THE BAY STATE MONTHLY.
A Massachusetts Magazine.
VOL. III. MAY, 1885. NO. II.
BARNABAS BRODT DAVID.
THE BOSTON LATIN SCHOOL.
THE WHITE AND FRANCONIA MOUNTAINS.
THE PAST AND FUTURE OF SILVER.
RAMBLES AMONG MASSACHUSETTS HILLS.
EARLY ENGLISH POETRY.
[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. Not till he was nine did the first wheeled vehicle make its appearance in the Pemigewasset valley. Society was in a primitive condition. The only opportunity for education was the district school, two miles distant—where, during the cold and windy winter days, with a fire roaring in the capacious fire-place, he acquired the rudiments of education. A few academies had been established in the State, but there were not many farmer's sons who could afford to pay, at that period, even board and tuition, which in these days would be regarded as but a pittance.
Very early in life this Campton boy learned that Pemigewassett valley, though so beautiful, was but an insignificant part of the world. Intuitively his expanding mind comprehended that the tides and currents of progress were flowing in other directions, and in April, 1823, before he had attained his majority, he bade farewell to his birthplace, made his way to Boston—spending the first night at Concord, New Hampshire, having made forty miles on foot; the second at Amoskeag, the third in Boston, stopping at the grandest hotel of that period in the city—Wildes', on Elm street, where the cost of living was one dollar per day. He had but two dollars and a half, and his stay at the most luxurious hotel in the city of thirty-five thousand inhabitants was necessarily brief. He was a rugged young man, inured to hard labor, and found employment on a farm in Newton, receiving twelve dollars a month. In the fall he was once more in Campton. The succeeding summer found him at work in a brick yard. In 1826 he was back in Boston, doing business as a provision dealer in the newly-erected Quincy market.
But there was a larger sphere for this young man, just