Baxendale Family of Brockton, Massachusetts

Thomas Albert Baxendale, late of Brockton, was for a number of years successfully and prominently identified with industrial interests as a manufacturer of box toes for men’s boots and shoes. He won distinction in business circles as the founder of that branch of the shoe business in which he made his chief success – the manufacture of box toes – and was a substantial and respected citizen of the city in which his success was achieved. Mr. Baxendale was of English birth and parentage, born Feb. 29, 1840, in Blackburn, Lancashire, England, youngest child of the late Robert and Hannah (Dawson) Baxendale.

Robert Baxendale Family of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Robert Baxendale, the father of Thomas A., was born in England, and in his native country learned the trade of mule-spinner in the cotton mills, the work being then done by hand, and he followed that trade until he came to America, settling in Philadelphia, Pa., where he found employment in the cotton mills and worked at his trade. He died in May, 1875, at the age of eighty-two years. Mr. Baxendale possessed a rugged constitution, and was of an industrious and energetic nature. In his native country Mr. Baxendale married Hannah Dawson, of Leeds, England, who died in Philadelphia in March, 1877, aged eighty-five years. Their children were:

  1. Margaret Baxendale, who married a Mr. Wormsley, of Philadelphia, where they resided
  2. John V. Baxendale, a pioneer shoe manufacturer of North Bridgewater, who died in Brockton March 1, 1906, in the eighty-sixth year of his age
  3. Elizabeth Baxendale, who married a Mr. Taylor, of Philadelphia, where she died
  4. Jane Baxendale, who married James Baxendale, of England
  5. Robert Baxendale, Jr., a shoe worker by trade in Philadelphia
  6. Thomas Albert Baxendale

Robert Baxendale was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, while his wife was a very devout Quakeress.

Thomas Albert Baxendale Family of Brockton, Massachusetts

Thomas Albert Baxendale was six years of age when brought to America by his mother to join the husband and father at Philadelphia, whither he had gone and prepared a home some time before. Young Baxendale attended the public schools of that city, and at an early age he went to work in a cotton mill, spending some seven or eight years there and gaining a comprehensive knowledge of that work. He then became superintendent of the Conshohocken cotton factory at Philadelphia, in which opacity he remained until 1863. In that year he came to North Bridgewater, now Brockton, where he was employed by his brother John V. Baxendale, then engaged in the manufacture of shoes. In 1872 Mr. Baxendale began the manufacture of box toes and shoe findings, establishing the firm of Baxendale & Co., and in less than a decade later this concern made more box toes for men’s boots and shoes than all other firms exclusively engaged in the business in this country. The factory was located in the former Adelphian Academy building, at the corner of Montello and Centre streets, a two and a half story structure which in time was occupied entirely by this business, and Mr. Baxendale continued, successfully, to carry on this business until 1898, when he sold out to his brother-in-law, John Simmons, who had been associated with him as salesman for more than twenty years, and who has since conducted the business under the name of the Baxendale Box Toe Company. Mr. Baxendale was one of the pioneers in the shoe findings business, and was the originator of the box toe – today a staple part of the shoe – in the shoe industry, and for a number of years he was the only manufacturer of box toes, producing all that were made, not only in this country, but in the world. The product was sold all over this country, as well as in the shoe manufacturing centers of Europe. For many years his business held its own as the largest of its kind in the country.

On Oct. 3, 1871, Mr. Baxendale was married in North Bridgewater to Esther Minerva Simmons, daughter of Weston and Esther (Hayward) Simmons, of North Bridgewater. They had no children.

Mr. Baxendale was a natural mechanic, possessing marked inventive genius, to which was due in a large measure the success he achieved in the principal business of his career. He was the inventor of several machines which are still in use in the manufacture of cotton goods, and he also invented and had patented most of the machinery used in his factory, several of his inventions still being universally used in the manufacture of box toes. After his retirement from the manufacturing business Mr. Baxendale was extensively engaged in the real estate business, and in caring for his own real estate holdings. He was one of the large taxpayers of the city and a pioneer in Brockton real estate development. He had become identified with real estate interests in Brockton during his early years here and was one of the first real estate owners of the city to construct dwelling houses on a large scale. He also had the distinction of building the finest class of houses for investment or rent that were to be found in this section in those days, and as a natural mechanic and genius was the personal architect of all of the residences which he built. His versatility in everything he undertook was most remark-able.

Mr. Baxendale belonged to the Masonic organization, holding membership in Conshohocken Lodge, F. & A. M., of Philadelphia. For several years he was identified with the Commercial Club of Brockton, of which he was a charter member. He was a member of the First Congregational parish of Brockton, and Mrs. Baxendale is a member of and an active and interested worker in the First Congregational Church. For a number of years he sang in the choir of the church, and in former years was well known as a tenor, singing in various quartettes in North Bridgewater and being associated with some of the singing clubs of the town and city. He retained his fondness for music to the end of his days. Both Mr. and Mrs. Baxendale have been well known as friends and lovers of dumb animals, taking a deep interest in their welfare. Together they studied and cherished the mute friendship of many of the faithful creatures given us, not for service alone, but for companionship. Horses and dogs, grown old and feeble in their service and companionship, were given tender care to the last. Mrs. Baxendale has been for a number of years president of the Humane Society of Brockton, of which her husband was for years a director and one of the active workers. He had been personally interested in all movements in country, State and city for the protection and humane treatment of dumb animals and at his summer home had always been one of the most influential forces in the protection of birds. An incident of his heart interest in animals was illustrated when his valued Arabian Blue greyhound, Rex, a constant companion for years, died in January, 1909, and was taken to the summer residence at Cataumet in state and given a dignified burial. A life-size statue of the animal is to be erected over its grave. The dog was six feet, six inches from the tip of its tail to the tip of its nose and when standing could look over an ordinary table.

Besides his extensive real estate holdings at Brockton, Mr. Baxendale also had large real estate interests at Cataumet, Mass., bordering on Buzzard’s bay, which he greatly improved and enhanced in value. He built some of the most beautiful of the summer homes along the shores of that bay and it was always his especial delight to design and plan these for the greatest convenience of the occupants, making them ideal homes. One of the most beautiful places on that well known bay is the Baxendale summer home and grounds, occupying “Amrita Island,” just off Cataumet. This home, which is known as “Island Haven,” was designed wholly by its owners, an intermingled form of Greek and Moorish architecture, and was erected during the summer of 1893. This is open about six months of the year, Mr. and Mrs. Baxendale spending the winter months, when not traveling, at their Brockton home. “Amrita,” the name given to the island on which “Island Haven” is located, is from an old Sanscrit word signifying “youth renewing water” or “elixir of youth,” and was bestowed upon this picturesque island by the master and mistress in recognition of its health giving waters – both the pure and sparkling springs of drinking water and the mild and health restoring sea-baths. In the winter of 1908 a beautiful and substantial stone bridge of medieval architecture was constructed, spanning the water between Amrita Island and Cataumet. The bridge was designed by Mr. Baxendale, who made the drawings and obtained the rustic stone from the ancient stone walls of the country farms thereabouts, and whoever crosses it to Amrita Island, whether man or beast, is assured of a hearty welcome. It was opened with appropriate dedicatory exercises Sept. 11, 1909, with visitors from five or six States present.

Mr. and Mrs. Baxendale both being fond of travel, they indulged that taste extensively after his retirement from the manufacturing business, not only in this country, but as well in foreign lands, having made two extended trips – in 1899 and in 1905 – to the Orient, Egypt, the Holy Land, and having also visited England, Scotland, France, Italy and Greece. Mr. Baxendale brought back many treasures of Egyptian lore, works of art and beautiful pieces of statuary from Italy, and armor from Egypt and England, the lower rooms of his summer home being filled with these collections of rare, odd and beautiful treasures. The dining room of the residence is exclusively devoted to decorations which he brought from Egypt. These mementoes of art and historical significance are many and valuable and make the handsome residence on the island quite famous.

Mr. Baxendale was an amateur photographer of no mean ability, and during his travels took many pictures, which he developed later, collecting over two thousand views of historic value. These he had transferred to colored slides, which he displayed on various occasions to the public by use of the stereopticon; Mrs. Baxendale used them in her lectures. The pictures in her book, “Yours, With All My Heart,” which has had wide circulation among those interested in dumb animals, were taken and prepared for the book by Mr. Baxendale.

The success Mr. Baxendale attained was due to his energy and to his ability to take the initiative, combined with natural business acumen, and he won for himself a high place in the confidence of men in all circles where he was known. He was the architect of his own career, proving what may be accomplished by one who possesses the requisite amount of self-reliance, pluck, energy and determination. Both he and his wife ever displayed a kindly nature, generous in their impulses, and charitable to the faults or misfortunes of others.

No writer could more clearly sketch the characters of Thomas A. and Esther M. Baxendale than they themselves did, unconsciously, when they wrote that “Message to Our Successors” which was deposited behind the panel at the southern entrance of the Amrita bridge. We quote that “Message” in full:

“Should the tooth of time ever so encroach upon the solid entrance pillars as to bring to light these records, then be it known to those who come after us that the building of this bridge has been a labor of love for the beautifying and perpetuating of Amrita Island, the place dearest to us upon this earth, and the only place we have truly called ‘home.’

“The spot where we have gathered around us those whom we truly call friends, both to our fireside of Island Haven, and in the several cottage homes upon the island, which we have constructed and opened to the larger circle of friends who have passed the happy days with us in this seaside retreat, and communed with nature, and Nature’s God, in the healing breath of the ocean, the shade of the murmuring pines, the singing of happy birds which are unmolested here, and all the little shy and beautiful wild creatures which seek the island sanctuary.

“Together we have studied and cherished the mute friendships of many of the faithful creatures which God has given, not for service alone, but for companionship and solace of humanity.

“Here lived with us for thirteen years the Italian gazelle hound ‘Fairy,’ whose love and friendship was like the dancing sunlight; here later dwelled with us that ‘Noble One,’ as he was named by the desert sheik ó the Arabian greyhound, a king in beauty of body and nobility of soul, whom we called ‘Rex,’ and whom we brought to Amrita Island as a lost dog, in the spring of 1903, and who in the six happy years he dwelt with us so won our hearts with his grave and tender love, and whose great heart so broke with the grief of parting, in the sad hour of his death, on the gray morning of Jan. 27, 1909, that we must ever hope somewhere, somehow, in God’s great plan, his faithful spirit and all those faithful spirits may be restored to ours again.

“Here, too, on this little island have dwelt our faithful family horses – ‘Old Nellie,’ who still survives at this date in her thirty-ninth year; faithful old ‘Dora Dutton,’ who made light of fifty miles a day to reach her island home, from winter confines, but so gentle that a baby could drive her, still dwells with us in her twenty-fifth year, with her admiring chestnut mate, ‘Don,’ who cheerfully contributes his share of labor to the spot he loves, feeling safe only in its peaceful environs.

“The granite panel of the Stork, and the family motto, ‘Safe from Snares,’ as it appears upon the right hand entrance post of this bridge in approaching from the mainland, is a copy of the Baxendale coat of arms, as recorded in English Heraldry from the fifteenth century, and has been carved in stone here, as singularly befitting the entrance of this peaceful island, where we hope a shelter for innocent birds and beasts will always be found, and safety and peace for all who enter here, both man and beast.

“We admonish all who may come after us to have respect and love for the island home which we have loved, and above all to deal tenderly with the dumb and helpless creatures who may seek refuge here.

“Let the name of Amrita signify, as does the name of the ‘Holy Island’ in the heart of the old Hindoo city of Amritzer signify, ‘The Brotherhood of Man,’ but let us also carry out the Hindoo reverence for all life, as emanating from One Father, and thus signify the brotherhood of all God’s creatures. Let Amrita Island be sacred to all forms of the truest, highest friendship. With this last solemn charge we seal behind this graven tablet of stone, bearing the name of Amrita Island, within the left hand entrance tower, these memorial words and relics, so many talismen to insure our wish for its future, but more we depend on our heart-felt prayer, and the prayer of each friend assembled here with us today, that our good Allfather may bless both bridge and island, to all that is highest and best in life, for all its future.

“Faithfully yours, as voices from the past,

“Thomas A. Baxendale,

“Esthee M. Baxendale.”

Mr. Baxendale died March 31, 1910, a few weeks after the close of his seventieth year, at his home in Brockton. He was weak from an illness of three months, and finally had an attack of the grip, but his death was unexpected, as he was able to be about and was thought to be well on the road to recovery. He had attended Easter services at the First Congregational Church, and was taken ill with the grip on Monday. His pastor and close friend, Rev. Alan Hudson, of the First Church, had called in to see him about 6 o’clock on the evening of the 31st, and found him cheerful and apparently improving. At half past 8 he was summoned hastily to the sudden sorrow of parting. The funeral was held at the Pleasant street home on Sunday, April 3d, and the following day the remains were taken to Amrita Island, where they reposed in a temporary resting place for a few months, until the completion of Sunset Terrace, a handsome stone mausoleum. This unique structure is a magnificent pile of rustic stone connected with the great sea wall, rising from the western headland of Amrita Island, climbing the bold bluff some thirty feet above the sea, and was primarily designed by Mr. and Mrs. Baxendale for the main purpose, as its name implies, of providing a permanent and artistic outlook toward the beautiful panorama of the sunsets, which are rivaled for beauty perhaps in no other part of the world, across the blue waters of Buzzard’s bay, enhanced by its green islands and wooded promontories, its fleets of white sails and flocks of snowy gulls against the changing kaleidoscope in richest tints of the western sky. The base of the terrace, which is laved by the rising tide, forms a landing place for pleasure boats, which may be moored to the lower pillars, while the visitor may climb the forty-four granite steps leading upward to the three broad piazzas or points of observation; or he may come over the old medieval bridge from the mainland, and over the winding drives and walks of the island to the upper observatory, and descend by the terrace to the sea.

The building of the terrace was begun by Mr. Baxendale in August of 1909, just after the completion of what to him was a labor of love for future generations, the rustic stone bridge connecting Amrita with the mainland, and he pursued his newly appointed task as late into December of that year as the weather would permit, laying the first broad flight of granite steps and the rough stone masonry of the inner grotto. But it became the task of Mrs. Baxendale to design and complete the exterior, and the work was carried on all through the long summer days under her personal supervision, as well as the completion of the solid sea wall around the point, which now encircles the island against the havoc of storm or tide.

The distinctly Egyptian style of architecture of the central pylon or temple, as well as the massive pillars and buttress walls, has been wholly designed and carried out by Mrs. Baxendale as a tribute to their mutual love for that old historic land, and its strong and solid outlines seem especially fitted to face the sea; while the one brief inscription, “Love Is Eternal,” held above the entrance of the pylon, with the old Egyptian emblem of the winged sun disk, seems framed in imperishable setting. Beyond this entrance two massive bronze doors, with upper panels designed in groups of lotus lilies, the sacred flower of Egypt, lead to the inner temple, which is lined with pink-veined Knoxville marble. Through the lotus panels, backed by a golden tint of cathedral glass, a sunlit effect pervades the marble interior. That they who have so loved and beautified Amrita Island should choose to sleep peacefully behind the walls of the Sunset Terrace will cast no shadow on the happy summer votaries of this lovely spot, as even while building it became the favorite sunset vantage point of outlook.

It is the purpose to dedicate Amrita Island for the good of humanity, as will be shown by the letter below from Mrs. Baxendale, a woman widely known for her broad sympathies, intellectual attainments and humane impulses, in which it is intimated that it is proposed to make Amrita Island a perpetual memorial as an educational foundation “for the benevolent culture of the heart and mind.” Such a project, carried to fruition with Mrs. Baxendale’s characteristic earnestness and enthusiasm, and fostered by the ample means at her command, will have far-reaching possibilities. It means that this gem of an island and Sunset Terrace are destined to play a prominent part, in the years to come, in the world’s forward movement for the good of all living things. It is a splendid project, broad in its humanity.

Amrita Island, Cataumet, Mass., December 14, 1910.

To the Editor of the Enterprise:

Dear Sir – In answer to inquiries from your reporter I would make the brief statement that the completion of Sunset Terrace has been to me a labor of love. I have but carried out what has been to Mr. Baxendale and myself for many years a cherished vision. As indicated by expressions from both of us, on the occasion of the dedication of the Stone Bridge, more than a year ago, it has been our purpose and intention to set apart Amrita Island as a perpetual memorial.

I cannot now speak of its form, only to say that it will be in the nature of an educational foundation for the benevolent culture of the heart and mind, as a means of bringing about the enlightenment and ennoblement of humanity, and the highest good of harmless animal life. To the execution of this purpose the most eminent scholars, thinkers and lecturers in natural science, humane philosophy and ethical improvement will contribute; thus aiding toward the realization of the unity and kinship of all life.

I merely mention these facts in order to show that in the establishment of such an educational foundation this memorial Sunset Terrace finds its appropriate place and meaning.

Yours respectfully,

Esther M. Baxendale.

At noon, on the 14th day of December, 1910, with a gathering of some of those who had known him in private life and with a tribute voiced by his devoted and beloved friend, Rev. Alan Hudson, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Brockton, the body of Mr. Baxendale was transferred from a sloping hill nearby to Sunset Terrace. We quote the Rev. Alan Hudson’s eloquent tribute in full:

“I stand with you beside the sobbing sea to pay my loving tribute to a friend. In the happy years that drifted by he would sometimes speak of the sunset days of life, and wished that when at last the twilight hour came on I would stand near, and in simple words softly touch the chords of memory. When in the golden days of the early spring he closed his eyes and drifted to the farther shore I could not speak, for words are but the magic of the heart; when the spirit within is crushed the lips are silent. Now that he sleeps in Sunset Terrace, sloping downward to the sea across whose glinting waves he gazed for eighteen happy years, I touch the harp of memory and strew upon his couch the gentle flowers of friendship.

“One balmy summer day, nearly fourteen years ago, I became the welcome guest at this castle by the sea. I was asked in gentle courtesy to pen a fitting line or two upon the records of Amrita. There must have been an unseen hand that held the pen with me, for I wrote the words of Polonius to Laertes:

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.

“The page is a little yellow, and the writing slightly faded in the drifting of the years, but the hoops of steel that lightly bound in those far-off summer days have become an eternal bond which even the stroke of mighty death is powerless to part.

“Of his busy life of care and struggle I need not speak. That is already a part of the history of the great manufacturing city in which he was a leader. His mechanical brain devised the swiftly moving wheels that made him one of the pioneers in the shoe industry of the world. Aided by the genius of a noble and loving woman, he climbed and trod the heights that mankind calls success.

“His soul was gentle to every living creature. No poor, dumb, pleading face was ever lifted to his in vain. His faithful horses were treated as friends, and when age came on after years of patient toil he gave to them the joy of verdant fields as a respite and reward. He saw in every bird and gentle creature of the woods the handiwork divine. They were to him in their flight across the waves, in their brilliant passage through the woods, the sweet companions of the quiet hour, and the messengers of peace to the tired and weary brain. Not far away from where he sleeps there rests the noble hound, that in life’s closing years of failing strength was the companion of his walks and the guardian of his evening hours. He had learned long ago with George Eliot that Animals are among the most agreeable friends; they ask no questions and pass no criticisms.’

“He reveled in the joy of travel. He loved to cross the strange, far-reaching seas to the quiet lands where rocked the cradle of the human race. In his active mind there was a reverence for the past. The old cathedrals of Europe, touched by the saddening tears of time, were to him a part of the life that has come and gone in the struggle for light and liberty. He trod with reverent feet the soil of his ancestors in old England and gloried in the ancient relics of their faith and freedom.

But beyond all these he loved the mystic shores of Egypt, where pyramids rose from the seas of sand, to tell of the birth of man, the rise and fall of kingdoms, the ebb and flow of religions, and where life flows on in the primal thoughts and deeds of long ago. He believed that men of every race, in every clime, were brothers, that one day every horrid gulf of race and creed would be bridged,

Till the war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were furled

In the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the world.

“Touched by the poetry of travel, his inventive mind found joy in the creation of beautiful forms. Here he raised the stately bridge that bears his family name and coat of arms. Here on these gentle hills that slope down to the pebbled shore he built attractive homes that looked far out to sea, where care is blown away on the wings of the wind and weariness finds rest. Their names, Sorrento, Castle a Mare and Stonehenge, are the silent memories of happy days, when Europe weaved the spell of lovely forms about his charmed imagination. But of all the homes of his inventive genius none was dearer than his beloved Island Haven, beneath whose towers and pinnacles he lived in joyous peace, when morn-ing filled the sky with gold and evening stole in faded beauty across the sea. Here, at its spacious hearthstone, his neighbors, friends and servants saw him last. Here his memory will live.

“My friend was a lover of nature. The hills and the valleys and the wide-stretching waters were to him almost a religion. Often in the gold of summer days I have seen him linger by the great lilies as they came up from their dark chambers in the pond and spread out upon the crystal surface in white petals and yellow shafts. Every flower and plant and waving bough were the comrades of the summer day. But above all else he loved the sea. He knew as a lover all its moods and fancies. In the last sad weeks of failing strength, with the noise and rush of the city about him, he longed for the calm and sweep of the sea. Every sunny day in March seemed to bring the vision of Amrita nearer. Often his sad but hopeful eyes would look up into mine and he whispered the name of his island home, encircled by the magic sea. How gladly would the faithful, loving wife, who nursed him night and day, have borne him to the shores he loved. How gladly would the willing arm of friend-ship have carried him to his great chair be-neath the shade, so that he could have breathed the salt air, heard the play and ripple of the waves, the break of the far-off surge, and seen the stately ships move to and fro across the deep. It was not to be. But in the silence of his going, on that early springtime evening, let us hope he heard the music of the sea on shores eternal, and that across his hot and weary brow there wafted the breezes of an undying summer.

“Of all the happy years we knew each other the days of sacred memory will be the last three months of life. In those passing weeks of ebbing strength he walked amid the thickening shadows, and heard within the chamber of his soul the whispering voices of the upper world. He would have been the last of men to have looked behind upon the vanished years and seen no sign of human ill and frail mistake. And I his friend, like all the sons of men, know that to each and all of us the path of life is checkered with the shadow and the gold. But above the shadows, during these months of weakness, we joined hands and hearts in prayer together. Just an hour or two before his brave soul went out into the light we talked of life eternal. He has already entered into the joy of a loving Father’s presence. There in peace we leave him.

“We leave him in his Sunset Terrace by the sea, fashioned in stately beauty by his loyal wife and comrade. Here he will sleep to the lullaby of the sea. The pines will whisper above him, the white gulls will drift across the marble couch, and the gentle vines will shelter the summer birds that chant his requiem. Sleep on, old friend ! and when the morning dawns the broken links of love will join again, and life in endless joy flow on and on forever.”

Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts: containing historical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and genealogical records of many of the old families. 3 Volumes. Beers & Chicago. 1912.

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