The wrapper factory fire

The history below was gathered from three different sources. The first history is from Chester Historical Society’s 2011 publication titled, “History of Chester, Vermont.” The second and third histories are 1909 newspaper clippings found in a scrapbook at Chester Historical Society.

The wrapper factory was located on School Street. Here they produced men’s and ladies’ apparel employing as many as 100 women.

wrapper factory
The first wrapper factory burned March 1909. Photo provided by Ted Spaulding

2011 History of Chester

“The development of this thriving business in the staid old town of Chester reflects great credit on the business sense and persistence of its originator, Mr. James E. Pollard. Three years ago Mr. Pollard began the business of making wrappers in a small way on the second floor of Stearns’ Block (now Chester Hardware,) employing eight machines (sewing machines). The accommodations soon proved inadequate and the business was moved to P.H. Robbins building, 30 X 40. Which was used two years. The Chester Building association have recently erected a new block 41 X 120, two and one-half stories, on Canal Street, which is now occupied by Pollard Mfg. Co. It is a bee-hive of industry, the leading manufacturing enterprise in town, infusing new activity into that community. The business occupies a floor space of nearly 10,000 feet, with ninety machines (sewing machines) in operation, and employs nearly 100 persons. The firm have ample orders for future work.

“The partners are James E. and Wm. S Pollard, sons of James A. and Josephine Hall Pollard, formerly of Plymouth, Vt. J.A. Pollard was for ten years the popular superintendent of the State Prison in Windsor. James E. Pollard was born in 1862 and graduated from the High School of Windsor in 1879; began his mercantile career soon afterwards as clerk in the clothing store of N.O. Johnson.

“In 1882 he became junior partner in the clothing house of Johnson and Pollard; the firm subsisted three years, after which Mr. Pollard conducted the business alone until 1897, when he took H.E. Abbott as partner. James E. Pollard is one of the most active, liberal and progressive businessman of this section; he is not only a promoter, but a stayer, he possesses the foresight, the courage and the executive ability requisite for taking the initiative in new enterprises, an pushing on to success. He is a stalwart Republican, and represented the town in the legislature in 1890. He was aid-de-camp on the staff of Gov. Fuller 1892-5, and is influential in the party. He is a member of Olive Branch Lodge of Masons, also of Chester Lodge 1.O.O.F.”

wrapper factory
The second wrapper factory built late 1909. Photo provided

  Vermont Tribune March 25, 1909

“The wrapper shop, run by the Pollard M’f’g Co., located on School Street, was burned to the ground early yesterday morning. The fire was discovered about 2:30 by Mrs. Ida Fuller, who lives with her father, J.A. Pollard, next door to the shop. She gave the alarm, but before help could possibly reach there the whole building was in flames. Not a thing was saved, the books and everything were destroyed. It was estimated there were about $20,000 ($550,000 in today’s money) worth of cloth on hand. Owing to the hard work of the firemen, J.A. Pollard’s house was saved, but it was a close call, and most of the valuable things were removed from the house. The wrapper shop was one of the most important industries in the town, employing 50 hands or more, and the fire throws many families out of employment who depended on that entirely for support. The building was owned by a stock company and the cloth was supplied by Brown & Durrell of Boston for whom the wrappers were manufactured. The whole loss was probably $50,000 ($1,380,000 today) which was partially covered by insurance.”

Vermont Tribune September 2, 1909

“Work has been started in the new wrapper factory, and the light, airy room will be appreciated by the girls who have been working in close quarters in the old Booth building (The Booth building was what is now Newsbank.) This shop is not as large as the other, but is arranged more conveniently, the cutting room, work room and office all being on the same floor, with packing room in the basement.”

The photos with this article are two of hundreds of photos that can be seen in Chester Historical Society’s new book: “Pictorial History of Chester, Andover, Weston and Londonderry.” They are available at select stores in Chester, Bellows Falls, Weston, and Londonderry.

  The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Academy Building. We will select photos for the 2020 calendar.

  This week’s old saying. “You’re putting the cart before the horse.”

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