An abstract of the Chapin Company history

The Chapin Company was, for nearly a century, one of the largest employers in New Hartford. It was founded in 1826 by Hermon Chapin and remained a family business until 1914.

Hermon Chapin was a native of New Hampshire and employed in the lumber trade when, in 1824 on a trip to Hartford, he stopped at Jonathan Merrill’s tavern, located just above Satan’s Kingdom. He met Jonathan’s daughter, Catherine, and married her two years later. During Hermon’s time working in Hartford he became interested in the manufacturing of carpentry tools and decided to start his own company. Partially because the Merrills, his wife’s family, were a prominent New Hartford family, it made sense for Hermon to relocate to New Hartford. But it was also because he could take advantage of the ample water power produced by the Farmington River. The factory’s water power was supplied by a weir at the west end of Pine Meadow which directed water into a canal that ran parallel to and between Wickett and Main Street. Today the remnants of this canal are still visible as a depression behind the houses.

At first the company made only carpenter’s planes but Hermon soon expanded his line of tools. Of particular note was the addition, in 1835, of carpenter’s rules. The Chapin Company had the distinction of being one of the first U.S. companies to manufacture these precise measuring tools, generally made out of Persian boxwood and ivory. Over the next century the company continued to expand, becoming the Chapin-Stephens Company in 1901.

In 1914 the Chapin family sold the company, though it remained in Pine Meadow for a short time longer. At its height the company employed well over one hundred workers and the Chapin family owned much of Pine Meadow. The Chapins built, as company housing, many of the extant Greek Revival houses on Main, Wicket and No. Ten streets. For their own family, Hermon built the house on Main Street that stands directly opposite the War Memorial and his sons built the two houses that flank St. John’s Episcopal Church.

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