Skip to Main Content

Overseers in Lowell's Textile Mills

Lowell Labor History

William Conihe (1813-1876)

                                                   Portrait of William Conihe

Lowell Historical Society, "Album 1," p. 041.

Born in Merrimack, New Hampshire, in 1813, William Conihe moved to Lowell in the mid-1830s and began work at the Merrimack Mills. Around 1839 he was appointed overseer at the Merrimack, a position he held for about 35 years. His wife Anna, also from New Hampshire, was born in 1813. They had five children, three surviving to adulthood. A member of the Whig Party, Conihe served as a city councilman in 1847 and 1848. He and his family belonged to the strongly temperance-oriented Second Universalist Church. Conihe resided in a Merrimack Corporation boardinghouse for the entire time he lived in Lowell.He quit the Merrimack in the spring of 1876 owing to poor health. He died in June of that year after an illness of nearly six weeks and was buried in the Lowell Cemetery.2

One of Conihe’s sons, Orlando F., worked as a bookkeeper in Lowell before moving with his Scottish-born wife to Boston, where he eventually obtained a job as a clerk in the state printing office. The other son, Theodore, struggled with alcoholism as a young man, working as a machinist at various machine shops and boarding in a number of houses in Lowell. One morning in September of 1878, while sharing a room with one John Lavery, in the boardinghouse of Patrick Costello, Conihe, who had resumed drinking after a period of abstinence, cut his throat with his shaving razor as Lavery looked on in horror.3

“Overseers in the Mills,” Lowell Daily Courier, July 12, 1872;
“Death of an Old Citizen,” Saturday Vox Populi, June 24, 1876.
“Self-Destruction: Sad and Tragic End of an Ill-Spent Life,” Lowell Morning Times, September 23, 1878.