure their skill and experience in
getting out the stone for the prison at Windsor. In 1807 and the following
year, Alexander Miller, Allan Stewart, Robert Gibson, Jonathan Page, John
Craig, Ora Wilmot and Stewart Harvey were employed in that capacity, the
first named having charge for two seasons of the workmen and prisoners-who
were getting out the stone on Mount Ascutney.
It is not certain at what period
granite began to be quarried on the mountain, but comparison of certain
ancient drill holes with some on the Catamount in Haverhill, where the
stone for Haverhill jail was quarried about 1793, indicate by their
weather-worn appearance that they were of about the same date. The early
inhabitants began to use the stone for the foundation work of the framed
houses which succeeded the log houses. The lintels and other granite in
the stone house built by James Whitehill in 1808 or 1809, a portion of
which now forms part of the house of C. W. Whitehill, were from Blue
Mountain. When the brick church at Barnet Centre was built in 1829, stone
for the steps were cut from Blue Mountain in sheets 40 feet in length, 8
ft. in width, and 8 inches thick. These were cut into three pieces, and
may still be seen in front of the present church.
The first monument, that of John
Nelson, was cut in 1854 from Rye-gate granite, and after that its
monumental use continued and increased. About 1868 the soldier’s monument
at Peacham was cut from Ryegate granite, and the beauty and finish of the
stone attracted much attention. In 1869 the base of the soldier’s monument
at St. Johnsbury, which supports the beautiful statue of Liberty by Larkin
G. Mead, was cut from the same quarry. For some time before that the stone
was drawn during the winter by teams of oxen, past Mr. George Cochran’s to
the station at Mclndoes. The demand for soldier’s monuments and other
monumental and building work, from all parts of the country furnished a
With the building of the Montpelier
and Wells River Railroad in 1873, the granite business took on new life.
In 1874, Robert Laird bought of Archibald and James Park all the granite
on their 100 acre lot, and shipped large quantities on a road built by the
town, via the Peacham road to South Ryegate and thence by rail to St.
Johnsbury, where the stone was manufactured. He carried on a large
business for a number of years. In 1891 he sold his quarry to Martin H.
Gibson, who a little later, purchased the quarry of the Ryegate Granite
Works. The latter quarry had previously been operated by Carter & Kimball
who shipped large quantities of stone to Montpelier, and later by the
Ryegate Granite Works. Mr. Gibson operated the two quarries as one,
carrying on an extensive business, shipping stone, chiefly monuments, to
nearly every state in the Union. The quarry is modernly equipped, and was
the first to use a steam plant.
Since taking the business in hand
Mr. Gibson’s aim has been to build up the industry of the town. To this
end he has at times leased parts of the quarries, and has given
considerable attention to the development of monumental work, having found
a fine vein suitable for that. Stone can be cut from the quarry six feet
square, and one hundred feet in length, and he has supplied a large number
of manufacturing firms at South Ryegate with their rough stock, furnishing
nice clean stock.
In the 70’s M. F. McDonald and Dr.
Nelson bought 100 acres of Albert Hall, and opened a new quarry, which was
later taken over and operated by a corporation known as the Blue Mountain
Granite Company. The company was managed by M. F. McDonald and Robert
Farquharson. Later, it was purchased by Henry Goodine who operated it for
about two years, and then sold one half to William Frasier, and the other
half to Rosa Bros. These last incorporated and organized the Vermont Gray
Granite Co., which has equipped the quarry with a large derrick, and all
the modern improvements, and is carrying on a successful business,
quarrying large quantities of stone. Frasier operated his half for two
years, getting out considerable building stone.
In the early 80’s, Rodney F. Carter,
a traveling salesman visiting the place, was impressed with the beauty and
fine quality of the Ryegate granite, and, forming a partnership with
Sumner Kimball, came here, and bought the Nelson quarry of 100 acres, and
soon after commenced operations in a granite shed at South Ryegate. Mr.
Cartersoon involved himself and others in financial difliculties, and sold
his plant to the Ryegate Granite Works Company incorporated in 1885,
becoming manager of the new enterprise. Under him the company lost heavily
during several years, and in 1889 went into the hands of a receiver. It
had done a large amount of excellent work, cutting many soldier’s
monuments, several of which were erected on the battlefield of Gettysburg,
also several fine mausoleums.
In 1889, A. F. Mulliken, D. W.
Learned, Alexander Dunnett and M. H. Gibson formed a partnership which
took over and operated with success the business of the Ryegate Granite
Works for a number of years. In the spring of 1890 Mr. Leonard died, and
the surviving partners bought up his share continuing the business
successfully until 1897, when Mr. Gibson bought Mr. Mulliken out, and in
the next year purchased Mr. Dunnett’s interest in the business. Under his
management a great amount of work was done. A McDonald stone cutting
machine was installed at great expense, which accomplished the work of
many men, both Barre and Ryegate granite being used.
Among the finest pieces of work made
here were the soldier’s monuménts at Racine, Wis., and Cambridge, Ill.,
the Dr. Agnew tomb at Philadelphia, and the receiving vault for Elmwood
cemetery at Detroit.
In 1902, a fire breaking out in the
office swept through the plant, and burned everything to the ground
causing a severe loss to the owner, owing to the expiration of insurance
policies which had not been renewed. The loss was about $25,000. At the
present writing the site of the Ryegate Granite Works, at what was
formerly called Quint place, is a desolate spot.
About 1900 the granite business at
South Ryegate began to show new life. Mr. M. F. Sargent built a large 100
ft. shed, and Alexander Beaton, Thomas Courtney, Axel Anderson, John B.
Frasier and James Craigie erected new sheds. Rosa Brothers bought out the
Blue Mountain Granite Co., and afterwards moved a large shed from North
Haverhill. In 1908 Mr. Fred Osgood leased the Frasier quarry, and the
sheds at South Ryegate, beginning extensive operations in quarrying and
cutting building stone. In 1909, he enlarged his plant, leasing other
sheds, engaged Robert Farquharson as general superintendent, employing
from 75 to 80 men. Among the buildings erected with his granite are post
offices at Michigan City, Ind., Hudson, N. Y., Brighton, and Elizabeth, N.
J., Ashtabula, O., and Keene, N. H. He has set up work in Washington, D.
C., and is to furnish granite for the Corsica Building, at Fifth Avenue
and 26th St., New York, and the post office at Marietta, Ohio.
Mr. M. F. McDonald has been
connected with the granite business since May 20, 1873, when he came here
to take charge of a branch shop established by the St. Johnsbury Granite
Co., which was composed of R. W. Laird and Hiram Moody.
In the spring of 1873, the rough
stock was hauled from the quarry by four pairs of oxen, from the mountain
down by the Martin Hall place, and No. 3 schoolhouse and the Henderson now
the Fisk place, loading without a derrick. They were the first in the
state to use granite polish-
ing machines. In 1876 the St.
Johnsbury Co., discontinued their branch shop and Mr. McDonald has since
conducted the business alone.
Among those interested in the
business have been the late Dr. Darling and his sons, the Robens and
others. The Blue Mountain Granite Company was organized, and did an
extensive business during some years. Mr. Alexander Cochran was the
financial head of the concern, furnished money, and indorsed its notes.
Upon the failure of the company in 1892, Mr. Cochran was obliged to take
the property into his own hands. Their plant included about 60 acres of
land on and about Blue Mountain, with sheds and a polishing mill at South
Ryegate. As before stated, this plant was afterwards sold to the Rosa
During the year 1900 about 140 men
were employed in the granite business at South Ryegate, and the same
business furnishes employment for numbers of quarry men, teamsters and the
The first work done with Ryegate
granite was crude, chiefly monuments in what was called the Bunker Hill
style, with marble slabs set in the side for the lettering, it not being
thought that it could be lettered, much less polished. It is believed that
the business has been carried on continuously since about 1865 when the
McPhees from Barnet and Sortwell of Mclndoes and Peacham, who made the
soldier’s monument at the latter place, began work. Among the earlier
workers, besides the Lairds and Hiram Moody were Joseph George, and Sumner
Kimball of Montpelier, and Ryegate. Ryegate work has gone into every state
in the Union and some parts of Canada.
Some of the best made here are the
Morgan monument at Batavia, N. Y., soldiers’ monuments Painsville, O.,
Davenport, Iowa, and many at Gettysburg and other battlefields of the
civil war. Mr. McDonald has placed over thirty monuments in the cemetery
at, Orford, N. H.
For the last few years about two
carloads of finished granite are shipped from South Ryegate each working
day valued at about $10,000 per month. Within the past two years the
introduction of electric power has made quicker and better work possible.
At present there are six different
quarries on the mountain from which granite is brought to South Ryegate.
Among those manufacturing granite are A. T. Beaton, James Beaton, Rosa
Bros., H. W. Goodine,
T. Courtney, James Craigie, Ed.
Metcalf, M. F. McDonald, Anderson & Hartz, H. Samuelson, E. E. Eliason, T.
S. Gray, The C. E. Greene Co., M. H. Gibson, manager, and the Osgood
Granite Co. About 175 men are now employed in different capacities in the
In February, 1908, the manufacturers
formed an association in order to better conditions, meet labor
difficulties, and for mutual assistance. Few manufacturing communities
have escaped labor difficulties, and differences between employers and
employed. The granite business in Ryegate has been no exception, and the
history of the rise and growth of trade unions here is of importance as
determining and insuring the right of employees to form organizations. Mr.
J. D. Grant, the secretary of the local branch of the Granite Cutter’s
Union, who was asked by the committee to prepare a brief historical sketch
of the Union, responded in a paper which restricted space has compelled us
to condense in its less important parts. Mr. Grant’s paper seems a fair
presentation of the Union’s side of the case, yet it must be remembered
that the same measure looked very differently from the other side.
The South Ryegate branch of the
Granite Cutter’s National Union was organized April 2, 1885, to remedy by
united action conditions which were far from satisfactory. The granite
business had risen from very small beginnings in 1873, till in 1885 about
100 men were employed in the various processes by which the rough stone in
the ledge on Blue Mountain was quarried, drawn, cut and polished for
shipment. The conditions, which prevailed in the day of small things, were
unchanged when the business became extensive. There was no regular
pay-day, or fixed scale of wages, and other matters were far from
satisfactory. The first step toward starting a branch of the National
Union was taken by ten men who met in one of the granite sheds on March
24th, 1885, and affixed their names to a petition to the National
Committee, in Philadelphia for a charter to form a branch of the union at
this place. The necessary authority being received, the Union was
organized on the above date, C. C. Stewart being chosen president: H. A.
West, vice-president; J. D. Grant, secretary; John W. Haley, treasurer;
the standing committee being Geo. Sheriffs, O. E. Clay, and P. B. Fraser.
The other original members were John Dillon, Alex. Barrata, and Dennis
Cleary. By the 9th of April the number of members had increased to
twenty-four, and the employers being alarmed, met at the house of R. F.
Carter, and united in addressing a letter to each member of the union
declaring their opposition to the organization, their resolve to deal with
each workman individually, and their determination to employ no man who
joined the union. Looking back to this meeting, through many years, one
feels to regret that conciliatory measures had not been adopted, and the
parties assisted to a mutual understanding.
The members of the union united in a
letter to the directors of the granite works, in which they disavowed any
intention of making trouble with employers who treated their men fairly
and their desire to see the granite business here placed on a basis of
fair and honest dealing between employers and employed. The branch also
laid their case before the National Union, and were assured of support,
the shops of the Ryegate Granite Works and the Blue Mountain Co., being
placed on the opposition list. The letter of the union was tabled by the
directors, who voted not to hire any man who belonged to the union. The
members of the union, finding that they could with difficulty obtain
employment elsewhere as their names had been placed on the "black list,"
conceived the idea of starting a co-operative company for the manufacture
of granite work by the men themselves, and negotiations were begun with
Dr. J. B. Darling for a site on which to erect a cutting and polishing
plant to be operated by the men themselves.
The granite manufactures, however,
led by R. F. Carter, represented to the State’s Attorney that there was
trouble among the granite workers at South Ryegate, and Sheriff Sulloway
with deputies on the morning of April 16, under charges of conspiracy and
intimidation arrested C. C. Stewart, O. E. Clay, George Sherriffs, Peter
B. Fraser, A. M. Holmes, John W. Haley, Charles Exley, O. W. Lewis, Wm. D.
Darling, Wrn. Troup, John Ingram, H. A. West, Dennis Cleary, P. W.
Hendrick, John McGeough, and J. D. Grant, a deputy being appointed to
guard each prisoner till the arrival of the train which was to take them
to jail at St. Johnsbury. In the meantime the action of the sheriff had
become known, and a bond to furnish whatever bail would be required was
signed by Dr. J. B. Darling, Samuel Mills, Sr., H. G. Gibson, Pringle
Gibson, J. R. Park, James White, B. G. Lind, S. Mills, Jr., M. F. Sargent,
D. B. Cross, James Dickey, M. F. McDonald and Robert Nelson, all men of
good financial standing. At St. Johnsbury the men appeared before Marshall
Montgomery, the State’s Attorney, and were defended by Bates and May,
assisted by Harry Blodgett, while H. C. Ide represented the state. Bail at
$500 each was promptly furnished by Dr. Darling and Samuel Mills, Sr.,
representing the signers of the bond, and the men were released and
returned home the same night.
Their hearing at St. Johnsbury
before N. M. Johnson, Esq., was April 17—21, and their case was dismissed.
The men were, however, re-arrested on a new indictment and taken before
Judge Walter P. Smith, who decided to send the case to the County Court,
where it was tried at the June term. Thirteen of the respondents were
acquitted and discharged. The case of the other three, C. C. Stewart, O.
E. Clay and J. D. Grant, officers of the branch, was continued, and taken
to the Supreme Court on exceptions. The indictment was sustained and the
case remanded to the County Court, the bail of the three being reduced
from $500 each to $100. The case was continued from term to term, mainly
from the difficulty which the prosecution found in securing the attendance
of witnesses, till the December term of 1887. The National Union, which
had been paying the bills, was impatient to have the case settled, and
sent Gen. Roger A. Pryor to assist the defense before a jury.
The case was, by conference of the
representatives of all the parties, settled by the payment of the nominal
fine of $20 for each of the three respondents and no costs. Thus the right
of men to organize themselves into a Union was established.
Mr. Grant says: "Meantime the
co-operative idea had materialized. And a number of the Union men became
associated under the name of the Union Co-operative Granite Co., and
commenced to manufacture granite work. This move by the union men was
looked upon with disfavor by the opposition firms, and many inducements
were thrown out to the men to desert the union and go back to their former
places, and some did so. But the Branch kept on gaining in membership and
in determination to stick to the union. The sentiment of the community was
greatly divided between ‘union’ and 'non-union.’ Even the churches were
affected to some degree by this ‘bone of contention.’"
Such a state of things could not continue in a well
ordered community, and the first firm to enter into harmonious
arrangements with the union was the Blue Mountain Company, run by McDonald
and Farquharson, who agreed to recognize the union, and hire union men on
the same terms as other men. Hendrick Bros. had before started a shop on
the same basis, making three union and one non-union.
The year 1886 was a very good one in the granite
business, several new men came into the place, a branch of the National
Union was formed at Barre, the employees of the R. G. W. Co., felt
interested in the union, 19 joined in a body Feb. 1, 1887 and all parties
came to a mutual understanding by which a settlement of the difficulties
The Company agreed to use their influence with their
employees to prevent suits by them against members of the union by reason
of any damages sustained by them, and that the Company would not
discriminate between union or non-union men, agreeing not to employ men
who were objectionable to the Union. Several minor differences were also
settled, and the long struggle came to an end, to the great joy of the
whole community. Greatly improved conditions were secured by the men, and
the employers also were benefited by the better feeling between the
parties, as the following will illustrate.
In the winter of 1887-’8 the R. G. W. Co., feeling the
general financial stringency, the men of their own motion offered to work
till the 1st of April for five per cent reduction in wages, and by
offering to assist the Company by allowing a part of their wages to remain
unpaid till April and May. This offer was accepted in the spirit with
which it was tendered.
But the settlement of the trouble between the granite
companies and the union was the ruin of the co-operative company; the
members fell off one by one, the company disbanded and James White was
appointed as receiver to wind up the affairs of the concern, settling with
the creditors for fifty cents on the dollar, a discouraging outcome
financially. But Mr. Grant considers that the enterprise had the good
result of keeping the men together during a critical period in the life of
the branch until the principal of organization by working men was firmly
established in this state.
The South Ryegate branch has been remarkably free from
misunderstandings and disputes with the employers. It has had its "ups and
downs," like other organizations sensitive to the influences of good or
bad times. It has survived two general lock-outs, the great New England
lock-out of 1892, and the more recent suspension in 1908 when there was
nothing doing from March 1st to April 10th.
The average membership may be placed at from 60 to 70.