Friday, July 29, 2016

The Cape Ann Granite Company, Part 6 - Demise

Col. Jonas H. French 1
President of the Cape Ann Granite Company
Director of the Maverick National Bank, Boston
On November 3, 1891 news of disaster struck the depositors of the Maverick National Bank. Warrants had been issued for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds. The previous evening federal marshals arrested the bank's president and two of its directors at their residences. Losses were reported to be in the neighborhood of $2,000,000.2

Col. French made strenuous efforts to meet the bail of $75,000 while in custody of the U. S. marshal at his Commonwealth Avenue home.

Jonas and Nella French residence, 128 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston3
By the time friends secured that sum the district attorney had left his office for the day. Col. French was driven to the Charles Street jail for overnight quarters in a debtor's cell. In the morning  bond was reduced to $50,000 and he was released to address  his circumstances.4

Investigators revealed that the charismatic Col. French had persuaded underlings to sign bank drafts for his unauthorized withdrawals. The building's elevator operator, for instance, was led into the office by the janitor to endorse a check in the amount of $40,000.5 

After consulting with his creditors Col. French made a general assignment of all his property to attorneys of a Boston law firm. The house on Commonwealth Avenue was sold by the assignees. The Frenches moved back to the Marlborough Street townhouse where Jonas had lived with his first wife Fannie before her death.
15 Marlborough Street, Boston6
He conveyed several parcels of land in Bay View to the Cape Ann Granite Company to begin settling his debts. Nevertheless in early January 1892 two attachments of $60,000 each were filed against him at the Registry of Deeds in Salem, one by the Granite Company and one by his mentor General Benjamin F. Butler.7

Despite vigorous arguments on the part of Col. French's defense lawyers he was indicted of aiding and abetting the falsification of bank records. Legal proceedings followed a complex course for almost two years. But in the end the government lost confidence that its allegations could be sustained. Charges were declared nol prossed, 'not to be prosecuted,' by United States District Attorney Sherman Hoar.8

Catalog from the Receiver's Sale of the Cape Ann Granite Company, 1893 9
The assets of the Cape Ann Granite Company were purchased by the Rockport Granite Company in a consolidation that created the undisputed leviathan of the local stone industry.

When the Cape Ann Granite Company went into receivership Col. French owed the company about $75,000. During the period of resolution the court-appointed receivers concluded the business with a surplus of $20,000 to be divided among stockholders. Capital stock was owned roughly half each by Col. French and Gen. Butler. In a decision by the State Supreme Court the residual benefits went entirely to the estate of Benjamin Butler, who died in 1893.10 

One wonders whether the 1893 loss by fire of 1,100 barrels of rum in Jonas French's Boston warehouse worsened or improved his circumstances. The rum, worth $50 a barrel, "belonged to Colonel French, but was under Government bonds. It is understood that it was insured." 11

During the embattlement Benjamin Butler was completing his memoir of public service. He never once mentioned the Cape Ann Granite Company, nor any of his business investments. His only reference to Colonel Jonas French was to compliment his service in the Civil War.12

Benjamin Franklin Butler, 1818-1893 13
Six weeks after disclosure of the banking revelations the public learned of the death of his only son, Col. Harry G. French. "He was graduated at Harvard, was genial and gentlemanly, generous and cordial, and endeared himself to those who knew him best. He received his military title for service on the staff of Governor Butler." 14 

Cape Ann newspaper readers heard only the mildest references to Colonel French's troubles, probably from a reluctance to tarnish the luster of its dynamic entrepreneur. This spirit of sanitized tenderness prevailed even into Barbara Erkkila's twentieth-century history of the granite industry. She acknowledged only that "Colonel French had experienced a devastating business failure." She held him aloft until his remarkable recovery the following year. "He turns up again in the granite history of Cape Ann as the operator of a Lanesville quarry...complete with a brand-new railroad." 15

--Next week, "Renaissance"--
1. History of Essex County, With Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men, C. Hamilton Hurd, 1888.
2. Springfield Republican, November 3, 1891.
3. Photograph from the website, "Commonwealth Avenue looking southeast toward Clarendon, photograph taken in June 1884 from 129 Commonwealth; Manning family album, courtesy of Historic New England."
4. Worcester Spy, November 6, 1891.
5. Photograph by Bainbridge Bunting courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum, from the website
6. Boston Journal, July 9, 1892.
7. Boston Herald, January 7, 1892.
8. Ibid, October 7, 1893.
9. From the private collection of Leslie D. Bartlett.
10. Boston Herald, March 31, 1894.
11. Boston Journal, March 11, 1893.
12. Benjamin Franklin Butler, Butler's Book, A Review of his Legal, Political, and Military Career, 1892.
13. Boston Journal, January 4, 1892.
14. Barbara Erkkila, Hammers on Stone: A History of Cape Ann Granite, 1980.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Cape Ann Granite Company, Part 5 - Colonel French and Rock Lawn

Rock Lawn, the estate of Colonel Jonas French 1
General Butler's summer residence Homestead is to the right.
On Wednesday, August 27, 1879, five hundred people attended a Field Meeting of the Essex Institute, co-sponsored by the Cape Ann Scientific and Literary Association at the Bay View home of Colonel Jonas French. Some came by stage from the Gloucester train depot, others by barge to the pier of the Cape Ann Granite Company. An appreciative scribe for the Institute wrote that Col. French "threw open his house to the visitors, his extensive lawns were at their disposal and his hospitality was unbounded." 2

Guests viewed quarries and finishing sheds from dressed-up platform cars of the granite train. Some descended almost to the bottom of the quarry to inspect a recently dislodged section of the ledge "weighing by actual computation 40,000 tons...This was accomplished by the drilling of twenty holes, each eight feet in depth, and the use of 425 pounds of powder. The fissure made is two hundred feet in length and eighty-five wide at the widest part, and enabled [foreman J. Henry] Jones to get a bottom to the solid mass from which to work upon." 2

The successful blast freed the monolith as an enormous block of source material, without shattering it or sending it crashing to the quarry floor. Hundreds of employees could cut up and finish the stone to meet demand.

The Cape Ann Granite Company
loading stone at Hodgkins Cove wharves3
The not-yet-formed Cape Ann Granite Company had received its defining contract in 1868 under the creative auspices of Congressman Benjamin Butler, to supply stone for construction of the Boston Post Office. The following year the Company was incorporated with Jonas French as President. During an  inquest regarding possible improprieties in the proceedings, "Mr. French...testified that he purchased the quarry upon the recommendation of Gen. Butler as a business investment, and that at the time of the purchase he did not know that any appropriation had been made for the Boston Post Office." 4

Cape Ann Granite Company quarry, Bay View 5
At the dedication of the Company's new railroad in 1870 Congressman Butler responded indignantly to accusations of undue influence. "After an investigation, in which the investigators got a good deal more investigated than the matter they were sent to investigate, and a good deal more found out about them than they found out against anybody else; after the Secretary of the Treasury came here to see if there was any granite here, and any water to carry it away on... the contract has been renewed." 6
The superintendent of construction for the Boston Post Office was none other than Gridley Bryant, whom we met in an earlier essay as builder of the first Granite Railway in Quincy. Concurrently with the Boston Post Office Gridley was supervising construction of Gloucester's monumental City Hall.

Gloucester City Hall
Gridley Bryant, architect 7
Colonel French engaged Bryant to design a seaside residence for his family adjacent to the granite company in Bay View.

Plan for Rock Lawn
Gridley Bryant, architect 7
General Butler sold to French a section of his land to build the house. Rock Lawn was completed by 1872 and finely landscaped with orchards, drives, terraces, gardens and greenhouses. Harriet Robey, a Butler descendant, recalls that "in these two houses everything possible is made of granite....I think it is from this that we get the sense of permanence, and the actual permanence, of the first two houses on the [estate] at Bay View." The walls and ceiling of the living room were "painted in jewel colors in some Eastern design." 8
The location of Rock Lawn estate 9
A village grew up around Bay View. The Cape Ann Granite Company maintained its own store and post office. Colonel French lent his support to the local Methodist Church and to the fire department. At various times he advocated for extension of the railroad to transport granite to both the Gloucester and Rockport train depots. He spoke to public gatherings occasionally, especially about  the  capture and occupation of New Orleans during the Civil War. The newspaper, anticipating his address to the Grand Army of the Republic, promised the people of Gloucester "a rich treat, which we know from having heard. The Colonel is a very interesting speaker." 10
Col. Jonas French, second from right,
beside ox team on Washington Street, Annisquam.
Granite step bound for the Gloucester Baptist Church, 1870 11
During the decades of the 1870s and 1880s Jonas French served prominently in the Massachusetts Democratic Party. He was for three years the chairman of its State Central Committee and was twice elected to the Legislature as Representative from Gloucester. He was invited to be a director of several railroad and land companies. "Colonel French is fairly entitled to be enrolled in the long list of those good citizens of old Essex whose record is the nobler and better for their having contributed to it." 12
--Next week, "Demise"-- 
1. An illustration in Harriet Robey, Bay View, 1979, from an engraving originally printed in The History of Essex County, vol. 2, 1887.
2. "A Day with Col. French," Essex Institute vol. 11, 1879.
3. Procter Brothers stereograph, 1871, courtesy of the Cape Ann Museum.
4. Gloucester Telegraph, March 30, 1870.
5. John S. E. Rogers stereograph, courtesy of the Cape Ann Museum.
6. Gloucester Telegraph, September 24, 1870.
7. Roger G. Reed, Building Victorian Houses: The Architecture of Gridley J. F. Bryant, 2007.
8. Bay View, ibid.
9. G. M. Hopkins, Atlas of City of Gloucester & Town of Rockport, 1884.
10. Cape Ann Advertiser, February 9, 1872. See also Nov 5, 1869; Dec 15, 1871; Oct 27, 1876; and Feb 1, 1878.
11. Photograph courtesy of the Cape Ann Museum.
12. History of Essex County, With Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men, C. Hamilton Hurd, 1888.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Cape Ann Granite Company, Part Four - The General, Congressman, and Governor

Major General Benjamin Butler founded the Cape Ann Granite Company on land where he first camped with his sons in 1863 while vacationing from Civil War campaigns. A few years later he incorporated local granite into his summer home overlooking the Ipswich Bay. He recognized the growing demand for architectural stone in public buildings as both he and the country projected a more vigorous identity. Quarrying operations around Bay View were then under-capitalized and experiencing leadership transitions, so he arranged to acquire them on favorable terms, with Colonel Jonas French at the helm while Butler pursued a larger political stage that also fed the corporation.

Benjamin Butler 1

In 1866 the citizens of Halibut Point discovered that their new neighbor intended to become their next Congressman. His reputation as a shrewd lawyer, politician, and military administrator preceded him. A flabbergasted local newspaper borrowed this editorial from the Newburyport Herald which foresaw Benjamin Butler's presidential ambitions: 2
"The only public man we have of the Bismarck style in this country, who in his way is a second Napoleon, is Gen. B. F. Butler; a tiger in action, of the most unbounded audacity and of enough real ability to fit him for any duties.... He dares--and when he dares people stand back thunderstruck at that very daring. We see this wherever he moves. He comes into this district, wanting to go to Congress, and declares himself a candidate; the day before there were thirty aspirants for that place; the day after, there is not a man who has determined to go into the convention. He goes to war; blood has been shed in Baltimore and the city is fuller of treason than an egg of meat, but when others were inquiring whether they were safe in their homes, he mounted his horse, rode alone through the streets, ordered his dinner at the hotel, sat on the piazza and smoked his cigar, where anybody could have a shot at him, and then rode back to quarters....The people gazed and he was their master.... He is not to our liking; we don't want him for representative or President, but when he is a candidate you might as well remember that he does not cave."
"I never wish to defend a man unless I know that he is guilty."
Benjamin Butler, quoted on the cover of Puck
Benjamin Butler the lifelong underdog aligned himself with progressive labor causes, Irish immigrants, and war veterans. He was adept at demagoguery in the courtroom and in the political arena. Cape Ann voters flocked to his feisty oratory. They relished this report from a New York Times correspondent: 3
"Just before he began his speech [to Congress] he took a lemon from his pocket, spent a little time in rolling it between his desk and hand, and borrowed a knife from his colleague, Mr. Brooks, of Massachusetts, with which to cut it. He then applied it to his lips that he might not fail in negativity of expression. In his speech he assailed the common enemy, the Democratic party and La Ku-Klux ramifications, and he did it most courageously and effectively. It was a characteristic incisive, scathing, terrific onslaught on the spirit of the democracy, as indicated by the outcroppings of assassination and incendiaries in the South. There was something almost melodramatic in his manner at the close, when he hurled denunciation at the other side, and lamented bitterly that he had not the power now he once had to protect the weak from the outrages of the strong. When he concluded he was promptly congratulated by many of the Republicans."
Benjamin Butler, candidate for Governor 4
Freshman Congressman Butler mustered unrelenting pugnacity as a lead prosecutor in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. He became an intimate beneficiary of President Grant's patronage system. Resonating with the coming power of the blue collar industrial vote he welded a modern Party Machine that appalled the Brahmin managers of Massachusetts. When he announced his candidacy for the governorship in 1873 The Atlantic Monthly recoiled. "Will it be possible to defeat General Butler?...There is only one way in which it can be done, and that is by a union against him of the conservative forces throughout the State...a union of the capital, the intelligence, the morality, and what is left of religion in the State." 5 

Benjamin Butler hurled himself frequently at the Massachusetts political establishment, succeeding once to the governorship in 1882. His shrewd methods of mixing principle, power and mutual reward in a modern formula, spawned the word Butlerism into the media lexicon.6

Over 100,000 mourners passed by Benjamin Butler's bier during a three-day lying-in-state at Lowell's Huntington Hall. The Boston Globe noted the breadth and complexity of his impact. "Soldier, statesman, lawyer, patriot, the career of General Butler reads like a romance--he will rank among the famous and commanding figures of the 19th century--he was in truth, not merely part of the career of the nation, but in a peculiar sense a real maker of our history." 7 

1. Harper's Weekly, June 1, 1861.
2. Cape Ann Advertiser, September 21, 1866.
3. Cape Ann Telegraph, April 12, 1871.
4. Puck, August 1879.
5. The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 32, July 1873.
6. William D. Mallam, "Butlerism in Massachusetts," The New England Quarterly, June 1960.
7. Photo and quote from Harriet Robey, Bay View, 1979.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Cape Ann Granite Company, Part Three - Albert Baldwin

The Albert Baldwin, the most-recognized granite sloop in Massachusetts Bay, put to wind the largest sail ever cut in the ports of Gloucester or Boston.1  Over her three decade career she answered to only one master, William Howard Poland.

Captain Poland had demonstrated his seamanship for the Cape Ann Granite Company during eight years at the helm of the William P. Hunt in the 1880s. When company president Colonel Jonas H. French determined that a replacement sloop should be constructed he sent Captain Poland to the James and Tarr shipyard in Essex to help develop the best possible craft.2 They christened the new vessel Albert Baldwin at her launching in 1890.
The granite sloop Albert Baldwin
Peabody Essex Museum photo
The namesake of the Cape Ann Granite Company's flagship has been a mystery in our time. I had perused Gloucester's nineteenth-century newspapers on microfilm as well as a fair portion of our local literature without finding any reference to Mr. Albert Baldwin.  To find out more I needed to employ tools of the digital age from my research center on the outskirts of Halibut Point.

Local historian Elise Breen recommended subscribing to the web site that has scanned many of the nation's newspapers with ocular character recognition (OCR), meaning that its software has translated newspaper images into a digital alphabet that reads words and names! Any member - usually in quest of illustrious ancestors - can inquire about the occurrence not only of family names but of any recorded word. The name/word might occur in an advertisement, in a feature article, or on a police blotter.  Artful users invoke tag words, timeframes, and geographic limits for a net that catches desired results with the fewest reports to sort through.
My queries finally produced this satisfying nugget from the Cambridge Chronicle of March 17, 1900: "Mr. and Mrs. James M. Robbins, of Lee Street, returned Wednesday from a month's tour of the principal cities and places of interest in the south.. .. Through the courtesy of Mr. Albert Baldwin, a former Cambridge boy, an old friend of Mr. Bobbins, and now one of the leading citizens of New Orleans, Mr. and Mrs. Robbins were enabled to attend all the [Mardi Gras] festivities and also enjoyed the freedom of the Boston club. While in New Orleans, the Cambridge people were shown much attention by Mr. Baldwin, who is vice-president of the electric street railway of New Orleans. On one occasion, he took them in the president's private car to West End or Lake Pontchartrain, and entertained them at dinner....On Saturday, Mr. and Mrs. Robbins were members of Mr. Baldwin's party which went on a trip to Baldwin's lodge, 40 miles up the river from New Orleans, in Mississippi.... Sunday, Mr. and Mrs. Robbins took a trip up the river on the steam yacht Semper Idem to Sea Glenn, which is also owned by Mr. Baldwin. It was formerly the plantation of Gov. Claiborne, of Mississippi, and contains 1,600 acres. The party enjoyed a drive of many miles through beautiful pine woods and cotton fields. Mr. Baldwin, who entertained the Cambridge people so hospitably, was born In this city 65 years ago. He began business at 18, in the dry goods house of J. M. Beebe & Co., of Boston, at $75 per year. He went to New Orleans during the war, and has accumulated a fortune. He is president of the New Orleans National Bank, with $400,000 deposits, has a hardware and farming machinery business worth $500,000, and is interested in many more enterprises. He spends his summers at Jaffrey, N. H. and will visit Cambridge this year on his way to his summer home."
These biographical notes intriguingly catapulted me to the military administration of New Orleans during the Civil War when General Butler and Colonel French were the arbiters of good order and prosperity in the occupied city. At this very time Albert Baldwin, another recently arrived Bostonian, was raising his station considerably in New Orleans. "The Big Easy" appealed to Jonas French enough that he returned there on at least one occasion for the month of January, 1872.3 We can imagine a gratuitous collaboration that brought Albert Baldwin to be lettered in gold on the trailboards of French's flagship.
In perhaps his only recorded biographical sketch we learn that Jonas French's mother's maiden name was Sarah Baldwin of Billerica.4 Could that mean a family connection? 

 The Town Clerk of Billerica provided me with several tantalizing but inconclusive references to late eighteenth-century Sarahs of that period among the 335 Billerica Baldwins.
Sarah Dunlap of the Gloucester Archives Committee introduced me to on-line resources for tracing records that might link  Albert Baldwin and Jonas French as cousins.
Julie Rizzello, a volunteer at the Rockport Library, helped ferret through Vital Records and the Mormon-sponsored compendium Family Search.

Another internet thread revealed Albert Baldwin's son Albert Baldwin's summer residence in Jaffrey NH - the same town where Albert Senior had vacationed in 1900. A Google quest then brought forth Albert Baldwin's father Jacob, a native of Jaffrey NH. This person comes to our attention because his daughter (Albert's sister) married into the Stoddard family which published extensive genealogical essays, including this:5

"[Jacob's] ability in mathematics was inherited by his sons, who achieved remarkable successes in business. His oldest son, George Partridge Baldwin, was a merchant and banker in Boston for many years; held the office of Alderman of the city and was nominated but defeated for Mayor of Boston in the election of 1869. Jacob, his second son, was a prominent merchant in Boston for many years. His other sons, Henry Fay, Albert and David Gilmore, settled in New Orleans, La., where Henry was earning a large salary before he was of age, and was a partner in the firm of Slocomb & Baldwin, the most important wholesale and retail hardware concern in the South. After the latter's death, during the Civil War, his brother Albert succeeded to the business and formed the well-known company of A. Baldwin & Co., the largest in the South up to the present time. The latter's positions as President of this company and as President of the New Orleans National Bank are now held by his son Albert."
The Baldwin crypt
Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans
The last patch in our quilted portrait of Albert Baldwin came from the Find A Grave website recommended by Sharron Cohen, which offered a picture of his opulent final resting place in New Orleans. It also included a photograph of the deceased for eternal remembrance.
Albert Baldwin
As much as I would like to have established a conclusive relationship of blood or collaboration between Jonas French and Albert Baldwin, I can only present suggestive circumstances to the imagination. Some sleuth-minded readers will recognize that the adventure of collecting these stitches and swatches has been a reward in itself, apart from verification of the original thesis.
1. "Rockport's Old Salts Still Tell Thrilling Yarns of Stone Sloops," Boston Sunday Post, April 8, 1945.
2. "Rockport Granite Sloops," E. D. Walen and Howard I. Chapelle, The Mariner, Volume V Number 11, April 1931.
3. Cape Ann Advertiser, January 12, 1872.
4. History of Essex County, Massachusetts, D. Hamilton Hurd, 1888.
5. The Stoddard Family, Being an Account of Some of the Descendants of John Stodder of Hingham, Massachusetts Colony, 1911.