Put’s Bridge, Springfield Mass

The old covered bridge across the Chicopee River from Springfield to Ludlow, taken from the Springfield side in 1897. Photo courtesy of the Hubbard Memorial Library.

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The present-day bridge in 2015:

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Alternately called Putts Bridge, this spot at Wallamanumps Falls on the Chicopee River has long been the site of a bridge connecting Springfield and Ludlow.  The early accounts are somewhat vague, but the first bridge was built in either the late 1780s or early 1790s.  Either way, a bridge was definitely here by 1794; prior to that, Ludlow’s 500 or so residents would have to get to and from Springfield by fording the river, a task that I can’t image was particularly pleasant or safe.  The bridge was constructed by Eli Putnam, hence the name Put’s bridge.  However, bridges here didn’t seem to have much of a lifespan; in the next 30 years, three additional bridges would have to be constructed on this site.

The 1822 bridge must have been different, because it lasted until this 1897 photograph.  By this point, though, the 75 year old bridge was starting to show its age, and the next year it was replaced with a new iron bridge.  However, the replacement didn’t even last half as long as its predecessor before it was replaced by the current bridge in 1930.  Today, this concrete and steel bridge carries Route 21 across the river, and it still serves as the primary connection from Ludlow to Springfield.  The one difference in the location of these two photos is that the covered bridge was at a substantially lower elevation, so the 1897 photo would’ve actually been taken partway down the hill toward the river.  I could’ve recreated the scene from here, but I chose this location since it represents what the surface of bridge today looks like, rather than just the underside of it.

Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company

Two workers pose outside of the Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company on Front Street in Indian Orchard, Springfield, Massachusetts, in September 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The same scene in 2014:

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The Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company was once a major employer in this neighborhood of Springfield; it was strategically located along the fast-moving Chicopee River, which was a center of industrial development in 19th and early 20th century Massachusetts.  It was also one of the places photographed by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of his efforts to document child labor practices in the country.  Here, two boys pose across the street from the factory.  According to Hine’s caption, they are:

“Alfred Gengreau, 20 Beaudry St., Joseph Miner, 15 Water St. Both work in Mr. Baker’s room. Indian Orchard Mill. Location: Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.”

I tried looking up genealogical information on both boys to see what became of them.  I could not find any information about Gengreau, although based on his name, he was probably a French-Canadian immigrant.  However, I was able to find some information about Miner.  Based on what I was able to gather from census records and other public records, here is what I know about him:

He was born in 1897 to Joseph Sr. and Mary Miner; Joseph Sr. finished school after the second grade and, according to the 1910 census, could not read or write.  They had one other child who had died sometime before the 1900 census, and by the 1910 census the three of them lived in a company-owned housing unit on Water Street, just a short distance to the right of where these photos were taken.  In 1910, Joseph Sr. worked as a crane operator.

Joseph Jr., the one photographed above, was 14 when the photo was taken; according to his 1940 census, the highest grade that he completed was the 4th grade, which suggests he may have been working for some time before 1911. A few years later, he would serve in World War I.  After the war, he married is wife Mabel, and they had two children: Eleanor, born in 1922, and Wallace, born in 1931.  In 1930, Joseph and Mabel were still living in Springfield, paying $18 a month in rent, and Joseph was working as a mechanic.  By 1940, however, their economic situation appears to have improved; Joseph was still employed as a mechanic, but they were listed on the census as being homeowners; their home at 461 Walnut Street in Springfield was valued at $2,500.

By the 1950s, the Springfield city directories indicate that Joseph and Mabel were living on Plumtree Road in Springfield, at the time a new suburban residential part of the city.  Joseph’s occupation during this time was listed as a real estate broker.  All things considered, it’s impressive – he grew up working as a child laborer in a factory, living in company housing, and eventually became a real estate broker who owned a home in a relatively upscale neighborhood.

Joseph died in 1964 at the age of 67, and Mabel died in 1975.  She actually outlived her younger child, Wallace, who died in 1974 at 43 years old.  Joseph and Mabel’s oldest child, Eleanor, died in Springfield in 2009.  It’s likely (although I haven’t researched it) that Eleanor and Wallace had children who still live in the Springfield area, and if so, I’d love to hear from them and see what else they could tell me about the young 14 year old boy in the 1911 photo, because as I mentioned, just about everything I found out is through census records, which only give information on a small piece of a person’s life.

Indian Orchard Mill Workers (4)

One more scene at the Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company from September 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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Like the 1911 photos on the posts here, here, and here, this shot by Lewis Wickes Hine captures a moment of the lives of these young boys who worked full time in the textile mills in Indian Orchard.  Although anonymous faces to a modern-day audience, most of these boys were likely French-Canadian, Polish, or Irish immigrants who left school at around sixth grade (or earlier) to supplement their families’ income.  Many of them would probably go on to fight in World War I, live through the economic hardships of the Great Depression, and have children who would fight in World War II.  Today, many of them probably have grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in the Springfield area.

Through all the generations, though, the scene has stayed pretty much the same – the building, which was built in 1895, still stands, and is still used for industrial purposes, unlike so many other historic mill buildings in New England.  The railroad tracks are still there – perhaps the same rails as in 1911 – although the line, which once extended all the way to Athol, now ends just a few hundred yards short of the factory.

Indian Orchard Mill Workers (3)

Another scene outside of the Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company in September, 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The building in 2014:

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As with the previous posts here and here, the 1911 photo was taken by Lewis Wickes Hine for the National Child Labor Committee to work to reform the essentially nonexistent child labor laws of the early 20th century.  His caption for this photo reads:

“Group in front of Indian Orchard Mfg. Co. Everyone in public was working, (see previous lists of names).] Location: Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.”

I’m not sure which “previous list” he is referring to, but it is probably the one from this photo from the Library of Congress, with a caption that reads:

“Group of workers from Indian Orchard Mfg. Co. including following names and others: Mose Fournier, 297 Worcester St.; in Mr. Karnes’ room. Wilfred Croteau lives on Worcester St., in front of Police Station. Doffer in Mr. Baker’s twisting room. Paul Phaneuf, 189 Franklin St., in Mr. Karnes’ spinning room. Leo La Francis, 12 Quebec St. In beaming room.] Location: Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.”

As the names of the workers suggests, most of the children in the photo were probably recent immigrants from Quebec.  During this time period, there was large-scale immigration of French-Canadians (including my own ancestors) who came to the Springfield area to work in the factories.  Although the children have in all likelihood passed away, many of them probably have descendants who still live in the area, perhaps unaware of the role that their ancestor played in the history of child labor laws.

Today, the building is still there, although the company itself was sold in 1932.  Today, the site is still used for industrial purposes, albeit with older workers older than middle school age.  Even the railroad tracks are still there, and a few of the rails appear to be dated 1909, which would suggest that the ones there today may have been the exact same ones that the boys were standing on in 1911.

Indian Orchard Mill Workers (2)

Another scene showing young mill workers in Indian Orchard, Springfield, Massachusetts, in September 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The same building in 2014:

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Like the photo in the previous post, the 1911 photo was taken by Lewis Wickes Hine of the National Child Labor Committee to document working conditions of children in the United States and bring about social reform.  Hine’s caption on this photo reads:

Group in front of Indian Orchard Mfg. Co. Everyone in public was working, (see previous lists of names). Location: Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.

I’m not sure which “previous list” he is referring to, but it is probably the one from this photo from the Library of Congress, with a caption that reads:

“Group of workers from Indian Orchard Mfg. Co. including following names and others: Mose Fournier, 297 Worcester St.; in Mr. Karnes’ room. Wilfred Croteau lives on Worcester St., in front of Police Station. Doffer in Mr. Baker’s twisting room. Paul Phaneuf, 189 Franklin St., in Mr. Karnes’ spinning room. Leo La Francis, 12 Quebec St. In beaming room.] Location: Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.”

Indian Orchard Mill Workers (1)

Workers in front of the Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company in Springfield, Massachusetts, in September 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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The 1911 photo was taken by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of his effort to document child labor conditions around the country.  Here, a group of young boys are posing outside their place of employment at the textile mills of the Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company.  The caption from Hine reads:

Group in front of Indian Orchard Mfg. Co. Everyone in photo was working. Boy not photographed. Hector Dubois, 24 Water St. Doffer in Indian Orchard; crushed finger in pump. Location: Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.”

Although many of them are likely not even teenagers at this point, they were likely finished with school, and were working full time in the factory.  Notice how many are smoking either a pipe or cigarettes, including the boy in the front row just to the left of center, proudly displaying his pack of cigarettes to the camera.

The location hasn’t changed much in the past 103 years; the building still looks much the same as it did in 1911, and even the railroad tracks are still there.  The company is long gone, though, and it is highly unlikely that any of the workers are still alive.  However, photos such as these helped to bring about calls for social reform that would eventually lead to laws against child labor practices in the United States