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Overseers in Lowell's Textile Mills

Lowell Labor History

Willard Choate Welch (1814-1895)

                                                    Portrait of Willard Choate Welch    

Image 1. Lowell Historical Society "Album 1," p. 040.


                                               Portrait of Willard Choate Welch

Right: Lowell Historical Society "Album 2," p. 046.

Born in Canaan, New Hampshire, February 26, 1814, Willard C. Welch settled in Lowell in 1830 at the age of 16. Upon his arrival in the Spindle City Welch obtained a job at the Merrimack Mills and by age 25 he was appointed overseer.A brother, Charles A. Welch, also came to Lowell at a young age, got a job as a bobbin boy in the Merrimack Mills, and eventually became an overseer.

In 1836 Willard Welch married Maria L. Smith, age 26, in Lowell. They had three children, all born in a Merrimack boardinghouse. The oldest, William H. H., was born in 1841, but died in 1866 at the age of 15. The second child, Louisa Maria, was born in 1843. The youngest Emma Rebecca, was born in 1846. 

Welch’s wife died in 1847 and three years later he remarried. His second wife, Sarah F. (Jennings) was from Leeds, Maine, and was born in 1820. They had two sons, Arnold S., born in 1852, and Willard C. Jr., born in 1854. By 1860 Welch owned real estate worth $2,600 and claimed a personal worth of $500. He continued to live with his family in a Merrimack Corporation boardinghouse. Eventually he moved to a house on Frye Street. Welch died May 12, 1895, at the age of 65, after a long illness. He worked at the Merrimack until a few years before his death.2

One son, Arnold S. Welch, won a city council seat in municipal election of 1884, running as a Republican in Ward 4. At the time he was 32 years old and worked as chemist and assistant superintendent at the Hamilton Print Works.His other son, Willard C. Welch, Jr., became a physician and moved to Manchester, New Hampshire, and then San Francisco.

Welch's daughter Emma married Samuel F. Tucker, who grew up on a farm in Andover, Massachusetts, and by 1870 was living in the vicinity of Oakland, California, where her husband was an overseer on a railroad. By 1900 they were living in New York City.

“Overseers in the Mills,” Lowell Daily Courier, July 12, 1872.
2  Obituary of Welch in the Lowell Daily Courier, May 13, 1895.
3 “The Next City Council,” Lowell Morning Mail, December 11, 1884.