Skip to main content

Full text of "A sketch of the life of the Hon. Phinehas Adams, of Manchester, New Hampshire"

See other formats






3 1833 01179 2394 

re> * 

;} i i i 'i I ;} f -J. ; V U ^ »y ill -.0,1 -I i i ^4 * 



YOcf.i. r??s6 


Hon. Phinehas Adams, 









A brief sketch of the life of Honorable Phinehas Adams 
was prepared for and published in the Manchester Daily 
Union on the 9th of December last. 

Since then, the writer has been requested by numerous 
friends of Mr. Adams to prepare the same for publication 
in a more permanent form. 

In deference to the wishes of these people, — being as- 
sured that many others would be glad to have such a 
memento as this, and believing there is no citizen of 
Manchester who is more highly esteemed, — the author has 
revised the article referred to, adding thereto many hereto- 
fore unpublished facts, gathered from various sources, all of 
which are hereby respectfully presented. 

Manchester, N.H., February 6, 1880. 

Phinehas Adams was born in Medway, Massa- 
chusetts, the twentieth day of June, 1814, and comes 
from the very best Revolutionary stock of New Eng- 
land. His grandfather and great-grandfather partici- 
pated in the battle of Bunker Hill, and served through 
that memorable war. He had three brothers and 
seven sisters, of whom the former all died previous 
to 183 1. Three sisters are now living: Sarah Ann, 
born in 18 16, the wife of E. B. Hammond, M.D., of 
Nashua; Eliza P., born in 1820, widow of the late 
Ira Stone, Esq., formerly an overseer in the Stark 
Mills; and Mary Jane, born in 1822, widow of the 
late James Buncher, Esq., a former designer for the 
Merrimack Print Works at Lowell, Mass. Mrs. 
Buncher is the present popular and very efficient 
librarian of the Manchester Public Library. 

His father, Phinehas Adams, Senior, married Sarah 
W, Barber, a native of Holliston, Mass., in 181 1. Her 
father was an Englishman; came to America from 
Warrenton, England, during the Revolutionary War, 
and married in this country a Scottish lady who came 
from Edinburgh. 

Phinehas Adams, the senior, was both a farmer and 
a mechanic, and became quite an extensive manufac- 
turer. At a very early date, he constructed hand- 
looms, which he employed girls to operate; and, 

subsequently, started the first po\ver4oom that was 
ever established in this country, at Waltham, Mass., 
in the year 1814. 

In this vear and in the same town, he became a 
mill overseer, and afterwards gave his whole attention 
to manufacturing'. He resided, when Phinehas was a 
child, at different times in Waltham, Cambridge, and 
in Nashua, X.H., to which latter place he removed 
later in life, and became proprietor of a hotel, — the 
Central House. 

This business was now more agreeable to him, 
>ince he had broken three or four of his ribs and 
received other injuries from an unfortunate fall. 

1 Ion. William P. Newell, of this city, who was agent 
of the Amoskeag Old Mills from 1S37 to 1846, was 
once a bobbin-bo v for the elder Adams. This was 
ten years before the son, who was attending a private 
school in West Newton, Mass., until 1827, began to 
work in the mills. 

In the last-named year, his father became agent 
of the Neponset Manufacturing Company's mills, — 
which were owned by himself, Dr. Oliver Dean, and 
others, — at Walpole, in the same State; and to this 
place he removed his residence. 

W hen quite young, the son disliked close confine- 
ment in school, the task of poring over books being 
u» him rather dry and irksome; but his father said 
• ■» him that he must either study or go to work in 
mill. At the latter place, he was soon found 
4' M in a work well calculated to dispel boyish 
romance in a summary manner. 

He almost repented making this choice, but pluck- 
»!} "-luck to the work" with the indomitable persever- 

ance so often displayed in after life, and was employed 
as bobbin-boy for a year by the Company. 

He then entered Wrentham Academy, where he 
remained, making good progress in his studies, for 
a vear and a half, when his father was compelled to 
inform him that he had met with serious losses by 
reason of the failure of the Company, and that he, 
Phinehas, would now have to leave the Academy and 
go to work. 

The father very much regretted feeling obliged to 
take this course, having cherished the hope of being 
able to odve his son a thorough education. 

The latter, readily accepting the situation, replied 
to his father that he was ready and willing to work, 
but that, if he must go to work in a mill, he preferred 
that it should be in a large one, and not in a "one- 
horse concern"; for he desired a wide field and the 
best possible opportunities to gain a knowledge of 
the business in its man} - details. 

One of the greatest events in the commercial his- 
tory of our country was the founding of the "City of 
Spindles," Lowell, in [S21. Very naturally, the junior 
Adams was led to go there to gain his desired knowl- 

On the 10th of November, 1829, he proceeded to 
this city, and at the age of fifteen became employed 
as bobbin-boy in the mills of the Merrimack Com- 

At that time, the Company had only about thirty 
thousand spindles in its mills; but now its five mills 
contain (in 1S76) one hundred and fifty-eight thou- 
sand four hundred and sixty-four spindles, and three 
thousand nine hundred and forty-one looms; has a 


capital of two and one half million dollars, and em- 
ploys eighteen hundred female and nine hundred 
male operatives. 

In these early clays of manufacturing, the system 
was adhered to in Lowell of keeping fierce bull-dogs 
— one, at least — in each mill. They were liberally 
fed with fresh meat, not for the purpose of making 
them less savage, and chained near the entrance to 
the mill, making effectual sentinels while the watch- 
men were making their rounds. This custom was 
followed until about 1831. 

Mr. Adams was early possessed of an ambition to 
become an overseer; and to this end he labored hard 
and faithfully, never thinking or dreaming, however, 
that he would become agent of a large mill. 

This was his real beginning, the wedding to his long 
and uninterrupted manufacturing life, the " golden 
wedding" anniversary of which event occurred in 
November, 1S79. 

Soon after his commencement at Lowell, he was 
promoted to the position of second overseer in the 
weaving department, a post he retained until 183 1, 
when he passed to a similar position in the Methuen 
Company's mill, of which his uncle was 'agent. In 
1833, he made another change, going to Hooksett, 
N.H., where he became overseer in the Hooksett 
Manufacturing Company's mills, of which his father 
was then the agent. 

Not long afterwards he assumed a similar position 
in the Pittsfield Manufacturing Company's mill, at 
Pittsfield, then under the administration of Ithamar A. 
Beard, Esq., agent, who was by profession a civil en- 
gineer. Mr. Beard went from there to Brunswick, 


,;-",:.' :i;;;| .y; f| ^ 

Ki ■■■/'! :"l-siL. 

V ''"V ; |?f"1 

!ii?. /: - .^ f :'..- : ; ,: 3 | i 

ij 1 ' \ . ' 3Lt 

* '-","'.''-- 





'■'.,* i l - = 


/ ^ 1 — p a. 




|j i , ' ' : @ 


. v - ;- 1 s= 


' '•' • ■ ■ ~ .-" 

,[■ ;; ; ■ ^Hrf 



\ : ' "' ' ' :-J 'r. 


' 1 ' ■ ' ■' ; ~, ~ i- 


l {■ p =5 ! 

• ! "i ■-.■■.,-". . ; ' y •'. ;•-; ~ r X;_ 


jb : , jfc^&^— j k>to^»-.^w^ 





: f/ "V-- 

';* -. i . 



■ 'L<i 

c" :'7-. 





■„ -■■'-_ 3 * 

-.. S 

'-^ Vi 

'^' j - v - 

j- ; r > ■ ";,^* 




Maine, where he was subsequently engaged in the 
construction of mills. 

Mr. Adams remained in Pittsfield from December, 

1834, until Mr. Beard resigned. The latter urged the 
former to continue in his position at Pittsfield, and 
gave him an excellent letter of recommendation, 
saying, as he handed it to Mr. Adams, " There, young- 
man, you can keep this : it may never do you any 
good, but it will never do you any harm. I can in- 
dorse it with a good conscience." 

It was on a Saturday night, the 7th of March, 

1835, that Mr. Adams, who had previously decided to 
return to Lowell, left Pittsfield ; being driven in a 
team to Hooksett, where he secured a night's lodging. 
In good season the next morning (Sunday), he em- 
barked in the mail stage, and found himself about 
noon of the same day at Nashua, where his parents 
then resided. In those days there was no city of 
Manchester, neither was there a splendid railroad ser- 
vice running through the fertile Merrimack valley. 
But the waters of the Merrimack, though scarcely at 
all utilized at that time to propel water-wheels, car- 
ried upon its fleeting bosom myriads of heavily laden 
vessels from Boston, via the old Middlesex Canal, run- 
ning as far north as Concord. Prom the Boston and 
Lowell Railroad, the former course of this canal can 
now be traced much of the way. It ran through 
Charlestown, Medford, Billerica Mills, and Middlesex 
Village, at which latter place it intersected with the 
Merrimack River. Locks were in use at Garvin's 
Falls, Plooksett Manchester, Goffe's Falls, Nashua. 
and at other points. A passenger steamer plied in 
those days between Lowell and Nashua upon the 
river, which was higher than the canal. 

I 2 

Mr. Adams remained at home only until Monday, 
— a short visit. But he was industriously inclined, 
and proceeded immediately, we learn, to the Merri- 
mack Mills in Lowell, the scene of his earlier labors, 
as previously mentioned, where he accepted the office 
of overseer. He remained with this Company until 
he came to Manchester, in 1S46. 

In December, '1841, the late John Clark, Esq., the 
agent of the Merrimack Mills at Lowell, proposed that 
Mr. Adams should enter the office as clerk. This idea 
was very distasteful to Mr. Adams, as he detested 
book-keeping, having previously had much of it and 
other writing to do for his father, when overseer and 
book-keeper in his father's mill. However, he yielded 
to the wishes and advice of Mr. Clark, who had excel- 
lent opinions of Mr. Adams, and who said to him on 
this occasion, " You have a thorough knowledge of 
manufacturing, and ought now to get acquainted with 
book-keeping and the general business of the mills ; 
for you are destined to fill a higher position." Time 
has abundantly proven the truth of Mr. Clark's 
prophecy. During the five years he held this posi- 
tion, Mr. Adams had good opportunity to observe the 
lively interest Mr. Clark took in his employees. There 
was a fellow-clerk, a young man, who was given more 
or less to the demoralizing habit of loafing around 
saloons. On one occasion, Mr. Clark, himself always 
strictly temperate in his habits, censured the practice 
of that young man, and requested Mr. Adams to talk 
with him, and at the same time to inform him that he 
could not be promoted without mending his habits. 
In this connection,. it can be said that Mr. Adams has 
never used tobacco or intoxicating liquors during his 




mflms I 

,.■;«■ nun • 
-'•> v «* w m 

si n* art - 
5 w: at ^ - S- 

. "".la*-; fe ' 

^t r ir%r 

5 1537421 

In the year 1846, Mr. Adams left Lowell to assume 
the agency (succeeding the Hon. William P. Newell) 
of the " Old Amoskeag Mills," then located on the 
west side of the Merrimack River at Amoskeag Falls, 
— now a part of the city of Manchester, — on the 
present site of ex-Governor P. C. Cheney's paper- 

The building of the Amoskeag Mills was the begin- 
ning of Manchester's wonderful career of prosperity, 
which has developed to such great proportions. Her 
many mills, now running more than three hundred 
thousand spindles, many looms, and many cloth print- 
ing-machines, and the many other signs of industry, 
are abundantly attesting to the truth of the statement. 

With the Amoskeag Corporation Mr. Adams re- 
mained until the 17th of November, 1S47, when he 
became agent of the Stark Mills. 

Of the great manufactories of Manchester, that of 
the Stark Mills Company ranks third in magnitude 
and second in age. This Company was organized 
September 26, 1S3S, and began operation the follow- 
ing year. 

During its forty years and more of busy existence, 
it has had but two resident agents, John A. Burnham, 
Esq., holding that position from the inception of the 
Corporation until the 17th of November, 1847, the 
date marking the commencement of the long term of 
service by the present incumbent, the Hon. Phinehas 
Adams. At that time, the capital of the Stark Mills 
Company was the same as now, — one million two 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The shares, the 
par value of which was and is one thousand dollars 
each, were worth six or seven hundred dollars, when 


Colonel Adams was chosen agent ; but they rose to 
fourteen or fifteen hundred dollars each share during 
the late civil war. 

In the early days of New England manufacturing, 
more labor was performed by hand than is to-day: 
and, though substantially the same machinery was 
employed, yet it had by no means attained its present 
capacity and wonderful completeness. 

In December, 1863, Mr. Adams was commissioned 
by the Directors of the Stark Mills to go to Europe 
for the purpose of securing machinery and informa- 
tion relating to the manufacture of linen goods. At 
that time, owing to the war, cotton goods were very 
scarce and expensive. For unmanufactured cotton 
itself, the Stark Company paid as high as one dollar 
and eighty-six cents per pound, and a higher price 
than even that was paid by other companies. A bale 
of cotton brought nine hundred and thirty dollars. 

Mr. Adams travelled extensively through England. 
Scotland, and Ireland, and visited the city of Paris. 
He ordered considerable machinery of the English 
manufacturers, who were very busy with American 
orders at the time. So great, in fact, was the demand 
upon them, that the Stark machinery did not arrive 
until the September following, — nearly a year after 
being ordered. 

At Paisley, about seven miles from Glasgow, Mr. 
Adams examined the interesting process of making- 
trie far-famed " long Paisley shawls." They were made 
principally by weavers upon hand-looms, at their 
places of abode; some of the rooms in which many 
elegant shawls were manufactured being found to be 
low-studded, dark, and dingy in the extreme. The 


different-colored yarns were " given out " to the 
weavers to be made into shawls in the same manner 
as are stockings, in this city, to be " heeled and toed." 
He saw a pattern for one long shawl that a man was 
constantly engaged in painting for the space of nine 

From choice, Colonel Adams has been quite clear 
of politics, having only served as Ward Clerk when 
a young man in Lowell, and, later, as a Presidential 
Elector for General Grant. He was Governor Straw's 
chief of staff, which, by the way, it is believed never 
"turned out in a body" as such. He was also four 
years a Director in the Concord Railroad, just after 
the decease of Governor Gilmore. About the year 
184S, he was chosen one of the assistant engineers of 
the Manchester Fire Department, in which capacity 
he served with peculiar fidelity for twelve years. 

Never being "up for office," as were many of his 
friends, he could act with positive independence ; and 
he invariably did act, as he thought, for the best 
interests of the city. 

This sort of conduct was in marked contrast with 
the non-committal policy of politicians who felt 
obliged to please (?) the firemen, who at that period, 
as is well known, exerted great influence in municipal 

Mr. Adams and the other engineers resigned their 
positions after two steamers had been obtained, thus 
giving the captains of the old companies chances of 

He has for a long time been closely identified with 
the moneyed institutions of this city, having served as 
a Director in the Merrimack River Bank from 1857 


to 1S60; the same in the Manchester National Bank 
from 1S65 to the present time; and as a Trustee in 
the Manchester Savings Bank nearly all the time 
since it obtained its charter. 

Since the decease of Hon. Herman Foster, Mr. 
Adams has been one of the committee on loans for 
the latter institution. 

He is one of the Directors of the Gas-Light Com- 
pany, and was for many years a Trustee of the Public 

He was elected in 1S65 one of the original Direc- 
tors of the New England Cotton Manufacturers' 

Three years ago last October, Colonel Adams 
attended a class reunion of scholars of Mr. Seth 
Davis, then ninety years of age, at his home in West 
Newton, Mass. Ex-Governor Alexander H. Rice 
and other prominent men were of this number. 

Mr. Davis lived upon a large farm (one hundred 
and seventy-five acres), and kept a private school for 
boys from six to twelve years of age, some of whom 
he boarded. Mr. Adams attended this school in 
1826-27, an d was one of seventeen lads who lived in 
their tutor's family. Some of them had parents or 
friends residing in or near Boston, who were in the 
habit of driving out to visit, and to give the boys 
cakes, candies, and other dainties. 

Now it used to happen that nearly every Monday 
morning found the ranks of this solid seventeen 
broken; and it also happened, said Mr. Adams to the 
writer once, while conversing upon the days of long 
ago, that sickness was the cause thereof, or rather the 
effect, — for those pernicious sweetmeats were the pri- 
mary cause of thin ranks on those occasions. 


For many years, Mr. Adams lias been engaged, as 
opportunity occurred, in procuring rare coins, medals, 
etc. Of the former, he now possesses very complete 
collections of the various denominations in gold, 
silver, nickel, and copper ; and he has a great number 
of valuable medals. Many of these antiquities com- 
mand a very high price in the market, their numbers 
being absolutely limited, and the demand for them 
steadily increasing. 

The present officers of the Stark Mills are : Clerk, 
Phinehas Adams; Treasurer, Edmund Dwight; Direc- 
tors, William Amory, J. Ingersoll Bowditch, Lewis 
Downing, Jr., T. Jefferson Coolidge, John L. Bremer, 
J. Lewis Stackpole, and Roger Walcott; Manufactur- 
ing Agent, Phinehas Adams; Selling Agents, J. L. 
Bremer & Co., Boston. Mr. Amory was Treasurer 
at the commencement, and is now President of the 

During the administration of Colonel Adams, 
which covers a long series of eventful years, a great 
many changes have taken place. In what may be 
called, more particularly, the manufacturing world is 
this especially true. ' 

He is the oldest agent and the longest in such posi- 
tion in the city, — nay, more, in the entire Merrimack 
Valley ; and most of those holding similar positions 
thirty-two years ago are now passed from this life. 

That fine old estate on Hanover Street, for a long 
time known as the " Harris Estate," was formerly 
owned by the Stark Company, who built the com- 
modious mansion now converted into a charitable- 
institution, — the "Orphans' Home,"- — for the use of 
their agents. John A. Burnham was its first occu- 


pant; and next, Mr. Adams, who resided there nine 
years, beginning with 1847. 

When Baldwin & Co.'s steam mill on Manchester 
Street, where D. B. Varney's brass fouridery is now 
located, was, with other structures, burned on the 5th 
of July, 1 85 2, that house then occupied by Mr. 
Adams was set on fire by the flying sparks ; but the 
fire was speedily extinguished. Mr. Adams was at 
the time attending to his duties as engineer where the 
fire rao>ed the fiercest. Thus Mrs. Adams and those 
of her household were without the protection of the 
sterner sex in the early part of their peril. Soon, 
however, aid was proffered by several men, of whom 
Mrs. Adams admitted Mr. Walter Adriance and 
three others, friends of the family, whereupon she 
securely barricaded the doors. The work of passing- 
water to the roof was very lively for a while. 

In 1S56, Mr. Adams moved into the house No. 2 
Water Street, now occupied by Moses O. Pearsons, 
Esq., where he lived also about nine years, when 
he purchased his present fine residence No. 18 Brook 

On the 24th of September, 1839, Mr. Adams was 
united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth P. Simpson, 
daughter of the late Deacon Samuel Simpson, 
of Deerfield, N.H. He served in the war of 1S12; 
and his widow, who is now eighty-one years of age, 
draws a pension from the Government. 

Mrs. Adams's paternal grandfather, Major John 
Simpson, participated in the battle of Bunker Hill, 
and, it is said upon good authority, fired the first shot 
of that famous engagement, on the American side. 

It occurred in this wise: The men in his line were 


instructed by their commander, Colonel Stark, not to 
fire a gun until the British had arrived at a certain 
point, forty paces distant from the American works. 
When the red-coated invaders had advanced to within 
that distance, the major (who was then a private), an 
excellent marksman, being unable to withstand so 
good an opportunity, fired before the order was given, 
and dropped his man. The fire was then opened 
along the whole line. On being reproved for dis- 
obeying orders, Mr. Simpson replied, " I never could 
help firing, when game which I was after came within 
gun-shot." He died October 28, 1S25. 

From this happy union of Mr. Adams with Miss 
Simpson, two children have sprung : Elizabeth, born 
June 15, 1842, and Phinehas Adams, Jr., born Decem- 
ber 26, 1844, — both being born in the same house in 
the city of Lowell. 

The former is the wife of Daniel C. Gould, Esq., 
paymaster of the Stark Mills, and the popular tenor 
singer at the Franklin Street church, to whom she 
was married the 10th of September, 186S. Mr. 
Gould is a son of Deacon Daniel Gould, who was the 
first railroad station agent in Manchester, a position 
he held until succeeded by the late Henry Hurlburt. 

Mr. Phinehas Adams, Jr., married Miss Anna P. 
Morrison, of Belfast, Maine; and they reside with the 
family of the subject of this sketch. He (the son) 
is engaged in the cotton business in Boston. 

About a year after being married, the father of the 
latter joined the First Congregational Church in 
Lowell, Rev. Amos Blanchard, pastor. Mrs. Adams 
was also a member of this church. On removing 
to Manchester, both had their relation transferred to 


the Franklin Street Congregational Church, the Rev. 
William V. W. Davis being the able and esteemed 
pastor thereof. 

At a recent business meeting of the Stark Corpora- 
tion Directors, on the suggestion of Edmund Dwight, 
Esq., it was voted to present Colonel Adams with a 
suitable token, bearing testimony of the high respect 
in which he is held by them. 

Therefore, on the 17th of November, 1879, that 
being the date completing his thirty-two years of 
service as agent of that Corporation, they presented 
him with one of the most valuable gold hunting-case, 
stem-winding watches ever made by the Waltham 
Company, together with a massive gold chain and an 
elegant seal. Inside the watch-case is engraved the 
following : " The Stark Mills to Phinehas Adams, 
November 17, 1847-1879, William Amory, Edmund 
Dwight, treasurer."' 

Accompanying these superb gifts was the following 
letter, expressive of sentiments that any honorable 
man would be justly proud to merit: — 

Boston, Nov. 15, 1879. 

My dear Sir, — I send you a watch and chain by request of the 
Directors of the Stark Mills. It will reach you on the anniversary 
of the da} r on which you entered their service, thirty-two years ago. 

Will you receive it as an expression of their great respect for 
your character, and their high appreciation of the service you have 
rendered the Corporation during the third part of a century ? 

It is their sincere hope that the connection which has lasted so 
long may long continue. 

With great regard, yours sincerely, 

EDMUND DWIGHT, Treasurer, 
Phinkhas Adams, Esq. 


This testimonial was eminently deserved, as no one 
is held in greater or more universal respect than is 
the upright, courteous, and genial recipient. 

The life of Mr. Adams proves that tireless persist- 
ence and devotion to duty accomplish much. The 
influence exerted by his life is far greater than is 
commonly supposed or realized. It can hardly fail 
to stimulate young men to honorable exertions, and 
to teach -them that extensive notoriety is not neces- 
sarily indicative of true greatness, and also that too 
eager grasping after mere political distinction or 
after temporal riches is far less desirable than linking 
their lives to immortal principles. 

No sermon could be more potent than such a life 
as this, illustrating the fact that exalted character is 
the choicest of all possessions, bearing ever large 
interest in this life, and likewise in the life hereafter. 


The "Phinehas Adams" Branch of the Adams Family, 
copied from the original cliart prepared by 
Elijah Adams, and dated Medfield, May 2, 1798. 

HENRY ADAMS, Devonshire. 

Peter, Josem* Henry, , Edward, Samuel, Jonathan. 

Jonathan, Henry, James, John, Elisha, Edward. Elishab. 

Obaihah, John, Thomas, Jeremiah, Eleazer, Abraham, Danie: 

Phinehas, Edward. j 

Benjamin, John, Eleazer, Seth. 

. I 

j'His, Jcde, Joel, Phinehas, James, Elias, Hezekiah, Eleazer. 

_ ^ _ 
Asahel, Barzillai, Phinehas, William, Lowell. 

Asahel, Asahel, Phinehas,! Asahel. 



*The line through which descended John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Charles Franc 
Adams, and Samuel Adams, 
t The subject of this sketch. 

Henry Adams was the first of the name of Adams that came 
to America. He came from the County of Devonshire, England, 
embarking at Bristol, and arriving at the town of Braintree near 
Boston about the year 1630. 

He brought with him eight sons, four of whom settled in Med- 
field. one in Braintree, two. it is supposed, in Chelmsford, — though 
but one of their names is known, — and one returned to his native