Hezekiah Bacon – Weaver

         Bacon, Hezekiah Hezekiah and Sarah (Davey) Bacon

The Dayton woolen mill had a number of employees from England. Some worked there for many years; others for only a few. One such was Hezekiah Bacon, who was only in Dayton for a few years. He appears in the 1870 census of Dayton, living with the William Lancaster family. No other record has been found of him in La Salle county. However, a good bit is known of his life both before and after his stop in Dayton.

Hezekiah was born in 1833 in Halstead, a silkweaving town in Essex, England. His father and mother, older brother, and younger sisters were all silkweavers, as was Hezekiah. The town was dominated by the silkweaving trade and when, in 1860, the tariff on imported silks was removed, competition from the French caused the trade to collapse in England.

Hezekiah had married Sarah Ann Davey in 1852 and they had four children, so the poor opportunities for him in England decided him to emigrate to America. He came by himself, to test the possibilities before bringing the rest of his family. He arrived in New York City in December of 1867. How he came to Dayton is unknown, but one plausible explanation is that he went from New York to the mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts, and found work in the mills there. Hezekiah may very well have met William Lancaster, who was also working there, and come with him when he headed west. Both William and Hezekiah were working in the Dayton woolen mill in 1870.

In 1872 he sent for his wife. Sarah Ann arrived in New York in October of 1872, accompanied by their youngest child, Emily, aged 4. Two older children, Sarah Ann and Hezekiah Charles, immigrated later, while one daughter remained in England.

In 1873 the Dayton factory went out of business and Hezekiah had to find another workplace. J. Capps & Sons’ woolen mill was a major manufacturer in Jacksonville, Illinois, and both Hezekiah and William Lancaster were soon working there.

Hezekiah died September 17, 1887, in Jacksonville and was buried in Diamond Grove Cemetery. After his death, Sarah Ann lived for a time with her daughter Emily Nichols. Sarah died in 1915 and is also buried in Diamond Grove Cemetery.

Additional information about Hezekiah Bacon may be found here.

English Workers at the Dayton Woolen Mill

power looms

Many of the employees at the Dayton Woolen factory were from England, bringing their previous experience of factory work to the Dayton mill. One of these, William Lancaster, was working in Dayton as a wool sorter in 1870.

William was born in Addingham, Yorkshire on May 31, 1835, the son of Thomas and Ann (Wildman) Lancaster. Thomas and all his family were deeply involved in the wool trade.  Thomas worked in the West Yorkshire mills as a wool top finisher;  at least five of his sons and three of his daughters also worked in the factory. The children would start by the age of ten, on the spinning machines. As they got older, they moved on to more responsible jobs – wool combing overseer, power loom weaver, or wool top finisher. William, at the age of fifteen, was a power loom weaver of worsted cloth.

In 1859 William married Elizabeth Muff, the daughter of William and Patience (Elsworth) Muff. They had a daughter, Frances Elsworth Ann, born the following year, and in 1862, a son, Seth Elsworth. For whatever reason, William seems to have left the wool trade and moved to Pudsey, Yorkshire, where he was a milk dealer in 1861. Whether this was because of a slowdown in the wool trade or merely a desire for a change, in 1866 William left Yorkshire altogether and with his wife and son (Frances having died in 1865) took ship for America on the City of New York leaving from Liverpool and arriving in New York on July 30, 1866.

Apparently wool was in William’s blood though, as he found recruiters were encouraging workers to go to Lowell, Massachusetts, to work in the mills there. He found work there as a wool sorter, and while living in Lowell, a daughter, Martha Ellen was born. More research will be needed to explain how he heard of Dayton and why he decided to go there, but by 1870 he was at work in Dayton as a wool sorter. He inspected all incoming wool and was skilled in sorting it into lots by color and quality, as length and fineness of fiber. A successful wool sorter would have had a perception of color shades greater than that of an artist.

By 1880, William had moved his family to Jacksonville, Illinois, where he and his son, Seth, were working in the Jacksonville Woolen Mills. Apparently unable to settle in one place, by 1900 he was working and living in Chester, Pennsylvania, another mill town not far from Philadelphia. Here his wife, Elizabeth died in 1893, and a few years later he remarried, to Margaretta, widow of John Blithe. In 1910, at the age of 74, he was still working as a wool sorter. He died on March 9, 1917, bringing to a close a life dedicated to the wool trade.

How to Make a Rainbow

rainbow

The Dayton woolen factory’s products came in a range of colors. In order to produce the various shades, a large number of vegetable dyes had to be kept on hand. From an inventory of the factory in 1873, they had a variety of dyes and other products used in making woolen cloth.

Before dyeing, the raw wool had to be washed and cleaned with something that would remove the oils that occur naturally. The oxalic acid listed in the inventory would have been used on the wool as a first step.

Alum, chrome, and soda ash were used as dye fixatives, or mordants.

Extract of logwood, a purplish-red natural dye obtained from the logwood tree, could produce black, grey, navy blue, purple, violet or lavender, depending on the mordant used.

Sicily sumac could produce dyes of red, yellow, black, or brown.

Cudbear was extracted from a lichen and produced dyes in the purple range.

Camwood produced a brilliant but non-permanent red dye.

Brazilwood extract produces bright reds, corals, and pinks.

Fustic , a bright yellow dye, is very colorfast. It is frequently combined with other dyes to produce a range of yellow and green colors.

Lard oil was used to prepare the dyed and dried wool for carding.

Large quantities of these were kept on hand. The inventory listed 533 pounds of logwood; 800 pounds of Sicily sumac; 1260 pounds of Camwood and more than a ton of soda ash.

It was certainly a colorful business!

 

All Kinds of Woolen Goods

Jesse Green and Sons business card

The woolen factory at Dayton produced many different products. Cassimere was a closely woven twilled fabric. It had a smooth surface and was used for suits. Jean was not the same fabric as denim in the 19th century. Topcoats, vests and jackets could be made of jean in different colors – black, blue, or white. Denim was used for work clothes worn by manual laborers, while other workers would be dressed in tailored trousers made of jean. Although the two fabrics were similar, denim was made with one colored thread and one white thread; jean was woven of two threads of the same color.

Sock yarn could be had in a light mixture or in a blue grey. Carpet yarn also came in assorted colors. Blankets (white, grey, or multicolored) and buggy rugs were available to keep out winter’s cold and wind. Carpet was made in a number of styles and flannel could be purchased in white, scarlet, grey striped, or black and white check.

Other varieties of cloth included satinett (half wool and half cotton, but finished the same as wool); doeskin (a twilled fabric that came in different weights); linsey (a strong, coarse fabric with a linen or cotton warp and a woolen weft); and tweed.

Maud Green remembered that “Grandma [Barbara Grove Green] spent her time knitting socks and long stockings for all of us, out of factory yarn, and we had woolen underwear, skirts and dresses made of factory flannel.”

 

Products of the Dayton Woolen Factory

Woolen factory coverlet

This woven coverlet is one of my treasured family heirlooms. It was produced at the Dayton Woolen Factory and has been handed down in the family for over 150 years. The pattern is an example of an overshot pattern, where the horizontal yarn shoots over several vertical yarns at a time. The slight discontinuity in the pattern (circled) shows where two lengths woven on a 36 inch loom were joined to make the full sized coverlet.

Woolen ad

The factory made many kinds of cloth, as noted in this ad. Satinet was a satin-weave fabric made with cotton warp and wool filling; cassimere, a twill-weave, worsted suiting fabric; flannel, a fabric made in plain or twill weave, usually with carded yarns and napped for added warmth. My great-aunt remembered that the family was always well-supplied with stockings knit from factory yarn and the family clothing, as well as the blankets for their beds, were products of the factory. Fabric was obtainable in many colors, with basic grey, brown and black as well as blue, scarlet, green, and red. I also have another, light-weight, blanket from the factory which is a pale yellow. The products of the factory were of a high quality, as evidenced by the awards they won at cattle shows and county and state fairs, throughout Illinois and other states in the midwest.