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One Town that 'can't be licked'

WARE--Ware became know as "The Town That Can't Be Licked" when the citizens rallied to save its economic life after two disasters.

In 1938, the Otis Co., employing 75 per cent of the town's labor force, announced it was moving its entire operation south.

The working people banded together to buy the plant and founded the Ware Industries to sell stock.

Then, the next year, the 1938 hurricane hit, causing $40,000 worth of damage to the plant. Ware Industries had to borrow $30,000, and the citizens came to the rescue. In two years, the mill property was again on the tax rolls.

By 1942, 14 plants were occupied by 17 firms manufacturing a range of goods—textiles, paper, shoes and machines.

Although it is a manufacturing community, Ware did not get its name from the wares it produces. The Indians called the river Nenameseck, which means fishing baskets, or wier. The white men pronounced this "ware."

Ware was part of the "Equivalent Lands" given to Connecticut in 1713 to settle a boundary dispute. Connecticut quickly sold off these lands and used the money to finance Yale College. John Read bought much of what is now Ware and called it "The Manour of Peace."

He leased the land during his lifetime but never lived here. He was the "greatest jurist of his time" in Boston, and served on the Governor's Council.

THE FIRST SETTLERS arrived between 1719 and 1730. Despite its poor soil, the community was as intensively farmed as the more fertile lowland towns of Hadly and Northampton until the early 19th century.

Nevertheless, the town was a poor one. In 1771, the Commonwealth built a bridge over the Ware River, and charged it to the county, because of "the extreme and well known poverty of the townspeople."

Today, a covered bridge, one of the few remaining in the Commonwealth, spans the Ware River, between Ware and Gilbertville.

Located in the extreme eastern portion of Hampshire County, Ware is geographically isolated from the county seat in Northampton, but it has always been the route to Boston.
Traffic supported hostelries, and by the eve of the Revolution, there were eight flourishing taverns in the town.

Capt. Jabez Olmstead was not only a hero in the war, but the first man to utilize the water power of the Ware River, establishing a grist mill on its banks.

The townspeople responded enthusiastically to the Revolution, with soldiers, taxes and goods. However, the war rapidly depleted the town's reserves, and as the fighting drew to a close, Ware had difficulty furnishing the requisite number of soldiers.

In 1780, a "pottision" of Capt. William Brackenridge "humbly sheweth that theire is a fine of Six hundred pounds added to the last state taxt for want of one man…The man was drafted and returned to the muster master…He went off and has not been heard of since."

THE ECONOMIC slump of the Revolution made the townsmen sympathetic to Shays's Rebellion, and the home of Josephy Cummings "was employed as a depot for insurgent supplies and many a Ware man marched with the insurgent forces."

Early in the 19th century, Ware residents ceased trying to wrest their living from the soil and began to use their greatest natural resource, power from the Ware River Falls.

In the 1820s Boston capitalists provided financial backing to develop the falls for textile manufacturing.

Today, the town is suffering an economic downturn. Unemployment there is higher than the state average, due to the closing of several mills.

However, "The Town That Can't Be Licked" is showing some healthy signs. Back orders at the local mills are higher than they have been in several years.

(Ware has no Bicentennial projects.)

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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This article from the Northhampton, Massachusetts, "Bicentennial Edition of the Daily Hampshire Gazette" (6-11-1976) summarizes the history of the town of Ware, calling it "The Town that Can't Be Licked." It tells of the town industries, and how it banded together to buy a textile plant when the company that employed 75 per cent of the town's workforce moved south. Ware was settled between 1719 and 1730, and has suffered periodic economic declines typical of New England mill towns.


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The Town that can't be licked article published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette Bicentennial newspaper

publisher   Hampshire Gazette
date   Jun 11, 1976
location   Northampton, Massachusetts
width   3.5"
height   10.75"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L04.151

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See Also...

"Picturesque Hampshire"

"The Confession of Judah Marsh" published in the Hamsphire Gazette

"New Salem"

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