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Overseers in Lowell's Textile Mills

Lowell Labor History

Francis Brown (1820-1906)

                                                                                Portrait of Francis Brown

Courier-Citizen Company, Lowell, Mass. Illustrated History of Lowell and Vicinity: Massachusetts. Courier-Citizen, 1897.


Born in Atkinson, New Hampshire, November 14, 1820, Francis Brown was the second of three children. His father, Jonathan Kimball Brown, was a farmer. Francis Brown received his education in the public schools of Amherst, New Hampshire, and graduated from the academy in Dracut at the age of 22. He then moved to Lowell where he obtained  a job as a wool sorter at the Middlesex Mills. After working there about three years the agent of the newly established Washington Mills in Lawrence offered him the job of overseer. Brown accepted this position but remained at the Washington Mills for only a few months before accepting an overseer’s job in the wool sorting department at the Middlesex Mills. He then worked at the Middlesex for nearly 47 years.1

By 1870 he owned real estate worth the substantial sum of $8,000 and his personal worth amounted to $1,000. His wife Susan (born 1822 in New Hampshire) was keeping house. His son Frank K. was working as a wool sorter at the Middlesex and his daughter Addie A. was at school. By 1880 Francis Brown had been promoted to the position of wool buyer for the Middlesex Mills and his son worked for him. Both son and daughter continued to live at their parents’ home in an affluent section of the city on High Street. Living across the street was Francis Brown’s brother Horace, age 57, who was employed as a section hand in the Massachusetts Mills.By 1897 Francis Brown retired from the Middlesex Mills. The wealth he had amassed enabled him to purchase another house on High Street. He gave his son, Frank, who continued as a wool buyer at the Middlesex, his former residence. Brown died at his home on February 14, 1906, leaving his wife and son.3

1 “Obituary – Francis Brown” Lowell Daily Mail, February 15, 1906.  An earlier listing of overseers in Lowell claims that Brown moved to Lowell about 1835 and was appointed overseer in the wool sorting department in 1838.  “Overseers in the Mills,” Lowell Daily Courier, July 31, 1872.
Lowell, Massachusetts City Directory, 1881 - Horace Brown.
“Deaths,” Lowell Daily Courier, February 15, 1906.