ROBERT JAMES DECKER – When we think of tobacco in its various forms, as cigars, cigarettes or “the pipe that sootheth,” we are apt to think of the Orient, of far and distant lands like Egypt, Greece, Bosnia, or on our Western Hemisphere of Havana, Porto Rico, or of our own product of Virginia, famous the world over. That there is a considerable amount of the fragrant weed grown in our Northern States and distributed by a large industry is a fact known not so widely as it deserves. Among the packers and growers of tobacco in Massachusetts, an important place, both as to bulk of trade and quality of product, is taken by John C. Decker, a native of Hatfield, Massachusetts.
John C. Decker, son of Gottlieb Decker, was born in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, May 3, 1855. He received his preliminary education in the public schools of Hatfield and Deerfield, Massachusetts. Until seventeen years of age he worked on his father’s farm and later, as is the custom in his locality, accepted work on other farms by the month. Later he became interested in tobacco raising and when he thought himself justified to translate his knowledge into practice he bought a farm, in 1887, in the village of South Deerfield, where he has raised tobacco ever since. From the year 1880 he has been a packer and grower of tobacco, and for the proper storage and maturing-two eminently important factors in the scientific pursuit of the tobacco business-he built upon his property in the village a large ware-house, as well as a fine residence. For some time he carried on the tobacco business under his own name, and later he took in his two sons, and the firm’s name became John C. Decker & Sons. The business has since been incorporated, and. at the same time Mr. Decker has retired from active life.
John C. Decker married Mary A. Walsh, of Holyoke, Massachusetts, born in 1856, died on January 13, 1918, who was a daughter of Michael D. and Bridget (Hayes) Walsh. Mr. and Mrs. Decker are the parents of the following children: 1. Charles J., who died December 26, 1918, aged thirty-five years. He was actively engaged in the tobacco business until the time of his death. 2. Caroline Lucy. 3. Robert James, of whom further. 4. Mary Ellen, who married Samuel Delano, of Springfield, Massachusetts. 5. Bessie, who died, aged seven years. 6. Frederick M.
Robert James Decker is a native of South Deerfield, Massachusetts, where he was born on January 7, 1887, a son of Robert James and Mary A. (Walsh) Decker. He received his education in the schools of South Deerfield, and the Northampton Commercial School, and throughout his life has been a farmer, packer and dealer in leaf tobacco. From 1908 to 1912 the name of the firm was John C. Decker & Sons, but from 1912 to 1918. the business was carried on under the firm name of C. J. and R. J. Decker, a partnership consisting of Mr. Decker and his brother, Charles J. Decker. Since his brother’s death the business has been incorporated under the name of C. J. and R. J. Decker, Inc., of which Mr. Decker is president. An idea of the size of the plant may be obtained by stating that Mr. Decker owns and controls more than one hundred and fifty acres of tobacco, some eighty acres of which is shade grown. He employs about a hundred people in the summer time and in the winter gives employment to some sixty or more in his packing house. Apart from his extensive interests in the growing and packing of tobacco, Mr. Decker always finds time to interest himself in civic affairs, being at the present time a selectman of Deerfield and an overseer of the poor and member of the Board of Health. He is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and of the Improved Order of Red Men.
Robert James Decker married, June 29, 1910, Nellie Lawlor, at Palmer, Massachusetts, a daughter of Maurice and Catherine Lawlor. Mr. and Mrs. Decker are the parents of the following children: 1. Catherine Lawlor, born June 18, 1911. 2. Helen Roberta, born June 20, 1916. 3. Frances Aniceta, born October 20, 1918. 4. Robert James, Jr., born in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, July 5, 1920. The first three children were all born in South Deerfield, Massachusetts.