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Boarding House for Newell Button Factory Employees

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

This History Note shares information about the Boarding House for Newell Button Factory employees. The 1860 census inspired this research.

Samuel and Nelson Newell operated a button factory at what is now 19 Chandler Avenue (the yellow house in the distance in photo below). Most of the employees were young women from surrounding towns such as Granville, West Springfield, Wilbraham, and Southbridge.

The young women lived together in a boarding house where they could be supervised. This was the “Lowell” model that had been employed at the huge mills in eastern Massachusetts and was done in part to convince the parents of these women that they would be safe away from home.

The boarding house, which was across the street at 766 Longmeadow Street (see Figure 1 below), was run by Elmina Hunt, a widow. Elmina lived in the house with her two sons, Josiah and Charlie in 1860. Josiah, age 17, was apprenticed to learn brass finishing. Sixteen young women and one man, all employees of Newell Brothers, boarded at 766 Longmeadow Street in 1860 (see Table I below). In a house that had just over 3,600 square feet of living space, twenty residents must have lived in close quarters.

Figure 1- 766 Longmeadow Street

Table I- 1860 US Federal Census

We don’t know the stories of most of the boarders, but have been able to follow the trail of one of them, Ann E. Beach, who caught the eye of housemate Josiah Hunt. In May, 1861, Josiah Hunt joined many Longmeadow and Springfield men by enlisting in the Massachusetts 10th Infantry Regiment. He served in Company F of the regiment as a drummer until September 19, 1862 when he was mustered out due to disability. He recuperated at home in Longmeadow and married Ann Beach a few months later on April 21, 1863.

Josiah Hunt reenlisted as a private on February 18, 1864 in Company E, Massachusetts 3rd Cavalry Regiment and served in this capacity until September 28, 1865. Returning to his family in Longmeadow, he worked as a mechanic for several years before dying of consumption in January, 1868 at only 25 years old. He is buried in the Longmeadow Cemetery.

Now a young widow, Ann Hunt moved to Springfield. On February 26, 1873, she married Edwin B. Skinner, a Springfield police officer. Edwin, a widower with four children, had also lived in Longmeadow (in 1850). Ann and Edwin had one child, Clarence, and the family lived at 44 Sumner Avenue in Springfield until Edwin’s death in 1901.

After Edwin’s death, Ann moved to Southwick with her son, Clarence. In 1925, she moved to St. Sturgis, Michigan to live with two of her nieces and she died there in 1931 at the age of 91.

The Newell Button Factory outgrew its space in Longmeadow and moved to Springfield in 1863, around the time that Ann Beach married Josiah Hunt.

Sources: U.S. Federal Census: 1850, 1860, 1900, 1910, 1930 1865 Massachusetts State Census Springfield Republican, August 20, 1901 Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915 Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 Michigan, Deaths and Burials Index 1867-1995 U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles 1861-1865 U.S., Adjutant General Military Records 1631-1976

Contributed by Elizabeth Hoff, Board Member, Longmeadow Historical Society

Originally published July 2, 2020

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