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Manufacturers Index - Medad Wright & Sons
Last Modified: Dec 15 2015 11:50AM by Jeff_Joslin
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Medad Wright was born in 1812, and worked on his father's farm until 1834, when he bought a plot of land with access to water power. He built a grist-mill in 1835, and added a reciprocating sawmill in 1840. In 1844 he added a circular sawmill of his own design, "the first in successful operation in the state", which was so well received that he soon built several more for sale to others. By this time he was already known for his woolen machinery, and by 1846 he expanded his operations. He suffered a setback in 1858 with the partial collapse of his building due to flood-related erosion. About this time he started producing planing and matching machines, "which became very celebrated and in demand. This industry continued until 1880, and turned out over 500 such machines." In 1874 he added an iron foundry, and commenced producing his own castings.

Information Sources

  • The 1860 book by Daniel Pierce Thompson, History of the Town of Montpelier.
    At the place now known as Wright's Mills, on the falls of the North Branch, three miles above Montpelier village, which furnish the most safe and efficient water-power on that stream, and one of the most advantageous to be found on any stream in the county, another little village has latterly been springing into existence. These remarkable falls have thus far been improved only by the Machine Shop and Mills of Medad Wright, Esq. But capital is only wanting to make this a place of great business; for a supply of water might here be taken from the millpond in a flume or canal and safely extended down along the bank of the Branch, sufficient, in the greater part of the year, to accommodate a line of factories a quarter of a mile long, and. drive ten times ten thousand spindles.
  • 1872 planing machine patent.
  • The Washington County Gazeteer & Directory, 1887, by Hamilton Childs.

    Medad Wright, the senior member of the firm of M. Wright & Son, of Wrightsville, in Montpelier, was born in Calais, Vt., in 1812. He spent the years of his minority upon his father's farm at hard labor, with occasional relief from its monotony by doing mechanical jobs for his neighbors. While in boyhood he began to develop mechanical skill and inventive genius of no ordinary ability, which was clearly discovered in his inventions of several articles of practical value. His father was in rather poor circumstances financially and could not give him such an education as Mr. Wright wished, and he was obliged to commence active business in life with a very limited knowledge of science, and books obtained in attendance at the common schools of his district. Upon reaching his majority he bought the waterpower which he now occupies, and began work there in 1834. At the time he took possession of the premises the limber had been felled and the ground burnt over, but the surrounding country was a primitive forest with but few exceptions. The first work he did was to construct a dam and blast a channel through the rocks to convey the water to the wheels of a contemplated gristmill, which he erected in the ensuing season, 1835, and had it completed and in operation in September. This mill was 30x30 feet, two stories high, furnished with two runs of stones, one for grinding corn, the other for wheat, with smut-mill and bolt. These millstones were taken from a quarry in Calais, and wrought to final finish by Mr. Wright's skillful hands, even to the sharpening the tools used in their construction, though he had no previous experience or instruction in such work. Next year, 1836, he enlarged his mill, and added another run of stones for coarse grain. In 1836 and 1837 the seasons were so short and cold that very little corn was ripened in Washington county. Consequently Mr. Wright again enlarged his mill by erecting a kiln for drying oats, and furnishing two more runs of stones, one for hulling and the other for grinding the kiln-dried oats. At this time there were no other such mills in the surrounding section. In 1837 and '38 Mr. Wright had an immense patronage, and ground over 14,000 bushels of oats. In 1837 he completed a dwelling house. November 18, 1838, he united in marriage with Miss Mary Jane Mclntire, of Montpelier, an amiable lady of fine abilities, who has continually been "a helpmeet'' to her husband, and his wise and able adviser.

    In 1840 he purchased an addition to his water-power, started an old style "up and down" saw-mill, which he sold with the grist-mill and the house which he occupied in 1843. The following year he built a machine shop on a small brook which flows into the North Branch, near the mills which he had sold, and there began manufacturing woolen machinery. In 1843 the grist and sawmills again came into his possession, and he moved his machine shop to the second story of the grist-mill. In 1844 he added to his sawmill a circular saw, which was his own designing, and the first in successful operation in the state, and which was soon found by lumbermen so much superior to the old style that he was soon engaged in building others, and his lumber and grist-mills and machine shop were all in active and successful operation. Previous to 1846 he had erected a dozen or more prominent buildings in Montpelier. The high reputation of his woolen machinery, which he had placed in Colebrook and Stewartstown, N. H., and Hartford, Northfield, and Water ville, Vt., had so much increased its demand that in December, 1846, he found it necessary to increase the facilities for its manufacture, which he did by building an addition of 20x30 feet to his machine shop. About this time he had executed a contract for $8,000, for woolen machinery, with John Herron, of Waterville. In the following spring he visited Messrs. Davis & Thurber, of North Andover, Mass., who were manufacturing new and improved carding machines and spinning jacks; met Mr. Thurber at his works, and having introduced himself he informed him that his errand there was to buy if possible a set of their patterns. To this proposal Mr. Thurber gave a very decided No! saying that they had, at great expense and trouble, produced their patterns, and that they were for their own use, and that they would let no one have them. Soon Mr. Davis approached and Mr. Thurber introduced Mr. Wright, and told him his business, saying also that "when Mr. Wright asked me for patterns I said no at once. Now what do you say?" Mr. Davis considered the proposal a short time and then replied, "Let him have them." Mr. Thurber protested, but Mr. Davis said, "If he has any snap in him he will get them up himself. If he has none he can do us no harm, and we may as well make something out of the patterns." The result of this visit was the purchase of a set of these patterns, from which others were made, and the contract with Mr. Herron was duly completed, which included eight carding machines, six spinning jacks, one picker, a cotton-batter, and other machinery. Next year about the same kind and amount of machinery was constructed for Robert Herron, son of John Herron. This machinery was in great demand throughout all New England and Eastern New York, and gave Mr. Wright employment the ensuing ten years. The very high water of North Branch in the summer of 1858 undermined the old part of the machine shop, which fell in, and Mr. Wright sustained heavy loss in finished and unfinished work; but fortunately the greater part of the iron working machinery was in the addition and saved.

    Having occasion to use large quantities of dressed lumber in building, which he was then extensively engaged in, he constructed planing and matching machines, which became vary celebrated and in demand. This additional industry he continued to 1880, and turned out over 500 such machines. In 1860 he commenced to erect, on the site of the old machine shop, a woolen-mill 40x100 feet, four stories high, which he completed in 1861. This he sold to William Moorcroft, in December, 1862, who at once began to place in it necessary machinery, and started it the ensuing spring or summer, which continued in successful operation until it was destroyed by fire, in 1870. He also sold his dwelling house to Mr. Moorcroft in 1863, and erected another in the ensuing spring. In 1865 he moved off the old saw-mill and erected on its site a building 40x80 feet, and three stories high. The first floor was for wood working and the second for iron working machinery, and added largely to his stock of iron working tools. Since 1874, when he built an iron foundry, he has made his own castings. His last invention, and one of his best, (if not the best,) was completed and patented in 1878, after experimenting on it at his leisure time the preceding two years. This machine polishes all kinds of stone, and has acquired a wide reputation as the best, as the following testimonials declare :—

    "Burlington, Vt., Aug. 11, 1882.
    "Messrs. M. Wright & Son.

    "Dear Sirs: Replying to your inquiries as to how we like the polishing machine and lathe purchased of you some time since, we are pleased to say that they have fully answered our expectations, doing well all you have claimed for them. We also find them very satisfactory for finishing marble, on which they work rapidly and well. We think real credit is due you for the thorough manner in which they are built, as they seldom need repairs.

    "Very truly yours,
    "J. W. Goodell& Co."

    "Center Rutland, Vt., Feb. 3, 1885.
    "M. Wright & Son.

    "Gents: We purchased sometime since two of your polishing machines and have found them in every respect satisfactory, and fully up to what you recommended them for. They do most excellent work on all varieties of our marble, and are by far the best machines we know of for the purpose.

    "Respectfully yours,
    "Vermont Marrle Co.
    "F. D. Proctor, supt."

    "Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb. 4, 1885.
    "M. Wright & Son.

    "Dear Sirs: The polishing machine is in operation and gives entire satisfaction, and I would not be without it for double the cost.

    "Very respectfully,
    "James McDonough."

    These are but samples of the scores of recommendations received.

    Mr. Wright, now three-score and fifteen years of age, is active, and gives his personal attention to all the details of his manufacturing interests. From the foregoing sketch will be seen that his has been an active and industrious life. Few have accomplished as much. In the long stretch of time in which he has been a manufacturer and producer, his employees are a host in numbers, and the amounts paid them enormous. Thus he has been a benefactor in helping others to help themselves. Although so much engaged he has found time to give his aid and support to the benevolent, educational, and religious interests of his town, and has taken his share of service for his townsmen by discharging acceptably numerous offices of trust received at their hands. In politics he is a Republican; in religion he is liberal, and by his influence and aid the neat Union church at his little hamlet was built, and open to all Christian denominations. Mr. and Mrs. Wright have bad born to them three daughters and two sons, three of whom are now living, viz.: Maria (Mrs. Capt. Washburne) resides in Boston; Janie is the wife of C. C. Putnam, Esq., of the firm of C. C. Putnam & Son; and Prentice C., of the firm of M. Wright & Son, efficiently assists in the management of the firm's business, has ably taught the school of his district, and has held several of the offices in his town.

  • The 1874 work, Wiley's American iron trade manual of the leading iron industries of the United States, list "M. Wright & Son" as a maker of woodworking machinery.
  • The 1882 book by Abby Maria Hemenway, The History of the Town of Montpelier.
    The manufacture of mill, factory and other machinery has been prosecuted by Araunah Waterman; Wooster Sprague, whose works were burned in October, 1834; and by Medad Wright, at West Montpelier, who with his son still continues in the business.