Walker & Hatch Lumber Company

I have always known that my great great grandfather Dillon Franklin Hatch, (Frank), made his money in the wood manufacturing industry. But until now I hadn’t really known the details. Thanks to digitized newspapers, directories, and census records, I now have a better sense of how his manufacturing experience all went down. So here is the story as I know it.

When Frank married Almyra Brooks in 1873 he was working for an apothecary as a clerk, but it wasn’t long after their marriage (1874) that Frank and his new brother-in-law, David Walker, went into business together. (David was married to Frank’s wife’s sister.)

I can only speculate about where the money came from to start the business, possibly Frank’s parents, and/or his new father-in-law, John Brooks. Both families had money to spare for such an enterprise. (I don’t know about David Walker’s.) Or, the reputation of the patriarchs of these families helped them get the loans they would have needed. Regardless of the how, they did.

The following entry appeared in a local history book:

An important and promising industry is the WALKER & HATCH Lumber and Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of solid and veneered hard wood work, doors, sash, blinds, stair builders’ supplies, and all kinds of house finish. The business was started in 1874 by David WALKER and D. F. HATCH. C. E. MACOMBER was admitted to an interest in the concern in 1882, and the firm name of WALKER, HATCH & Co. adopted. The present stock company was chartered on the 12th of August, 1885, with a capital stock of $50,000. The officers are D. F. HATCH, president; David WALKER, vice-president; Gilbert HARRIS, treasurer; C. E. MACOMBER, secretary, and F. B. HOWE, clerk. At the time of the incorporation of this company they purchased the stock and interest of the Burlington Spoke Company and the Winooski Lumber Company. They make something of a specialty of the Stevens sliding blind, which is one of the best inside blinds manufactured. The buildings, situated on a five-acre plot on Winooski River, consist of a mill about 200 x 50 feet and three stories high, adjoining a saw-mill, boiler and shaving rooms, offices and sheds, and twelve large kilns for the drying of lumber, heated and arranged by the most approved methods.

CHAPTER XVIII HISTORY OF THE TOWN AND CITY OF BURLINGTON; http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~vermont/ChittendenBurlington_4.html
Ad in 1881 Burlington paper.
Gazetteer and Business Directory of Chittenden County, Vermont, for 1882-83–Google Books search. You can see that David’s sister is working as a bookkeeper at the company.

Other than one tragic accident, (that we know of), in 1877, the business went along pretty well for about 10 years.

[1877 Apr 9]--On Monday afternoon a man fell down the elevator way at Walker & Hatch’s mill in Burlington, a distance of forty feet, and received injuries that were thought to be fatal.

[1877 Apr 11]-CHITTENDEN COUNTY.
Charles Beauchamp died on Saturday last, of injuries recently received at Walker & Hatch’s mill in Burlington. He leaves a widow and seven children, who were dependent on his labor for their support.

–from Orleans County Monitor and Vermont Watchman and State Journal.

In 1882 they changed the ownership of the business, and the name.

They also had visions of expansion dancing around in their heads, because in April of the next year they purchased the Burlington Spoke Company, (and a Winoonski Lumber business, although I can find no articles related to that purchase, other than the local history book entry):

Messrs. Walker, Hatch & Co., have purchased the business of the Burlington Spoke company and will carry it on under that name

Messrs. Walker, Hatch & Co.,…page 5, col. 1, Burlington weekly free press. (Burlington, Vt.), 27 April 1883. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1883-04-27/ed-1/seq-5/>

The Burlington Spoke Company, WALKER & HATCH, agents, engaged in the manufacture of carriage spokes, axehelves, pick, hammer and sledge handles, have their mills located at Winooski village, and their place of business in Burlington. They employ a number of experienced workmen, and do a large business.

Gazetteer and Business Directory of  Chittenden County, Vt. For 1882-83 Compiled and Published by Hamilton Child Printed At The Journal Office, Syracuse, N. Y,  
August, 1882. 

About 2 1/2 years later, in 1885, they became a stock company. The new board, thinking that business was going very well, but could be better, decided that they needed to expand even more. So they did, literally.

The stockholders of the Walker and Hatch Lumber company of Burlington have chosen these officers: President, S. H. Weston; vice-president, David Walker; secretary, C. E. Macomber; treasurer, J. F. Leonard; clerk, C. E. Macomber; directors, David Walker, D. F. Hatch, C. E. Macomber, S. H. Weston, J. F. Leonard, A. J. Willard, Gilbert Harris; managers, D. F. Hatch, C. E. Macomber, David Walker, J. F. Leonard. This concern is building a mill 200 feet long, 50 feet wide and three stories high with all necessary equipments

The Middlebury register and Addison County journal., November 13, 1885, Image 4, (Middlebury, Vt.) 1883-1885. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060001/1885-11-13/ed-1/seq-4/>

According to an article in the Middlebury Register a few days later, they were hoping to hire about 100 men when the new building was finished. The plans included a large store house, shavings house, office, and a brick boiler house. And looking at the map below, the location was excellent, right on the river for ease of transportation of goods. (The building no longer exists.)

This is a Sanborn Map page from Burlington showing the Walker, Hatch facility in 1884.

Unfortunately, this decision, while appearing sound at the time, was to prove their undoing. The costs involved with expanding the business became too much to handle and resulted in their inability to meet the huge expenditures. This led to the company’s insolvency in 1886, about 2 years after their fateful decision to expand.

Final notice of insolvency in 1894.

THE WALKER & HATCH FAILURE.

Meeting of the Creditors Friday—A.O. Humphrey Appointed Assignee.

The creditors of the Walker & Hatch lumber and manufacturing company held a meeting at the probate office in the city Friday and elected A. O. Humphrey, of the firm of Sanford and Humphrey, assignee. The creditors hoped to receive $.50 on the dollar allowing for shrinkage of sales, but the chances are against it. It was shown that the Winsooki water power company, who at first took stock in the new company, but subsequently sold out, have a mortgage on the factory for about $11,000 and H. E. Wright of Williston holds a mortgage on the machinery for $3000. The unsecured debts of the company aggregate about $29,000 in the estimate their assets at 17,000, but the unencumbered property will probably not sell for that amount.

The following are the major claims proved Friday: Shepard & Morse lumber company, $3450; Safford & Humphrey, $1026; Burlington Woollen Company, $320; Edwards & Stevens, $1830; A.R. Booth, $640; S. Bigwood & Son, $202; Skillings, Whitney and Barnes, $1747; B. Turk & Bro., $326.

The most important claims which have not been approved are as follows: John T. White of Concord, New Hampshire, $2000 Greenlee Brothers of Chicago, $634 … etc.

The statement of the firms affairs why the business should continue.

To the editor of the Free Press:

          The Walker & Hatch failure, I think, will turn out to be far less disastrous than was at first thought. The old company was a partnership composed of Messes. Walker, Hatch and Macomber. About one year ago they with others formed a stock company, and all the old company’s assets were turned over to the corporation. These assets, as I understand, were made up mainly of machinery, stock, both in the rough and partly finished. What their real value was it is my present purpose to consider. The old company had issued a catalog at an expense of about $2000, including the advertising in other channels, and it had worked up a good and profitable business. It was an industry which supplied a demand, and was in itself a credit to the city. The corporation made a purchase of $10,000. This was the original cost of the plant. The corporation have added to it in buildings, consisting of one large shop two stories high with basement, newly equal to another story for working purpose, a kiln two stories high and brick boiler house, the whole costing over $20,000. The buildings are complete in all their appointments with heating apparatus of the Sturtevant patent at a cost of $1,200. The shafting and main line of belting were all new and the same is true of every part of the above mentioned work except the two boilers. Probably no better shop either in its durability or in its adaptability to the uses for which it is built, can be found anywhere. The writer has seen quite a number of shops built for wood manufacture and has never seen one surpassing this one in the excellency or fitness of its appointments. The corporation have also added about $4,400 worth of new machinery and have spent some $400 in lowering the raceway. The figures above given are low considerable less that the actual cost.

If this estimate is accurate, therefore, it would appear that, calling the new machinery worth half of its cost, the plant, as it may called, with new machinery, is really worth to day to the purchaser $32,400. This does not take into account the old machinery which the old company had on hand, nor the stock on hand at the time of failure. The latter was inventoried at $8000, but was put in the schedule at $6000. The good accounts were said  to be $2500, call them $2000. There would be then in all $8000 to be added to $32,000, making $40,400 of real assets, not counting the old machinery, or the value of the work already begun and in process of completion, and which now being finished and the full value of which less the cost of finishing, from the time of the failure, must be added to the figures already given. At a low estimate based on the above considerations it would seem that as least $44,000 of assets are available. Out of this is the real estate mortgage of $11,650 and a personal estate mortgage of $3000; in all $14,650, which deducted from the assets would leave net assets of $29,350 available to the creditors. This sum is about what the unsecured debts amount to.

In the above statement the cost of the new buildings has been shrunk one-quarter, the new machinery one half, and no account made of the old machinery. The stock has been called $2000 less than the inventory made at the tie, the good accounts at their face value, and $4000 for the value of the goods in process of manufacture at them of failure.

Now this property is valuable. It is all in readiness for the carrying on of a good business. It should be added that the plant embraces one-tenth of the water power at the dam. There is a demand for the continuation of this same line of work. It is understood that order for work have come in unsolicited faster than the work could be done with a help of 70 men. It is to be hoped some enterprising man or men of means will be on hand to purchase this property, and thus a valuable industry be saved to this city.

Burlington, Vt., Oct. 15, 1886.

The Walker & Hatch Failure, page 3, col. 2 Burlington weekly free press. (Burlington, Vt.), 19 Nov. 1886. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1886-11-19/ed-1/seq-3/>

It was determined that the company was in debt to the tune of about $35,000. This is calculated in today’s dollars as somewhere in the ballpark of $1,000,000. The loss of their business must have been a devastating blow, not only to themselves, but to their standing in the community.

It is no wonder that in June of 1887, Frank and his wife packed up the children, and their belongings, and headed to Cleveland, Ohio, where he had found a job managing the Sturtevant Lumber Company. Although, he only worked there a short time before we find him employed at ‘Wood, Jenks and Company’, another lumber manufacturing business in town.

The loss of his first business did not deter Frank, he stayed involved in the business of wood manufacturing and/or building his whole life. In fact in 1911 he shows up in the papers as part of a new endeavor:

Frank did pretty well for his family in Cleveland, I guess his motto was ‘never give up, never surrender’. Or it was just good old fashioned New England determination. (Just above Frank and Almyra, 1870s and 1910ish.)

One thought on “Walker & Hatch Lumber Company

  1. Pingback: Almyra Brooks 1849-1927 – jen's ancestors

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