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Overseers in Lowell's Textile Mills

Lowell Labor History

Josiah Gates (1805-1882)

                                                     Josiah Gates

Lowell Historical Society "Album 3," p. 044.

Born on a farm in Townsend, Vermont, on August 3, 1805, Josiah Gates was left an orphan at a young age when his father died. It is not known how he spent his boyhood, but at about the age of 18, Gates obtained a job in a Vermont carding and fulling mill. In 1826 he moved to East Chelmsford where he worked in a small woolen mill run by Thomas Hurd. Hired by the Lowell Manufacturing Company, producers of woolen carpets, Gates was sent to Cape Cod to work in a company operation there, but he returned to Lowell and worked as an overseer until 1845. That year he initiated a leather belt manufacturing concern. The company prospered and he then constructed a large tannery on Chelmsford Street for production of the company’s leather. Gates also added the manufacture of fire hoses to his enterprise. In the 1860s Gates purchased the patent rights to the Murkland power loom and in 1869 purchased a carpet mill in Clinton, Massachusetts, to make carpets using this loom. In 1872, he traveled through Great Britain, France, Belgium, and Germany to promote the Murkland power loom.

Gates brought his sons into the business and engaged in a number of other enterprises—including a roll coverer firm with John Tripp—as well as serving on a number of corporate boards, including the Wamesit Bank, the Lowell & Andover Railroad, the Lowell Hosiery Company, the Hillsboro, New Hampshire Mills, and the Turner’s Falls Manufacturing Company. Gates was active in the John Street Congregational Church. He was elected to the city council in 1863, served as an alderman in 1865 and 1866, and was elected as a representative to the General Court as a Republican in 1868. Gates died in 1882, leaving a wife, two sons, and four daughters.1

“Death Record,” Saturday Vox Populi, May 6, 1882.