Industry and Business

Business and industry has always played a large part in making Ludlow what it is today. The industry with the most impact being the Mills, which existed in some form or another nearly since the creation of the town; starting with small sawmills and gristmills at the very beginning of the town's history and later the Ludlow Manufacturing Company and its textile mills, which had the most affect on the town's history of any business ever.

Early Mills

When the first mill was built in Ludlow is not known. It is known that at least one mill existed in town before 1783. This mill would have been located on Stony Brook near the border with Granby. Stony Brook was one of several smaller bodies of water that were used to power early mills in Ludlow and it enters the town on its northern border with Granby and then goes into Chicopee towards Westover. The area where Stony Brook runs through the town is also what is called on some maps "Ludlow City" as many mills over the years have been built in this area.

The other two smaller bodies of water that were used in the early mills of Ludlow are called Broad Brook and Higher Brook. Both brooks originate in Belchertown with Broad Brook going south into the Chicopee River and Higher Brook today feeding the Ludlow Reservoir (it used to run through the center of Ludlow before the reservoir was built). Both brooks were used to power mills that made a wide variety of different products including windows, doors, agricultural tools, cider, and chairs. Starting in the 20th century, however, the brooks became less used as new forms of manufacturing and power generation emerged.

Ludlow Manufacturing Company

Before the Ludlow Manufacturing Company (LMC) was created there was the Springfield Manufacturing Company which was formed in 1814 by Benjamin Jencks (Noon states in the second edition of his book on page 217 "later Jenks" so at some point it seems that his name changed). It was this company that constructed the major mills operation in Ludlow on the Chicopee River near Ludlow-Indian Orchard Bridge. It is also how the southern part of the town near Ludlow-Indian Orchard Bridge became known as Jenksville. The company first constructed a wooden mill west of the Bridge to make yarn. The company quickly expanded becoming a major part of the small town's economy and employing many of its citizens. The company soon started making fabric from cotton and in 1840 made gun barrels for the U.S. Government. Despite the fact that business was going very well for the company, it went bankrupt in 1848 due to "friction within the ranks of the proprietors" as Noon put it in his book. In addition to creating a lot of unemployment, many in the town had trusted the company with their savings and accepted company notes, which also caused many residents to lose most or all of their money.

The Springfield Manufacturing Company's property was then leased and later bought by George Dean, who used it to make jute products. He bought the property for $102,000 and formed the Ludlow Mills Company which unfortunately did not do so well due to the civil war. Dean's creditors then bought the property in 1868 using their agent, Charles T. Hubbard, who already owned mills in East Braintree. The Ludlow Mills Company then became the Ludlow Manufacturing Company and Charles Hubbard became the treasurer of the new company. In 1878 Hubbard moved his business from East Braintree to Ludlow in order to expand the business more than he would have been able to in East Braintree. As none of the buildings that currently existed were large enough for all of the equipment from the mills in East Braintree, Mill No. 4 was built sometime around 1880. During this time McChesney states that, "the Ludlow Manufacturing Company produced wet and dry spun cotton yarn, twine, webbing, gunny bagging, and "crash," a plain-weave fabric made from linen or mixed yarns."

Things went very well for the LMC over the coming years. It continued to expand to meet demand. In 1889 two new mills (5 and 6) started making cotton bagging, and in 1894 the building of Mills 1, 2, and 3 was authorized (these mills were connected to one another and called the Lower Mill Group). In 1900 construction started on Mill No. 8 and a dam and powerhouse just northeast of Red Bridge on the Chicopee River. Mill No. 8 was completed in 1901 along with a business and apartment block on East Street between Chestnut and Sewall Streets. Both buildings still exist today, Mill no. 8 being the building with the clock tower attached. By this time the Mills had made a huge impact on the town, from employing a large number of its inhabitants, to even supplying electricity, water, and other utilities to them. As a result of everything that the LMC was doing they were running into issues with state law that limited what corporations were able to do. This led to the creation of the Ludlow Manufacturing Associates on January 1, 1902, which was a different kind of organization that consisted of nine trustees that operated the company under a trust agreement. Over the next several years mills 9, 10, and 11 were built, as was Ludlow Hospital and the Stevens Memorial Building which served as a clubhouse.

In late August of 1909 a group of about 30 workers who were not happy with their wages walked out and went on strike. Their job was setting up bobbins so that the weavers would be able to do their job. Without them the weavers would have to do both jobs and would have to take a cut in pay when they were not weaving. Instead they decided to strike as well, which led to the baggers also being unable to work. Unable to come up with a compromise to this situation, in November the LMA evicted around 20 families from homes that were owned by the company. It wasn't until late December after the lieutenant governor was dispatched to the town to try and help that the strike finally ended. All of the displaced families were resettled and surprisingly absolutely no violence had occurred at any time during the strike, even during the evictions.

During the first half of the 20th century the LMA started to expand further. In 1911 Jute was imported from India instead of being bought from Americans or Europeans, and in the 1920s mills were set up in both India and Georgia. After the 1920s, manufacturing in Ludlow started to decline for many of the same reasons it did elsewhere in the country. During the 1930s many of the buildings were demolished to try to cut the amount of taxes the company was paying including Mills 1 through 6 (Mill 7 survived until 1942 when it too was demolished). It was also during this time that the company started to sell all of its company houses off, usually below the market value. In 1961, after having sold all of the other land the company owned, the mills were finally sold to a New York based realty company. In 1974 when McChesney wrote his book there was still a small remnant of the LMA working in the Mills called the Ludlow Textile Company that was using rented space and employing between 125 to 150 employees who made linen and synthetic threads. However, a search for corporate records on the Secretary of the State's website indicates that the company dissolved in 2006 and merged into a trust.