Lesson 6: The People of the River 5


Adin and Samuel Joy were inventors. They were the sons of Samuel and Susan Davis Joy who lived near Rockingham Junction in the southern part of Newmarket. Adin was born in 1859 and died in 1940. Samuel was born in 1861 and died in 1941. Adin lived on Ash Swamp Road and Samuel lived on the family homestead. Sam in­vented many gadgets. One was an oven pie lifter to remove hot pies from the oven. This invention had a wooden handle attached to two metal loops. The loops were shaped like rounded tri­angles. A baker could reach into the oven and attach the loops to the sides of the pie pan, then lift the hot pie out of the oven. It was amazing!

Sam's most successful invention was the Joy Wagon Jack. Its purpose was to lift a wagon bed so that the wheel could be repaired. It was made of wood and metal. The part that held up the wagon looked like a set of stairs. This made it so the wagon jack could be used on different kinds of wagons or wagons of different heights. For taller wagons, the jack was positioned under the wagon using one of the taller steps. Then, by cranking the lever, the wagon box was raised so that the wheel could be fixed.

Adin invented an adjustable wrench that could tighten or loosen wagon wheel nuts. The wrench was made of metal and had "Rockingham, N.H." cast in it. Examples of all three of these inven­tions can be seen at the Newmarket His­torical Society.

The brothers made and sold their inventions right in Newmarket. Sam had a shop on Ash Swamp Road. His work benches were attached to a train track in the floor of the shop, so they could be moved around easily. A belt was attached to the bench's machinery, so they could be powered by horse power, water power, or later, electricity.
Resources for Adin and Samuel Joy:

Getchell, Sylvia Fitts. The Tide Turns on the Lamprey, Vignettes in the Life of a River:  A History of Newmarket, NH.  Concord, NH: Capital Offset Co., Inc.: 1984.

Information from volunteers at Newmarket Historical Society’s Stone School Museum.


Ambrose J. Nichols was one of the managers of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company. He got that job because of his hard work. Can you believe that at the age of six he was a card tender in a cotton mill? Just imagine working 12 hours a day for six days every week and hardly ever going to school. Ambrose only had six months of schooling in his whole life, yet he educated himself by reading books on history, mathematics, literature, and more, every night. As he grew older, he was given better jobs and gradually moved to higher posi­tions in the company. He was known for his honesty, charity, and friendliness. Then in 1879, at age 45, he was asked to be the manager for the Newmarket Manufacturing Company.

Ambrose managed the Newmarket mills for 23 years. He built 3 new factory buildings. Ambrose also added water wheels to provide more power to run the new engines he installed. He im­proved the water supply to the mill and put in better lighting sys­tems. He also built 23 tenement houses. Tenement houses were buildings where the employees lived. Usually many families lived in the same building. Families came from many countries in Europe to work in the mills, including Ireland, Italy, and France. Many came from Canada, as well.

When the cotton business was slow, he learned about the silk industry. Once he knew what his mills needed in order to produce silk cloth, he converted some of them. When he retired in 1903, the company was producing 18,000 yards of silk cloth each week, enough to make hundreds of silk dresses and shirts for the wealthier people of the East.

Resources for Ambrose Nichols:

Getchell, Sylvia Fitts. The Tide Turns on the Lamprey, Vignettes in the Life of a River:  A History of Newmarket, NH.  Concord, NH: Capital Offset Co., Inc.: 1984.

Harvey, Joseph. “An Uncharted Town:  Newmarket on the Lamprey – Historical Notes and Personal Sketches.” The Granite Monthly. February and March 1908: 33-122.


In the early 1820s, businessmen from Salem, Massachusetts visited Newmarket. They were looking for a location for a cotton mill. Why do you think they were interested in Newmarket? Probably the first thing that drew them to this town was the water power that could be generated by the first waterfalls on the Lamprey River. The men formed the Newmarket Manufacturing Company. Agents for the company began buying up all the land that was available, especially along the river bank. In the next 80 years, they built 6 large mills in Newmarket, all of which are still standing.

In 1824, mill Number 1 was built. It was made of granite blocks and sat at the edge of the river. There were 2,523 spindles in this mill. A spindle is a rod that twists, holds, and winds thread. Raw cotton was spun onto the spindles by machines that ran on water power.

In 1825, mill Number 2 was built. It was also made of granite and lay at the edge of the river next to Number 1. By 1829, mill Number 3 was operating. This mill was across the river from mill Number 1 and was connected to it by a bridge. Both of these mills used water power to oper­ate spinning machines. Just think how much thread was being produced. Mill Number 2 was destroyed by fire in 1857, but was replaced in 1858. Then, in 1869, mill Number 4 was erected. It was a large slate build­ing behind mill Number 2.

By this time, the company had 500 people working there, threading the 39,000 spindles that provided thread for the 906 looms. A loom is a machine that weaves the thread into cloth. Each week, 160,000 yards of high quality cotton cloth were produced. That's about 90 miles of cloth. Some of the people who worked in the mills were young boys and girls. Imagine working 11 or 12 hours a day, breathing dust and lint all day long, with only Sunday for a day off. They didn't have time to go to school to learn to read and write. Their parents were usually millworkers also.

The total payroll for a month was $11,000. That means when you add up what each person made in a month, the total was $11,000! What's $11,000 divided by 500? It was not very much money after working for a whole month by today's standards, but 150 years ago, it was a fair amount.

Up to this point, all the buildings were made of granite or slate, but mill Number 5, which was built in 1881, was made of brick. The brick probably came from the brickyards on the banks of rivers like the Lam­prey. It was a large two-story building with a tower and a basement. This mill was right next to Number 4. It was filled with looms.

The company had 55,000 spindles and 700 employees who were producing 300,000 yards of material each week. That's close to 170 miles of cloth. The monthly payroll was $17,000. What's $17,000 divided by 700? Was the pay increasing?

Mill No.6 was built in 1892. It was connected to Number 5. Mill No.7, constructed in 1901, was on the other side of the river, next to mill Number 3. It was also used for weaving. By 1908, the company had added 5,000 spindles for a total of 60,000. Its looms could weave 2,750,000 yards of pongees, satins, mulls, and taffetas in a year, which amounted to 1562 miles off cloth worth about $1,500,000. They continued to weave cottons, as well.

The story of the mills has a sad ending. The company and the town went through some very difficult times in the 1920s. Why did this happen? The workers had gone on strike and wanted higher wages. The first strike was in 1921, but the company owners said they could not pay more. In fact, they asked their workers to take a cut in pay. They said there were many reasons for this. First, the silk thread being sent to the company was of very poor quality and they were having trouble selling the fabric they produced because of this. Second, people were beginning to use new fabrics, like rayon and nylon, which were made out of artificial fibers, so they weren't as interested in buying materials made of silk. In the end, 1929, the owners packed up everything and moved the business to Lowell, Massachusetts, leaving Newmarket without its major employer and leaving the workers without jobs.

Resources for Newmarket Manufacturing Company:

Getchell, Sylvia Fitts. The Tide Turns on the Lamprey, Vignettes in the Life of a River:  A History of Newmarket, NH.  Concord, NH: Capital Offset Co., Inc.: 1984.

Harvey, Joseph. “An Uncharted Town:  Newmarket on the Lamprey – Historical Notes and Personal Sketches.” The Granite Monthly. February and March 1908: 33-122.