W8246 TO THOMAS MCQUESTEN from John Knox McQuesten
Jan 7 1912
To: Thomas Baker McQuesten Hamilton, Ontario
From: Manchester, New Hampshire
I have received the book describing the Sawyer Massey plant1 and it is just what is wanted. It, with what I know of the earlier career of your grandfather will be a very interesting item in a history of this town. Facts showing the success of men going away from their homes are of equal, if not greater interest than are those concerning the people who remained at home. The achievements of the local man are an open book in his own neighbourhood. Whereas the success attending the efforts of the fellow who "lights out" may be known little about. A change of environment often stimulates character and effort, while staying at home makes one feel pretty well satisfied with himself if he does about as well as his neighbours do.
I have just discovered a deed which conveyed to my grandfather 500 acres of land in McGregorville. The deed was made in 1810 and the price of the land was $2.00 per acre. The two factories and weave shed now standing on this land could not be bought for $5,000 000_ [sic] to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property there. I have also a certificate of stock showing that my grandfather owned two shares in the Amoskeag Cotton and Woolen mill, and this is of the same date,1810.
There is no particular change in Lucia's condition.2 Some of the days and nights are fairly comfortable and others are not so.
I very much hope that sometime before the grass hopper becomes too great a burden to your honored uncle3 and myself, to spend two or three days in Hamilton. I would try to make the old gentleman "feel good" while I was with him, and take my chances of his having the same feeling when I got away. But nothing of the kind can be thought of while matters remain as they are.
Remember us affectionately to all members of the family, and do not forget that I am greatly obliged to you for sending that book.
Yours very truly,
J. K. McQuesten
1 This plant had originally begun as an iron foundry around 1835 by Dr. Calvin McQuesten (Thomas' grandfather) and his cousin John Fisher. Dr. McQuesten, along with Joseph Janes and Priam Hill, purchased the land for the foundry at the corner of James and Merrick Streets.
Between 1835 and 1838 the foundry was beset by difficulties. Skilled workers were difficult to find, and Fisher's knowledge of iron casting and firm management in general were questionable. Numerous clashes occurred between Fisher and Janes, the latter of whom would sometimes abandon the plant over these personal skirmishes. In addition, good materials were difficult to acquire and sometimes the quality of the iron was so poor that it had to be discarded. Most of the iron came from the U.S. and arrived by waterways, which were often frozen in the winter, making transport and delivery virtually impossible. On top of all this, in 1837, Upper Canada [Ontario] fell into an economic depression and the rebellion of 1837 caused problems for both McQuesten and Fisher, mostly because they were Americans.
Despite all of this, the foundry survived, and Dr. McQuesten (who had previously travelled back and forth between his home in Brockport, New York and Hamilton) moved to Hamilton permanently, and his first wife Margarette and their son Calvin Brooks moved to be with him later that year.
In 1845, the mortgage on the property had been paid off, and in 1853 Dr. McQuesten sold a portion of his interest on the company to his nephews Luther, Payson and Samuel Sawyer and their cousin William McQuesten. Two years later, a fire destroyed the foundry which was then rebuilt at the base of Wellington street where they had more space for expansion and the housing of employees as well as providing them more immediate access to the railway for the purposes of shipping and receiving goods and materials. In 1857, both Dr. McQuesten and Fisher retired and left the foundry to Dr. McQuesten's nephews.
The company remained "C. McQuesten & Co." for a number of years, but by the turn of the century had been renamed "Sawyer-Massey Co."
2 See W8242.
3 Likely Thomas' uncle Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten, who died February 19, 1912, less then two months after this letter was written.