The Belcher Malleable Iron Foundry
By Irene Smith, librarian
Easton people like to claim that the Belcher Malleable Iron Company at Furnace Village is the oldest malleable iron foundry in the country; but to be honest we should say the second oldest, and the oldest malleable plant in continuous operation in the same location in the United States.
In 1837 Alexander Boyden, brother of Seth Boyden who discovered the malleablizing process in 1826, started the company with Lincoln Drake at the head. Mr. Boyden, who had worked at the gray iron foundry, acted as superintendent for two years. The firm was called A. Boyden and Co. In 1847 the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association awarded a silver medal and a diploma to Lincoln Drake for the "excellent specimens of malleable iron castings exhibited by him at the exhibition and fair."
Two years later, in 1849, Daniel Belcher acquired the business and the plant has operated under the Belcher name ever since. For a few years brass castings were made as well as the malleable iron ones.
Two of Easton's highest ranking officers in the Civil War had been apprenticed to Daniel Belcher and were working at the foundry when the call came for volunteers to join the militia. One was Robert Dollard, who rose to the rank of Major and served for four years and ten months with a record of great bravery and magnificent ability in heading his command. In his History of Easton Mr. Chaffin tells a story of early bravery demonstrated by Mr. Dollard when he climbed a 90 ft. chimney at the foundry to remove some loose bricks.
The other was Major John Fitzparick who served an apprenticeship as moulder with Daniel Belcher. To quote the Rev. Mr. Chaffin: "No green turf in town rests over the remains of a braver soldier or more loyal man than that which covers the grave of Major John Fitzpatrick."
Fire has destroyed many of the buildings at the plant through the years so that most of the original buildings are now gone; but the plant has maintained an enviable record of performance and qulity of product for nearly 120 years. They have made many things: fireplace hardware, door stops, ornamental fences and gates, castings of all kinds for a wide variety of uses. During the Second World War castings for molds and parts for the Iron Lung were made; and some of the Iron Lungs were sent to Germany for our troops carried parts originating in Easton. Today they make castings for the textile and machine tool industries, electrical fittings, plumbing fixtures, and the requirements of many other industries- numerous and varied.
The company remembers with great affection the leadership of Mr. C. Bateman Swazey, who was with the foundry from 1919 until 1952.
The present officers are Mr. Joseph Abusamra, president and general manager, and Mr. Frank C. Tuttle, treasurer.
Endnote: Pamphlet found in the Easton Public Library.
- 1808- Company store was in operation by this time. Workers' houses on South Street were probably built by this time, and the Furnace Villagearea set up like a company town. The Company store is still standing on the corner of Foundry Street and Poquanticut Avenue. By 1810 it had become foundry office. Upstairs contained counting room with sliding windows to pay workmen. Two massive vaults were built into it.
- 1808-1810 - Sheperd Leach became sole owner and manager.
- 1810 - A large reservoir was built west of Old Pond. It was called Carge Reservoir at first; later known as New Pond.
- 1823 - By this time Leach owned seven furnaces in town. Locations of these have not been researched.
- 1832 - General Leach died and foundry was inherited by his brother-in-law Lincoln Drake and his sons, Lincoln S. Drake and Abbott L. Drake.
- 1837 - Alexander Boyden, brother of Seth Boyden who discovered malleablizing process in 1826, started company with Lincoln Drake at the head. This new company was on the south side of Foundry Street. Up to this time all of the furnaces were north of Foundry Street.
- 1839 - A. Boyden resigned as superintendent of the new foundry.
- 1835-1846? - Harmony Hall was discontinued as charcoal storage. It was made into a school and was one of the three locations when the high school met in different parts of town. Later it became a Sunday school and contained a library of nearly 500 books.
- 1847 - Mass. Charitable Mechanic Association awarded a Silver medal and diploma to Lincoln Drake.
- 1849 - Daniel Belcher acquired business on south side of Foundry Street. For a few years, brass castings were made as well as malleable iron.
- 1855 - For a short period of time, the Ames family of North Easton purchased an interest in the foundry. This interest only lasted a few years.
- 1860 - Loose bricks story concerning Robert Dollard occurred at Belcher Malleable Iron Co.
- 1872 - Lincoln Drake died. Sons kept the business going at Drake Foundry.
- 1880 - Fire destroyed most of Belcher Malleable Iron Co. It was rebuilt shortly.
- 1890 - Drake Foundry ceased operations. Foundry office was sold to Swifts for store. Company was unable to compete with others who were closer to raw materials.
- 1916 - Belcher Malleable Iron Co. incorporated with Belcher, Belcher and Page as incorporators.
- 1919 - C. Benjamin Swazey joined foundry. Later he became owner.
- 1919 - February 21st: Fire destroyed main building and pattern house. Only the offfice and annealing buildings escaped. Cause of fire was the full furnace of molten iron bursting out and settings fire to coal pile. Damage was estimated at $5,000. Eighteen workers were employed at the time of the fire. Buildings were rebuilt.
- 1939 - Frank Tuttle joined the company and diversified Belcher Malleable with his knowledge of new areas.
- 1950's - Land was donated to Town of Easton for Fire Station to help with fire protection for Furnace Village. Station #3 was built adjacent to Belcher Malleable on land donated for that purpose.
- 1952 - C. Bateman Swazey died.
- 1953 - Joseph Abusamra joined company with sales and industrial experience in malleable iron.
- 1959 - Lee Burgess joined Belcher Malleble Company.
- 1964 - Town water allowed installation of sprinkler system. Belcher's was one of first foundries in state to get better fire ratings because of record of safety.
- 1968 - It merged with Dayton Malleable Iron Company. Payroll at time was about $750,000 and 100 persons were employed. Payroll increased from $150,000 during 1940s.
- 1972 - The company started million dollar plus conversion to electric furnaces in order to allow continous pouring and to halt air pollution.
Endnote: Pamphlet found in the Easton Public Library.
Back to the History
Belcher Malleable Iron Foundry
Maps of Easton
Rev. Joseph Belcher