Aretas Blood and the Manchester Locomotive Works
March 04. 2014 12:43AM
Lavinia Kendall Blood and her husband Aretas Blood were deeply concerned with the plight of the poor in Manchester.
Lavinia was a major force in the founding of the Manchester Women's Aid and Relief Society in 1875, and was a leader in shaping its growth. She was the keeper of the purse strings, serving as the Society's treasurer for 27 years. Aretas Blood generously supported the Society both financially and in many other ways. He made his most notable contribution in 1891 when he bought a large estate on Pearl Street and donated it to the organization to become the new Women's Aid Home. Together, Lavinia and Aretas did a great deal to help their less fortunate neighbors.
Aretas Blood was born in Weathersfield, Vermont, in 1816 and grew up in Windsor, Vermont. Lavinia Kendall was born in 1815 in Dunstable, Massachusetts. It is unclear how they met, but they were married in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1845. The family moved to Manchester in 1853 when Aretas became involved with locomotive manufacturing. They raised their two daughters, Emma and Elenora at their home on Union Street near the corner of Concord Street, close to the downtown. Both daughters followed in their parent's footsteps and became generous philanthropists in the city. Their good works included their involvement as directors of the Women's Aid and Relief Society.
The Blood family is buried in a distinctive Gothic-revival style granite mausoleum near the east entrance to the Valley Cemetery. For the design, the family commissioned the famous New York sculptor Alexander Doyle (1857-1922). Mr. Doyle specialized in creating marble and bronze monuments of Civil War heroes and other important historical figures. His body of work includes three statues on display in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Aretas Blood was one of the city's wealthiest citizens. Like other men who rose to prominence in Manchester in the 19th Century, his success was earned through his tenacity and hard work, combined with natural talent. When Aretas was 17 he was apprenticed to a blacksmith in Windsor, Vermont, and trained as a machinist. He moved to the town of Evansville in southern Illinois when he was 19 or 20 where he found work in his trade. He was homesick for New England, so in June 1841 he came back and began looking for employment in the region. He was first hired as a mechanic in North Chelmsford, and later in Lowell, Massachusetts, where he was employed by the Locks and Canals Machine Shop. After seven years in Lowell, Aretas moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where he worked in the manufacturing of machinist's tools at the Essex Company Machine Shop. This shop also produced and repaired textile equipment and made locomotive engine parts, turbine wheels and stationery engines.
In 1853, Aretas was given the opportunity to partner with Oliver W. Bayley and other investors in the founding of Bayley, Blood and Company in Manchester, which was also called the Vulcan Works. The purpose of the company was to manufacture steam locomotive engines. It its early months it operated in a building in Mechanics Row at the north end of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company millyard.
In 1854, the investors, including Aretas Blood, chartered a new stock corporation called the Manchester Locomotive Works. The company acquired five acres along Canal Street between Hollis and Dean (now Dow) streets, and quickly constructed several brick buildings. These included the two-story 400-foot-long main shop along Canal Street, a blacksmith shop, a wood shop, a boiler shop, and a tank shop. Locomotive production was moved from Mechanics Row to the new facility in the fall of 1854.
The company's General Agent and Superintendent was Oliver W. Bayley, who had headed up the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company's Machine Shop for several years, including the company's steam locomotive engine business. Oliver was always looking for ways to improve engine design. In 1855, he patented a steam-boiler fire-box for the Manchester Locomotive Works, which was used in the furnaces of locomotive and other types of engines.
The early signs looked favorable for the success of the Manchester Locomotive Works, but there would be bumps in the road ahead.
Next Week: A Valley Cemetery Story — Aretas Blood and the Manchester Locomotive Works.
Aurore Eaton is executive Director of Manchester Historic Association; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org