J. E. Minott, Edge-Tool Maker & Iron Forger
Excerpted from The Chronicle Vol. 57 no. 1, September 2004
by Roger K. Smith
Jonathan Eastman Minott’s career encompassed most of the nineteenth century, but although the first part of his career was spent as a private entrepreneur, he ended it working for a larger company, the Coes Wrench Company in Worcester, Massachusetts (Figure 1). Minott was born in Westminster, Massachusetts, on February 22, 1824, the son of Amos Minott (1792-1823) and Mary (Hardy) Minott (1798-1877). (1) His father, Amos Minott, had been a shoe-maker working at his house until his early death at age thirty, six months before the birth of his son. Mary Minott married her husband’s younger brother Amos about a year later on January 3, 1825. Thus J. E.’s uncle became his stepfather. Amos died August 24, 1876, at seventy-nine. J. E.’s mother died March 10, 1877 at seventy-eight.
The house where J. E. Minott was born is still standing at the west end of the village near the intersection of Route 2A Main Street (west) and West Main Street. It is a two-story square colonial with a double hip roof.
It is interesting to note that Mary Hardy was the older sister of Ephraim Hardy (1801-1870). Hardy was an edge-tool maker in Hollis, New Hampshire, circa 1821-1841. He relocated to Brookline, New Hampshire, in 1841 and continued making axes, drawknives, and other tools until his death in 1870. (2) Perhaps J. E. Minott apprenticed with his uncle Ephraim, or at least was influenced in his career choice by Ephraim.
Another family influence on J. E. may have been his uncle, Joseph Minott (1781-1835), who was a carpenter by trade, and with his older brother Jonathan, built several houses in Westminster. Later, he manufactured bass violins, which were of high quality and well regarded by the public. His shop was located where the Baptist Church now stands in the center of town. He died December 10, 1835. Bass violins signed by Joseph Minott are still prized today, bringing several thousand dollars at auction.
Census records indicate that J. E. Minott was working in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1845 when he was twenty-one years old, but we have not determined where he worked. However, we do know that in February 1849, Minott purchased the edge-tool business of Asa Wheeler in the north part of the town of Warwick, Massachusetts. Warwick is bordered by Orange, Massachusetts, on the south and Winchester, New Hampshire, on the north. Asa Wheeler relocated to Brattleboro, Vermont, and continued in the edge-tool business. In 1870, Wheeler patented the famous A. Wheeler countersink, which eventually was manufactured for many years by the Stanley Rule & Level Company. (3)
J. E. Minott married Emily May Jillson (1825-1909), the daughter of Paul and Zelphia (Sweet) Jillson, on November 24, 1846, in Richmond, Cheshire County, New Hampshire. (Richmond also borders Warwick on the northeast side.) They eventually had two children. His daughter, Emily Flora Minott, was born September 8, 1847, in Worcester. His son, Jonathan Monroe Minott, who was born December 2, 1850, in Warwick, Massachusetts, died in 1890, a year before his father.4 Their daughter, Emily, married John W. Hoppin, and lived in Worcester. John Hoppin was a boot and shoe dealer and stable keeper.
Edge tools known that were made by J. E. Minott include axes, drawknives, and chisels. Some are hot-stamped “J. E. MINOTT. WARWICK, MS.” (Figure 2). Others are hot-stamped “J. E. MINOTT & CO. WARWICK, MS.” (Figure 3). The chisel in Figure 4 has “CAST STEEL” added to the imprint.
The 1850 census records J. E. Minott at twenty-six, as a blacksmith in Warwick with real estate valued at $500. Living with J. E. and Emily was John Whipple, age twenty-five years, a blacksmith born in Massachusetts. Perhaps Whipple was Minott’s partner and the reason for the “& CO.” (Company) addition to the imprint.
The exact date of when J. E. Minott left Warwick is not known, but the 1860 Census indicates he was by then living in Worcester and was thirty-seven years old. Jonathan Eastman Minott died on December 16, 1891, at the residence of his daughter at 18 Leicester Street in Worcester. The obituary the following day in the Worcester Telegram reveals why perhaps he moved to Worcester. (4) It notes that he had been working for the Coes Wrench Company for nearly thirty years, apparently going to work for them about 1860.
It probably had not been easy to market his tools from the remote location of Warwick, and he no doubt had a tough time competing with the large manufacturers. At any rate, working for Coes Wrench Company would have provided steadier employment and a paycheck. His obituary further states that he was a “forger by trade and was regarded everywhere as a skillful artisan.” Coes wrenches are highly sought after by tool collectors, and many collectors have prob-ably handled the same wrenches that were assembled from the parts that J. E. Minott had forged during his long career with the company. We also learn from his obituary that about a year before he died, Minott organized the firm Minott & King for the manufacturing of “American Axle Grease.” (If anyone has seen a can of American Axle Grease or advertising we would appreciate hearing of it.) The obituary also mentions that he was a good admirer of horses, and had owned several fine specimens.
It is interesting to note that in the inventory and evaluation of his estate, the tools he owned were valued at $1, his watch at $35, and his buggy at $45. (5)
J. E. Minott is buried in Worcester. In the 1900 census, J. E. Minott’s wife, Emily, is listed as seventy-four and living with her daughter, Emily Flora Hoppin, who was also widowed. Emily N. Minott died August 23, 1909, at age eighty-three. Her residence was South Boffam Street in Worcester. She is also buried in Worcester.
1. William S. Heywood, Town History of Westminster, Mas-sachusetts 1728-1893 (Lowell, Massachusetts: S.W. Huse & Co., 1893), 792-793.
2. Edward E. Parker, History of Brookline, New Hampshire. (Brookline, N.H.: Town of Brookline,1914).
3. Records with the Warwick Historical Society. Warwick, Massachusetts. The complete story of Asa Wheeler will be presented in a future issue of The Chronicle.
4. Obituary of Jonathan Eastman Minott, Worcester Tele-gram & Gazette. December 17, 1891.
5. Probate Records (date of death December 16, 1891), Worcester County Courthouse, Worcester, Massachusetts, administration no. 12916. 1891.
The children of Enos Hardy and Mary Lund, married November 10, 1797, were Mary (born December 3, 1798), mother of J. E. Minott; Ephraim L. (born October 14, 1801), edge-tool maker, 1821-1870 and uncle of J. E. Minott; Alvah (born September 16, 1803); Levi (born September 16, 1807); Louisa (born February 10, 1811); and Sarah Ann (born March 21, 1816). From Samuel T. Worcester, History of the Town of Hollis, New Hampshire (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1879), 377. Hardy’s work will be presented in a future issue of The Chronicle. The U.S. Census Records for 1850,1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 and 1900 were also consulted in the preparation of this article.
Roger K. Smith is a longtime member of EAIA. By coincidence, he was raised in Westminster, and lived there from 1936 to 1960 in a house only about a mile and a half from J. E. Minott’s birth place. The author would like to thank Suzanne Bacheller for providing census information. Also Arlene Lincoln and Larry Carey with the Warwick Historical Society for access to old records.