Ancient Iron Works in Taunton

Source: J.W.D. Hall, “Ancient Iron Works in Taunton,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 38[1884].

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A history of the early iron enterprises in Massachusetts is not our purpose, as the subject has been exhausted in elaborate data and dissenting opinions, but rather to present a few interesting facts and incidents relative to the origin, progress and successful managemnt of the ancient Iron Works of Taunton, derived from antiquarian researches and reliable records.  Traditions, which do not bear the test of investigation, have crept into histories and census reports relative to the origin and management of these works; but let them pass.

It has been generally admitted that the first iron works enterprise in this state for the manufacture of bar iron from native ore was commenced on the banks of the Saugus River in Lynn, in 1643, by a company under the auspices and influence of John WINTHROP, Jr., son of Gov. WINTHROP, with an English capital form London of £1000, and skiled workmen imported for the purpose; that another iron enterprise was soon after started in “Brantry” by the same company, and that Boston donated 3000 acres of common land as an encouragement “to set up iron works on the Monanticut River” in that town, where ore had been discovered.  It is also alleged that an unexpected scarcity of ore and incompetent management in their infancy was followed by disaster to these enterprises, and that after spending a large amount, about £10,000, the company partially suspended operations in Lynn and Braintree, in the latter place in 1653 and in the former a few years later.

Iron ore had been discovered quite abundant in the flats bordering on Two Mile River and other localities in Taunton, and the enterprising Pilgrim settlers considered the field open for the establishment of a “bloomerie” on that river.  It was also learned that Henry and James LEONARD, skilled iron workers from Wales, who had been employed for several years at the works in Lynn and at Braintree by the Winthrop company, might be induced to come to Taunton and aid in the practical working of iron.  Accordingly in October, 1652, preliminary steps were taken to establish the first iron works in the Old Colony, in Taunton, and the following was the record, Oct. 21, 1652:

“It was at a town meeting conferred and agreed upon between the inhabitants of Taunton and Henry LEONARD of Braintree:

Imprimis  It was agreed and granted by the town to Henry and James LEONARD, his brother, and Ralph RUSSELL, free consent to come hither and join with certain of our inhabitants to set up a Bloomery Work on the Two Mile River.

“It was also agreed and granted by a free vote of the town, that such particular inhabitants as shall concur together with the said persons in this design, shall have free liberty from the town so to do, to build and set up this work, and that they shall have the woods on either side of the Two Mile River, wheresoever it is common on that side of the river, to cut for their cord wood to make coals, and also to dig and take moine or ore at Two Mile Meadow, or in any of the commons appertaining to the town, where it is not now in propriety.”*

In accordance with the above preliminary action, the leading citizens of Taunton interested in the enterprise, formed a stock company, inviting

* Baylie’s Historical Memoir of the Colony of New Plymouth, Part ii. p. 268.

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capitalists in other places to join them in carrying the project into effect without the aid of English capital – and they succeeded.  To obtain the shareholders required some length of time; but the precise date when they were obtained has not been fully ascertained, nor is it known when the brothers LEONARD and Mr. RUSSELL came from Braintree.  Probably it was soon after the suspension of the iron works there in 1653.  Nor is there any record that Henry LEONARD or Ralph RUSSELL were employed in these works.  They had land “set off to them” by the proprietors “as encouragement,” but they did not remain to occupy it.  RUSSELL went to Dartmouth and soon after was engaged in starting iron works at “RUSSELL’s Mills.”  Henry LEONARD was at Lynn in 1655, says Newhall the historian, and some years later was engaged with his sons by a wealthy company of Salem in an iron works at Rowley Village.  He afterwards went to New Jersey, and, it is said, successfully engaged with a company in the manufacture of bar iron.  He has left in that state numerous descendants, among whom are men of ability and of prominent standing in business and the professions.

A documentary relic of the early date above referred to, recently found among the ancient papers in the handwriting of Oliver PURCHIS, who was town clerk at the time, makes the following record preparatory to the organization of the Iron Works Company in 1653-4:

“The names of those who hath put in themselves to be proprietors in the Bloomerie, viz: – Hezekiah HOARE, Thomas GILBERT, Richard WILLIAMS, Walter DEAN, George HALL, Oliver PURCHIS, James WALKER, John TISDALL, Wm. PARKER, Mr. GILBERT senr: Peter PITTS, Richard STACEY, John COBB, William HODGES, Nath’l WOODWARD, Timothy HOLLOWAY, James BURT, Edward BOBETT, Jonah AUSTIN, sen’r, John PARKER, Samuel WILBORE, Miss E. POLE, Jane POLE.”

Additional records show the names of William POLE, Timothy LINDALL of Salem, his son-in-law, Nicholas WHITE, senr., Richard STEPHENS, John TURNER, Thomas LINCOLN, senr., Anthony SLOCUM, James LEONARD, Thos. ARMSBERY, Joseph WILBORE, Henry ANDREWS, John HALL, James PHILLIPS, Francis SMITH, Geo. WATSON, Gov. LEVERETT and Major Edward TYNG of Boston, Nath’l PAINE, senr., and Stephen PAINE, Jr., of Bristol, Benedict ARNOLD of Newport, Richard THAYER of Braintree – contributing from £20 to £5 each, for whole, half and quarter shares.

The building of a suitable dam across “Two Mile River,” where was previously a bridge; preparing the timber for the necessary buildings; obtaining from abroad the hammers and heavy iron machinery and tools required for operating the “bloomerie” for the manufacture of bar iron, occupied a long time before the practical working of the same.

The following confirmatory record in a ledger* of Capt. Thomas2 LEONARD, son of James,1 who was with his father a “bloomer,” and became the “clearke” and manager in 1683, indicates the time the works commenced, as follows:

* [Footnote] This ledger was found in the old mansion built in 1750 by Dea. Elijah3 LEONARD, grandson [sic] of Capt. Thomas,2 who had carefully stored the books transmitted to him by his father and grandfather, when he built the house.  It was the birthplace of Capt. Edward LEONARD, who resided there seventy years, and of Rev. Elijah LEONARD, of Marshfield, who died in February, 1834, after a forty-five years’ pastorate, and the father of Rev. Geo. LEONARD, who died in July, 1881, after a pastorate of thirty years in the same Marshfield church, and who inherited the old place in Raynham from his uncle Capt. Edward.  It was sold a few years ago to Mr. John SPINNEY, who in preparing to remodel the old mansion discovered the books deposited there one hundred and thirty years before.  It was destroyed by fire shortly afterwards.

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“An accompt of who hath been clarke of Taunton Iron Works ever sence George HALL was first Clearke, and some others joyned with him for a time, which begun Anno 1656.  Also, what product the works hath made from year to year.”

By this record, which has descended through two hundred years, and whose authority is undoubted, it is shown that the manufacture of iron was commenced “Anno 1656.”  On a page of this ledger are two columns of figures, indicating the years and the product of the works fifty-eight years, from that date, to the death of Capt. Thomas in 1713.  The first line reads thus: “1656 – George HALL clearke, John TURNER working ye forge.”  Three years no iron was shared.  “1659, 400 shared.”  “1660, a ton of iron sould to buy goods, whi: were devided.”

At this time an arrangement was made by the shareholders by which the works were leased to George HALL and his associates, Hezekiah HOAR and Francis SMITH.  The lease of this transaction, recently discovered among the papers of Capt. Thomas LEONARD, thus sets forth in substance the agreement:

“This present writing, dated April the first, anno domini, one thousand six hundred and sixtie, witnesseth:  that whereas the Companie in partnership in the Iron works or bloomerie, erected and maintained in working use within the plantation of Taunton, in the Colony of New Plymouth, did by themselves and their attornies, generally consent and agree, that ye said works should be let for a term of five years; to begin after ye stock of coles is now being wrought out – yielding and paying to ye whole companie aforesaid, (not one partner at all excluded) yearly during said term the full summe of four tunne of iron:” – “that said George HALL, Hezekiah HOAR and Francis SMITH having embraced, accepted, and received said tender, and rent of ye works, according to ye said propositions named,* themselves being partners” – and “to whom full libertie was then and there given, that they might take into this contract with themselves whom they liked of.”  They accordingly took into partnership:  William POLE, Walter DEANE, Joseph WILBORE, John DEANE, Anthony SLOCUM, Thos. LINKON, senr, Wm. PARKER, James LEONARD, Jonah AUSTIN sen’r, John PARKER, Peter PITTS, James PHILLIPS, Henry WITHINGTON, of Dorchester.  “The rest of said company in partnership, do by these presents ratify, confirm, establish, promise and make good and effectual to the s’d George HALL, Hezekiah HOAR, and Francis SMITH, the said contract, and do hereby give them full power and right to act, or cause to be acted or done in and about said iron works in every particular case during ye said term without interruption, molestation or hindrance of ye partners, provided that they truly and faithfully perform their engagements in the premises…. And the said partners, Wm. POLE, Walter DEANE and others, doe likewise covenant, promise and engage themselves, unto said George HALL, Hezekiah HOARE and Francis SMITH, to carrie out said contract as one man, with faithfulness, according to their wisdom and abilities; that they will endeavor to prevent all damages and support each other in all cases, whether in charges of payments or troubles of lawsuits and walk together in love and peace in the light of God, without superioritie one over another.”

“In witness whereof they herewith to one seal set their several hands the day and year above written:

GEORGE HALL,         HEZEKIAH HOARE,            FRANCIS SMITH,                    [Seal.]

Wm. POLE, Henry WITHINGTON, Jno. DEANE, Wm. PARKER, Walter DEANE, Peter PITTS, Joseph WILBORE, James PHILLIPS, John PARKER, Anthony SLOCUM, Thos. LINKON sen., Jonah AUSTIN.”

“In presence of

John HATHEWAY, Sam’l LINKON.

Resuming the old ledger records.  George HALL held the position of manager and clarke thirteen years (excepting James WALKER held the office a year) until his death in October, 1669, and “John HALL to ye end of ye year.”

*Drawn by James WALKER, Richard WILLIAMS and John TISDALL, of said company.

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“1670, Henry ANDREWS clearke.”  “1671, John HALL, thence to 1675 when (says the record) the Indian [King Philip’s] War began and many coals burned in the woods.”  “1676 – the works garrisoned – great rates – many coals burned.”  (No iron shared three years.)  “1677, Israel DEAN clearke, ye beginning, John HALL ye end of ye year.”  HALL continued until 1683, and was succeeded by Capt. Thomas LEONARD, during whose thirty years’ management occured most of the transactions and “orders” recorded below in connection with this brief history of the most important enterprise in the early days of the Old Colony.  He was an able, self-educated man; he held military commissions from Ensign to Major in the Bristol County regiment; was the leading magistrate; presiding justice of the County Court, 1685 to 1693; clerk of the Taunton North Purchase proprietors, over twenty years; filled various town offices; also performed the duties of physician.  He died in 1713, at the age of 70, leaving, besides a large estate, the Middleboro’ and Chartley Iron Works, a large quantity of official papers and miscellaneous relics, preserved with remarkable care during his eventful life.*

Dea. Samuel3 LEONARD, in Oct. 1713, succeeded his father Capt. Thomas after many years of successful management.  Another ancient ledger contains an instructive record of the transactions in the business during his charge; many pages are filled with items of the bar iron “circulating medium” and barter trades, similar to those appended.  On the division of Taunton in 1731, the iron works locality fell to the new town of Raynham, and that town owned half a share.  Dea. LEONARD died in 1745, after thirty-two years’ service, owning several shares.

Dea. Samuel LEONARD, Jr., was the successor of his father in the management of the iron works.  He had, during his four years’ management, purchased a large number of whole and fractional shares, securing nearly a majority of the stock.  He died in 1749, leaving a large incumbrance on the works and a declining stock.  He left 12 shares, valued in his inventory at £660 of the common currency.†

Dea. Elijah LEONARD, who had been at the “Chatley Works” in Norton, succeeded his brother in 1749, as clerk and manager.  He soon afterwards built, a short distance east of the forge, the mansion referred to.  He remained in charge of the business until 1777.  During the last twenty years the shares had been depreciating in value, owing to the increasing price of coal, and the declining production of good ore, in competition with the New Jersey ore which contained a much larger percentage of pure iron, and was worked by competing establishments.  With a depreciating currency and other obstacles, the iron business waned, the works hardly met expenses, the shareholders received trifling or no dividends, and the shares were relinquished at great sacrifice.  the incumbrence on the works finally resulted in the sale of a large portion of the shares to Dea. George LEONARD, brother of Dea. Elijah, who in 1770 disposed of them (7½ sixteenths) to

* The salary of Capt. Thomas was £8 the first year, and from 1684 to 1713 it was £11.  His successor received the same amount.  From 1742 to 1745, and thereafter, “ten hundred of iron was voted for salary.”  They also received a percentage on the iron manufactured.  The works made from 20 to 30 tons annually, which brought from £400 to £675, averaging about $100 a ton of our currency.

† In 1749 £1 sterling, or “old tenor,” was worth £11 of Massachusetts currency.  An oz. of silver, 6 shillings par value, stood at 66 shillings of that currency.  Thus rapidly approaching “flat money,” which was consummated by the United States national currency in paying off the soldiers of the revolution thirty years later, which became reduced to £1000 for £1 sterling, or about $1 per bushel.

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Josiah DEAN for £90 – which shows a great reduction from the inventory value in 1749.  At subsequent sales in 1777, at low figures, of other shares, with a portion of the real estate, Mr. DEAN became the purchaser.  From the original shareholders the changes were numerous from year to year, and to attempt a record would require much time and space.  Many of the sons, and descendants of the third generation from the original owners, held shares during the hundred years and more of the progress of the old iron works, until they passed into the hands of the new owner.  The price of them varied from £22 to £20 the par value; thence to £10, and finally, before the close, to £5 per share, or any price takers would give.  Thus terminated the LEONARD management, which had been conducted from 1683 by Capt. Thomas and by his son and grandsons nearly one hundred years, a large portion of the time upon the agency system, inaugurated in 1656, as above described.

Having purchased a controlling interest in the “old iron works,” Hon. Josiah DEAN took possession in 1777; he converted the bar iron forge, or “bloomerie,” into a rolling mill and nail works, where also copper bolts were rolled and made for ship-building, &c.  It was the first copper bolt manufactory in this region.  After conducting the business about forty years he died in 1818.*  He was succeeded by his son Major Eliab B. DEAN, who in 1825 changed the nail works into an anchor forge, which was continued in that heavy line of iron manufacture by him and his son and successor, Theodore DEAN, about forty years, when the works were suspended.  About a year ago the old buildings were demolished, and the privilege, dam and foundation walls alone remain of the ancient Taunton Iron Works of two hundred and twenty-four years–the oldest successful iron manufactory in New England.

The pioneer settlers during a long period of the last and preceding century after the iron works were started, were seriously embarrassed in their increasing business transactions by the scarcity of money.  They had but a small amount of specie, chiefly brought by emigrants who came across the ocean here to make their homes.†  No banks had been established – no “Land bank” capital had evoked even “new tenor bills;”‡ no Bank of England or “old tenor” notes were in circulation, although the pioneers owed allegiance to “His Majesty James” the despot, and the edicts of his tyrannical subservient Sir Edmund ANDROS were borne until patience ceased to be a virtue.  Therefore a dernier resort to bar iron, manufactured at the Taunton Works, as a “circulating medium of exchange,” to supply the great deficiency.  Iron made from the native bog ore of the creeks and swails of Two Mile River, and “Scaddings moire” became more valuable than gold – an important factor in daily traffic.  It entered largely into the transactions of business, as is shown by the subjoined brief letters, orders and replies, couched in expressions of genuine old-time courtesy, from managers, shareholders and patrons of the ancient iron works.  These amusing and interesting scraps were found between the leaves of Capt. Thomas LEONARD’s ledger of two hundred years ago, the pages of which are filled with the records of which these scraps were vouchers:

* Hon. Josiah DEAN was a member of Congress in 1807-9, and town officer and magistrate for many years.

† During the year 1652 a mint for coining silver money was established in Boston by the colony, and the first pine-tree shillings made from silver imported from the West Indies.  This made but a small supply of specie.

‡ Paper money was first issued in Massachusetts in 1690, but in very small quantity for the demand.  The bank of England was established 1694.

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The veterans Deacons Richard WILLIAMS and Walter DEAN, Hezekiah HOAR, Shadrach WILBORE the second town clerk, Increase ROBINSON, Joseph WILBORE, James WALKER, John RICHMOND, Peter PITTS, James PHILLIPS, Richard STEPHENS, John HALL, Peter WALKER, and the sons of many successors of ownership of shares in the iron works, appear in the collection, also Rev. George SHOVE and Rev. Samuel DANFORTH, third and fourth ministers of Taunton; John POLE, merchant of Boston, son of Capt. William and nephew of Elizabeth; Benedict ARNOLD, son of Gov. ARNOLD of Newport, R.I. (who married a Taunton woman, daughter of John TURNER); Nathaniel PAINE and John SAFFIN of Bristol, Judges of Probate; and John CARY, Register; Dea. Samuel TOPLIFF, Philip WITHINGTON and John BIRD, selectmen of Dorchester nearly two hundred years ago; the polite John BAKER, son of Richard; Richard THAYER, son of the first settler and Mistress Dorothy of “Brantry;” Peter NOYES of Sudbury, Capt. Thomas LEONARD and his son Major George of Chartley Works, not to be outdone in “loving phrase” by his father; and others.  Schools were scarce in those primitive days, and many wealthy business men made their “mark;” therefore errors in orthography, unique expressions and ancient idioms may be excused.  The first order is from one of the founders of Taunton and promoters of the iron works, who draws an order to pay a grocer’s bill:

Ensigne Tho. LEONARD, please to pay to Bar: TIPPING nine shillings & three pence in iron, as money:

from yr friend,

RICHARD WILLIAMS.

Taunton 16: 1st 1685-86.”

Deacon Walter DEAN’s order.

“Ensign Thomas LEONARD, Please to pay ye bearer hearof one hundred of Iron yt is due on Mr SHOVEs act. to my wife your friend.

Taunton ye 16 of ye 1st mo. 1685-6.         Your friend,

WALTER DEANE.”

Thomas LEONARD, clarke of the Iron Works of Taunton:

Sr pray pay to Joseph CROSSMAN, on hundred of iron as money, & this shall be your discharg: this ye 13th Janurae, 1683.

HEZEKIAH HOAR.

Tanton– 84.”

A letter from some friendly parishioner in 1683, addressed to the third minister of Taunton, and accompanying order, reads thus:

“For the Rev. Mr. George SHOVE, pastor of the church of Christ in Taunton: These:”

Ensign LEONARD, pray deliver to John HODGES or his order one hundred and half of iron on account of yr friend

GEORGE SHOVE.

March 14, 83-4.”

John CARY of Bristol, Register of Probate, responds to a polite request to credit a hundred of iron:

Loving ffriend, John CARY, these may inform you that if You please to Credit Richard BURT as much as comes to a hundred of Iron, I will be responsible to you, & Rest your Log ffriend,

THOMAS LEONARD.

Taunton Dec. 30, 1683-4.”

Insign LEONARD, be pleased to pay to this bearer, James TISDALL, the asseats of the above written bill, by which you will oblige Your friend,

JOHN CARY.

January 2, 1684.”

An order from an early settler to pay the schoolmaster’s rate:

Ensine LEONARD, I pray you let Mr GREENE have four shillings more in iron, as money, and place it to my account.        June 20, 1684.

JAMES WALKER.”

“Capt. LEONARD, pray pay to John WETHEREL iron 9s. and 6d. and set it to my account.

SAMUEL WILBORE.”

Ensigne LEONARD, pray deliver to Nathl CODDINGTON as much iron as comes to 4s 5d at ye rate of 18s. per O.

JOHN DEANE.

Taunton Sept. 4, 1685.”

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He was son of John DEANE, senior, and the first birth among the pioneer settlers of Taunton.

Increase ROBINSON, one of the early settlers on Dean Street, gives a credit order for iron to pay his minister, Rev. Mr. DANFORTH:

Captain LEONARD: SIR, I would intreate you to pay James TISDALE ye sum of 2-7-6 in iron at 22s. per hund. and make me Deptr for it on ye acount of ye Credit Mr DANFORD gave mie on your book.

Your ffr’d

INCREASE ROBBINSON.

Tanton ye 23d March 1688-9.”

Thomas2 WILLIAMS (son of Richard1) sold an ox to one Nathaniel SMITH, and the following orders ensued for payment:

Nathaniel SMITH, this is to desier you to pay to my Mother WILLIAMS three hundred & half a qur. of iron which is part of ye price of ye ox which you bought of mee.

THOMAS WILLIAMS.

Taunton yn ye 16th of Oct. 1693.”

On the opposite side of the above Mr. SMITH ordered the iron:

Capt. LEONARD, I pray be pleased to pay to old mother WILLIAMS 3 hundreth & half a quarter of Iron.

NATHANIEL SMITH.”

Dorchester, May 15, 1696.

“Worh’ysfull Sir:

After my service to your Honour, these are only to desire you to Send the income of my interest in the works by Lt ROBINSON and these shall be the recept for the same.  And if I could know when you come to Boston, I should be willing to discourse wth you in point of sale (it being at such a distance from me) if your self is inclined to buy.  I remain yr humble servant,

JOHN BAKER.”

Deacon TOPLIFF orders iron for the half share due Dorchester:

Captin LINARD – pray please to deliver to this bearer, Philip WITHINGTON, 200 and half of Iron, the which, by your information, is due to Dorchester:  In so doing you will much oblige us your asured friends:  Dated in Dorchester 2 Aug. 1699.

SAMUEL TOPLIFF.”

Capt. LEONARD delivers 200 and half on the order for 1797-’98 [sic].

Taunton April 1, 1700.

Capt. LEONARD I desire you to give John KING credit upon works book for 20 shillings of iron as money.  Your friend to serve

JOHN HALL.”

An order from Rev. Samuel DANFORTH, the fourth minister of Taunton, to pay his “servant mayd.”:

To Captain Thomas LEONARD,

Sr I would pray you to pay Elizabeth GILBERT (my late servant mayd) the sum of thirty shillings in iron at 18 sh. pr Cent: to her or her order – & place it to my account *** pr yr friend and servant

SAMll DANFORTH.”

Dated Tanton, March 11, 1703-4.

Here is one of his business orders: Rev. Mr. DANFORTH wants iron to buy nails.

To Capt. Thomas LEONARD in Tanton:

Sr I have got Thomas WILLIS to go to Bridgewater to fetch me some nails from Mr. MITCHELL’s this night: & pray to let him have 200 of iron to carry with him to pay for them: of which, 100 on acct of Edward RICHMOND; 5s. worth on acct. of Thomas LINKON, son of John LINKON, by virtue of his note herewith sent you: for the remainder I may by yr leave be yr debtor for a while till I have another note from some other to ballance against it: & remain yr obliged

SAMl DANFORTH.”

26 8mo. 1702.

Capt. Thomas LEONARD:

Sr – Give credit to William BRIGGS (son of Wm BRIGGS grand-senior) & to Thomas BRIGGS his brother, for the sum of two shillings and four pence in iron at 18 pr Cent. & make me Debtor for the same in Yr book: This 2shis 4d is to pay theyr iron part of theyr Rate to the Ware bridge.

Pr SAMll DANFORTH.”

Dated July 15, 1703.

“to be pd to Increse ROBBINSON, Constable for the use aforesd.”

Order for iron “for the ministry of Dorchester.”

Capt. Thomas LEONARD of Taunton :–

Sir: These lines may inform you yt the Selectmen of Dorchester, would desier

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you to deliver unto Sargt. Philip WITHINGTON all that iron, wh is due from the Iron Works to the ministry of Dorchester, and in so doeing this shall be discharg.  Dorchester the 26 of March 1705.

SAMUEL CAPEN,

for the name and with the consent of the rest of the Selectmen.”

Mr. WITHINGTON receipts for the product of the half share, 700 of iron for 1699, 1700, ’1, 2, and 3.

The genuine autographs of many of the early settlers are among these unique scraps of iron history, and are now in the possession of the writer.

To illustrate the annual divisions of iron to shareholders, the following cases are cited from the old ledger records, from 1683 to 1713, and later in Dea. Samuel’s records.

The oldest original shareholder was Richard WILLIAMS, who received in 1683 for his one share £3 6s.; for 1684-5, £4 8s. each year; for 1686 and 87, £3 6s. each; for 1688, £4 8s.; for 1689-90-91, £2 4s. each year, mostly in bar iron, or barter thereof at the stores of Bartholomew TIPPING of Taunton, John POLE of Boston, Benedict ARNOLD of Newport, and other sources, butchers, shoemakers, weavers, &c., discounted at the iron works.  Mr. WILLIAMS died in 1693, and his widow continued to receive the product share, through her son, who succeeded to his father’s business, tanning, from 1691 to 1700 each year 2 C. to 4 cwt.; in 1701 2 C.; 1702, £3 2s.; in 1703, £1 10s.; in 1704, £0 8s.; 1705, 13s 2d., about the same for five years; in all 500 wt. of bar iron at 20s. per hundred; discounting meeting house, town, school master and county rates, and store pay, by the clerk of the iron works, and occasionally a few shillings in money.  Dea. WILLIAMS was annually credited “£2 10s. for a hide for the bellows.”

The town of Taunton held half a share, and to illustrate the amount others received, owning half shares, – in 1683 £1 13s. was shared, or, “1 C. 2 qrs. in iron, on Deacon Walter DEAN’s order for the school master, Mr. GREEN;” for 1684, “£2 4s. in iron, delivered on Dea. DEAN’s order for same rate;” for 1685, £2 4s.; 1686, “£1 13s. paid by Dea. DEAN for ammunition;” for 1687, £1 13s.; 1688, £2 4s. in iron; 1689, £1 7s. 6d.; and 1690, £1 2s. to Dea. DEAN’s order to pay the meeting house rate of £2 15s.  From that during the ten years to 1700, the average was £1 2s.; partially in money ordered by Dea. DEAN for school and other rates, or in iron bartered.  The amount of iron and money shared differed from the above in some cases, but iron was as much in demand as money, and as available in Boston and Dorchester as in Taunton.

The following illustrations from the ledger pages show the manner of conveyance of iron to shareholders in Boston, Dorchester and elsewhere.  “June, 1685, delivered to Nicholas WHITE, sen’r, to carry (through the wilderness) to Major E. TYNG, 7 C. of iron, also to Madam LEVERETT* of Boston 7 C. of iron; for Peter NOYES of Sudbury 5 C. 2 qrs. in bars, for John BAKER of Dorchester 3 C. 2 qrs. and for Samuel CAPEN 3 C. 2 qrs. for Dorchester church, as their due for 1683-84.”  “In November 1686, delivered to same to carry to Mrs. TYNG and Madam LEVERETT of Boston 4 C. and 12 lbs. each, for Mr NOYES of Sudbury 3 C. 2 qrs.; for Mr BAKER 205 lbs. and for Mr CAPEN’s order 205 lbs. as their share for 1685.”

Thus, without long repetition of other cases, for twenty years or more, the annual transportation of iron (occasionally a little money) to shareholders, varied from year to year as the product of the iron works varied.  The record, however, shows a gradual decline during the succeeding years.

* Widow of John LEVERETT, governor of Massachusetts 1673-79.

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In 1700, delivered to Wm. THOMAS of Plymouth 5 C. of iron for Madam LEVERETT; same amount for Mrs. TYNG of Boston, as their shares for two years, “marked L, for John POOL of Boston.”  “To Philip WITHINGTON per order of Selectmen of Dorchester, just 7 C. of iron for the four years, 1699 to 1703.”  Also, “per order Dea. Sam’l TOPLIFF, for the Dorchester Church, 1 C. and half of iron for the years 1704, 5, 6 and 7, being £1 13s. each year.”  “in 1720 & ’21, £1 2s.; in 1722 & ’23, nothing; from 1724 to 1732, 11 shillings each year, for Dorchester.”  Other half shareholders same amount, or £1 2s. per share.  Here ends the old ledger accounts, transferred to later books, of which whole columns are filled with the details.

WHITTINGTON IRON WORKS.

James LEONARD, senior, purchased of William HAYLSTON in 1666 about ten acres of land on Mill River, with a water privilege, where he afterwards erected a forge or “bloomerie,” “with one hearth,” for the manufacture of charcoal iron, called the “Whittington Forge,”* which was in operation in 1678.  His three sons, Joseph, Uriah and Benjamin, having served in the Taunton Iron Works at the “refining and bloomerie” trade, worked the forge.  They also had a grist-mill at the same place.  This was the location of James LEONARD’s iron works.

James died in 1691, and the Probate record (Book I.) describes the division of his property by agreement of all the heirs.  Joseph2 “to have one fourth of his father’s iron works,” with some adjacent land, and “to pay 20 shillings in money, and 400 of iron annually to his mother-in-law;” Uriah “to have the rest of the Whittington Iron Works, dwelling house and land,” and “pay 600 of iron per annum to his mother-in-law Margaret as long as she continued his father’s widow;” James2 to have some tracts of land, “the old home lot,” and “his father’s half share in the Taunton Iron Works,” also £4 9s. more from the estate; Benjamin2 to have certain parcels of land named, the shop tools, old iron, his father’s clothing and as much more from the estate as to make £26 9s.  Abigail2 and John KINGSBURY, Rebecca2 and Isaac CHAPMAN, and Hannah2 and [photocopy illegible] DEAN (daughters and husbands) to have certain tracts of land and proceeds of sales from the estate, to make for each £26 9s.  Thomas to have the dwelling house near the iron works on Two Mile River, after the death of his mother-in-law, and to administer the estate, to pay all bequests to the heirs, and have the remainder.  One third of all the movables were assigned to Widow Margaret, she “to reside in the house where she lives as long as she remains a widow.”  To all of which she agreed.  She died in 1701.

Joseph2 died in 1692, leaving widow Mary, executrix, and four children – his “brother Thomas and Deacon Henry HODGES to be overseers,” to assist in settling the estate.  A few years later James,3 son of Capt. James, succeeded as a partner and to the management of the Whittington Iron Works; and they were “to pay the widow Mary 600 of iron annually during her life, while the works stand.”  […]

* “Whittington,” the original name, changed to Whittenton and legalized.  A record in 1669 says, “Whereas, James LEONARD, forgeman, hath an intent to set up a small Iron Works to go by water on Mill River, above the Saw Mill, and whereas the land on the opposite side belongeth to Lieut. George MACY, and may be overflowed by a dam;” said MACY “hereby grants to James LEONARD the right to build a dam and make use of the water to overflow any part of his land by paying so much annually as any indifferent rational man shall judge.”

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