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Braintree Iron Works (1643-1736)

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  • Henry Leonard (c.1618 - 1691)
    notes==From A Concise History of the Iron Manufacture of the American Colonies Up to the ...By John Barnard Pearse. Page 24: >The latter established works at Hammersmith, Braintree, and Raynham, now Ta...

In The Vinton memorial, comprising a genealogy of the descendants of John Vinton of Lynn, 1648, Appendix G - The Braintree Iron Works - John Adams Vinton wrote:

It has been a question, whether the first Iron Works in America were erected at Lynn or at Braintree. It is certain that both of these places had Iron Works In-fore they were established elsewhere on this continent. It is also certain that Iron Works were established at both of these places about the same time. But which of those places had Iron Works first, is not so clear.

The historical evidence on the subject is the following:—

John Winthrop, Jun,* came from England in 1643, with workmen and *' stock" [i. e. capital] to the amount of one thousand pounds sterling, subscribed by a company} in London, for the purpose of commencing the manufacture of iron in the Massachusetts Colony. The people of Boston immediately manifested a readiness to aid in so necessary and useful a work. At its Town Meeting, held in Boston, 19th of 11th mo., 1643, [i. e. Jan. 19, 1644,] the following vote was passed: "There is granted unto Mr. John Winthrop, Jun., and his partners, and to their heirs and assigns forever, three thousand acres of the Common Land at Braintree, for the encouragement of an Iron Work, to be set up about Monotoeot River; the said three thousand acres, to be laid out in the land next adjoining, and most convenient for their said Iron Work, by the direction of the select townsmen, [or selectmen of Boston. ]§

It clearly appears from this vote,—which is the earliest vote anywhere to be found on the subject of Iron Works,—

  • 1. That the Iron Works, for the establishment of which Mr. Winthrop had brought over workmen and capital from England, were not yet erected, in Jan. 1643-4:
  • 2. That those works were then about to be erected ix Braintree, "about Monotoeot River:"
  • 3. That the establishment of Iron Works in Braintree was considered essential to the prosperity of the Colony; and hence this liberal grant of land. All of which seems plainly inconsistent with the supposition that there were Iron Works already in existence at Lynn, or elsewhere, which were likely to furnish iron tools and iron ware for the Colony.

$ This Company was called the "Company of Undertakers for the Iron Works," and consisted of a number of wealthy and enterprising gentlemen in London and elsewhere.

"The "Company of Undertakers for the Iron Works at Lynn and Braintree," consisted of the following gentlemen:"

(note: list alphabetized from the original)

  1. William Beauchamp, merchant, London.
  2. John Becx, merchant, London.
  3. William Beeke, merchant tailor, London.
  4. Nicholas Bond, Esquire, of Westminster.
  5. Lionel Copley, Esquire, of York County, England.
  6. Thomas Foley, gentleman, London.
  7. William Greenhill, Stepney, County of Middlesex.
  8. William Hicocke, citizen, London. ohn Pococke, merchant tailor, London.
  9. Thomas Pury, Esquire, of Westminster.
  10. Thomas Weld, minister, Gateshead, Durham.

"These are the names as given by Lewis, in his History of Lynn. In an original Indenture, of which I have been permitted to take n copy, made Aug. 23, 1650, between William Awbrcy of London of the one part, and the "undertakers" of tho other part, the following names appear:"

(note: names as in original)

  1. Walter Frost, Esquire, of Westminster,
  2. Nicholas Bond, Esquire, of Westminster,
  3. Lionel Copley, Esquire,
  4. Thomas Foley, gentleman, of Stourbridge, Worcestershire,
  5. Robert Child of NorthHeet, Kent, doctor in physic,
  6. John Becx of London, merchant,
  7. John Pocock, merchant tailor, London,
  8. William Becke, merchant tailor, London,
  9. Joshua Foote, ironmonger, London,

"There appears, therefore, no good reason to doubt that the first Iron Works in America were erected in Braintree. That this was the intention of Mr. Winthrop and his partners, after the arrival of the former in 1643, with the means of commencing the undertaking, we are assured by the vote of Boston in Jan. following, and no satisfactory evidence has been produced that this plan was not carried into effect. There is ample evidence that the same company owned the Iron Works in both places. No other furnaces were erected by them."
"From this letter it appears that "Mr. Ting, Mr. Webb, and Mr. Winslow," [Capt. William Tyng,} Henry Webb,} and Josiah Winslow, all of Boston,] were now partners in the works. In this letter, " Brantry furnas & fordges" are repeatedly mentioned; Lynn is not mentioned at all. So far as appears from the letter, the writer had " Brantry furnas & fordges" in his mind, and no other."

"... The Iron Works, during several years, were carried on with vigor, and furnished most of the iron used in the colony. But of necessity, much of it was sold on a credit ; and ready money, "Spanish money," was not to be had, or not without much difficulty. At that time, when trade was carried on chiefly by barter, and taxes were paid in the productions of the soil, the colonists could not pay coin for the iron and iron wares furnished by the company, though coin, " Spanish money," was demanded.... "
"At a special court held at Boston, Sept. 15, 1653, he [Thomas Savage] obtained judgment against the Estate of Joshua Foote, John Bex, Henry Webb, and company, undertakers for the Iron Works at Lynn and Braintery, for £3670. ...

"The works at Braintree were continued, though on a smaller scale, till about ninety years after their establishment. There was a furnace, in which iron was made from the ore, and forges where iron wares were made. ... Maj. Thomas Savage died February 14, 1682-3, a. 75. In the inventory of his estate, lands in Braintree are appraised at £250, but it does not appear what they were. The Iron Works are not mentioned in the inventory. They had previously been sold to John Hubbard. ... . John Hubbard owned and carried on the Iron Works from about 1680 to his death, Jan. 8, 1709-10. I have not been able to find any conveyance of the Iron Works to Mr. Hubbard. But he owned those Iron Works as early as Dec. 26, 1682, when he obtained the privilege of flowing, to a certain specified extent, the land of Dea. Joseph Allen. [allen, 7.] In 1691, he resided in Braintree. The town of Lynn voted, July 13, 1691, "that Mr. Hubbard of Braintree should give three shillings for every ton of Rock Mine [Iron-ore] that he has from Nahant, to the Town, for the Town's use."

"In 1720, as we have already seen, (page 31,) the Braintree Iron Works were sold by Nathaniel Hubbard, son of John Hubbard, to Thomas Vinton, [19.] The land on which the Iron Works stood remains in possession of the Vinton family to this day; it is now owned by the father of the compiler of this volume. The Iron Works were successfully carried on by Thomas Vinton till 1736, when the dam was demolished, and the works rendered useless, in the manner now to be described ..."