Biography of Clifton Alvah Crocker

For three generations the name of Crocker has stood for excellence of quality and business integrity in the paper manufacturing industry of New England. Holyoke, long the chief place of the S. S. Crocker interests from the manufacturers’ point of view, and famous the world over as one of the most important points where the papermaking trade is centralized, has received additional prestige in that respect by reason of its being the scene of the Crocker operations. Of that name, long an honorable one in Massachusetts annals, is Clifton Alvah Crocker, president and one of the founders of the Crocker-McElwain Company and president and treasurer of the Chemical Paper Manufacturing Company, both Holyoke concerns, who is never thought of in a business sense apart from the paper industry in which he has played, and still is playing, so prominent a part. Up and down the Connecticut Valley and to regions far remote from the confines of that beautiful and fruitful gift of nature, have gone the products of the Crocker and associates’ paper mills, carrying the name and enhancing the enviable reputation that attach both to the goods and to the executive head of the producing concerns. Mr. Crocker also is identified with other manufacturing interests of importance and with financial and educational institutions. He is highly esteemed as a citizen of Springfield, and he served that municipality as chairman of the Board of Water Commissioners during a term which exacted particular attention and the sacrifice of much time from his personal affairs on the part of the presiding officer.

The manufacture of paper first became a Crocker family industry with Deacon Samuel Crocker, who was an expert in the manufacturing department of the trade in mills at Newburyport. In 1796 he located at Leominster as an employee of Nichols & Kendall in the first paper mill built in that city. His sons, Alvah and Samuel Somerbie Crocker, made the papermaking trade their own; they worked in the Leominster mill with their father, and afterward became paper manufacturers known the country over. They turned the business over to their sons. For many years Samuel Somerbie Crocker and his sons, Daniel P. and Clifton Alvah Crocker, were the chief owners and the executive officers of the Crocker Manufacturing Company, a Holyoke corporation. Following the sale of that company’s property to the American Writing Paper Company, Clifton Alvah Crocker organized the Crocker-McEIwain Company of Holyoke, thus again bringing to the fore the family name. in association with the industry of which its principals have been operating owners for more than a century.

(I) The branch of the Crocker family with which this review has to do was founded in New England by Captain John Crocker, who, it is supposed, was born in England in 1699. He died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, March 19, 1763. He was a ship owner and a master mariner, and with his son, Benjamin, he sailed the brig “Ranges.” Captain Crocker, in 1748, built the first rope walk known in Newbury, which was the old name of the town. He married, April 12, 1727, Mary, daughter of Thomas Savage. They he buried in headstoned graves in St. Ann’s Churchyard, Newburyport.

(II) Benjamin Crocker, third child of Captain John Crocker, the founder, and his wife Mary (Savage) Crocker, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, February 6, 1732, and died in Newburyport, October 5, 1777. He was a partner of his father in his various enterprises and an influential citizen. He married, September 9, 1761, in Hampton, New Hampshire, Sarah Somerbie, daughter of Samuel Somerbie, and by that union there were nine children, one of whom was Samuel, of further mention.

(III) Samuel Crocker, known as “Deacon,” son of Benjamin and Sarah (Somerbie) Crocker, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, March 22, 1774, and died in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, August 26, 1856. When a young man he became an expert papermaker, and it was he who introduced that trade into the Crocker family. He removed in 1796 to Leominster, Massachusetts, where he became one of the twenty-five hands engaged in the busiest time at the newly-completed first paper mill in that community. It was there that Samuel Crocker taught his sons the trade, and thence they went forth to establish paper mills of their own. Alvah, the elder son, built his mill at Fitchburg, and to that city Deacon Samuel Crocker, the father, removed, becoming associated with his sons in their enterprises. Deacon Samuel Crocker was one of the founders of the Leominster Baptist Church, which he often served in the capacity of preacher, when the church was without a pastor. He was the first Baptist in Leominster and the first Baptist deacon. Following his removal to Fitchburg, he and nine others organized the Fitchburg Village Baptist Society. This tribute has been paid to him: “He was a man of much prayer and much joy in his religion, an evangelist in disposition, holding prayer meeting and conference meetings in his own house and elsewhere preaching the gospel frequently. He was a pillar of the church through all its early years, because every man who knew him respected his simplicity of heart and purity of character.” Deacon Samuel Crocker married, May 3, 1798, at Lunenburg, Massachusetts, Comfort Jones, daughter of Samuel and Hannah (Adams) Jones, of Medway, Massachusetts. Her mother was a member of the celebrated Adams family, from whose principals she inherited those traits of self-reliance and independence of character which she bestowed upon her sons.

(IV) Samuel Somerbie Crocker, sixth son of Deacon Samuel and Comfort (Jones) Crocker, was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, October 30, 1813, and died there January 13, 1909. When he was ten years of age he entered the employ of his father and brothers in the paper mill, and when he was sixteen years old he went to work for his elder brother, Alvah Crocker, who in 1826 had erected a paper mill in that part of West Fitchburg, which afterward became known as Crockerville. He worked for his brother two years, and then began to learn the trade of carpenter, becoming also a millwright, and following his trade for several years. In 1839 he acquired possession of the water-power rights of what later was known as the “Snow” mill, and which now is one of the CrockerBurbank mills. In that location he carried on paper manufacturing successfully for a number of years. He disposed of the mill in 1853, and removed to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where he built and operated the first paper mill known in that city. For twelve years he was a paper manufacturer in Lawrence, at the end of that period returning to Leominster, where he built in 1865 the Crocker Woolen Mill. A few years later he again took up his old trade, papermaking, and with his son, Daniel P. Crocker, engaged in the manufacture of paper in Holyoke, the style of their concern being the Crocker Manufacturing Company, with Samuel Somerbie Crocker, president, and Daniel P. Crocker, treasurer and clerk. Following the death in 1887 of Daniel P. Crocker, the youngest son of Samuel S. Crocker, Clifton Alvah Crocker was brought into the concern in the capacity of treasurer. The business attained large and valuable proportions, and so continued until 1899, when the property was taken over by the combine, the American Writing Paper Company. Samuel S. Crocker was ninety-six years old when he passed from the scene of his activities. In his youth he had been a Congregationalist, and afterward joined the Fitchburg Baptist Church, which was founded by his father. Upon the formation of the Second Baptist Church in Lawrence he became one of its deacons; and still later he was a deacon of the Central Baptist Church in Leominster.

Deacon Samuel Somerbie Crocker married, August 7, 1837, at Leominster, Martha Elizabeth Putnam (see Putnam line), born in Shirley, Massachusetts, November 30, 1818, died in Leominster, April 26, 1907, daughter of Samuel and Hannah F. (Kimball) Putnam. To Deacon Samuel S. and Martha E. (Putnam) Crocker were born nine children: 1. Daniel P., on April 16, 1840; married, April 17, 1862, Caroline E. Litchfield; died in Springfield, February 10, 1887, 2. Adams Wheeler, on May 10, 1842. 3. Frank Thomas, on July 4, 1844; married Alice G. Allen; died at Leominster, July 31, 1873. 4. Frederick William, on March 27, 1846; a commander in the United States navy, and visited during his long and honorable career nearly every country in the world; he married Helen M. Blanchard; died in Chelsea, Massachusetts, October 31, 1896. 5. John Henry, on May ii, 1848; died August 24, 1849. 6. Samuel Somerbie, on January 15, 1850; died October 17, 1851. 7. Martha Elizabeth, born January 28, 1852. 8. Charles Fremont, on February 7, 1856. 9. Clifton Alvah, of whom further.

(V) Clifton Alvah Crocker, ninth child of Samuel Somerbie and Martha Elizabeth (Putnam) Crocker, was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, July 30, 1858. His father, who was the leading paper manufacturer of that city, removed to Leominster in 1865 and the son Clifton attended the public schools of that town, finishing his education in Boston. His school days at an end, he went to Holyoke and there, in 1877, filled the position of office boy at the Crocker Manufacturing Company, which was founded by his father and his brother, Daniel P. Crocker. In that humble beginning did his career as a paper manufacturer have its origin. His brother, Daniel P., having died February 10, 1887, he, then at the age of twenty-eight years, having passed through the different departments of the mill, was elected treasurer and manager as the successor of his brother. The Crocker Company then was nearly all owned by the family, which disposed of the property in 1889 to the American Writing Paper Company. Mr. Crocker was elected a director and member of the executive committee of the “combine” and held these positions for three years, at the end of which period he resigned.

In 1904, Mr. Crocker, in association with his brotherin-law, R. Franklin McElwain, organized the CrockerMcElwain Company for the manufacture of paper in Holyoke. Mr. Crocker became president and treasurer, and Mr. McElwain vice-president. The corporation took over a large plant in Holyoke and for years has been an important factor in the papermaking industry. In 1913 Mr. Crocker and R. Franklin McElwain took over the Chemical Paper Manufacturing Company, and of this company Mr. Crocker was elected president and treasurer, the former of which office he continues to hold. This corporation also figures prominently in the paper industry.

Mr. Crocker’s valued service of a public nature to the city of Springfield was given as a member and chairman of the Board of Water Commissioners in 1910 and 1911. His political affiliations are with the Republican party. He is sympathetically active in worthy causes for the general welfare. During the World War he was a member of the National War Labor Board and served at Washington, District of Columbia; he also participated in the patriotic drives and campaigns during the war.

His varied associations include: Director of the Springfield National Bank, vice-president and director of the National Equipment Company, of Springfield. He has been a member of the executive committee of the American Paper and Pulp Association, president of the Writing Paper Manufacturers’ Association, and was president of the former Hampden Hospital, Springfield, and a director and twice president of the Springfield Young Men’s Christian Association. He is a member of the National Industrial Conference Board, New York, and is a trustee of the International Young Men’s Christian Association College at Springfield. He is affiliated with the Masonic fraternity, and his clubs are the Colony and Nayasset, of Springfield, the Longmeadow Country Club, the Union League of New York, and the Oak Bluffs Country Club of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. He is a member of the South Congregational Church, of Springfield.

Clifton Alvah Crocker married, June 16, 1881, Lucy Hannah McElwain, daughter of Oliver and Paulina Doane (Witherell) McElwain, of Becket. Massachusetts. They are the parents of three daughters: Pauline, married Joseph E. Holmes, of Springfield, treasurer of the Crocker-McElwain Company; Ruth, married Franklin Lawrence, and lives in Portland, Maine, where her husband is secretary and manager of the Portland Stove Foundry Company; and Martha Elizabeth Crocker. Mr. Crocker has his residence at No. 274 Long Hill, Springfield.

(The Putnam Line).

Martha Elizabeth (Putnam) Crocker, mother of Clifton Alvah Crocker, was a descendant of John Putnam, who carne from England in 1634 and settled in Salem Village, Massachusetts, with his wife Priscilla and their sons, Thomas and Nathaniel. Nathaniel Putnam, born in England, October 11, 1619, died in Salem, July 23, 1700. He was a member of the General Court and served the town as selectman. He accumulated a large property. He married Elizabeth Hetchinson, daughter of Richard and Alice (Bosworth) Hetchinson. By that union there were seven children. Their third son, John Putnam, was born in Salem, March 26, 1657, and died there in September, 1722. His farm was in Danvirs, fronting on the Ipswich River. He was a man of importance in the town and served it as constable while the “witchcraft delusion” held sway in Salem. He married Hannah Cutler, by whom he had fifteen children. Their twelfth child, John (2) Putnam, born in Salem, August 16, 1691, died February 10, 1764, was a prosperous farmer. He married (first) Rachel Buxton. He married (second) Lydia Porter. and had eight children. Their second child, John (3) Putnam, was born in Salem Village in 1720, and died in Danvirs, his will probated November 16, 1786. He was captain of a company of militia in Danvers, which marched on the Lexington Alarm, April 19, 1775. He married Ruth Swinnerton, by whom he had six children. Their third son, Daniel Putnam, born in Salem, April 19, 1749, died April 26, 1813, at Fitchburg, was an ensign in the Fitchburg militia company under Captain Ebenezer Bridge, which marched on the Lexington Alarm, and served thirteen days. His grave is annually honored with a tribute by Grand Army veterans who visit Laurel Hill Cemetery. He married Rachel Small, by whom he had several sons. She also lies buried, by her husband’s side, in Laurel Hill. Their son, Captain Samuel Putnam, born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, September 5, 1785, died in July, 1860, held the office of high sheriff. He married Hannah Kimball, and of their children was a daughter, Martha Elizabeth, who became the wife of Samuel Somerbie Crocker and was the mother of Clifton Alvah Crocker. She and her husband and one daughter he buried in the cemetery at Lunenburg, Massachusetts.


Lockwood, John H. (John Hoyt); Bagg, Ernest Newton; Carson, Walter S. (Walter Scott); Riley, Herbert E. (Herbert Elihu); Boltwood, Edward; Clark, Will L. (Will Leach); Western Massachusetts A History 1636-1925; New York and Chicago: Lewis historical publishing company, inc., 1926

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