A Page from North Quabbin History: Ill-fated glass-making venture ensnared Warwick investors

  • Chunks of glass from the Franklin Glass Factory Co. The lighter glass is in a private collection in Warwick. The darker glass, which was donated by Larry Kilroy, will be on display tomorrow at the Ladies Guild table at Warwick Old Home Days. Photo/Courtesy of Clare Green.

Published: 8/26/2021 2:55:40 PM
Modified: 8/26/2021 2:55:44 PM

Warwick was once home to the Franklin Glass Factory Co., opened by Ebenezer Hall in 1812. Although the factory only survived for several years, its story and its demise became woven into the history of the town.

Sample chunks of glass attributed to the Franklin Glass Factory Co. will be on display Saturday during Warwick Old Home Days at the Ladies Guild table, according to Clare Green, a trustee of the Warwick Historical Society. Colored glass bottles made by the factory may be seen at the Historical Society museum, which will be open for Old Home Days on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ebenezer Hall came to Warwick in 1806, serving as a school teacher. He soon settled in town and married, becoming a physician in Warwick and serving as town clerk for several years. “A History of Warwick,” by Jonathan Blake, described Hall as “possessing a considerable share of natural powers of mind, and a peculiarly fascinating and alluring address, more brilliant than solid, more theoretical and visionary than practical and real, conceived the idea that he could make glass.”

Hall had an interest in glass making, which extended to his time even before he came to Warwick. “Even before coming to Warwick, Hall had an interest in the study and manufacture of glass, even conducting a few small experiments,” according to the Enterprise and Journal of Nov. 11, 1948 in an article by Charles A. Morse, who said his information came from several elderly people in town at the time.

In 1810, Hall decided to open a glass factory in Warwick. “After a few experiments, not however attended with very flattering prospects of success, he had the good fortune (or rather misfortune) by his persuasive and flattering tongues to inspire many of his neighbors and friends with a belief in the soundness of his theories and the certain prospects of success that awaited them, provided they would embark in the undertaking and assist him to erect suitable buildings, procure workmen and provide materials. Members of the solid and persevering cultivators of the soil, captivated by his Utopian schemes, were induced to lay aside the plough, the axe, and the spade, and mortgage their possessions and lend their name and their influence to the proposed undertaking,” according to Blake’s history.

In 1812, Hall and his proprietors and officers which included nearly all of the leading men in town, according to Morse, established the Franklin Glass Co. Buildings and furnaces were erected by the end of 1812 and Hall traveled to New York to hire glass blowers and bring them to Warwick, offering them $100 and a high rate of pay and made other trips to inspect other glass manufacturing companies, Morse said. When it was discovered Warwick clay was not suitable for glassmaking, clay was imported by ox carts and canal boats from Philadelphia 270 miles away, he continued.

The production of glass began in the summer of 1813. All went well for three weeks then the furnace gave way and the whole batch was lost. A second attempt made six weeks later was successful, Morse continued, and glass blowing commenced on Sept. 5, 1813. Glass of all shapes and sizes were offered for sale in the Greenfield papers, according to Morse.

Soon the company faced financial difficulties due to high wages and transportation costs. “With creditors pressing for payments, proprietors, by mortgaging their farms paying a 25 percent assessment per share, were able to keep the evil day away,” Morse said. Even though with that assessment raised to $125.00, few of which the proprietors could afford, Morse said, the company eventually closed. Although the company reorganized under the name Nickerson Cobb and Co., that company lasted only two months before it too failed, Morse said.

Hall left Warwick for New Hampshire and continued to stay in the glass manufacturing business, working as a superintendent in a New Hampshire factory, then one in Woodstock, New York, the article stated. Rumors floated back to Warwick, Morse said, “that he was successful there and amassed a sizeable fortune and that still later with his sons, he engaged in glass making in Michigan.”

Whether the rumors were true or not, the glass making factory took its toll on Warwick and its inhabitants. On the factory closing, Blake said, “The voids that remained after their dissolution was not so easily to be filled up — in particular, the ruined fortunes of many of the industrious inhabitants of this town, which must require years of untiring industry to amend and retrieve.”


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