playwright. And to the average resident of this section, the name probably means
nothing except an odd title for an unheard of place, but there are many cities,
Woonsocket among them, which depend on Spindleville, Mass. for their industrial
There is probably not a textile city in the nation that does not at some time or other have
direct contact with Spindleville and its products - spindles.
There, midway between Milford and Mendon, at a road junction, is the small settlement
with the shop that gave it its name. And from that shop come the spindles that go to mills
making woolens, cottons and even silk.
Despite the modern importance of its product, it is one of the few remaining shops that is
conducted much as it was three quarters of a century ago, and despite the passage of
time, the product is little changed and the methods of production still call for the inherent
skill that made the New England Yankee famous.
The workmen themselves are craftsmen of the old school and their contentment and
pride in their work is probably unequalled in any other plant in New England. Here men
have worked since they were mere youngsters and today sons carry on jobs started by
Three such workers are George Grayson, Samuel S. Olivant and Arthur O. Sweet. This
trio of "youngsters" has compiled 162 years in the firm, which is officially known as Asa A,
Westcott and Sons. (The present plant manager, Asa A. Westcott, is the grandson of the
Oldsters Top Mechanics
These three whose ages total well over 210 years, are active; each carries on at his
skilled trade, and should anyone suggest retirement he would probably be chased from
the shop by one or all of the three. Moreover, the younger men of the shop admit that
they cannot compete in skill or production with any one of the three.
Grayson is the dean of the crew in point of service.
"I graduated in June 1889 from high school, says George, "and the next day I started
work here. That was 58 years ago. I have tried other places for short times, but have
spent most of that 58 years right here at the same trade that I learned in school -
straightening spindles." Grayson is the father of seven children, has 16 grandchildren
and two great-grandchildren. He said that his children want him to retire but that he
prefers to work.
Sam Olivant, 79, came to work Columbus Day 1892 and has been at his forge for 55
years, but the years have left little trace on Sam who maintains that he will still "dance a
jig with any of 'em."
Expert in Forging
Olivant was born in England and entered his apprenticeship in forging and blacksmithing
at the age of 13. After 8 years as an apprentice, he came to this country and his first and
only job here has been at the Spindleville plant.
Sam is head of the forging department, where steel rods are heated, then beaten with a
trip hammer until they are drawn to the shape called for. It is a highly skilled trade, and
while the younger men are working at top speed, Sam sits on his chair, feeding the trip
hammer at an even pace, and when quitting time comes, he is generally far ahead in
production. The younger forgers are quick to admit that Sam is the best man in the
room. When one of the "boys" said he was going to claim the title "best forger," Sam
agreed, but added, "There are two kinds of forgers and I am the best forger of metals."
Sam also insists that although he came here on Columbus Day, the "boys" are lying
when they say he came over with Christopher. "I paid my passage," Sam adds.
Youngster of Trio
Sweet is the youngster of the trio. He has been in the shop a mere 49 years, but to
make up for his lack of service points out that his son, Reginald, has been there 20
years and another son, Arthur L., has already worked there 17 years, making 86 years
for the family. Sweet polishes, rounds and hardens the spindles.
Grayson also has had sons working at the plant, but today his family is scattered.
Asa Westcott, or "Mr. Asa" as he is called, is plant manager, but the only way to find it
out is to ask. Clad in working clothes, he is on the shop floor daily, taking an active part
in the work. Only 70, the old timers refer to him as a "young squirt" and Grayson and
Olivant often remind him that when he was a youngster and annoyed the workers, they
would pull his ears and "tan his britches" to keep him in place.
The shop, according to Westcott, was originally a cider and grist mill, but was converted
to a spindle shop about 76 years ago by Asa A., grandfather of the manager. His sons
Augustus, Wilmer and David, carried on for some years, and today Asa and his brother
Roy, sons of Augustus, are the proprietors.
Probably the most unusual thing about the shop is the spirit of the workers. There is
none of the bickering or griping often found among skilled mechanics but the friendly
rivalries go on continually. Even Westcott is not immune to "abuse" from his men, but
production never slows.
Radios in the shop bring music and baseball games, and a softball field in the rear of
the shop is well used.
The spindles from Spindleville go to nearly every city or town where textiles are made,
and many foreign countries know the Westcott product.
There are many larger shops in the area, but nowhere will a visitor find a pleasanter
atmosphere or more careful workmanship than in the spindle shop that is Spindleville.
Woonsocket Call, September 13, 1947.
HOPEDALE - Spindleville doesn't appear in the town's official history. And to many
residents, it's just the name of a pond and the section of town where you find the
Hopedale Country Club golf course.
Passersby on the way to their golf games notice the small low-profile electronic
hardware and precision parts factory, called M.C. Machine Co., Inc., without knowing that
the building has a manufacturing history that predates the birth of their great-
But many longtime residents remember what it meant to live in Spindleville, and
remember the mill, A.A. Westcott and Sons, that gave Spindleville its name.
One of those people is Frances Rae of 120 Mill Street.
"Spindleville was sort of considered the other side of the tracks," said Rae, 74. "The
families who worked at the mill lived here." The home of Asa Augustus Westcott, Rae's
grandfather, still stands. It's a well-preserved, solidly built, wood frame house. Although
her grandfather ran the mill that supplied the spindles used in Draper Company looms,
[That must be a mistake. Spindles were used in spinning machines, not in looms.] his
home does not compare with the almost monstrous brick estates on Dutcher and Adin
streets that housed the top Draper executives.
Asa Augustus Westcott came to Hopedale from Scituate, R.I., in 1826. Besides
becoming a deacon at the Congregational Church in Milford, he bought land in the
southwestern part of Hopedale and the mill, which had been used to make cider and
On the hill that is now covered with the 224 home Laurelwood development, he started a
farm with chickens, corn, melons and livestock.
He converted the mill, which still hovers over the Mill River, to a steel spindle-making
operation. The spindles would be forged in the basement, shaped, hammered,
straightened and smoothed - all by hand.
"I would go into the straightening shops," Rae said. "I wouldn't stay much. It was so
noisy! You can imagine - particularly the big hammers on the steel."
A large wooden paddlewheel in the Mill River generated the electricity that ran the
factory. [Reggie Sweet, who worked at the mill for decades, recalled that in his early days
there (the 1950s, I think), the waterwheel was being used to operate the triphammers
that were used in shaping and straightening the spindles. He didn't mention anything
about generating electricity there.]
Today, all you hear in the M.C. Machine Co. is the shearing down of finely fitted machine
parts and screws. The company gets its juice from power lines. And the riverbanks serve
as a nice spot for company employees to sit down and eat their lunch. That new
business moved in soon after the need for steel spindles died in the mid-1950s
Laurelwood resident Joanne Dutra, who works in Boston, considers herself a Hopedale -
not a Spindleville - resident. "Spindleville is just the name of a pond," she said.
But in a subtle way, the legacy of the Westcott family, and the mill, have remained part
of Hopedale. Rae's father, also named Asa Augustus, served as a Hopedale selectman
for 33 years, until retiring in 1953.
Rae herself has three children, six grandchildren, and taught generations of Hopedale's
kindergarteners and first-graders. Michael and Paul Cogliandro, M.C. Machine Co.'s
president and vice president, were not familiar with the history of Spindleville but they still
treasure the old yellowed photo of the spindle makers standing in the snow, in front of
the former spindle making shop. (See top of page.)
"The factory helped a lot of people and helped the community," Selectman Jaime
Wagman said. The Middlesex News, August 21, 1989.
and the product of their factory may be found in use wherever wool or cotton mills are in
operation in the United States, and through the American machine builders they are
exported to foreign countries. Mr. A.A. Westcott commenced business at North Scituate,
R.I., in 1869. In 1873 he secured the mill and water privilege where they are now located.
It is one mile south from the village of Hopedale, and here they have combined water and
steam of 125 horse power. The main factory building is 30 feet wide and 150 feet long,
with auxiliary buildings 34 by 40 for blacksmith shop, 35 by 45 for boiler and engine
room, and 16 by 40 for office. The factory is supplied with specially constructed
machinery for making steel spindles and fittings, and the output is regarded as
mechanically perfect. They employ a large force of skilled machinists and can turn out
over 3000 spindles per day. Mr. Westcott, while now an elderly man, is still active about
the works, and is ably assisted by his sons, who having been raised in the business, are
thoroughly familiar with every branch of the industry. Source unknown, undated.
Ad from Hopedale business directory - 1907.
|Best New England Traditions
Live in Factory at Spindleville
|Its days of glory lie in past
Spindleville's legacy lives on in Hopedale
By Irene Coletsos
|A.A. Westcott & Sons
Manufacturers of Cotton, Woolen, Silk,
Twine, Twister Worsted, Speeder
and Quilter Spindles, Skewers, Flyers,
Strips, Bolsters, etc.
Office and Works, Hopedale.