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City Document — No. 8.
JOINT SPECIAL COMMITTEE
IN THE MATTER OP THE
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NORFOLK COUNTY JOURNAL PRESS.
CITY OF ROXBURY.
In Board op Aldermen, March 24, 1856.
Petition of Samuel M. Phillips and 52 others, praying that the
nuisance caused by the "Roxbury Color and Chemical Company," may
And also the petition of Charles Ellis and 50 others, for the same
Read and referred to the Mayor and Alderman Ward.
Sent down for concurrence.
JOSEPH W. TUCKER, City Clerk.
In Common Council, March 24, 1856.
Concurred. And Messrs. Nute, Lewis, and Pike added.
JOSHUA SEAVER, Clerk.
In Board op Aldermen, April 28, 1856,
Report read and accepted, and Order passed. Sent down for concur-
JOSEPH W. TUCKER, City Clerk.
In Common Council, May 5, 1856.
Report and Order read, and, upon motion of Mr. Nichols, laid on
the table, and twelve hundred copies ordered to be printed and distrib-
uted to the citizens of Roxbury.
JOSHUA SEAVER, Clerk.
CITY OF ROXBURY.
In Board of Aldermen, April 28, 1856.
The Special Joint Committee, to whom were referred the
petitions of Charles Ellis and others, and Samuel Mo
Phillips and others, have attended to the duty assigned
them, and respectfully ask leave to submit the following
The petitions referred to the Committee bear the names
of a large number of tax-paying citizens of Roxbury, who
complain of the character of the manufactures carried on by
the Roxbury Color and Chemical Manufactory, and pray that
the City Government would take measures for its removal*
Petitions coming from such a numerous and respectable
body of citizens, and bearing on their front, as it were, the
stamp of public opinion, and asking the aid of the munici-
pal authorities to remove from the heart of the city a
long-established Corporation, which has embarked a large
capital in a certain branch of manufactures, are entitled to
the serious and deliberate consideration of the City Gov-
ernment,— and the Committee have engaged in their work
of investigating the facts, with a strong desire to elicit the
truth, and, so far as may be connected with their limited
sphere of duty, do justice to all parties.
The Committee have held a number of meetings, and
have listened to the evidence voluntarily produced by the
petitioners on the one side, and the Directors of the Com-
pany on the other. They have visited the works, and
every facility has been allowed them to examine into the
character of the manufactures ; and their enquiries have
been readily replied to by the persons in charge of the es-
It appears that the Roxbury Color and Chemical Com-
pany was incorporated in 1826, with a capital of $50,000,
and soon after established in its present location, which
was then mostly surrounded by land in an uncultivated
state. The quantity of land now belonging to the Com-
pany is between three and four acres, and the value of the
whole property is estimated at about $80,000. The prin-
cipal chemical manufactures carried on, appear to have
consisted of Sulphuric Acid, Muriatic Acid, Nitric Acid,
Nitrate of Lead, and Alum. Other chemical preparations
have at different times engaged the attention of the Com-
pany, as the manufacture of Prussian Blue, and the smelt-
ing of Copper ; but the effects were so decidedly offensive
that they were soon discontinued, and for a number of
years it is believed that the manufactures have been con-
fined to the articles first enumerated. The noxious gases
which escape from the works, during the process of man-
ufacture, and which become incorporated with the atmos-
phere, to the injury and inconvenience of the neighborhood,
and the depressing effect upon property consequent thereon,
seem to be the principal causes of complaint on the part of
A great mass of evidence has been adduced to show
that these gases, or exhalations, from the Chemical Works,
are of an exceedingly unpleasant character — that they
are conveyed by the wind to a great distance, in some
cases nearly a mile — - that they are offensive to the olfac-
tories — tend to destroy the comfort of persons residing
in the neighborhood, and are annoying to strangers who
visit that vicinity, — that the effect produced on the physi-
cal system is often distressing, causing a severe cough and
irritation of the bronchial apparatus, and a stricture of the
CITY DOCUMENT. — No. 8. 5
chest, especially in persons of delicate constitutions; or
otherwise suffering from indisposition, — and that, conse-
quently, the effect is prejudicial not only to the conveni-
ence, peace of mind, and comfort of the inhabitants, but
also to their health. It likewise appears from the testi-
mony of many witnesses, that the nature of these gases is
so generally offensive and disagreeable, as to deter per-
sons from purchasing property, or locating in a neighbor^
hood, which, in other respects, possesses many advantages )
and that this manufactory thus acts as a check and a draw^
back on the value of estates in that vicinity.
It also appears that complaints have, from time to time,
been made of the offensive character of the Works, and
attempts have been made to procure their removal, when
the population in the direction of the manufactory was
much less than now ; but all efforts have failed of success.
The evils have increased during the last few years, and the
petitioners now again come forward, and ask for the direct
action, or the aid and influence of the City Council, towards
the removal of an establishment which they regard as a nui-
sance no longer to be endured.
It is urged that this establishment has continued in its
present location for a quarter of a century; that it has
given employment to a large number of people, and that a
removal will be attended by a great sacrifice of property;
While the Committee believe that the true policy of the
City Government is not only to protect, so far as may be,
the rights of every citizen, but to encourage and cherish
manufactures and the mechanic arts, the true sources of
prosperity in a business community ; yet they conceive it
to be a clearly established principle, that when^ under any
circumstances, the character of a manufacture becomes a
decided nuisance, the interests of the few should give place
to the health and comfort of the many, and that the tide of
prosperity should not be checked by the evil, but should
bear it away. It is also evident that the fact of having
been so long located in that particular spot, does not give
the Company a right to remain there forever. The growth
and prosperity of Roxbury have greatly increased since the
Chemical Works were established, notwithstanding their
objectionable character ; and these manufactures, which, in
the earliest state of the enterprise, gave offence to compar-
atively few individuals, have since become offensive to a
large population. The location was selected by the Com-
pany, doubtless, with regard to future results ; and with a
full knowledge that the works were exposed to the risk
of being removed, whenever the good of the public and
the comfort of a large and thriving community required
It has been urged that the tall chimney, constructed
years ago, carries off nearly all the gases, and renders the
works comparatively innoxious and inoffensive. The evi-
dence, however, is conclusive that the chimney does not
remedy the evil complained of for many years, and which
it was hoped and expected would thus be removed. The
gases and fumes from the various acids manufactured by
the Company, must necessarily escape in large quantities
through apertures in the slightly constructed buildings, and
through ventilators and wooden chimneys — and those por-
tions of these gases, which are carried off by the chimney,
are wafted by the wind to a greater distance than before,
and do not readily lose their noxious character on being
mingled with the atmospheric air.
By an act passed in 1855, the Board of Health of any
city or town, may forbid the exercise of any trade or em-
ployment, within its limits, which is a nuisance, or hurtful .
to the inhabitants or their estates, dangerous to the public
health, or the exercise of which is attended by noisome and
injurious odors — provided the said act shall be adopted by
such city or town. But in a case like the present, where
a large capital is invested, and an important amount of
property is at stake, and the works have been in operation
CITY DOCUMENT. — No. 8. 7
for a long period of time — and where, for obvious reasons,
the testimony of numerous witnesses on oath can hardly be
taken, and a thorough legal and scientific investigation had
of all the facts connected with the manufactures carried on
by the Company, and the precise effects produced by the
gases arising therefrom, the Committee cannot recommend
a resort to such summary measures as are authorised by
the statute. '
But the Committee, believing, from the evidence which
has been produced, that the existence of these works is a
constant source of inconvenience and discomfort to many
of the citizens of Roxbury, and the passers-by — 'that it is
a nuisance, hurtful to the inhabitants — detrimental to the
public health — is attended by noisome and offensive odors
and exhalations — is injurious to the estates in the vicinity
— and in certain cases a blight upon vegetation — a draw-
back on the enjoyment of property — and as such, an ob-
stacle to the prosperity of a large and otherwise valuable
portion of the city, — are of opinion that measures should
be taken to lay the subject before the proper legal tribu-
nals, with a view to the abatement of said nuisance, and its
entire and immediate removal, — and therefore recommend
the adoption of an Order, which accompanies this Eeport.
JOHN S. SLEEPER, Chairman.
Citg of ^oniuxt*
In Board op Aldermen, April 28, 1856.
Ordered, That the Mayor be, and he hereby is instructed, to take
such measures as in his opinion may be necessary or proper, to bring
the subject matter of the nuisance, created and caused by the " Roxbury
Color and Chemical Company," to the attention of the prosecuting
officer of this District, with reference to procuring an indictment
Sent down for concurrence.
JOSEPH W. TUCKER, City Clerk.
Qiiitm of fjje Jfire Jeprtmeni,
JUNE 11, 1856.
NORFOLK COUNTY JOURNAL PRESS.
Engineer's Office, )
Roxbury, June 21, 1856. ?
At a meeting of the Board of Engineers, last evening, it
was voted, that a copy of your remarks to the Firemen, at
City Hall, be requested for printing and distribution among
I am, Very Respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
SAMUEL F. TRAIN,
Secretary of the Board of Engineers.
To Hon. J. S. Sleeper,
On Thursday, June Hth, a meeting Was held at the Ciif
Hall — by invitation of the Mayor ; — of the Engineers of the
Fire Department, and the Foremen of the several Companies.
The Joint Committee on the Fire Department, and the Joint
Committee on Public Property, were also present. The
Mayor, after briefly stating to the officers of the Fire Depart-'
ment his object in calling the meeting, proceeded to read
some portions of the Ordinance of the City regulating the
Fire Department, and then delivered the following
Gentlemen : — I have thought proper to call
y-otif attention to those portions of the Ordinance
of the City, which prescribes rules for the order
and discipline of the Fire Department, and which,
being manifestly proper in themselves, and having
been deliberately adopted with a view to the
Welfare of the City, the citizens of Roxbury hate
a right to expect will be strictly observed.
It is hardly necessary, in the brief remarks
Which I propose to make, to allude to the impor-
tance of efficiency in the Fire Department of a
City so densely populated as Eoxbury, and where
Wooden buildings abound to a great extent. In
order to preserve the efficiency of the Depart-
ment, it is indispensable that the organization
should be complete, and that harmony, regularity,
and good order should prevail in every branch.
To effect this, the officers of the Department —
those elected by the City Council, and those elect-
ed by the members of the different Companies —
are expected to use their influence at all times,
and their authority whenever it may become
necessary, to preserve discipline, and strict obe-
dience to the laws enacted by the City Govern-
ment, for the proper regulation of the Fire De-
Gentlemen : The responsibility of the respec-
tive offices you hold, is great. You are vested
with power, which must at times be exercised
without restraint from any other Department of
the Government. An important trust is reposed
in you, and to your judgment, fidelity and energy
in the discharge of your various tasks, the citi-
zens of Roxbury have confided their property,
and I had almost said, the lives of themselves and
The members of the Fire Department are sup-
posed and believed to be men, able from moral
and physical qualifications, and willing, perhaps
from a chivalric spirit as well as a sense of duty,
to meet the risks and undergo the fatigues ordi-
narily attendant on their important services. A
certain sum is paid by the City Government to
each individual, which is not intended as a com-
pensation for their labors, but as an encourage-
ment to their exertions, and an additional induce-
ment to men of the right stamp and character
to attach themselves to the several Companies.
This pecuniary reward it is expected will be re-
ceived by the individual members of each Compa-
ny, and expended for their own particular use ;
and it is hoped that no person will be received
into any Company, who is not willing to perform,
in person, all the duties requited of a fireman;
who is irregular in his habits, or expects indul-
gences which are not in strict accordance with
the rules of good order and the laws of the City.
Substantial men — men who can be identified and
relied on in times of trial— are the men who are
wanted, and should be encouraged to join the De-
partment. The duties of a Fireman are of a kind
that cannot well be executed by proxy.
While it is desirable that the members of the
Fire Department should be granted all the indul-
gences which are reasonable, and may contribute
to their gratification ; and while it may be unwise to
check a wholesome spirit of emulation among the
different Companies, or that feeling of self-respect
and pride, which often stimulates to increased ex-
ertion or nobler action, I would caution you, Gen-
tlemen, against encouraging that spirit of rivalry
between certain Companies, which is manifested
by such trials of skill and contests for superiority^
as in other cities and towns has often led to
insubordination. Such manifestations of rivalry
are obviously improper in themselves ; cannot
possibly serve any good purpose ; must injure
the property of the City, and create an unhealthy
excitement among the Firemen. In other places,
they have bred animosity and ill-will between
members of rival Companies, and caused serious
disturbances of the peace.
You are well aware, Gentlemen, that property
belonging to the City, of an amount by no means
inconsiderable, is placed in your hands. Over
this property you have the chief control ; and it is
expected that you will look after it with care 5
allow it to be used, or exposed to injury, only
when the occasion demands it ; and exercise
prudence and economy in its management. What-
ever may be necessary for the actual improve-
ment, or for increasing the efficiency of the Fire
Department, should be liberally and judiciously
expended, while mere ornament, show, or extrav-
agance, without corresponding utility, should be
And I may here remark, that the various En-
gine Houses are intended for the reception and
deposit of the Engines, and the Apparatus attach-
ed to them, and also as suitable places for the
transaction of business, or meetings for the regu-
lation of the affairs of the respective Companies.
It was never intended or expected that they
should be used as lounging places for idlers, for
convivial meetings, for frolics or carousals, either
on a week day or on the Sabbath. Any tendency
in that direction must inevitably tend to impair
the discipline and demoralize the Department, and
should be promptly rebuked and prohibited. Any
members who claim or expect indulgences of that
kind, should be dismissed forthwith. They are
not the kind of men, who it is desirable should
belong to any well-regulated Fire Department.
In making these remarks, I wish it to be under^
stood that I do not mean to cast any reflections
on the Fire Department of Roxbury, or persons
now or heretofore connected with it, — for the
excellence and skill of the Department are well
known and acknowledged. My wish is that it
may preserve the character for efficiency which it
now enjoys, and, if it is capable of improvement,
let it be improved ; and rendered, if possible, more
efficient, and more worthy the confidence and re^-
spect of all good citizens, than it now is or ever
And, Gentlemen, I trust that you will take the
suggestions which I have just thrown out, and
which have been dictated by a sense of duty, in
good part. We are all servants of the people,
and no apology is due for looking closely after
the people's interests, or for striving to elevate
the character of the City. It is expected that
you, on your part, will cause the Ordinances of
the City relating to the Fire Department to be
strictly enforced, and that you will also use your
authority to make such other regulations and
rules as may seem to you judicious and proper.
And you may rest assured that every thing in the
power of the members of the City Council, either
officially or as individuals, to aid or sustain you
in the exercise of your duties, or make your ar-
duous and responsible tasks more agreeable to
yourselves or acceptable to the citizens, will be
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