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New ENGLAND MAGAZINE.
PAWTUCKET AND THE SLATER CENTENNIAL.
By Rev. Massena Goodrich.
THE city of Pawtucket lies on both sides of
the Blackstone River. It takes its name 1 from the lower cataract of that stream. The sound of the word shows that it is of Indian origin, and the name is said to signify “falls of water.” The Blackstone, in its course from above Worcester, is chafed by numerous cascades, and makes its final plunge about four or five miles from the head of Narragansett Bay; and it is a noteworthy fact that a larger percentage of its available water-power is utilized than of any other stream in the land. Originally the western part of the city was a part of Providence. Roger Williams came hither in 1636, and called the territory which he bought of the Indians Providence Plantations. It was quite extensive for a single town. It embraced, indeed, all that is now known as Providence County, with the exception of Cumberland, and a part of Kent County.
Pawtucket itself, however, was originally settled by Joseph Jenks in 1655. Mr. Jenks was a young immigrant from England, and came first to Lynn. Famous as that city now is for the manufacture of shoes, it originally engaged in a different branch of business. Among the colonists who accompanied Governor Endicott to Massachusetts Bay, was a man bearing the name of Jenks. He was an iron-smith, and began the smelting of iron and the manufacture of implements of that metal in Lynn. His Christian name was Joseph also, and he seems to have been a man of inventive genius. At all events, he received the first patent that was granted in Massachusetts. The founder of Pawtucket was his son, and though left in his native land when his father emigrated, followed him in a few years. Of the same craft with his father, he was deterred from remaining in Lynn by a fear that was entertained that the forests in that neighborhood would soon become exhausted. It was before the days of anthracite coal, and iron had both to be smelted and worked by charcoal. If a new iron-master would enter the field in New England then, he must seek some other theatre of laboi.
Copyright, 1890, by New England Magazine Company, Boston. All rights reserved.
Williams had come to Rhode Island they had piety and native eloquence, their from Salem, and doubtless left many fervor and readiness of utterance, made friends in that neighborhood who kept them acceptable preachers. A third son apprised of his movements. From them was named William, and was a judge ; and or from Williams himself it was doubtless a fourth one bore the name of Nathaniel, learned that the Blackstone was over- and gloried in the title of major. Every shadowed by virgin forests, whose wood one of them reared a stone chimney house, would long supply material for charcoal. two of which remained as landmarks till The younger Jenks therefore resolved to within fifteen years. migrate to Providence Plantations, and The father and the energetic sons gatharrived here in 1655. He speedily built a ered around them a little band of indusforge just below the lowest falls, and began trious men, and established a hamlet on operations in the manufacture of iron. the western side of the river. Of course He was the father of a large family, four they were in peril at times from the Inof them sons. Every one of them attained dians. The north part of Providence was eminence. The oldest son, bearing the burnt by the red men in the latter part of name of Joseph, was a veritable son of March, 1676, and Jenks's forge seems to Anak in stature, and possessed a towering have been destroyed in the foray. The intellect as well. He spent a great deal defeat and death of King Philip soon after, of his time in public life, and was for four however, brought peace to the young colyears governor of the colony of Rhode ony, and the hamlet rose from its ashes. Island. Another son bore the name of Years ago, in a famous case brought before Ebenezer, and was a clergyman. For Judge Story, the judge rehearsed certain some years indeed he was pastor of the facts that had been established in the trial, First Church in Providence. It is not as follows:necessary to suppose that he was trained “ The lower dam was built as early as
to any great extent in the learning of the the year 1718, by the proprietors on both schools ; for, as Dr. Benedict once re- sides of the river, and is indispensable for marked to the writer, many of the Baptist the use of these mills respectively. There clergymen of the eighteenth century were was previously an old dam on the western men who worked at some hand-craft during side, extending about three-quarters of the the week and preached on the Sabbath. If way across the river, and a separate dam
for a saw-mill on the east side. The lower dam was a substi
View of Pawtucket from the Division Street Bridge. tute for both. About the year 1714, a canal was dug, or an old nies of the colony, and doubtless continued channel widened and cleared on the west- to furnish a supply during the eight weary ern side of the river, beginning at the years of that strife. At the close of the river a few rods above the lower dam, and Revolution a new actor appeared on the running round the west end thereof until stage. Oziel Wilkinson was an energetic it emptied into the river, about ten rods blacksmith, who for years lived in Smithbelow the same dam. It has been long field. He did a great deal of work for known by the name of Sergeant's Trench, merchants in Providence, and obtained and was originally cut for the passage of much of his stock thence. Convenience fish up and down the river. But having dictated, therefore, that he remove to the wholly failed for this purpose, about the hamlet of Pawtucket; but as the British year 1730 an anchor mill and dam were long held the lower part of the state, and built across it by the then proprietors of might make a foray at any time, Mr. Wilthe land ; and between that period and kinson remained further up the stream. the year 1790, several other dams and But peace removed apprehension, and the mills were built over the same, and since sturdy Quaker came to Pawtucket. He that period more expensive mills have been had five sons, all blacksmiths, and they built there. In 1792 another dam was began with energy to increase the business built across the river at a place above the of the place. Obtaining a part of the head of the trench, and almost twenty rods water-power, they began to make anchors above the lower dam; and the mills on and other heavy articles. As the steamthe upper dam, as well as those on Ser- engine had not then been introduced into geant's Trench, are now supplied with our land, trip-hammers run by water-power water by proper Aumes, etc., from the were in requisition to perform cumbrous pond formed by the upper dam."
work. Pawtucket was therefore famous This concise statement by Judge Story for its iron manufactures. shows what means had been employed In half a dozen years, however, after the during a century and a half for utilizing removal of the Wilkinsons ither, another the power of the Blackstone. Suffice it to worker appeared, whose fame was finally remark in passing that the trench named to eclipse that of the earlier manufacturers. caused an immense amount of contention, If iron had been king, a rival monarch sometimes to the verge of bloodshed, and was to challenge ascendency. Cotton of litigation. The substitution of steam was to give Pawtucket enduring renown. for water-power, however, has meanwhile Samuel Slater came to this city, hamlet as lessened the temptation for controversy. it then was, in 1789, and from the next
The Revolutionary War introduced a new year his fame and that of Pawtucket were branch of business in Pawtucket. At the inseparable. What was the precise service very beginning of that war Stephen Jenks, that he rendered to Pawtucket and our a lineal descendant of the original settler, country? He was not an inventor, yet he manufactured muskets for several compa- conferred as substantial a boon on th
United States as though he had devised veniences which had ceased to be luxuries, some wonderful implement. Everybody and had become necessaries ? On grounds knows that our country, at the close of the of economy it seemed cheaper to make Revolutionary War, was destitute of manu- our goods at home. Who could tell how facturing skill. Our fathers were indus- extravagant the profits he was paying, trious farmers and bold navigators; some unless he knew the real cost of the wares ? of them were ingenious mechanics ; but it Our fathers were anxious to diversify inhad been the policy of the parent govern- dustry, and to share in the gains of manument during their colonial existence to facturing. Hence the purpose was formed keep the colonies dependent on Great in the outset to give manufacturing a local Britain. Even the most liberal of the habitation and a name this side of the British statesmen, anterior to the Revolu- Atlantic. The second measure to which
tion, avowed it as their policy to discour- Washington gave his sanction, an act age all manufacturing in the colonies. approved on the 4th of July, 1789, was Raw materials the colonies might supply, introduced by this preamble : “Whereas, — the more liberally the better, — and it is necessary for the support of governexchange them with the mother country; ment, for the discharge of the debts of the but to that mother-land must they look for United States, and for the encouragement all clothes save homespun, and for every and protection of manufacturers, that adornment of the home.
duties be laid on goods, wares, and merThough the Revolution sundered the chandise imported.” political ties which bound the United Anybody ignorant of the condition of States to Great Britain, the British were affairs in the world a century ago would determined to hold our country in indus- ask, was not manufacturing immediately trial vassalage. Our fathers were of course established in America then? In our day anxious to establish manufacturing here. the foreign inventor hurries to the United Not only would it save them from costly States to secure a patent and establish a outlay, but it would secure genuine free- branch of his business west of the Atlantic. dom. War might break out again; The prospect of an extensive market whence, then, could we obtain those con- gives speed to his movements. Were