welcomes you to his
America's Greatest Battleship
Bailey's 1883 Essex Carriage
1893 Columbian Exposition Gold Medal
1889 Ellis Trolley Car No. 32
First Electric Car North of Boston
1895 Duryea Automobile
America's First Production Body
City of Amesbury
We have a Can Do Spirit
If you want to know
what this little city has accomplished in its storied past and what it is today, you have
come to the right place. There has never been a city like it in this country! This is not
an idle statement. It is a proven fact. This research and web site is my gift to the city
and it has been five years in the making.
My Book "
History of Automobiles Made in Massachusetts" is now on sale
Just published is the first book about Amesbury's
industries that has ever been written. It starts with the saw mill, staves, fishing boats,
Ships, Amesbury Iron Company with the Nail Factory, woolen industry, carriage makers,
automobile body makers, Atlantic Boat Company, Morrill Speed Launches, Hoyt's Peanut
Butter, Atwood Lamp Company, Gray and Davis Lamps, the five trolley lines that had
Amesbury as their base, Ellis Trolley Car company, Briggs Trolley Car Company, Hat
Factory, and ends with Lowell's Boat Shop. It is profusely illustrated with images of
these products along with advertisements. This book is based on facts with references
throughout. Many other smaller companies are also included. It soft cover with 220, 8 X 11
inches pages, printed on quality bond paper. The introductory price is $45 plus $3.00
postage and can be purchased by sending a check or money order to Royal Feltner,
72 Haverhill Rd., Amesbury, MA 01913. It will be sent the day payment is
received. This is a book that you can rely on for any references to Amesbury and was five
years of researching.
It can be purchased at Bertram & Oliver, Book Sellers, 5 Market Square, Amesbury.
1892 and 1914 Full Bird's Eye Views of
Amesbury and maps of West and South Amesbury
These maps can be copied and framed
Order of Principal events that happened in Amesbury from 1631-1900
of Amesbury and Merrimac
The B & M Train Depot
The Indians had for centuries planted corn at the
meadows, hunted in the forests, and fished in the waters of Powwaus and Merrimac Rivers.
They had a large encampment on the meadows near the river. Their get-togethers of the
tribes were called Powows and a few years later, the river was named "Powow".
They left behind a lot of artifacts which can be seen at the Bartlett Museum.
Amesbury was settled in 1654 as a part of Salisbury, but was separated from Salisbury
in 1666 and incorporated as the town of Amesbury in 1668. It remained as a town until 1996
when it became a city. To satisify the citizens who did not want to become a city, it was
given the name "The Town of Amesbury".
The Amesbury Chronicle, the first newspaper, published its first edition in 1828, a
year after the Provident Bank was chartered. The bank was located where the old Boyle's
Drug store had its business.
In 1741, when the boundries between Massachuettes
and New Hampshire were adjusted, Newton became a part of New Hampshire. Within Amesbury's
territorial boundries were three sections, Amesbury Proper, South Amesbury, and West
Amesbury. At one time, South Amesbury wanted to separate from Amesbury, but the state
legislature would not approve. In 1876, South Amesbury and West Amesbury became
Merrimac. The Powow River which starts in Danville, N.H. and runs through the center of
Amesbury and until 1886 divided Amesbury from West Salisbury. That year, Amesbury annexed
West Salisbury. Thus, all of the mills were now in Amesbury and that is how it is
today. When all of this was completed, Amesbury lost one third of its territory.
West Amesbury 1867 postal envelope
South Amesbury postal envelope
Salisbury was settled in
1638, and two years later, families started settling along the east bank of the Powow
River. In 1640, the first street at the new settlement was named Mill Street and a sawmill
was built at the falls in 1641. A grist mill was built a year later and with two mills,
the new settlement was beginning to be quite popular. Several families had been granted
huge lots of land on both sides of the river. That year, plans were made to lay out a road
to Pantucket which is now Haverhill. Large sections of land were divided on boths sides of
the river. With the new sawmill, staves were being made for shipment to the Indies to use
in trade for needed goods. Because oak trees were so plentiful, stave making became the
first major industry. They were made only on the common and were hauled to Newbury for
shipping. Yellow pine trees were used to make pitch. One of the first laws to be enacted
was that no tree could be cut without permission. There was a vast amount of fish in the
Powow river and soon it would become another major industry. The settlers understood the
importance of fishing and they enacted laws that would limit the amount that could be
is a brief history of Amesbury, a city that dominated the manufacturing of transportation
for one hundred years.
It was decided to put a settlement on the west bank of the river
and in 1642 ten families were ordered to move to the the new site. They had no choice, but
this order was ignored and no one moved and there was another meeting in 1643 reafirming
the first order. All of these demands were ignored.
John Haddon may have moved across the river in 1644,
but the first person on record to have moved to the west bank was John Hoyt in 1647. By
1654, only eighteen families had moved and these families petitioned the courts to
separate the towns by using the Powow River as the dividing line. Permission was granted
in 1655 and the west bank settlement was referred to as "The New Town".
the original families of The New Town
John Hoyt, Phillip Challis, George Martin, Jarrot Haddon, Richard Currier
Bagley, William Huntington, Valentine Rowell, Thomas Barnard, Edward Cottle, John Weed
Bagley, Henry Blasdell, Thomas Macy, William Sergent, William Barnes, and John Colby
In 1656, Thomas Macy and Richard Currier were
granted permission to build a sawmill. They were able to supply staves for barrel making
and lumber for houses and vessels. Fishing and ship building became major industries along
the Powow and Merrimac rivers. Recent findings have given creditibilty that more ships
were built in Amesbury than Newburyport or Salisbury.
Thomas Macy was one of the first settlers in Salisbury and one of
the first to cross over the Powow River into New Town. He built his house in 1652, sold it
to the Colby Family in 1654, where it still stands. He was in partnership with Richard
Currier in building the first sawmill and it was built on the common. He was a well
educated person and was the first clerk for the New Town Committee. In 1659, he befriended
three Quakers who wanted shelter from a fierce rainstorm. They were there for forty-five
minutes and left. They never spoke to each other. When word got back to his church about
what he had done, he was brought before the general court and given a fine. It was against
the law for anyone to befriend a Quaker. He pleaded with the court that he was destitute
and could not pay the fine. The towns people turned against him and sometime in 1659, he
left for Nantucket with his family in a rowboat in fear for his life. In Nantucket, he was
one of the negotiaters to purchase Nantucket Island from the Indians.
Susanna Martin was convicted and put to death for witchcraft in
1692. The trial was in Salem and lasted for two months. The town's people concocted such
outrageous lies about her that she was found guilty. Can one imagine such hate for a
person that he would travel on horseback from Amesbury to Salem to convict an innocent
person to death? When word got to Cotton Mather and the governor's wife what was
happening, they put a stop to the trials. Only three were convicted, but one hundred fifty
were in prison waiting to be tried and two hundred more accused. The first person accused
of witchcraft was a Salisbury resident in 1652, but his case was dismissed because the
jury and trial lawyers were in disagreement with each other. We will never know if the
accusers every regreted their actions.
There are numerous stories that have been written
in our history books about our struggles and courage during the Revolutionary War. There
is one story that has never been written and it tells about the moral spirit and courage
of Amesbury. On July 10th, 1775, Adjutant General Horatio Gates signed an order stating
that no negros, vagabonds, strollers, or a deserter from the ministerial service shall be
allowed to serve. Captain John Currier, Officer in Charge of the Amesbury Regiment,
resented the order not to enlist negroes. Therefore, he enlisted two slaves who were given
permission by their owners to join. They were Sepio Gray and Robert Negro. He was not
going to bring his regiment if these two men could not serve. He was given permission and
by his action, these two were the first blacks to serve in the Revolutionary Army.
In 1792, permission was granted by the town
committee to build a bridge across the Merrimac River to Newburyport. This became a part
of the now famous Chain Bridge, the first in
the country, and is still a major road and
attraction. A very active ferry service had been a major way of transporting people across
the river. In 1789, George Washington rode one of these ferries from Newburyport to
Amesbury. On his way across the river, he spotted a ship with a flag higher than the
American flag. He gave an order to have the captain of the ship to raise the American flag
to the top and no flag shall ever be higher than ours. Lowell Boat Shop has been
continuously making the famous sail surf dories for over two hundred years. Men wearing
tri-corner hats and powdered pony tails to men with Boston Red Sox caps have been sailing
As the river flowed through Amesbury, it had a
ninety-foot drop providing enough power to run saw mills, gristmills, and textile
mills. From the town's beginning, industries sprung up all along the rivers. A hat
factory was one of them. It later became the Merrimac Hat Factory, the largest makers of
hats in the country. The first stage coach line from Amesbury to the Eastern Railroad line
in Newburyport was put into service in 1846. Workers from all over were flocking to
Amesbury. It was the center of industry. If one business failed, there were two others to
take its place. From 1653, shipyards along the Powow and Merrimac Rivers were continually
being built and they were one of the major industries.
twenty-four year old Jacob Perkins, born in Newburyport, invented a nail making machine
that could make a nail with a head. The machine was patented in 1795 and he set up a nail
factory above the Powow River falls. He could make thousands of nails a day that were much
cheaper. His nail factory was the first in the country. It was heavily damaged by fire in
1805. It was rebuilt and was in business until 1818. The building was sold in 1824 to a
woolen company. It burned down in 1874. He was perhaps one of the greatest inventors of
The Continental Congress first Frigate ship, The
Alliance, was built in Amesbury in 1777 and it was captained by Capt. Pierre Landais,
a former officer of the French Navy who had come to the New World hoping to become a naval
counterpart of Lafayette. His first mission was to carry General Lafayette and Patrick
Henry to Paris. Benjamin Franklin, our ambassador to the French Court, had summoned for
help in persuading France to join with us. When it left Amesbury, it was the "John
Hancock". When France agreed to join in an alliance with us, Franklin renamed it the
"Alliance". Captain John Paul Jones later relieved Captain Landis from command
and took over the Alliance. He relieved the captain for deliberately firing on his ship,
the Bonhomme Richard, in a battle with two English ships and causing so much damage that
Jones had to abandon it. Captain John Paul Jones captained the Alliance until 1780. That
year, it became the Flagship for Captain John Barry, the "Father of the American
Navy". He proclaimed it to be the best frigate in the navy. With this great ship,
Captain Barry captured or sunk more English vessels than any other naval officer. It fired
the last shots of the Navy in the war. It was the only regular commissioned ship afloat at
the end of the war in 1783. While sailing out of Proidence, R.I. on a mission to deliver a
load of tobacco to Cuba, it struck a rock and was damaged so badly that the Navy deemed it
to be too expensive to repair and it was sold to a merchant company and was used until
1789 when it was rendered to be unfit. It was docked at Petty Island where it rotted away.
In 1901, a dredging crew found some of its hull. Alliance Park was named for the
area where it was built.
Alliance Park at the intersection of the Powow
and Merrimac Rivers
Dedication of the Alliance Park's new sign, funded by the
Amesbury Improvement Association
1827 Postmarked Envelope, years
before stamps were used.
The year that Providence Bank opened its original bank where Boyle's Drug Store was
1852 was Amesbury's year of infamy. Young boys
from the age of ten were working in the mills. They worked from five in the morning until
seven that night. They were given a fifteen-minute morning break, a fifteen-minute
afternoon break, and a half-hour noon break. They were only allowed to leave the building
at noontime, but hardly anyone ever left the building. The new owner of a woolen mill
decided that the workers could not leave the building. The next noontime, one hundred boys
protested this order and walked out. The new owner instantly fired them. The next day, the
rest of the workers went on strike. Both Amesbury's and Salisbury's town committees signed
a letter in favor of the strikers. The new owner would not relent and he hired fifty men
to carry out his orders. What had once been an amicable relationship between the mill
owners and the towns people was never the same. This was the beginning of the labor
movement in America.
Fourteen year old George Edwin McNeill, who had been
working at the mill for four years was one of the boys, decided to spend the rest of his
life fighting for labor rights. He is commonly known as "father of the eight-hour
work day". His idea was to work through the court system and when The Knights of
Labor was formed in 1869, they used his ideas almost in its entirety. He joined the
Knights in 1883 and became its treasurer. The Knights did not believe in strikes, but in
1886 a large part of the organization went on strike for the eight-hour day. There was so
much violence that workers all over the country joined the new labor organization known as
the AFL headed by Samuel Gompers. McNeill was one of them and he and Gompers worked together to
build the AFL. He died in 1906. Never mind the modern day politicians, he is the true hero
of the American workers.
The Carriage Manufacturing
Era 1800 - 1913
of Carriage Makers Shops
1901 Bailey Road Wagon Advertisement
1902 Bailey Road Wagon Advertisement
In 1800, Michael
Emery and William Little built the first carriage at a factory in West Amesbury. They were
continuously being built by at least 26 different companies until 1913. The cariage
workers were some of the highest paid workers in the country and were considered the best
in the business. Representives from other makers throughout the east would visit Amsbury
to entice them to work for them. They found no takers. But this all changed in the fall of
1902 when union leaders came and started enlisting members and convinced them to go on
strike. This strike lasted for ninety days and when they were convinced that the carriages
makers would not give in, the strike ended. The organizers left town,. In the meantime,
several of the smaller companies shut down and Walker Carriage Co. moved to Merrimac.
Briggs Carriage Co. stopped making railway cars.
On George Washington's birthday in 1894, there
was a three-day exibition of ten thousand carriages with all the makers showing their
finest examples. There was train and trolley service for anyone who wished to come. This
was one of the largest exhibition of carriages ever. Even today, annual car sales are held
on George Washington's birthday.
Amesbury born, Ralph Clarkson,
1861-1942, made the first drawings of carriages in Amesbury in 1878. He was educated at
the Amesbury High School and his artistic ability was recognized very early. In his school
days, he was called upon to decorate the blackboards on special occasions. From his
childhood, he wanted to become an artist and his first work was as a designer and
draftsman. He studied at the school of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the early
1880s under Frederic Crowninshield before moving to Paris to study under the renown
Lefebvre. He eventually went to Chicago in 1896 and became an instructor and governing
member of the Art Institute. One of his students was Texas's best known artist, Olin
Herman Travis. He was also a leading member of the arts and crafts movement. In 1900, he
was the president of the Chicago Art Commission and Chicago Art League. In 1898, he was a
founding member of the Eagle's Nest Colony in Oregon, Ill. The Colony acted as a summer
retreat for a variety of well known artists. The lease on the property lasted as long as
one of the original founding members was alive. In 1942, the Colony ended upon his death.
He is currently represented in the collections of the National Academy, New York and the
Art Institute of Chicago. He also exhibited his paintings in the 1915 Pan-American
Exposition in San Francisco. He was known for portrait, town-landscape, figure, and mural
paintings. He excelled in all mediums.
More and more streets and roads were being built and the Boston
and Maine Railroad Company had a terminal in town. In 1872, Salisbury Mills made a dam on
the Powow River above the town. It was built to control flood waters and to form a lake
for recreational purposes. It was named Lake Gardner. By doing this, the owners figured
that the value of real estate would be greatly increased. New churches of all faiths were
Without warning, Salisbury Mills shut down in 1876. Hundreds of
workers were suddenly without jobs and a great depression set in. If work could be found,
it was for less than living wages. This continued until 1878 when the mills were sold and
the new owner hired hundreds of workers to refurbish the old buildings.
The Trolley Car Era 1889 -
William Ellis Carriage Company, in January 1889, began to
manufacture electric trolley cars. For several years he was very successful and employed
eighty first class mechanics. In 1895 the plant was destroyed by fire and was never
rebuilt. The Briggs Carriage Company started a year after Ellis, but the trolley car
business closed in 1903. The 1903 carriage makers'strike was devasting to body makers and
it could not compete with much larger factories that began producing trolleys at a cheaper
price. Ellis's and Briggs's cars were sold all over New England and as far west as St.
Louis, Mo. and as far north to Montreal, Canada. Even though the trolley busisness was
shut down, Briggs continued with his lucrative autobody building for Stanley and
Locomobile until 1923 when both companies ceased building automobiles. According to an
article in Autobody Magazine, Briggs Carriage Co.s owner, Richard E. Briggs has
retired and is disposing of his plant and equipment. After 47 years of carriage, streetcar
and motor-body building will take a trip around the world.
Amesbury to Haverhill
Ellis Trolley Cars
Early in 1892, several Amesbury
and Haverhill businessmen, including Charles Goss, L. J. Marston and W. G. Ellis,
president of the Ellis Car Company of Amesbury, organized the Haverhill & Amesbury
Street Railway Co. for the purpose of building an electric railway from Haverhill, through
the thriving town of Merrimac, to Amesbury, a distance of approximately 11 miles.
Ellis Carriage Factory
Ellis Family History with
photographs of carriages and street cars
Advertisement of an Ellis
The fist electric car over the Haverhill &
Amesbury Street Railway ran from the Merrimac carhouse to Amesbury on Sept. 24, 1892. On
Oct. 11 the line was completed to Monument Square, Haverhill, and in the evening of that
day, officials of the town and invited guests rode from Haverhill to Amesbury. Regular
service between Haverhill and Amesbury commenced on Oct 13th, and it is said that during
the day, merchants of Haverhill paid the round trip fare of any Amesbury or Merrimac
resident who came on the H. & A. to Haverhill to do his or her shopping
The Automobile Body Manufacturing
Era, 1895 -1932
Shortly after the turn of the century, an
increasing number of automobiles were seen on the streets and the carriage makers realized
that carriages would slowly fade away, but some carriage makers continued in business
until 1913. The factories that switched to making automobile bodies produced most of the
bodies in the automobile industry.
The 1895 Duryea automobile was the first American
automobile put in production. The body was made by Currier, Cameron Carriage Co. This was
the beginning of body building industry in Amesbury and from 1895 to 1932, Amesbury had 29
body builders making them the largest city in the world producing bodies. Currier, Cameron
& Co. made bodies for more automobile companies than any other company in the world.
1915 Amesbury Special Chevrolet
Courtesty of Kevin Morrison, New Bloomfield, PA
In 1915, William Durant, owner of the Chevrolet
Automobile Co., had a special automobile model named Amesbury Special in honor of his
friendship with the Amesbury citizens. The only photograph of an Amesbury Special model
Biddle and Smart No. 2 Factory
Not only did the carriage makers
make bodies, some of them also made automobiles. Contrary to all references that
has been given to who was first, S. R. Bailey & Company's 1898 Bailey Electric
Victoria Phaeton was the first one. Margaret Rice's book, Sun on the River,
Bailey Family History, 1956, states that when Bailey's son Edwin returned home from the
Spanish American War in 1899, his father showed him his surprise and as Edwin stood there
viewing the car, he said that it was one of the most beautiful automobiles that he had
ever seen. The 1898 was used as a prototype for the 1907 production. The 1908 model's
D-shape tiller replaced the typical tiller of that period.
1929 Hudson Model L Club Sedan
Considered a Classic
Designed by Walter Murphy
Built by Biddle and Smart
1908 Bailey Eectric Victoria Phaeton
1902 Boston and Amesbury
1909 Crown High Wheel Stanhope
Graves and Congdon Carriage Co.
1902, John Miller, machinest, co-owner of the Miller Brothers Company and a Boston
engineer, H.A Spiller to form the Boston and Amesbury Mfg. Company along with two
investors, Robert Patten and C.V. Childs. Spiller made the engine and Miller made the body
with the Shields Carriage Co.doing the decorating and trimming. It was a two passenger
Stanhope with two passenger provided with an extra seat stored under the main one. When
needed, it could be removed and attached to the front of the vehicle. The company proposed
building gasoline carriages in three styles, a two cylinder 4x4 inches, 8 horse power; a
two cylinder 5x5 inches. 12 horse power, and a four cylinder 4x4, 16 horse power. The
smaller size is herewith illustrated. Everything will be manufactured in the company's own
shops except the Baldwin chains and the International Endurance tire.
Copied from 1912 Industrial Magazine
AS AMESBURY SEES ITSELF
The one great fear of the town is that the
automobile business will go west, the samę as the carriage business did, but there is
nothing being done to stop it if it should. The cheapness of labor and materials in the
west gradually undermined the eastern firms, and now most of the carriages built are made
in the middle West. Fortunately we had the auto to take the carriage's place, but the West
has been making strenuous efforts to land the making of these. As autos are sold at a
price that demands the best of labor, the auto body building still stays in the East,
As they couldn't
land these industries that way, Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, Indianapolis, etc.,
have organized Booster clubs, with anywhere from forty to one hundred thousand dollars for
an emergency fund, urging them to locate in their cities, showing them the advantages,
particularly in freight and express rates, and even offering to build factories for them
if they should move. The moving of the Atwood Castle Co. from here is a result of such a
campaign, and of late very tempting offers have been held out to Gray & Davis,
Amesbury Metal Body Co., Hasset & Hodge, and Biddle, Smart & Co. In fact,
practically every firm in town has received offers to remove to one of these places.
We can't have a club with a fund of that
amount, but if we could even have an association without any funds that would try and get
new industries here and also to keep what we've got, it would certainly be a move in the
right direction.Amesbury Exchange..
Detailed information on all the cars made in Amesbury can
be seen on the Automobile Made in Massachuesetts
At the same time, there were other
industries that were recognized as being the best in their trades. One of these was the
Atlantic Boat Company.
There is no mention of this company in the
town library archives or any city directory. The information below is what was found by
researching digitized boating magazines on the internet. It was first mentioned as an
exibit at the 1905 Boston Automobile and Boat Show as found in the 1905 Automobile and
Cycle Trade Magazine. It was also listed in the 1915 edition of Manufacturers Magazine. It
was always a standout at the shows and it sales included the Life Saving Service and other
federal government agencies. It was recognized worldwide as one of the best.
Speed Boat on the Merrimac river by Point Shore
The Atlantic Co. Amesbury, Ma.
with His Buffalo Brand Delivery Truck
Frank M. Hoyt ground his first bag of
peanuts into peanut butter in 1902 in a hand mill, During his visit to the World's Fair in
Buffalo NY, he decided to name his brand "Buffalo" His first year's sale was a
thousand dollars. He moved into the wholesale business and branched out into several
varieties of peanuts and candy. By 1923, he was selling his brand of products throughout
North Amnerica and eight other foreign countries. His containers are highly sought after
and command premium prices.
In 1878, Merrimac
Hat Factory was given permission to build a new factory on the Merrimac River at Bailey's
Merrimac Hat Factory
The largest manufacturers of hats in the world
Gray and Davis and Atwood Mfg. Co of Amesbury,
were the largest makers of carriage lanterns in the US, quickly used these lanterns for
automobiles. Their display of lamps at the top automobile shows drew attention to their
quality of workmanship. Their lamps were on over one-half of all automobiles buiilt.
Some sources have been published that Gray and Davis moved to Boston in 1910. They built a
showroom in Boston at this time. This was a common practice in the industry to have show
rooms in larger cities and separate from the factory.
Atwood, established in 1872 and the largest maker
of carriage lamps in the world. According to this notice published in the 1909 Platers
Magazine "The Atwood-Castlc Company has succeeded the Atwood
Manufacturing Company, of Amesbury, Mass., manufacturers of
automobile lamps. The change is one in name and the
business remains the same. W. I. Atwood is president and treasurer, F. E. Castle, vice-president, and I. H. Atwood, secretary and general
manager." it became Atwood Castle in 1909.
One of the
greatest inventions in the modern car industry was the electric starting system. Charles
Kettering founder of Delco of Dayton, OH, invented the electric self starting system in
1911 just a few months before Gray and Davis had perfected their system. General Motors
bought the Delco Company shortly thereafter. Gray and Davis systems were used on most of
the automobiles. To see photos and articles from periodicals of that time, click on Advertisements
Charles Franklin Pettingell established a machine
shop in 1873 that specialized in building precision milling and wheel-wright machinery for
the carriage industry. An early product of the firm was the C.F. Pettingell Rim and Felloe
Rounding Machine which was used to manufacture carriage wheels.
These advertisements appeared in 1917 May
and June issues of the Hub Magazine
In 1913, Bela started making
automobile bodies and his chief customer was Winton Automobile. In 1916, He moved the
assembling of the bodies to Framingham. He continued making the individual components in
Amesbury. He made bodies for several different companies. In 1919, he sold the
Framingham plant to Richard Long who changed the name to Bay State Automobile Co. and
began making the Bay State Automobiles.
Limousine body on Packard chassis.
Note the pleasing effect of the special streamline cowl
The Home of Bela Bodies
above is one view of our Framingham Factory which is used for the painting, trimming and
assembling of our bodies.Our new 200 x 150 ft. building is under construction now, and
will be ready for use in a couple of month;. In this new shop our bodies will be built in
the white. Both buildings will be equipped with the most modern of machinery and every
facility for turning out the highest grade of work will be used.
shall have our own spur track connecting with the N. Y. N. H. & II. R. R. and the R.
& A. R. R., where we will load our bodies direct. Our shipping facilities arc the very
All previous research states Bela Body Company moved to
Framingham, MA in 1916. Their factory there was made to assemble bodies. Individual parts
were made in Amesbury and shipped to their Framingham factory for assembling. In 1917, he
sold this factory to Henry King of Framingham who had made a fortune in shoe manfacturing.
There were several factors that caused the demise of the
automobile body building industry in Amesbury. Chief amongst these were the panic of 1907,
First World War, 1913 and 1922 recessions, and the Great Depression of 1929. In each
instance, the smaller automobile companies could not survive and they each declared
bankruptcy or were swallowed by the major manufacturers. As each one disappeared, the
affects were devastating to Amesbury. By 1925 only Biddle and Smart and Walker were still
in business but hundreds of their workers were unemployed. Their only customers were
Hudson and Franklin. Hudson built a body factory in Detroit, MI in 1929 and informed
Biddle and Smart that their services were no longer needed. Franklin ceased buying from
Walker in 1932. So ended the body building in Amesbury. With the closing of this industry,
thousands of workers were now unemployed.
In the 1960's two major interstate highways, I-495 and
I-95, merged at Amesbury. People began discovering Amesbury for its potential and
affordability. When industrial parks were created and businesses were sought to locate in
the area, the city once again was on the upswing. Within the last ten years, the downtown
area has been revifified. One-way streets and traffic circles for easier driving, vintage
style lamp posts, flower basket hangers, and store windows with flower boxes. Where there
once was a hap-hazard market square has now over-sized vintage brick tree lined sidewalks.
Trees were planted on every street. Store fronts have been redone. Investors have bought
the old mill buildings and have renovated them into offices, condominiums, and studios for
artisans. The old railroad station has been redone to its former self. A river walk is now
under construction from the downtown area to the Merrimac River for nature walks and
studies. A Hat Museum with the largest collections of hats in the world and a Railroad
Museum are located on Water Street. Located nearby will be the Carriage Museum when the
building is finally renovated. The Bartlett Muesum, once an 1840 school house on Main
Street, houses one of the best collections in the East for Indian artifacts. There are
scheduled nature studies in the nearby Amesbury Forest for groups throughout the summer
months. When out of town business saw what was happening in Amesbury, they started moving
in and where upscale restaurants were once non-existent are now the norm, but one can
still find some great home cooked meals at several restaurants in town. To make it happen,
it took the city government, business organizations, and the citizens working together. It
took Amesbury a long time to find this out, but it was worth it.
George Edwin McNeill
Boy Laborer-Author-Labor Activist
John Greenleaf Whittier
Amesbury has had many famous sons
and daughters and many famous visitors who have been immortalized in history books.
Pictured here are just three of them.
Let's not forget America's
greatest cartoonist, Al Capp
Alfred Gerald Caplin,
Americas best loved and foremost cartoonist was born in New Haven, CT in 1909. He
and his new wife moved to Amesbury in 1934. Even though Lil Abner was his most
famous cartoon character, he also created several other strips including Abbie and Slats
and Feerless Fosdick. He won the National Cartoonist Societys Reuben Award in 1947.
Little Abner was made into a hit broadway play and movie and the mechanical Lil
Abner Band is a sought after prize. His daughter still lives in Amesbury.
During the depression, when I was growing up in the coal
mining hills of Kentucky, my brothers and I read every comic book that we could get about
Lil Abner and Fearless Fosdick. They are cherished memories.
When the people of Salisbury expelled these families to
the other side of the Powow River, little did they know what they gave up. The eighteen
families who dared to cross the river were the foundation of what Amesbury is today. Their
descendants overcame every obstacle known to man, including slaughter by Indians, families
wiped out by diseases, a tornado, in 1773, that damaged or destroyed over two hundred
structures, fire after fire that burned down large sections of businesses, and intolerance
to worship as one desired. When Indians attacked, they repelled; when diseases killed,
they buried their dead, grieved, prayed to God, and went on; when the tornado struck, they
went through the rubble salvaging what they could and built stronger structures; when
fires destroyed, they hauled away the ashes and built brick buildings; and they persevered
intolerance until they overcame. They had a caring heart. When the great fire of 1811 that
destroyed the Newburyport waterfront and homes, Amesbury residents were the first ones
there with food and clothing for the needy. They took in the homeless and shared with them
with what little they had. They gave them comfort and love.
They adapted to changing times with the most and the
best. They built the best ships, carriages, trolley cars, and automobile bodies. This city
was world renowned. These statements are not hype. They are factual as recorded in
historical records. This is a "Can Do" city.
Every city of every state has had events that no one is
proud of, but it is how people have dealt with these issues to become a better city that
counts. Should we deny or forget that they happened? That would accomplish nothing. As
long as we remember, we can say, "never again!" Amesbury is no exception, but
all in all, it is an exceptional place and anyone can proudly say, " I am from
The Powow River starts at the Powwow Pond in
East Kingston, NH. and is named the Powwow River, but when it enters
Massachusetts, it becomes the Powow River. The Merrimac River is
Merrimack River in New Hampshire. The ore for the ironworks came from the bed of
the Powow River. Who would think that this tranquil little stream that meanders through
the meadows and woods, in and out of two states, would suddenly have a ninty-foot drop
with such force that it could supply enough energy to modernize industries and
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72 Haverhill Rd.
Amesbury, Ma. 01913
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