Dexter Yarn Company Hall of History
The last photograph of the Dexter Yarn Company Building, Pawtucket, RI at the turn of the 20th century:
from "History of Providence County," biographical sketches, Town of Pawtucket, R. I.
p. 108-111: SIMON WILLARD DEXTER, manufacturer, and son of Captain N. G. B. Dexter, the founder of the Dexter Yarn Company's business, was born in Pawtucket July 25th, 1820. He is a descendent of Reverend Gregory Dexter, an associate of Roger Williams, and a grandson of Nathaniel Balch Dexter, of Grafton, Massachusetts, who was a tailor by trade, and who came to Pawtucket in 1798. Nathaniel B. Dexter married the sister of Simon Willard, of Boston, the great clock maker. He removed to Providence in 1830, where he died in 1832. His brother John settled in the town of Cumberland, was a judge of the court many years, and died there at the age of 96 years. Daniel S., another brother, commanded a regiment of colored soldiers in the war of 1812, and died in his 95th year. Thomas, Horace and Horatio, sons of Nathaniel B. Dexter, went to Florida. Nathaniel G.B. came to Pawtucket. The Reverend Gregory Dexter was born in Olney, England, in the year 1610. He was a Baptist minister at London, was a highly cultured gentleman, and the transatlantic correspondent of Roger Williams. In 1643, when Williams went to England to procure the first charter for the infant colony, he took with him Mr. Dexter's manuscript of his "Directory of the Indian Language," and on the voyage arranged it for being printed, and in that same year (1643) Mr. Dexter printed the first edition of it at London. In 1644 Mr. Dexter joined Williams at Providence, where he afterward became a distinguished character in the colony. He was one of the parties named in the charter of 1663, and for a number of years was one of the assistants under the authority granted in that charter. He had been well educated, held various offices, and especially many positions where, in the general paucity of mental cultivation, he was so much needed. He was also the fourth pastor of the First Baptist Church in Providence, having been called to succeed Reverend Mr. Wickenden about 1650. He was the first accomplished printer that came to this country, and he printed with his own hand the first almanac for the meridian of Rhode Island. This forefather of the Dexter family died in the year 1700. His first house was a log house, which was destroyed by the Indians in 1676. In this King Philip's war two of his grandchildren were rendered orphans.
Nathaniel G. B. Dexter, commonly known as Captain Dexter, the father of the subject of this sketch, was fifth in descent from Reverend Gregory Dexter, and was the only one of the six descendants of that forefather bearing the name of Gregory who ever lived to marry. He was born at Grafton, Massachusetts, in 1788, and in 1798 removed to Pawtucket with his father's family. He never went to school, but was educated by his parents. He was the especial favorite of Samuel Slater, the first manufacturer of cotton yarns by machinery in America, and early entered the counting room as his clerk, and subsequently became the superintendent of the mills. He was strictly temperate from his youth. Using his own words, he says: "Well, mother, I've seen a man trying to walk and couldn't go because they said he was drunk; and I have inquired into it and come to an agreement with myself to never drink one drop of anything that I know has any drunk in it." And he kept that agreement till his death, which occurred April 8th, 1866.
Captain Dexter opened the first Sunday school in the United States, under Samuel Slater's direction, and taught it himself. The scholars were the children who worked in the cotton mill. In 1808 he was married to Amey, daughter of Jerahmeel Jencks, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In 1858 he celebrated with his wife the fiftieth anniversary of his wedding, and among the hundreds of his descendants and friends present were two other couples giving additional interest to the occasion. Reverend David Benedict, D. D., who married Captain Dexter 50 years before, was present with his wife; and Captain Josiah Jones, Esq., who with his own fingers set the types that announced the wedding in a paper, was present, also with his wife. The parties above mentioned also celebrated their golden anniversary in the year 1858. Captain Dexter was for many years a manufacturer of cotton yarn on an extensive scale. In 1855 this business was given up to his two sons, and in 1866 this patriarch of the whole American system of Sunday schools passed to his reward.
Interior Photograph of the Dexter Yarn Company Spinning Room:
Simon W. Dexter received his education from the public schools of Pawtucket. When 15 years of age he decided upon learning the trade of a jeweler. To this end he entered the shop of Joseph Martin of Providence, in 1835, and remained with him till 1841. He worked for different firms in Providence and Boston, closing his career in this line of business when in the employ of Jonathan Sweet. In 1842 he left Boston for Pawtucket, going into the shoe business on Main Street. In 1843 he formed a partnership with F. S. Eddy, under the firm name of Dexter & Eddy. In the year following he gave up the shoe business and went into his father's mill, and then it was he began the career of his life, and one which has distinguished him as a manufacturer throughout the whole country. His father's business had by this time grown to considerable proportions. It was now extended under the Dexter Brothers to meet the exigencies of the trade, but in that expansion a great revulsion occurred, and in 1876 a great loss was sustained. A mammoth foundation for a great industry, however, was laid by Mr. Dexter and his brother, who had done a business of from six hundred thousand to a million of dollars annually, and in 1880 the Dexter Yarn Company was incorporated, since which time the business has gradually expanded, having now an enviable reputation. Mr. Dexter has retired from the more active pursuits of a business life, but is still a stockholder of the company. His son, Samuel F. Dexter, is secretary and general manager of the company.
Mr. Dexter is a quiet, unassuming man. He has used his money freely for the good of the poor, is known for the probity of his character, and for the uprightness of a long and successful business career. He is public spirited, but no politician. He was married in 1842 to Ann Eliza, daughter of Samuel B. and Hannah Bowen, of Attleboro, Massachusetts. She died in 1883. Four children were born to them, two of whom are living: Emma, now the wife of Edward Thayer, and Samuel F., above mentioned. August 17th, 1884, Mr. Dexter married his present wife, Rose Maria Conley, a most estimable lady, and a daughter of Thomas and Catharine (Rush) Conley, who came from England in 1853.
Samuel Francis Dexter, son of Simon W., born in Pawtucket September 3rd, 1847, married Fannie, daughter of Doctor James L. Wheaton, and has three children: Nathaniel Wheaton, Fannie W., and M. Anthony.
Samuel Slater Dexter, son of Nathaniel G. B., was born in Pawtucket April 8th, 1827. His first wife was Elvira Crowell, by whom he had one child, Sarah Frances, wife of Heber J. Graham, of Central Falls. His second wife was Sarah Howland, and the children by this marriage are: Nelly, died aged 4 months; Charles, Nathaniel G. B., and Maude, wife of Duncan A. Cattanach.
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