Lowell Massachusetts, 1890

LOWELL is a splendid industrial city on the Merrimack River, in the northeasterly section of Middlesex County, 9 miles above Lawrence, and 35 from the mouth of the river. It is bounded on the northwest, north and northeast by Dracut, on the east by Tewksbury, on the south and west by Chelmsford.

The assessed area is 5,927 acres, including 935 acres of woodland. It is 26 miles northwest of Boston by the Boston and Maine Railroad, whose various branches give convenient connection in every direction. The post-offices are Lowell and Middlesex Village; the other villages being Belvidere, Bleachery, Centralville, Highlands, Meadowville and Pawtucketville.

The Merrimack River makes a graceful bend towards the northeast and then towards the southeast in passing through and by the city; receiving in the eastern section the waters of the Concord River, which here affords valuable motive power by three falls of 26, 8 and 10 feet respectively. River-Meadow Brook, which rises in Westford, flows through the southeastern section of the city, and enters the Concord River about one mile above its confluence with the Merrimack. Beaver River enters the Merrimack from Dracut, about midway between the two bridges that span the latter stream. The natural fall of the Merrimack, from which comes the immense hydraulic power that moves the numerous mills, is not far from 35 feet; the dam being at Pawtucket Falls, in the northwest section of the city. The geological formation is Merrimack schist and calcareous gneiss. The altitude varies from 40 to 250 feet above mean sea-level, giving a surface remarkably picturesque and varied. From many points delightful water-views are enjoyed, especially the falls of the Concord as it passes Belvidere and the grand sweep of the Merrimack between the bluffs below the lower bridge. "From the mountains to the main, there is no lovelier scene than that which meets the eye when, from the summit of Christian Hill, we look down upon Lowell and survey the varied landscape, unrolled like a beautiful picture before us."* From the heights of Centralville, on the left bank of the river, as from those of Belvidere on the right bank, the whole panorama of the city, the long curving line of the Merrimack, the surrounding country, the distant peaks of Wachusett and the New Hampshire mountains, come grandly into view. These eminences afford admirable sites for the handsome residences which are more and more occupying them.

"The Proprietors of the Locks and Canals on Merrimack River," incorporated in 1792 for the purpose of cutting a canal for boats around the then unimproved Pawtucket Falls, have possession of the principal water-privileges of the city. This company constructed a canal on the right bank of the river, sixty feet wide, and extending from above the falls about a mile and a half to the mouth of the Concord River; and this, with the lateral canals, supplies the various establishments erected between them and the Merrimack River.

[Ladd and Whitney monument, Lowell.]

The maximum force is about 15,000 horse-power; but only 10,000 is leased, — allowing a safe margin of variation at all periods and seasons. By the limpid flow of this noble stream, under the guidance of well-trained brain and hand, this place has, within the memory of living men, arisen from half a dozen farm-houses to a city of nearly 70,000 people. It has at present 7 establishments (many with several buildings each) making cotton cloths, 10 making prints, 4 making hosiery, 8 making woollen goods, 3 making carpetings, 1 making rubber goods, and a large number making boilers, machinery, implements and tools. The number of persons employed by the different establishments varies greatly, reaching 2,500 in one instance — that of the Merrimack Manufacturing Company (incorporated in 1822 —and making plain cotton and prints); and there are several employing more than a thousand each. The other principal establishments — stated in order of age — are the Hamilton Manufacturing Company (inc. 1825 — prints and other goods), the Appleton Company (1828), the Lowell Manufacturing Company (1828 — carpeting) the Middlesex Company (beavers, opera flannels, cassimeres and shawls), and the Tremont and Suffolk Mills (1830), the Lawrence Manufacturing Company (1831 — cottons and merino hosiery), the Boott Cotton Mills (1835), the Massachusetts Mills (1839), the Lowell Bleachery (1832), the Lowell Machine-shop (1845), and the Lowell Hosiery Company (1869). There are also the Sterling Mills (flannels), the Faulkner Mills (flannels), the Belvidere Woollen Manufacturing Company, the Chase Mills (fancy cassimeres), the Thorndike Manufacturing Company, — all those mentioned, except the machine-shop, manufacturing textiles, — the last making elastic goods. The American Bolt Company, and Woods, Sherwood & Company (fine plated-wire goods), C. B. Richmond & Company (paper and batting) and J. C. Ayer & Company (patent medicines), are also among the leading establishments. Some of the cloth companies have several mills each, the entire number being upwards of 75; while the total number of manufacturing establishments in 1885 was 606.

The value of the textiles made in the last census year is stated at $19,183,901; of iron and other metallic work, $2,030,914; leather, $736,769; lumber and other wooden goods, $629,103; wood and metal goods, $337,687; food preparations, $588,645; the aggregate being $29,324,606. The city has 7 national banks, with an aggregate capital of $2,100,000; 6 savings banks, having deposits at the beginning of the present year to the amount of $14,382,704; and there is one co-operative bank with a moderate business. The valuation of the city in 1888 was $57,646,775, with a tax-rate of $15.70. The number of farms is 109, with an aggregate product of $166,954. The dwelling-houses number 10,492; the inhabitants 64,107; and the legal voters 12,366.

Lowell is by no means neglectful of its social, educational and religious interests. It has many Masonic and Odd Fellows lodges and other civic organizations. Its schools are carefully graded and excellently conducted, occupying 45 buildings, valued at some $650,000. There are 46 public libraries, aggregating nearly 100,000 volumes. The city public library has over 30,000; and four associations have in the aggregate about $25,000 [sic]. Beside these there are school, professional, circulating, Sunday-school and other religious libraries. The principal newspapers are: dailies — the "Citizen," the " Courier," "Evening Democrat," " Morning Mail," "Morning Times," " Daily News; " weeklies — the "American Citizen," the "Journal," "Saturday Evening Mail," the "Times," the "Wednesday Vox-Populi," the "Saturday Vox-Populi," the " Sun;" and monthlies — the "High School," the "Catholic Youth's Companion," the "Fruit Grower," and the " New Moon." There are in the city 31 churches, divided among the denominations as follows : 4 Baptist, 7 Congregationalist, 1 Evangelical Lutheran (Swedish), 3 Free Baptist, 4 Methodist Episcopal, 1 Presbyterian, 1 Primitive Methodist, 3 Protestant Episcopal, 4 Roman Catholic, 1 Unitarian and 2 Universalist.

[the Branch-Street Tabernacle.]

The city is well lighted, well drained, and well supplied with good water from the river above by the water works. Several streetcar lines afford convenient local conveyance; the postal service compares well with that of other cities; and there is an efficient fire-department. An excellent design for a new city-ball has been accepted, and $250,000 is the estimate of its cost. A memorial building has also been planned, to cost $150,000.

For places of entertainment, there are now Music Hall, with a seating capacity of 893; Huntington Hall, with 1,815 seats, and standing-room for 1,200 persons additional; and Jackson Hall, seating 700, with a capacity for 1,200. There are four parks, with a total area of 36¼ acres; and 10 cemeteries, the largest of which — the Lowell and the Edson — contain 30 and 20 acres respectively. The first was incorporated in 1841, and is beautifully designed and adorned.

Lowell is one of the seats of justice for Middlesex County, and has a handsome court-house of brick, which cost $100,000, and occupies an elevated site in a finely shaded enclosure on Gorham Street. Here is also the county jail, a granite edifice having one of the best exteriors in the city. The streets are generally in excellent condition, and many are finely shaded. Merrimack and Central are the chief business streets; and in the evening, when the mills are not in operation, present very gay and lively scenes; being filled with thousands of people, mostly the mill-girls, promenading, shopping, or on their way to church, lecture, concert or other entertainment.

The site which Lowell now occupies was the central point of the lands of the Pawtucket tribe of Indians, who found no better fishing. ground than at the Pawtucket Falls on the Merrimack and the Wamesit Falls on the Concord, near its confluence with the former stream. As early as 1647 the pious John Eliot commenced his missionary labors amongst these Indians; and in 1674 it was computed that there were 15 families of "praying Indians" at Wamesit. An Indian fort had been erected on the commanding eminence called "Fort Hill," in Belvidere, traces of which were discernible at a recent date. During Philip's War, in 1675-76, the Indians here were mostly scattered or destroyed, and their lands came into the possession of the white men. A fort was at this period constructed at Pawtucket Falls, of which James Richardson, and subsequently Capt. Thomas Henchman, had command. During what is called King William's War, Col. Joseph Lynde fortified the eminence in Belvidere which still bears his name.

[the Court-house, Lowell.]

The first use of the water of the Merrimack here as a motive power was for a saw mill, constructed a t Pawtucket Falls, and owned by Judge John Tyng of Tyngsborough. The first canal-boat went down the canal around the falls in 1797. The starting-point in the grand manufacturing interests of Lowell was the erection of a carding -mill in 1801, by Moses Hale, on River-meadow Brook. The first cotton-mill was built in 1813, on the present site of the Middlesex Company's mills, by Phineas Whiting and Joseph Fletcher. Powder-mills were built on the Concord River at Wamesit, by Moses Hale, as early as 1818. Mr. Hale was subsequently associated with the late Oliver M. Whipple and William Tileston. Among those who first saw the magnitude of the motive power of Lowell, and who put forth brain and capital to turn it to advantage, were Francis Cabot Lowell, Patrick Tracy Jackson, Nathan Appleton, Paul Moody, Kirk Boott, and Warren Dutton. The first mill of the company which they and others formed was completed, and the first wheel started, on the first day of September, 1823. The first treasurer was Kirk Boott, to whose genius and untiring energy the city is greatly indebted for its early growth. The Mechanic Phalanx, organized July 4, 1825, is the first militia company of the place. The first postmaster was Jonathan C. Morrill. Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, visited the city June 26, 1833, and met with a cordial reception. In the ensuing year, M. Chevalier, a French writer on political economy, visited Lowell, and wrote of it as follows in the "Journal des Debats : " —

"Unlike the cities of Europe, which were built by some demi-god, son of Jupiter, or by some hero of the siege of Troy or by the inspiration of the genius of a Cæsar or an Alexander, or by the assistance of some holy monk attracting crowds by his miracles, or by the caprice of some great king like Louis XIV, or Frederick, or by an edict of Peter the Great, it (Lowell) is neither a pious foundation, a refuge of the persecuted, nor a military post. It is a speculation of the merchants of Boston. The same spirit of enterprise which the last year suggested to them to send a cargo of ice to Calcutta that Lord William Bentinck and the nabobs of the India Company might drink their wine cool, has led them to build a city wholly at their expense, with all the edifices required by an advanced civilization, for the purpose of manufacturing cotton cloths and printed calicoes. They have succeeded, as they usually do, in their speculations."

The first church edifice erected in Lowell is that of St. Anne's Episcopal Society. It is a substantial stone structure, and was consecrated by Bishop A. V. Griswold, March 16, 1825. It has a pleasant chime of 11 bells. Among the eminent citizens of Lowell past and present are the Rev. T. Edson, D.D., first rector of St. Anne's church; Kirk Boott, first treasurer and agent of the Merrimack Corporation; Benjamin F. Butler, of national reputation; Dr. J. C. Ayer, famed for his medicines, and esteemed as a citizen.

[St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Lowell.]

Lowell was most loyal during the war of the Rebellion, and furnished its full share of men and money for the support of the Union Army. Two of its citizens, Addison 0. Whitney and Luther C. Ladd, belonging to the Lowell City Guards were killed in the affray at Baltimore, April 19, 1861; and to their memory a handsome marble monument has been erected on Monument Square. It was dedicated June 17, 1865; and the lines inscribed upon the monument were selected from Milton's "Samson Agonistes "by Gov. John A. Andrew, who gave the oration.

* Hon. Charles Cowley, historian of Lowell.

pp. 422-427 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

Gazetteer