52 Ancestors: #4 The Woolen Mill Workers

Rather than focus on a specific ancestor this week, I thought I’d share a picture and some thoughts on the woolen mill workers in my family.

I believe my 3rd great grandfather began his long career in the mills at Ballardvale, a section of Andover, MA around 1860. His brother John likely worked there also. For any art buffs Charles Sheeler immortalized the mills of Ballardvale in his 1946 painting.

From about 1865 until 1880, the family lived in South Groveland, MA and worked in the mills there.

In 1880, James, his wife Johanna and their children, John, David and James (my 2nd great-grandfather) moved to Rochester, NH where James became Boss Carder at the Gonic Manufacturing Company.

James is in the center of the picture with his carding room crew from the Gonic Manufacturing Company in Rochester, NH.

James is in the center of the picture with his carding room crew from the Gonic Manufacturing Company in Rochester, NH.

Robert Frost wrote “The Lone Striker” about his own experiences working in the mills at Lawrence, Mass in the 1890’s. I think it paints a vivid picture:

The air was full of dust of wool.
A thousand yarns were under pull,
But pull so slow, with such a twist,
All day from spool to lesser spool,
It seldom overtaxed their strength;
They safely grew in slender length.
And if one broke by any chance,
The spinner saw it at a glance.
The spinner still was there to spin.
That’s where the human still came in.
Her deft hand showed with finger rings
Among the harplike spread of strings.
She caught the pieces end to end
And, with a touch that never missed,
Not so much tied as made them blend.

This post is 4th in the in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge series.

Workday Wednesday – Gonic Mfg Co Carding Room Team

James E Lucey (1848-1934) was the “Boss Carder” at the Gonic Manufacturing Company in Rochester, NH for many years. This is a photo of him (in center) and the Carding Team. At a Woolen Mill, carding raw wool removes impurities and tangles, which prepares the wool for the next step in the process, spinning.

I don’t know who any of the other people in the picture are, but would love to find out. Please let me know if you recognize anyone in the photo.

Gonic Manufacturing Company, Rochester, NH. Carding Room Team.