Academic journal article The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.

Braddock D. Hathaway, a New Bedford Toolmaker

Academic journal article The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.

Braddock D. Hathaway, a New Bedford Toolmaker

Article excerpt

On 17 April 1879, The New Bedford Republican Standard carried the laconic notice, "Mr. Braddock D. Hathaway, the well known maker of tools such as hammers, axes, &c., a most worthy and respected citizen, died in this city Sunday [13 April]. Aged 73 years." This was an editorial notice in addition to the listing under "Deaths in this City," and it suggests that there was something unusually interesting about Hathaway to attract the editor's attention. It was very unusual for a tradesman to receive any comment beyond the terse fact of his death. One wonders what made Hathaway stand out in that way. Unfortunately none of his accounts are known to have survived, and a preliminary scan of church and organizational membership records has not yet produced evidence of civic involvement beyond the successful pursuit of his trade for over fifty years.

That Hathaway should have taken up the hammer as he did seems quite natural considering his ancestry. Seven generations earlier Nicholas Hathaway became one of the first settlers of Taunton, Massachusetts, arriving there from Braintree about 1640.1 He and his son John became owners of a considerable amount of land in Taunton, including 400 acres in the part subsequently incorporated as Berkeley. In 1695, John Hathaway, who settled in nearby Freetown, in company with other citizens, set up a bloomery known as Chartley Iron Works on Stony Brook. The iron works passed down through his son John Jr. to his grandson Jacob and perhaps beyond. At least some of the family drifted away from Freetown, for John Hathaway of the seventh generation, Braddock's father, was born in Dartmouth and lived in New Bedford at the time of his marriage. His four children were all born in Rochester, ten miles east of New Bedford, where he may have worked as a blacksmith, passing the trade along to two of his sons, Braddock and William.

Braddock D. Hathaway was born in Rochester, Massachusetts, 3 May 1806, the eldest child of John and Amy Read Hathaway. His mother was from Freetown, where the Hathaways retained many family and social ties. At that time Rochester included the present day town of Marion and was both a farming and shipbuilding town, so there was plenty of demand for iron work.

In 1828 at the age of twenty-two, B. D. Hathaway established himself in New Bedford as a blacksmith in Beetle's Lane or Yard.2 Although Beetle's Yard was neither shown on any map nor included in lists of streets and places in the New Bedford directories, it was probably the parcel of land between North Water Street and the Acushnet River purchased in 18 15 by William Beetle, shipwright, from the estate of Henry Beetle, shipwright.' North Water Street was not very long, and the waterfront was built up with wharves near the center of the town, so it is likely that the yard where Hathaway began work was near the foot of Kempton Street. In the 1836 directory, William Beetle, sparmaker, was also listed with a shop in Beetle's Lane. He and Hathaway both lived within a few blocks of that location, which was also near the Hillman shipyard.

The 1820s was a propitious decade for an ambitious mechanic to set up shop in New Bedford. The whale fishery was expanding rapidly and bringing considerable wealth to the city. Shipbuilding and all the many waterfront trades that supplied the needs of the seafarers were flourishing. Simultaneously, the first of the grand Greek revival mansions were built, with more to follow in the 1830s. To house the growing population, builders were constructing dwellings and shops, far less impressive than the mansions but considerably more numerous. Hathaway's prospects must have looked pretty good, for he had not been settled long when on 24 October 1829 he married Harriet Richmond, daughter of Joseph and Abigail Richmond of Dighton. They lost no time in beginning a family. Their first son, Braddock Richmond was born the following June and was followed by a dozen more, not all of whom lived past childhood. …

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