The Stetson family of Bridgewater is one of the oldest and most prominent in that section of the State, and it has for upward of two centuries been identified with the manufacturing interests of the town, its representatives being the founders of the iron industry of Bridgewater. Especial reference is made to Capt. Abisha Stetson, who was one of the first to engage in the iron business; his son, Nahum Stetson, whose name was a household word in his native town, and who by his great foresight, enterprise and progressive ideas built up the great Bridgewater Iron Works; and the latter’s sons and grandsons, all men of substance and good citizenship.
Cornet Robert Stetson, the first of the name in New England, was from the County of Kent, England, where he was born in 1613. He settled in Scituate, Mass., in 1634, and took an active part in King Philip’s and other Indian wars. He bore the title of cornet, having that rank in the First Horse Company raised in Plymouth Colony, Mass., 1658-59. He was twice married, and his children were:
- Joseph, born in June, 1639
- Benjamin, in August, 1641
- Thomas, Dec. 11, 1643
- Samuel, in June, 1646
- John, in April, 1648
- Eunice, April 28, 1650
- Lois, in February, 1652
- Robert, Jan. 29, 1653
- Timothy, 1657
Robert Stetson (2), son of Cornet Robert, was born in Scituate, Jan. 29, 1653, and located in Pembroke, Mass. He married Joanna Brooks in 1676, and five children were born to them:
- Sarah, who married Ebenezer Bennett, of Middleboro, April 23, 1719
Isaac Stetson, son of Robert (2), located in Pembroke, Mass., where he lived and died. His children were:
- Abishai, born about 1706
- John, born in 1710
- Jennet, who married Benjamin Thomas
- Peleg, born in 1714
- Jerusha, born in 1718, who married Elisha Palmer
- Agatha, born in 1720, who married William Page
- Mary, born in 1722, who married Peleg West, of Kingston.
John Stetson, son of Isaac, passed all his life in Pembroke, where he was engaged in the iron business, also owning a furnace at Marshfield, Mass. He died Dec. 12, 1802. On Nov. 28, 1734, he married (first) Abigail Crooker, and his second marriage was to Deborah Tower, of Cumberland, R. I. Five children were born to the first union:
- Nathaniel, Jan. 1, 1736
- Abisha, May 20, 1738
- Abigail, Aug. 10, 1740
- John, baptized Sept. 26, 1742
- Ruth, born April 5, 1746
By the second marriage there were children as follows:
- Isaiah, born July 10, 1750
- Timothy, Sept. 16, 1752
- Deborah, Jan. 30, 1755
- Nathan, Dec. 15, 1757
- Gaius, April 9, 1759
- Lillis, Dec. 5, 1761
- Naomi, March 7, 1765
- Content, March 28, 1768
- Priscilla, Sept. 14, 1770
Abisha Stetson, son of John, was born in Pembroke, and there married Sarah Crooker. He then settled in East Bridgewater, where he died in 1777, at the age of thirty-nine years. His children were:
- Molly, born in 1762, married Benjamin Pinchin in 1787
- Abisha, born in 1764, died in 1771
- Abigail, born in 1766, married Dyer Robinson
- Jonathan, born in 1768, married Huldah Magown in 1791
- Sarah, born in 1770, married in 1795 Harlow Harden
- Abisha was born in 1773
- Bethia, born in 1776, married in 1794 Calvin Keith
In 1779 the widowed mother married for her second husband Solomon Packard.
Capt. Abisha Stetson, son of Abisha, was born in East Bridgewater. His parents were poor, and his educational advantages were limited. He learned the millwright’s trade with Jacob Perkins, with whom he became associated in business as a member of the firm of Lazell, Perkins & Co. To. company with his brother Jonathan and Mr. Perkins he started the Marshfield Cotton Factory, and was afterward manager of a like factory at East Bridgewater. For many years he had charge of the blast furnace and cotton factory at Kingston, and was agent for the cotton factory at Hanson, also holding a similar position for the anchor works. Later he became engaged in iron manufacturing in the town of Bridgewater, being one of the incorporators and an original member of the firm of Lazell, Perkins & Co., of Bridgewater, iron manufacturers, afterward merged into the Bridgewater Iron Works. He was well known and was possessed of great energy, and he was highly respected. He died in 1842.
In 1794 Captain Stetson married (first) Alice Allen, daughter of Ezra Allen, and they became the parents of eight children, born as follows:
- Jennet, 1797 (died in 1820)
- Sarah, 1799 (died in 1820)
- Ethan Allen, 1803
- Naomi, 1805
- Nahum, 1807
- Nathan, 1810
- Alice, 1813
- Caleb Strong, 1815
The mother of this family died in 1821, and Mr. Stetson married (second) Mary Johnson, of Kingston, Massachusetts.
Nahum Stetson, son of Captain Abisha, was born in East Bridgewater Aug. 21, 1807. He attended the local schools, and completed his education by two years study at the Bridgewater Academy. After leaving school he went to Boston, where he became a clerk in a mercantile house. There he remained but a short time, however, and on Nov. 28, 1825, he returned to Bridgewater and accepted a position in the store of Lazell, Perkins & Co., where by his faithful performance of duty and by his ability he was advanced step by step until he became manager of the affairs of the company. On the death of Mr. Nathan Lazell, in 1835, he was elected treasurer, an office he held with credit and ability during all the years of his active life. His enterprise and progressive ideas were given to the upbuilding of the Bridgewater Iron Works, and during the panics of 1837 and 1857 this company held its own, and its credit was unimpaired. He made many improvements in the mills, in fact during his management he rebuilt all of the mills. For over half a century he held the position of agent and manager of the works, and was secretary and treasurer of the corporation. In 1841 he was elected treasurer of the Weymouth Iron Company, an office he continued to hold while engaged in active business operations. In 1846 he took the Parker Mills (Tremont Iron Works), in Wareham, and was agent, treasurer and clerk as long as these mills remained in operation. In 1846 at these mills was made the first railroad iron manufactured in New England. The rails were used on the Old Colony railroad, were worn out, and later Mr. Stetson bought them back to make over. In 1847 Mr. Stetson was one of the incorporators of the Dean Cotton Machine Company, of Taunton, and was its first president, continuing as such for a period of twenty-five years, during which time he never missed attending a meeting of the shareholders or directors, presiding at all meetings, and driving ten miles to attend. He was elected a director of the Bristol County Bank of Taunton, and was chosen its president, resigning, however, at the end of a year on account of the pressure of his other business. During his term of office he signed over twenty thousand bills. He was a director of the bank for seventeen years. He was also an incorporator and director for many years of the Taunton Locomotive works, and succeeded Samuel L. Crocker as its president in 1883.
In 1854 Mr. Stetson purchased the works of the Providence Iron Company at Providence, R. I., and was connected with it as president until 1874. He was for forty years a director of the Old Colony Iron Works at East Taunton, and was one of the prime movers and incorporators of the Fall River Railroad Company, of which he was a director until it was consolidated with the Old Colony Railroad Company.
Mr. Stetson was a strong Whig and later became a Republican. He was always active in public affairs, and was elected a representative of Bridgewater to the General Court in 1838-39. Besides his many industrial enterprises he engaged in agriculture and horticulture, as well as cattle raising, owning some of the blooded stock which came from the farm of Daniel Webster. He took a great interest in the growth and development of Bridgewater, and was one of the largest subscribers to the building of the New Academy. He also contributed largely to the support of the Congregational Church. He died at his home Oct. 6, 1894, aged eighty-seven years.
On Nov. 13, 1828, Mr. Stetson was married (first) to Sarah Wilson Barstow, daughter of Rev. George and Sarah (Barstow) Bartsow, of Pembroke, and to this union were born the following children:
- George died in infancy
- George Barstow, born Oct. 10, 1830, is mentioned below
- Sarah Lazell, born June 7, 1834, died in November, 1851
- Nahum, Jr., born Dec. 14, 1836, was in charge of the New York business of the Bridgewater Iron Works. He married Feb. 13, 1862, Alice Warren Ames, of West Bridgewater, and they had four children:
- Sarah Wilson
- Thomas Ames, born July 16, 1874
- Natalie Howard, born Oct. 22, 1878, who is in New Bedford
- Paul Hamilton, born May 14, 1880, of New York
- William Butler, born March 20, 1839, resided in Newton Center, Mass., and was connected with the Bridgewater Company’s office there. On Oct. 19, 1864, he married Etta Brackett Caverly, of Boston, and they had two children, Helen Louise, born Dec. 22, 1872, and William Herbert, born May 18, 1876, who married Louise Wilbor Ingles. Mrs. Sarah Wilson (Barstow) Stetson died Aug. 17, 1842, and Mr. Stetson married (second) July 4, 1843, at Albany, N. Y., Lucy Ann Forester Barstow, her sister. To this union five children were born, three dying in infancy. The two survivors were: Lucy Ann, born Oct. 12, 1848, who married Zeno H. Kelley, of North Raynham, Mass., and died Sept. 11, 1894, the mother of six children
- Helen Stetson (born Nov. 13, 1876)
- Lucy Forester (born March 7, 1879)
- Sarah Wilson (born Aug. 11, 1880)
- Julia Brayman (born June 3, 1882), and two sons who died in infancy
- Helen Forester, born Dec. 6, 1850, who married (first) April 11, 1872, Henry Augustus Blake, and (second) in May, 1888, John Carver Alden
- Nahum Stetson married for his third wife, Dec. 5, 1888, Mary Louise Elliott, of Bridgewater, Mass., who is still living.
George Barstow Stetson, son of Nahum, was born in Bridgewater Oct. 10, 1830, and received his education in his native town. He early became associated with his father in the Bridgewater Iron Works, being for years the selling agent of the company. He died of yellow fever at Havana, Cuba, Aug. 11, 1883. He married Mary Lawton Sumner, of Pawtucket, R. I., and they had children as follows:
- George Wilkinson, born Sept. 12, 1850
- John Mathewson, born Feb. 25, 1853
- Nahum, born Dec. 5, 1856
The mother died in New York Aug. 4, 1878, and on Feb. 6, 1882, Mr. Stetson married (second) Helen Bode, of Nassau, New Providence Island. They had one child, Charles Irving, born Jan. 23, 1883, who died in infancy.
George Wilkinson Stetson was born in Bridgewater Sept. 12, 1850, and there received his early education. Later he attended Chauncey Hall School, in Boston, and after leaving school he became a clerk in a crockery establishment, working for George W. Bassett, in New York. Later he became engaged in the iron business with Crocker Brothers, No. 32 Clay street, New York City, where he remained for several years, until he started business on his own account. He dealt in iron under the firm name of George W. Stetson, Importers, and continued thus until 1889, when on account of ill health he abandoned this line and went to Europe, spending ten years abroad, principally in England. After regaining bis health he returned to New York, where he has since made his home. He built the “Hotel Webster,” on West 45th street, New York City, and is still the owner and proprietor of this hostelry, which ranks among the best in the city. He is a man of genial personality and high standards, and has made many friends both in and out of the business world. On Nov. 21, 1876, he married Clara Wagner, daughter of the late Webster Wagner, maker of the famous Wagner cars, and they have had two children
- Ethel Wagner
- Webster Wagner
John Mathewson Stetson, son of George Barstow Stetson, was born Feb. 25, 1853. He was educated in the district schools and Bridgewater Academy, and also attended a private school in New York City. He was employed for a short time as a clerk in a cotton broker’s office in New York, but resigned and in 1871 came to Bridgewater to become clerk and bookkeeper for the Bridgewater Iron Works. Through his ability and his careful mastery of all the details of the business he rose to the position of general manager in 1886, a position he filled with great satisfaction to all until his death, Feb. 24, 1903. Mr. Stetson was a stanch Republican in politics, and for two years was selectman. He was a member of Fellowship Lodge, A. F. & A. M., and a charter member of Harmony Chapter, B. A. M., Bridgewater. He also belonged to Brockton Council, R. & S. M., and Bay State Commandery, K. T., at Brockton.
On Oct. 27, 1874, Mr. Stetson married Ruth B. Swan, who was born at West Bridgewater, daughter of Dr. James C. and Harriet (Copeland) Swan. Three children were born to them:
- Mary L., who married Walter H. Cluett, of Troy, N. Y., and has one son, George B. Cluett 2d, born April 11, 1904
- Harriet S., at home
- James S., who is engaged in the real estate business at Taber, Alberta County, Canada (he married Margaret E. Crocker, of Braintree, Massachusetts).
Nahum Stetson, born Dec. 5, 1856, youngest son of the late George Barstow Stetson, has borne well the old family name and made a most creditable place for himself in the world. A native of Bridgewater, he began his education there in the district school, later attending the Bridgewater Academy and the Boston Commercial College. Upon leaving school he became bookkeeper in the office of the Bridgewater Iron Works, remaining in that establishment until 1875, when he was elected secretary of the Bureau of Machinery at Philadelphia during the great exposition of 1876, after which he accepted a position as salesman with the Steinway & Sons Piano Company of New York. He has since been connected with this great piano house, for which he traveled over twenty years, journeying many times between the Atlantic and the Pacific, through the South, all over Canada, to Europe and as far as the Holy Land. In time he was elected secretary of the company, which position he still holds, much to the satisfaction of all concerned. He is a big, whole-souled man, popular alike with his employees and business associates, a thorough business man in every particular, genial in manner, and with many qualities which make his success seem a most natural consequence of his career. He is a Republican in political opinion and a good citizen, though not active in public matters, his business interests requiring most of his time.
On June 25, 1879, Mr. Stetson married Cora E. May, of New York, and they have had two children:
- Leonard S., who died in infancy
- Beatrice May, who possesses artistic taste and temperament and has shown decided talent for music