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Thomas Morrison: A Rise to Wealth

He left home with a dream of making a fortune in textiles. He became the man who ran the mill, and he died a wealthy man.

A spinner in a 19th century cotton mill. It was dirty, back-breaking labor.
In 1858, Thomas Morrison listed his occupation as a spinner. He was likely working in the Shetucket Co. or Falls Co. Norwich's largest textile concerns, the Yantic Woolen Co. and the giant Ponemah Mills, had yet to be built.

According to my family story, after the father broke up his marriage, Thomas set out to prove his worth and make his fortune.

On Oct. 19, 1859, records show, he had married Mary Jane Robinson. And in June of 1860, according to the census, Thomas and his new bride were living with his mother and brothers James, Charles and William. He listed his occupation as, simply, “laborer.” It was not an auspicious start for a young man making a name for himself.

But he started making progress. Thomas and Mary Jane had a daughter, Hattie, in 1863, and moved to Esopus, New York, around the same time. In the 1865 Census for Esopus, N.Y., Thomas reported his occupation as “agent.”

In the 1865 census for Esopus, N.Y., Thomas Morrison lists himself as an Agent. The majority of their neighbors are employed by the woolen factory.

Agents were company representatives; some of them sold the product on commission. Others represented the company in negotiations and labor disputes, or they recruited workers. Most of the other people in the neighborhood, as identified by the Census, identified themselves as workers in a woolen mill, and the principle industry in town was an extensive woolen and carpet mill.

It could be that Thomas worked for the Esopus mill, gained experience there and moved on to his next job. Or it could that he was living in Esopus and recruiting workers for another employer.

By 1870, Thomas and Mary Jane had moved again, to Enfield, Connecticut. On the 1870 Census, Thomas reported he was working in a carpet mill – probably the Hartford Carpet Co., which would become one of the country's largest carpet manufacturers. A large proportion of the workers were Scottish. Hattie was 6, and they had a new son, George T., who was born in 1867.

The Hartford Carpet Co., in Thompsonville, Connecticut, one of the largest carpet mills in the country.

In 1880, Thomas and Mary Jane were still in Enfield, where Thomas was the carpet factory foreman – “the man who runs this mill.” The family had grown. Hattie was 17; George was 12; Mary E. was 6; and William H. was 3.

Two year later, Mary Jane died. Soon after his second wife's death, Thomas married Mary Pease. She was 24 years younger and came from a long line of Connecticut Yankees.

At 63 years old, Thomas had retired from the carpet factory. He owned his house in Enfield, free and clear. His grandson, 18-year-old Frederick, had moved in with him and Mary. On the 1900 Census, Thomas Morrison listed his occupation as “capitalist” – a long journey from the job of “laborer” reported in 1860. He had one last move.

Thomas Morrison's home on Bay Street, Springfield, as shown on the 1910 map of the city.

By 1910, Thomas Morrison had moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, just north of Enfield. He purchased a fine house on the corner of Bay and Catherine streets, with a view of the Dartmouth and Clarendon fountains. It was a house befitting a wealthy man.

In November 1910, Thomas suffered a stroke, but he made some recovery. He suffered another stroke on April 10, 1913, however, and died six days later.

He was buried in Thompsonville Cemetery, a half mile north of the carpet factory where he had worked for more than 30 years.

Thomas Morrison's grave marker in Thompsonville Cemetery.

Thomas Morrison's death certificate.
Next: George Morrison - The Search for a Name


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