Biography of James S. Atwood

Born in Scituate, R. I., March 17th, 1832. He was the son of John and Julia A. Batty Atwood, and grandson of Kimball and Selinda Colgrove Atwood. He was educated at the Smithville Seminary in Scituate, and at the Woodstock Academy in Connecticut. At an early age he entered his father’s cotton mill in Williamsville, in the town of Killingly, Conn., and there mastered every detail of cotton manufacture, from bobbin boy to general manager. He was perfectly familiar with the construction and working of every machine. in a mill.

September 17th, 1855, he married Julia A. M. Haskell, of Cumberland, R. I. He had three children: William Hamilton, born November 8th, 1859; James Arthur and John Walter, born Slay 18th, 1865. William H. died January 18th, 1862, and the twins, who survive him, have taken his place as managers of the mills in Wauregan, where most of his active business life was passed and where he lived. He died there February 20th, 1885, in his 54th year.

When the first building for manufacturing purposes was erected in this place in 1853, he was appointed superintendent, and was soon advanced to the position of agent. Every machine in these mills, whose capacity has more than quadrupled since his connection with them, was put in its place according to his plan and under his direct supervision. The financial success of this great industry and the enviable reputation of the place are largely due to his wise oversight. He took a laudable pride in the larger concern known as the Ponemah Mills, in Taftville, in the town of “Norwich, which were built after his plan and under his eye. The phenomenal success of these mills on a class of fine goods, which were an experiment in this country, was largely owing to his good judgment, careful oversight and ability to adapt means to the desired ends. Of these mills he was agent from their beginning till his death. He was not one to risk the money of the corporations he managed in any foolish experiments. During one of the changes that are liable to occur in business enterprises in this country it became necessary to assume control of the mills in Williamsville, in which he and his brother William were largely interested, and his financial credit and wise judgment carried them through difficulties that might have proved disastrous in less careful hands.

Few men have the ability wisely to direct so many large and separate interests. Everything in the beautiful manufacturing village of Wauregan, in which most of his active business life was passed, bears the impress of his moulding hand. While acknowledged to be the peer of practical manufacturers, and possessed of ample means, he was a man of simple tastes, without the shadow of a desire for display, always hiding his ability under a modesty which was as rare as it was commendable. While he despised shams and hollow pretense, he was kindly in judgment, tolerant of the imperfections of others, ready to overlook mistakes, and saw in every man a friend and brother. He bore upon his countenance the stamp of true worth, and no one feared to trust him implicitly. The poorest and humblest could always approach him with the assurance that he would listen to them with the same respect as though possessing great wealth or occupying high positions. His heart throbbed in sympathy with the sorrowing and suffering, and his hand was ever open in relief. Irreproachable in character, gentlemanly in bearing toward every individual, it was no wonder that every one with whom he came in contact said: “He is my friend.”

He represented the town in the legislature in 1868, and was an elector in the presidential campaign of 1884. Even when not a professed disciple of Christ, he took the deepest interest in all that pertained to the moral and religious welfare of the community, and was foremost in sustaining the institutions of the gospel at home and abroad. He was instrumental in securing the erection of the church in Wauregan, which is a gem of architectural beauty, a fitting memorial of one who sought not his own but others’ welfare and happiness. In his ripe manhood, with the simplicity and faith of a little child, he laid all his varied endowments, his honors, his possessions, at the feet of the Savior of mankind, and putting his hand into that of his Divine Leader, said: ” I will follow thee wherever thou goest;” and in his master’s work he found his joy. In January, 1878, he came into the church by an open confession of his faith, and from that time to the end he gave to its spiritual interests his thoughtful sympathy and unstinted help. Such a life, so pure, so genial, so intensely loyal to truth and duty, is a benediction everywhere, and the world is the poorer when it departs.



Windham County CT,

History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889. Additions and corrections © by

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