Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Cape Ann Granite Company, Part Two - Trains, Ships and Stone

Stoddard Atlas, 1884
By its second year of operation in 1870 the Cape Ann Granite Company owned 125 acres in the rocky hills of Bay View. Its dressing yards flanked wharves it had constructed along Hodgkins Cove. Today these wharves host the University of Massachusetts Marine Station, jutting into the Ipswich Bay between Annisquam and Lanesville.

Bay View, Coastal Survey of 1857
Prior to the arrival and naming of Bay View by General Butler in his 1863 shoreline tenting vacation there had been modest quarrying activity in the nearby uplands. Local entrepreneurs shipped stone from rudimentary facilities at the head of Hodgkins Cove.

Beers Atlas, 1872
During the mid-1860s Benjamin Butler built a summer home of the local stone on the headlands overlooking the Cove.  As a newly elected member of Congress he recognized the value of Cape Ann granite in the contemporary federal building boom. He drew his former military aide Jonas French into the business as operational leader and sold him a piece of the property for his own home. Their residences sat side by side in the Atlas of 1872. French's Rock Lawn estate commanded the higher ground, as detailed in the Atlas of 1884.

Cape Ann Granite Company facilities and the locomotive Polyphemus 1
Even before it was incorporated in 1869 the prospects of the Cape Ann Granite Company rested securely on a contract to supply stone for the foundation of the Boston Post Office. Sleight of hand within the government purchasing department soon amended the contract to embrace the entire building. Competing firms, especially the established Rockport Granite Company which claimed to have underbid them, asserted that the newcomer lacked the ability to meet timely standards of quality and volume. They alleged improper influence on the part of Congressman Butler and the scandalized whiskey distiller Jonas French. A Congressional inquiry heard testimony from Mr. Butler that he had nothing to gain in the matter and had not advised Mr. French on pending federal appropriations. It let the matter rest.2 But investigative journalists come to the opposite conclusion, producing a letter from a Treasury Department official that referred to devising schemes to avoid "embarrassing conditions of the law." 3

The Boston Post Office 4
Stone supplied by the Cape Ann Granite Company
The magnificent edifice was completed. With these and other receipts the Cape Ann Granite Company rapidly expanded its facilities. In 1870 the Company acquired its own steamer, the 200 ton Phoenix.5 By 1872 its wharves accommodated ten vessels. In September of that year it dedicated its mile-long railroad connecting the quarries to Hodgkins Cove. The locomotive William French pulled four platform cars of guests on each tour. Everyone was invited to a clambake, chowder, and congratulatory speeches on Congressman Butler's lawn.6
The granite staircase, Philadelphia City Hall 7
Stone supplied by the Cape Ann Granite Company
In February 1879 the twenty-ton locomotive Polyphemus arrived by barge at the Bay View works, doubling the weight of the previous engine. 8 Even before this new capability went into service the quarrymen had accomplished the remarkable feat of freeing a 150-ton block, lifting it onto rail cars, and guiding it down the rails to be shaped and polished into the 18' x 27' pedestal for the General Winfield Scott Monument in Washington DC. 

The three-masted schooner Jonas H. French 9 managed to carry this immense block and two adjoining pieces lashed on its deck, to the nation's capital. But that was not its only cargo. In the hold, perhaps for ballast, was a consignment of granite for Congressman Butler.

This obscure item in the Salem Observer 10 quite possibly revealed a sub rosa channel of compensation for Benjamin Butler's contributions to the Cape Ann Granite Company. Many tons of stone embarked from the wharves of Bay View for this distant construction.11

Offices and living quarters constructed by Benjamin Butler
220 New Jersey Avenue, Capitol Hill, Washington 12
The final pieces for the platform of the Scott Monument left Hodgkins Cove on November 11, 1873. Colonel French traveled to Washington by land to supervise the installation. As days and weeks went by he gave the schooner up for lost. When at last the Jonas H. French reached port safely and he heard the crew's harrowing story he determined to present the captain with a gold watch, with this citation:
I beg of you, in behalf of the Cape Ann Granite company to accept the accompanying watch. We deem this special recognition of your services as eminently fitting, because under most trying and difficult circumstances, amidst a succession of terrific gales continuing for five days, you resisted the importunities of your crew to throw overboard the very large and valuable stone upon the deck of your vessel, comprising a portion of the base of the Scott monument, and succeeded through your good seamanship and indomitable will in landing them safely. You were equal to the emergency.13

The General Winfield Scott Monument14
Massachusetts Avenue and 16th Street NW, Washington DC
The massive, ornate monolith reached its destined location on rollers after District officials were satisfied that street pavement could support its weight. It had been hewn from the largest block quarried in America up to that time.15 At every phase the officers and employees of the four-year-old Cape Ann Granite Company met engineering challenges with ingenuity and pluck. 

1. John E. Rogers stereograph, courtesy of the Cape Ann Museum.
2. Boston Daily Advertiser, March 28, 1870.
3. Springfield Republican, April 22, 1870.
4. Library of Congress photo.
5. Cape Ann Advertiser, June 10, 1870.
6. Cape Ann Telegraph, September 21, 1870.
7. Photo from Allen M. Hornblum and George J. Holmes, Philadelphia’s City Hall, 2003.
8. Cape Ann Advertiser, February 28, 1879.
9. The Cape Ann Light on June 29, 1872 announced the launching of this 300-ton vessel in Bath, Maine, Captain Hutchins, co-owned by R. C. Sturgis of Boston.
10. Salem Observer, September 13, 1873.
11. The Washington, DC Daily National Republican, November 10, 1873.
12. Photo from Harriet Robey, Bay View, 1979.
13. Cape Ann Advertiser, January 23, 1874.
14. Library of Congress photo.
15. Boston Herald, April 26, 1873.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Cape Ann Granite Company, Part One - General Butler and Colonel French

Attorney Benjamin Butler of Lowell responded to the Southern rebellion with the same  pugnacious idealism that characterized his accomplishments in the legal and political arenas. A popular leader in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, elected brigadier-general by his subordinate officers (as was then the practice) in 1855, he prepared to lead the garrison forces off to the defense of Washington DC in early 1861. 1

Major General Benjamin F. Butler 2
Matthew Brady photo
Butler proposed raising a new regiment with Jonas H. French at its head. Governor Andrew, regarding French as a mob leader who had broken up a meeting of supporters for radical abolitionist John Brown, refused the nomination. "I will not appoint any other officer of his way of thinking in a Massachusetts regiment." Butler countered that his authority emanated from President Lincoln. "Thereupon I left him, and although I called upon him once more afterward, I never saw him again to confer with him until the campaign was over....I went to Washington and saw the President and General Scott, in order that I might not be overruled by any military order of Governor Andrew as commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts militia." 3

General Butler's military staff in New Orleans 3
Col. French standing third from right

Butler's personal courage and strategic thinking contributed decisively to the retention of Maryland within the Union, hence the safety of the District of Columbia. However he proved to be much less successful in combat maneuvers. He was appointed military administrator of New Orleans after Union  Admiral Farragut sailed victoriously up the Mississippi River in 1862. General Butler effectively managed the restoration of essential functions in the city.  But his manner of bringing order to the hostile population left a bad taste among the residents that still permeates media articles of today.  

 When local women insulted occupying forces in the streets of New Orleans General Butler declared that any future incidents would result in the ladies' incarceration as prostitutes. He appointed Col. Jonas French provost marshal of the city. Butler praised French's effectiveness: "To his energy and ability the quiet and good order of the populace of New Orleans may be largely ascribed." 3

"Bluebeard of New Orleans" 4
The sentiment of the general citizenry, however, lay closer to this caricature of Butler as the notorious pirate Bluebeard holding a bloody cutlass in one hand and a terrified woman in the other.
Both Jonas French and Benjamin Butler prospered financially during the war years. After the cessation of hostilities French returned to Boston to engage in distillery operations. Butler resumed his legal and political career in Lowell. Not wishing to challenge a friendly incumbent he won election to Congress from his tent-site turned Homestead in Bay View, Gloucester.
The Butler summer residence, Bay View 4
At this time Jonas French was largely engaged in the exportation of whisky. The U. S. government attempted to close smuggling loopholes in that business. Congressman Butler lobbied vociferously for exceptions for French's enterprise. He then achieved a masterful one-word amendment to the legislation to correct a 'clerical error,' changing  an 'and' into an 'or,' enabling his client to complete lucrative transactions. In 1869 when the federal supervisor in Boston proposed to fine Mr. French $42,000 for irregularities,  Congressman Butler managed to have the overly zealous official turned out of office. 6

Cape Ann Granite Company works c. 1870. 5
The Butler 'Homestead' surmounts the hill behind the wharf.
Benjamin Butler's supple kneading of the dynamics and limitations of human resources enabled him to raise tides that floated many boats. He linked the Bay View quarrymen who built his house to the prospects of a new era of nationalism expressed in monumental stone edifices. He purchased acres of property adjacent to his estate to establish the Cape Ann Granite Company with Jonas H. French as president. Together, one supposes,  they navigated the processes of government procurement and contract scrutiny to enable the fledgling company to grow into a major supplier of stone for roads, post offices, and diverse constructions.

Benjamin Butler, attorney, politician,
and silent partner in the Cape Ann Granite Company 5
Right from the incorporation of the Cape Ann Granite Company in 1869 Jonas H. French became its operational head, apparent source of capital funds, and director of day-to-day operations. For the initiative, the land acquisitions, the stock ownership, and channels to public funds, we may look to the entrepreneurial skills of Benjamin Butler. We may build a portrait of him as a principal beneficiary as the industry grew to attract hundreds of immigrant families to Bay View. 

1. Howard P. Nash, Stormy Petrel: The Life and Times of General Benjamin F. Butler, 1818-1893, 1969.
2. National Archives and Records Administration photo.
3. Benjamin Franklin Butler, Butler's Book, 1892.
4. Library of Congress: Carte-de-visite reproduction of a drawing of Gen. Butler, military governor of New Orleans May-December 1862.
5. Harriet Robey, Bay View: Summer Portrait, 1979.
6. Springfield Republican, November 13, 1869.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spring on the Wing

Female redstart

In a perfectly-timed intersection of appetites,
oak leaves opening to catch the light
sustain caterpillars hatching by tender foliage.
Migratory birds gorge for the night's flight.
Chestnut-sided warbler
It's a dazzle of numbers:
billions of oak leaves
millions of caterpillars
a warbler enchanting, for a moment, a single bird-watcher.
Yellow-rumped warbler
The harvesters are harvested;
they crawl, flit, unfurl
in obstinate pulses of fulfillment and waste,
intricate, vulnerable, inexhaustible. 

Green-winged teal
They eat and are eaten.
The mighty and the minute
rest and stretch in pauses
of orderly digestion.

Swainson's thrush
Melodious. Cacophonous.
They voice their specific needs.
Some are feathered for attention.
Others perfect a song over decoration.
Canada warbler
Dressing-up announces the season.
The warblers pass this way again
in sensible autumn plumage
for blending in.
Black-and-white warbler
This month, it's "Here I am:
handsome, eligible,
sweetly tuned,
solemn partner to the breed....
Tree swallow
"I will share the attentions
prescribed by inerrant Time,
from which we have life;
without which, extinction....
Robin's egg
"We will suffer mishaps;
we may nourish others;
Time has brought us into being.
We obey, and we go on....

Black-throated Blue Warbler   

"We are wonders of animation.
Dashing north at the pace of emerging food
we spark treetops in our borrowed gaiety.
We color latitudes before flowers bloom....
Bay-breasted warbler
"I know that you know what I know.
We are bound to our destination.
We traverse starlit skies by inner science.
By day we fatten for the journey....
Downy woodpecker
"I am beside you, a song away.
We listen to the pulse of two continents.
We gamble on winds and ancient calculations,
the beloveds of earth and air."

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Waters of Life

Water, quenching the thirst of body and soul,

sustaining the commerce of vitality,

engenders life on the granite core.

From water all life emerges, organizes, experiments,

materializing Royal ferns during May.

Water bathes all being, draws lily pads to the light.

It launches aquatic arrowheads from its nursery.

It fills sterile quarries with chains of life.

Destinies take shape below, above, and on its surface.

Iris colonies rise from its muck; ducks reach down.

May iris ripen in a paean of regeneration.

New leaves embrace poison ivy's sacred seed over waterside reflections.

Clouds fill the chalice in the pitted stone. A great scar of industry is freed. A human history of toil and extraction, a special case of Nature, eases back into geologic time.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Folly Point, May

North Atlantic winter packs away its pewtery colors
to long Arctic days and distances.

Harlequin ducks, the sparks of winter margins,
pre-pair for remote procreation.

Folly Point glimmers
to receive the Spring.

Long-tailed ducks rest in Folly Cove
en route from pelagic stations to tundra.

Great cormorants relinquish latitudes
to southern cousins.

Black scoters depart;
crustaceans and mollusks repopulate.

Sheltering cliffs
soften to a new cycle.

Plant proliferations
fatten brant for migration.

Ancient pulls unite mergansers.

They exult, resplendent to the Promise.

Double-crested cormorants
overlap their northern cousins.

A common gull graces
a moment of wings and light.

Spotted sandpipers hunt.
Color rests for the day.