JOHN SPENCE, who during his lifetime was a well-known citizen and successful business man of Rockland, Mass., was a native of Ireland, born there Dec. 12, 1834, son of James and Mary (Coffey) Spence. Mr. Spence left his native home for America in 1848, in his fourteenth year. He located in Massachusetts and learned the trade of shoemaker, at which he worked in a factory in East Abington, now Rockland, where he continued until 1875. He then started in business for himself, manufacturing heels, being a pioneer in that business. At this he continued for a number of years, and then in 1885 he started in the leather business, opening a store on South street, Boston, and a branch house in Chicago. In 1895 he established the Brockton Leather Company, which he conducted with great success until his death. He was also interested in other enterprises, being one of the promoters of the Rockland & Abington street railway, and serving as vice president and a director of the company during its existence. He was also a stockholder and director of the Abington & Rockland Electric Light & Power Company, and was a trustee of the Rockland Savings Bank until his death. He took quite a prominent and active part in the public affairs of Rockland, was a member of the board of water commissioners, and a member of the Commercial Club. Through his industry and thrift he built up a successful business and gained a considerable fortune. He was a consistent member of the Roman Catholic Church.
At the time of his death a local paper said editorially:
“The death last Sunday of John Spence, of Plain street, removes one of its most respected and honored citizens. Mr. Spence had been a resident of Rockland for many years, and had seen it grow from a small place to one of the most important in the country. He has grown with it and in spite of his years he was ever alive to anything that was of interest to the welfare of the town. Mr. Spence could be called one of the solid men of this place and his word was as good as his bond. He was a kind and indulgent father, a good neighbor, and a citizen that will be missed by all classes. The citizens of the town showed the regard in which he was held by closing their stores during the funeral services on Tuesday.”
He died Dec. 21, 1902, and was buried in the Catholic cemetery at Rockland.
On May 20, 1859, Mr. Spence married Anne Foy, who survives him and makes her home in Rockland. The following children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Spence:
- Mary A. Spence, born March 27, 1860, was educated in the Rockland high school, and resides with her mother, unmarried
- James W. Spence, born Jan. 4, 1862, and John J., born Oct. 4, 1863, are mentioned below
- Sarah J. Spence, born Aug. 8, 1867, was educated in the Rockland schools and the State normal school at Bridgewater, graduating in 1887, and taught school for several years in Rockland
- William H. Spence, born Jan. 28, 1871, is mentioned below
- Emily E. Spence, born May 13, 1873, was educated in the high school at Rockland
- Rose Ethel Spence, born July 11, 1880, was educated in the Rockland school and in Wellesley College, graduating from the latter in 1905. The family all attend the Holy Family Catholic Church, of Rockland.
James W. Spence, eldest son of the Tate John Spence, was born in Rockland Jan. 4, 1862, and there acquired his education, graduating from the high school. After leaving school he was associated with his father in the leather business for twenty years. He then retired from that line, and became engaged in shoe manufacturing in Brockton. In 1901 he became a member of the J. W. Terhune Shoe Company, and in 1904 he bought the entire business and moved it to Rockland, buying the plant of the J. S. Turner Shoe Company, at Howard and Park streets. Many improvements were made in the plant, making it thoroughly modern in every respect. Mr. Spence became president and treasurer of the company. In 1906 he purchased the business of the Rockland Welting Company, and is also interested in the Stone Leather Company, of Brockton. He is also an officer and one of the principal owners of the Albert Culver Coal Company, of Rockland. By his keen foresight and business sagacity Mr. Spence has built up a successful business as a manufacturer. Mr. Spence was one of the organizers of the Rockland Trust Company, of which he has been president since the beginning, and is also a member of the executive committee.
Mr. Spence was married Nov. 17, 1887, to Nellie C. Cashman, daughter of James and Catherine Cashman. Their children are:
- John Frederick Spence, born Nov. 21, 1888
- Helen Spence, Nov. 19, 1890
- Katherine Madeline Spence, Dec. 30, 1891
- Angeline Spence, April 18, 1894
- Mary Cashman Spence, Sept. 28, 1896
- Helen Spence, May 1, 1900
- James W. Spence, Jr., Feb. 8, 1905
Mr. and Mrs. Spence and their family belong to the Roman Catholic Church. Mr. Spence is public spirited and takes a deep interest in his native town, its people and its institutions.
John J. Spence, second son of the late John Spence, was born in Rockland, Oct. 4, 1863. He received a good education in the high school there, from which he was graduated, and acquired his business training in Bryant & Stratton’s commercial college in Boston. He was engaged in the leather business with his father, and since the latter’s death he has carried the responsibility of the whole concern. He resides in the old home,, and is looked upon as one of the energetic and progressive citizens of the town. He is unmarried.
William H. Spence, youngest son of the late John Spence, was born in Rockland Jan. 28, 1871. He received his literary education in the home schools, graduating from the Rockland high school, and in 1896 he was graduated from the Bryant & Stratton commercial college, Boston. He followed the business in which his father was engaged, and for several years was located in the same line in New York, in partnership with Stephen Dickerson, under the firm name of Dickerson & Spence, of New York and New Jersey. He is now associated with his brother, John J. Spence, in business in Rockland. Mr. Spence married Mary G. Doherty, and has two children
- John W. Spence, born March 26, 1903
- James Raymond Spence, born Feb. 13, 1905