Religion and Seventeenth Century Glass making in Salem, Massachusetts

(last modified 30 July 2000)

A glass house was operating in the middle of the seventeenth century at Salem, Massachusetts. It appears likely that religious persecution, rather than economic failure, was the main reason why it stopped producing. Little is written about this in books on the history of the American Glass Industry, so the story below is what I have been able to piece together from many sources; principal ones include: Laura Woodside Watkins, "American Glass and Glassmaking", 1950 p22., "Aspects of Glassmaking in Eighteenth-Century America" by Arlene Palmer in the Annales of the 8th Congress AIHV, 1979; Frank Conkling, "Salem and the Conking Family", Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, 31, 1894, pp 43-53; James Kimball "The First Glass factory - Where?", Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, 16/1 1879, pp 1-7; and the corrected electronic version [copyright Robert Kraft, July 1994] of "The genealogical dictionary of the first settlers to New England..." by James Savage. I would be very pleased to hear any additional information about this enterprise or the people involved, especially whether any of the glass that was apparently found on the site has survived.

There had been an intention of setting up a glass house in New England for some time, since in March 1635/6 Samuel Reade wrote in a letter to his borther-in-law John Winthrop, jr, "at his father's house in Boston or elsewhere these present in New-England" that "the glasmen will not undertake to goe over, till there be claye found out fitt for them in the country: least they should be a burthen to those that transport them, or elce live miserably; for they have not wherwithall to defray theire owne charges over."

Clay was presumably found, since the town records record that on 27th December 1638, "Graunted to Obediah Hullme, one acrea of land, for a howse, neere to the glasse howse; and 10 acres more to be layd out bt the town." Then on 11th January 1640, "Graunted to the Glassemen severall acres of ground adioying to their howses, viz: one acre more to Anianias Concline; & 2 acres a peece for the other twoe, Laurence Soutick & Obediah Holmes, each of them 2 acres, to be added to their former howse Lotts.". There was an earlier reference to land ( "a House lot" and "ten acres") being granted to Ananias, in October 1638, so he had arrived by then. However, this land is not mentioned in reference to the glass house, so it is probable that this was built in 1638. It is probable that Southwick also actually arrived in 1638. Holmes at least had an extremely stormy voyage that prevented the ship from entering Boston harbour until six weeks had passed (this must have been in the summer or early fall of 1638). Then in October 1640, "John Concline receaued an Inhabitant of Salem. Granted to John Concline ffiue acres of land neere to the Glass howse". John was probably Ananias' brother. This acreage was off the old Boston road, bounded by the line of Aborn Street to the south & south-east, a portion of the strong-water brook and Boston Street in the north (1879), in what is now Peabody. In December 1641, the General Court of the province authorized the town of Salem to lend the proprietors thirty pounds, which they were to repay "if the worke succeed, when they are able." The town was authorised to deduct this sum from the next rate laid. This sum may have been for the erection of a second furnace. In December 1642 a vote was passed that £8 loaned to Ananias concllyne and other poore people shall be repayed the Court at the next Indian Corne Harvest. In Oct 1645 Ananias Concklin with John petitioned the General Court for a settlement of their affairs. Upon ye petition of John Caukin & Ananias Couklayne, (who have bene implied about ye glasse worke which ye undertakers have for ys three yeares neglected,) yt they might be freed from their engagement to ye formr undertakers & left free to ioyne with such as will carry on ye worke effectually, except ye former undertakers will forthwith do ye same." The Court conceive it very expedient in regard of the publick interest to grant this petition. Ananias was still there in March 1649 when his third child was baptized. He, brother John and son John apparently removed to Long Island about 1650. Apparently the Conklins also complained about the lack of suitable clay for crucibles.

Approximate position of glass house from "A map of Salem Villiage in 1692", by M.K.Roach, 1985

Pieces of glass and slag "much lighter in colour than the common bottle glass of earlier time" have been found on the site of the glass house and were said to have been deposited in the collection of the Essex Institute from the descriptions the glass appeared to be both vessel and window glass, but there is always the danger that some of this was only on the site for recycling and was not local produce. It appears probable from the information discussed below that three of the four glass makers were at Salem until about 1650, it seems unlikely that any of them remained much after this. For many years the site of this industry in Salem was called the "glasshouse field," and fragments of dark greenish glass were apparently found near a stone wall that once bounded the property. Laura Woodside Watkins comments that "while it seems certain that the Concklins actually blew glass, they probably achieved nothing more important than bottles". This is very doubtful, since this glass-house appears to predate the use of specialised bottle glass houses in England. It is much more likely that the glass house at Salem produced a similar range of products to that at Haughton Green (see below), including: vessels, bottles and broad-glass for windows. The Salem glass-house was probably wood fired, because there was a plentiful supply of suitable timber there and apparently no coal. The near-by Saugus Ironworks established with English workers in 1642 was wood (charcoal) fired. In contrast, both Haughton Green and the Kingswinford (see below) glass houses had been leaders in introducing coal-firing in England.

Good clay was apparently available locally along the banks of the Waters River, and this was later used for pottery. However, this may have been unsuitable for making glass pots, as claimed by the Conklins. There were also sources of glass-making sands in Massachusetts, but the high-quality ones used until recent times are a long way from Salem.

The People

Obadiah Holmes was the subject of much religious persecution. He was born to Robert Holme and Katherine Johnson, but records are ambiguous about where and when. His year of birth ranges from 1603 to 1607 and the place was either Reddish, Manchester or Preston. Reddish is five miles southeast of the centre of Manchester in Northern England and very close to the site of the excavated Haughton Green, (Denton) glass house. References differ as to when this glasshouse started work, with opinions ranging from 1605 - 1615. The last mention of it was in 1644 and it probably closed about that time due to the disruption caused by the Civil War. It is probable that the Holmes family were connected with this glass house, since members of the Holme family are recorded at Eccleshall in Staffordshire from 1581 (other well-known glass making families also appear in the parish records from 1582) where a glass making site at Bishop's Wood has been identified. Obidiah was christened at Didsbury (about three miles from Reddish) in 1609 and married Catherine Hyde in Manchester in 1630. They are recorded as having a son Obadiah, in Manchester/Reddish, but once again the dates are uncertain, and this was probably shortly before they sailed for America. In March 1639/40, after arriving in Salem, Obadiah and Catherine became members of the church. Obadiah apparently disliked the rigidity of the established church and was not inclined to keep silent in the midst of religious discussions. Before October 1643 he had taken an option in the newly created community of Rehoboth 40 miles south of Boston. He sold his holdings in Salem by 1645, removing himself and his family to Rehoboth the same year. He was later described as "perverted in faith and excommunicated therefor, with John Clark and John Crandall, sentenced to heavy fine or whipping [August 1651]... Savage relates that in Clark's Ill Newes from New England where the testimony of Obadiah Holmes, the baptist confessor, is fully given: "we must regret that it surpassed the limits of self-respect, as well as common decency. Holmes tells after his sentence to imprisonment and cruel scourging as I went from the Bar, I exprest myself in these words; I bless God I am counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus; whereupon John Wilson (their Pastor as they call him) strook me before the judgment-seat and cursed me, saying, the curse of God or Jesus go with thee. For the imprecation upon the heretic lenity may be extended as we hope, by the final Judge, when he cometh in the clouds of heaven: but at the tribunal of gentlemen the assault on a defenceless prisoner, even though convicted by his own confession of the crime of preaching what he thought truth, meets no indulgence". This treatment was not reserved for him alone for "John Hazel [of] Rehoboth was fined and imprisoned 1651, though near 60 years old, for exhibiting sympathy with Obadiah Holmes, when publicly whipped as a Baptist. Obadiah became a preacher in 1652 and died 15 Oct. 1682. In 1790 it was estimated that he had 5,000 descendents. The Holmes family were probably involved in glass making at several English glass-making centres. There were marriages between Holmes and members of the Tyzack glass-making family at Stourbridge in 1681 and Newcastle in 1673.

The story of Lawrence Southwick was unfortunately very similar. Savage states "He was, I suppose, a glass blower...". Possibly through Holmes' influence he, with wife Cassandra, joined the first church in salem and he was admitted freeman on 6 September of that year [1639]. On the 6 December following [they] had [children] John, Josiah, Daniel, and Provided baptised at once". John would have been fifteen years old then, old enough to have started working with his father in the glass house. Daniel was probably about four yeras old by then. Savage relates: in "thee bloody persecution in Massachusetts under the successive rule of Governors Endicot and Bellingham...the whole family suffered much, fines and imprisonment fell on all, and the daughter Clarissa was subjected to great severity. When the fines of Daniel and Provided were unpaid, the tender-hearted General Court, with intent to magnify the glory of God, ordered them to be sold for slaves to any Christians in Virginia or Barbados. We are permitted to rejoice, that the sentence was not enforced and the father with his flock found refuge at Shelter Island near the east end of Long Island where in peace he made his will of 10 July 1659, allow.? in 1660. Much as they might love their native land the danger from their opinions required banishment it seems with a proviso, that they should suffer death for return. One of the flock was Henry Trarice (perverted to Thask), who came in the [ship] Mary and John 1634, and married Mary, daughter of Lawrence Southwick. They went with her father to Shelter Island but on their return "his wife was imprisoned many months for her perverse religion". Similarly Samual Gascoyne who married Lawrence's daughter Provided "was punished 1658, for his curiosity or depravity in attending a Quaker meeting". Lawrence Southwick was born about 1600 and had married Cassandra Shattuck (Burnell in another source) in Kingswinford in 1623 (although there is a vague reference to their marriage in 1619) and they had at least six children christened there between 1624 and 1637. The eldest child John, appears to have been born about 1620 in Lancaster. Two other children Provided and Lawrence appear to have been born in Lancashire shortly before the family sailed for America, but the dates and places are uncertain. Of these, three, Ananias, Lawrence and Debbora do not appear to have survived to travel with their parents to Salem. Kingswinford and the adjacent parish of Oldswinford were the home of the important English glass-making industry of Stourbridge, which is still a major glass centre to this day. At the stage when Lawrence was living in Kingswinford there were probably only window glass houses working there, so it is probable that he was a window glass maker. On a modern map, based on information from 1692, Josiah, John, Daniel and Samual Southwick are all shown living in Salem, close to "Glass-house field" and close to what appears to be a Friends (Quaker) meeting house. Adjacent to these were houses of several mambers of the Trask family, including Henry.

Lawrence had a servant John Scott who arrived in Salem in 1648. It is not recorded if he was a glass maker, but that would not be inconsistent with the use of the term 'servant' at that period. Savage states: he "may have gone to Providence, and by wife Rebecca there had Sarah, born 29 Sept. 1662; ....". It is possible that this John Scott was the same as or related to the John Scott at Silkstone glass house who died in 1707.

The Conklins, Like Lawrence Southwick they are said to have worked in Kingswinford, Staffordshire. Ananias was born in 1594 (or at Kingswinford in 1605) and was said to be of King Swinford when he married Mary Launder (or Lavender) at Nottingham St Peter's Church (23 Feb 1629/30). They probably returned immediately to Kingswinford, since he had daughter Mary christened there in 1631 and sons Jeremy and Cornelius were born there in 1633 & 1636. The wedding bond was by John Conklne of Nuthall glassmaker. John was said to have been born in about 1600 and married Elizabeth Allseabrook in 1625 in Nottingham, where daughter Dorothy was born in 1625 and son John was born in about 1630. There were both window and vessel glass houses at Wollaton, Nottingham from about 1615 and it is probable that the window glass house closed in 1617. It is not clear when the vessel glass house closed, or if either re-opened. There was a statement made in 1641 that there was then no glass makers in the city of Nottingham, but that suggests that there had been some in the recent past. Apparently, in about 1630, John and Elizabeth also had a daughter Rebbecca who was born in Gloucester, so this may indicate the date when they moved, possibly when the Wollaton works closed. Frances Conculyn was one of the earliest recorded glass makers in the Stourbridge area, being recorded in Oldswinford in 1613, but it is not clear what his relationship to these glass makers was, although it is not a common name. Ananias was mentioned on the roll of the First Church in Salem in 1639, togther with Susan Concklin, possibly his second wife (there appears to have been no mention of a wife when Ananias arrived at Salem). Son Lewis was baptised 30 April 1643 (possibly born before October 1642). Ananias had been made a freeman in Salem 18 May 1642. Ananias and John both had land granted to them in 1649 in Salem, but had moved to Southold, Long Island, probably in late 1649 or early 1650 and certainly by 1651. When Ananias left Salem he had children Jeremiah (b. 1635) , Benjamin (b 1638), Lewis (b. abt 1643) and Hester (b. abt. 1641). He had twins Jacob and Elizabeth christened at Salem in march 1649, but these probably did not survive. His son Cornelius stayed in Salem and died in 1668, leaving a widow Mary. Ananias died in about 1657 in East Hampton. John died at Huntingdon in 1683/4. he is said to have had five sons, John, Jacob, Benjamin, Joseph and Timothy.

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