Poof Tardiff: A Town of Today VII

Hello fellow Berlinites. By the middle of the 1890's, Berlin had four major mills that used all our natural resources in the North Country. These resources have been previously mentioned as the Androscoggin River and the great forest nearby. The mills were the Berlin Mills Company, which had a great sawmill and the Riverside paper mills, the Burgess Sulphite Fibre Company, the Berlin Falls Fibre company and the six mills of the Glen Manufacturing Company.

These four large companies had developed, by their dams on the Androscoggin River, almost 30,000 horsepower and a few if any of their privileges in use were yet developed to their full capacity. There were at this time, a considerable number of magnificent powers as yet entirely unused.

Now, in addition to these four large corporations, the town of Berlin wanted to also diversify, so they also had a number of small manufacturing concerns that used some kind of wood products. One of these, was the Berlin Manufacturing Company, whose mill was considered a large plant in almost any other place in New Hampshire other than Berlin.

They owned a valuable site, nearly opposite and on the other side of the tracks of the Grand Trunk Station (today's Tri-County-Cap). It was an extremely well-equipped and convenient mill, in which they manufactured spruce, pine, and hardwood lumber of all descriptions. They also did a general jobbing in the house finishing business. The power for the company was furnished entirely by steam and A. N. Gilbert was the treasurer and general manager.

Another was the Business Supply Company that had a mill in which they manufactured all kinds of house finishing material, doors, sashes, hardwood flooring etc. The power for this mill was furnished from a Dead River privilege, which also operated a grist mill.

Mr. Ezra Cross, the founder of the Cross Machine Company, after being on Mechanic Street for some time, moved in 1895 down below Glen Mill Number One. It was here that he built two large and convenient buildings in which he carried on his foundry and machine shop business. He made castings in all the common metals and did a general jobbing business. Mr. Cross employed about 20 men, all necessarily skilled workmen earning good wages for these days.

The criticism back then was often made back then that the mills of Berlin gave employment practically to none, but able bodied men and that there was no opportunity given for the woman and younger people of the laboring families to add to the family resources. This could be done in other places, where the forms of labor were more varied. By 1895, this problem was solved in large measure by the erection of the Berlin Shoe Factory

The Chamber of Commerce was established on April 28, 1894 on a report of a committee consisting all of H. I. Goss, C. C. Gerrish, Dr. H. W. Johnson, H. C. Rowell and A. B. Forbush. A constitution and by laws for the Berlin Board of Trade was adopted by 10 businessmen and their officers were H. I. Goss, president; J. M. Lavin, treasurer and J. H. Wight, clerk. This board of trade had an active life under its first president and his successors W. H. Gerrish and L. J. Cote. It was largely responsible for bringing Chick Brothers ( Berlin Shoe Factory) of Haverhill, Massachusetts to this town.

The money for this huge building was paid for in part by popular subscription and in part by the use of the credit of the town. This huge building stood for at least 25 years in the same spot as the skating rink near today's police headquarters, before being torn down.

This factory was leased to the Chick Brothers of Haverhill, Massachusetts, one of the largest shoe companies in New England. This was done by the town of Berlin on a guarantee that they would do a certain amount of business here for a fixed amount of years.

This immense building was just above the Berlin Manufacturing Company's mill on the Grand Trunk siding and just before today's Green Street underpass. It was 200' x 50' on the ground and five stories above the basement, with a large tower in front. In the rear, there was a large brick powerhouse.

It was built on the best principles of first-class building construction, equipped with standard pipes and an automatic sprinkler system and lighted throughout with the electricity furnished by its own dynamo. The building was built to accommodate about 1,000 employees and it was thought that before the summer of 1896, it would be running to very near its full capacity.

Shoe shops were generally considered rather risky ventures for small towns, but Berlin's people felt that this institution was going to be a permanent business here. That confidence was not based only on the character and business standing of the lessees, but also on the fact that strange as it may have seemed, Berlin offered peculiar advantages for the transaction of this particular business.

Help of this kind was abundant and anxious for an opportunity to work back then. Also, fuel was cheaper, wood being abundant and coal had cost less in Berlin then in Concord in these days. The freight rates from Berlin to the West were also lower than from Haverhill and it was from the West that that Chick Brothers had obtained the greater part of their raw materials. It was also to this area that they shipped most of their finished products.

This company conducted a prosperous business for several years and employed hundreds of local citizens, but as mentioned, their business was in the West and the establishment of the Western factories obliged them to close this factory. Like our old Converse Shoe Company building, the city of Berlin tried to get other businesses to operate in this huge building, but failed.

On the first day of September, 1896, the town of Berlin had been organized 67 years. At the regular town meeting in March of 1830, there were about 15 voters. These represented but seven families. In November of 1896, there were 1,008 voters on the checklist, representing nearly 7,000 inhabitants. The system of government had now become not maintainable any longer and it was time to change.

While conditions changed, it was the fancy of those who lived in cities to look down upon those who lived in villages, it was remembered that the cities that were most fortunate were those that grew up from hamlets.

Memories lingered of times when men got together to solve their political problems and every voter knew every office holder. Berlin had such a growth.

So much for the Mills of Berlin, to them the town was mainly indebted for what it became. I will continue and finish with “A Town of Today” in my next writing.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily Sun. Questions or comments email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, join the fans of “Once upon a Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the posted weekly mystery pictures.

Gilbert A NA. N. Gilbert

Early Cross MachineEarly Cross Machine

Chick Shoe 1896Chick Shoe 1896

Berlin Manufacturing 1896Berlin Manufacturing 1896