The Whitin Cotton Mill

WHITIN Genealogy: (the very beginning --- 1st to 3rd generations) Paul Whitin (g), the son of Nathaniel Whiting and Sarah Draper (b.1767) marries Elizabeth (Betsey) Fletcher in 1793. They have six children, five sons and a daughter: Paul Whitin, Jr. (b.1800); Nathaniel Draper Whitin (b.1804); John Crane Whitin (b.1807), who marries twice--first to Catherine Have Leland in 1831, then to Sarah Elizabeth Pratt in 1875; Charles Pinckney Whitin (b.1809); James Fletcher Whitin (b.1814) and their daughter, Margaret Fletcher Whitin (b.1817). His family came from Dedham, MA. He was an apprentice in his father-in-law's forge, and worked most of the land that is now the village called Whitinsville, inc. 1809. That same year, Paul Whitin, James Fletcher and others from Northbridge and Leicester, worked to erect The Northbridge Cotton Manufacturing Company. This was first a tiny building made of wood, two and one-half stories high. This was a spinning mill, having 200 spindles and only the third cotton mill in the Blackstone Valley at this time.

 In 1815, Paul Whitin became a partner with Colonel Fletcher, Betsey's father, and his two brother-in-laws, Samuel and Ezra Fletcher, under the firm name of Whitin and Fletcher. Then they built a second mill of 100 more spindles than the first one. This mill stood on the opposite side of the Mumford River. Paul Whitin then bought out the Fletcher shares in 1826 and formed a new partnership with his two sons, Paul Jr. and John Crane. The new company was called Paul Whitin and Sons. The very same year a new brick mill was constructed, having 2000 spindles, still standing there today, largely due to a matching state preservation grant to restore it. Paul Whitin's two other younger sons, Charles P. and James F. later entered into the family-run business but at a much older age. However, Nathaniel and Margaret had no interest. Before Paul, their father died in 1831, his family decided to build some Federal-style, brick houses on what is now Fletcher St. for his original workers. With the cotton business on a solid basis and escalating in 1845, Betsey Whitin and her sons built a new, stone textile factory, largely of granite known as the Whitinsville Cotton Mill, which gave the family business 7,500 more spindles. This is now called the restored Cotton Mill Apartments (seen above) and they are privately owned.

This new mill was part of the boom of the Cotton Industrial Revolution taking place during the latter 1840's, after the great depression of 1837-1842. With the wartime demand for cloth to come later during the Civil War (War of the Rebellion), the Whitin family, indeed had the capital and means to install a steam power plant to augment waterpower technology that involved turbines and belt-driven crude machines. During this same period, two-family wooden tenements of Greek Revival design were added to those first built on Fletcher St., Elm St. and Railroad Ave. (now Linwood Ave.): they were able to provide 280 mill workers to staff this newly built granite cotton mill. The Whitins also saw to it that their machinery would be fixed if broken or worn and that new parts would be produced with the provisions in a small machine shop, housed on the first floor of the brick mill.

 

Now the real start of the WHITIN LEGACY took root with the creative abilities and engineering talents of John Crane Whitin. In 1831, he designed and had patented a new cotton picker machine that outperformed others in the previous mills. This was indeed to be first of other successive inventions that would make the WHITIN MACHINE WORKS into a great textile plant. This factory grew into a floor space containing 1 and 3/4 of a million square feet, after meeting first regional and national demands and expanding its spindles and machinery into overseas markets.

     In 1847, the Whitins built "The Shop," which consisted of a new textile production area that was four times larger than the brick mill. It contained machine shops, foundries, and other specialized structures. Then more housing was provided for new workers on North Main St. and on other side streets as Irish workers poured into the labor pool that same year. Just seven years prior, John C. Whitin had developed the first of stately mansions, which had occupied land where the Whitin Gymnasium now stands. During this time also, Paul Whitin Jr. had married Sarah Chapin and built a new Italian-styled home, along with his brother in 1856, where Banning's former flower shop stood.

     Later in 1864, John C. Whitin added a large section to the 1847 machine shop. This consisted of the bell tower along North Main St. The business of the machine shop was tripled by this section, and Charles also decided to add a big bell to the 1845 Cotton Mill. More construction followed by adding four-family row houses along North Main and High Streets. Then later this same year (1864), Betsey and her four active sons decided to divide their business. Paul Jr. got the Rockdale and Riverdale Mills. Charles P. received the Whitinsville Cotton Mill and the little brick mill. But John C. got the "crown," The Machine Shops of 1847 (The Shop) proper. James F. got the Crown and Eagle Mill of North Uxbridge, and the land near the Whitin Railroad Depot, where he had built in 1866, the Linwood Cotton Mill, and five years later, a Victorian mansion which is now a private home, formerly the Victorian restaurant.
    The 1870's saw another depression and temporarily stopped all cotton mill expansion, but at this period of time, many company-designed buildings serving the community were built. The Town Hall (1872), John C. Whitin's new estate (1875), Castle Hill Farm (1875), and Arthur Whitin’s mansion on Linwood Ave, along with the Whitinsville Spinning Ring Co., built jointly by Charles Pinckney, Whitin's son, and Charles Trowbridge. Also in 1875, The Shop's first superintendent, Gustavus Taft, who was John Cranes's personal choice, had a Gothic Victorian Mansion built, which is now Carr Funeral Home on Hill St. The Clarke School (1878,) made of wood along with St. Patrick's R.C. Church (1870), were constructed with Whitin donations. This was indeed the beginning of Victorian construction Whitinsville and the definite foundations of a paternalistic dynasty.
Early years in the 1900's would see the need for the Whitinsville Savings Bank (1905) and more schools, as the town's young people and work force grew. In addition to the Clarke school, the Aldrich School, the Whitin-Lasell High School, Social Library, the Whitin Gym, and the Whitinsville Golf Course were all built before 1930.
   

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