Stephen Thatcher, who was born in Wareham, Mass. in 1781, lived
there until he was seventeen years of age, when his father decided to remove
to Lee, whither some of his friends and acquaintances had already gone. Having
determined to remove, the question of how and when became the all important
one, for in those days railroads were unknown, and a journey of one hundred
and fifty miles was as much of an undertaking as a journey from Boston to
San Francisco would be now. [Note: "Now" refers to 1872!]
It was finally decided to move in February, while sleighing was good.
Accordingly a large ox sled was provided, upon which the household goods
were loaded, and which was drawn by a yoke of oxen with a horse at the lead.
They started about the twentieth day of February, and were seventeen days
on the journey, striking the Boston and Albany turnpike--the great thoroughfare
of those days-- near Worcester. So long were they on this road, that the
same stages and drivers passed and repassed them several times on their trip
between Boston and Albany. They arrived at their destination on a Saturday.
News of their coming had preceded them, and a company of their old friends
came out to escort them in, meeting them near was is known as "Green-Water
Pond," in the town of Becket.
His father purchased a farm of about three hundred acres, a little north
of the village of Lee, on which Stephen remained for three years, and then
determined to ship as a whaler, which was then a very profitable business.
Accordingly, in the spring of 1801, he went to Hudson, New York for that
purpose, but finding no immediate chance to ship, he procured work, intending
to remain there until a good opportunity offered itself. None however offering,
he returned home in the autumn, where he remained till the following spring,
when he, in company with other, engaged to labor on the turnpike then being
built between Albany and Schenectady, New York. He continued in this business
five seasons of seven months each, a part of the time as overseer.
Returning to Lee he engaged in manufactures, and was the pioneer in several
important enterprises, building a powder mill, which he carried on until
the embargo of 1809 caused its suspension in 1811. He also built a wire factory,
and continued the manufacture of wire until after the war of 1812, when English
wire coming in, he could not compete with it. [sic] He also built and carried
on a chair factory for several years. He built the first paper mill on the
Housatonic river in Lee, and remained in this business until his retirement
from active life in 1852. In connection with this he established the manufacture
and sale of Navarrino bonnets, which were very fashionable and popular at
one time, and which proved for a season a very profitable business.
His mind, always active and of an inventive turn, was continually seeking
to improve upon the methods he then possessed, and he introduced many useful
improvements in the manufacture of paper, some of which are still used. Not
content with the manner of manufacturing paper, a sheet at a time, and by
hand, he conceived the idea of making it in a continuous sheet and by machinery,
and obtained a reluctant consent and an appropriation of fifteen hundred
dollars of his partners to experiment in that direction. The result was that
in less than six weeks, and before the appropriation was used up, he presented
a sheet of paper of the ordinary width, and several feet in length to his
partners, who were speechless with astonishment. This was the origin of the
cylinder machine for making paper, which is still used in many mills, and
of which he was the inventor.
He possessed the confidence and esteem of the entire community, and was
honored with many important trusts. He was appointed Justice of the Peace
for seven successive terms--twenty-eight years in all, and was known by the
title of "Squire" Thatcher so long that his given name was almost forgotten,
and in fact unknown by many. He was elected to the legislature of Massachusetts
for two years, 1829 and '31, and while there was the originator of measures
that were of much value to manufacturers, especially owners of mill sites.
In the year 1852, being somewhat advanced in years, and desirous of retiring
from active business, he sold out his interests in Lee and removed to Saratoga
Springs, New York.
Source: Allen, D. W. Genealogy, and Biographical Sketches, of the Descendants of Thomas and Anthony Thacher, From Their Settlement in New England, June 4th, 1635. Vineland, NJ: Independent Printing House, 1872.