Biography of James Hale Newton

When a man’s manifold activities in the field of banking, building, and general business win for him the title of “Grand Old Man,” his place as leader is firmly established. Thus was James Hale Newton regarded in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He was of a long-established New England family, which originated in England. The pioneer ancestor was Richard Newton, who settled in Massachusetts in 1638, and afterward was admitted as freeman of the colony. For many years he lived in Sudbury, then settled in Marlborough, where with eight others he founded the township, and died’ there when nearly a hundred years old, August 24, 1701. By his wife, Anna (or Hannah) Newton, he was the father of nine children, among whom was Moses, born March 26, 1646, who became an active defender of Marlborough against the Indian attacks of King Philip’s War. He married (first), October 27, 1667, Joanna Larkin, by whom he had eleven children, including James Newton, born in Marlborough, January 15, 1683, who died in Southborough, November 29, 1762, having married, as his second wife, Rachel Greeley, who gave birth to Joseph Newton, July 15, 1728. Joseph Newton moved with his family to Hubbardstown, where he died, having married Experience Drury, of whom a son was born named Ebenezer Newton, in Southborough, December 8, 1770. He moved to Greenfield, where he was an honored and successful citizen, who married Mary Howe and was the father of four children, including James Newton.

James Newton, father of the subject of this record, was born July 21, 1801, in Hubbardstown Township, Massachusetts, and died in Greenfield, Massachusetts, August 19, 1891. For several years he lived in Hubbardstown, then moved, in 1835, to Greenfield, where he and his father bought large tracts of land, and he continued to reside there and built the “Newton house” near Green River in 1840. He also erected a saw-mill in 1848. He married, February 10, 1824, Esther Hale, born in 1799, who died June 7, 1885, and they were the parents of the following children: 1. Laura, born February 15, 1825, died November 26, 1865, having married Israel B. Cross, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 2. Sarah. 3. Daniel Howe, who married Mary A. Cogswell, of Esse1. 4. Joseph Drury, who married Prudence H. Alvord, of Shelburne. 5. Susan. 6. James Hale, of further mention. 7. Moses, who married Maria B. Arms, of South Deerfield. 8. Ebenezer. 9. Esther, who married Elias B. McClellan. 10. John Carter, who married Lela F. Vulte, of New York. 11. Solon, deceased.

James Hale Newton, representing the seventh generation of his family in America, was born in Hubbardstown, Massachusetts, son of James and Esther (Hale) Newton, January 13, 1832. His educational career was typical of the man, illustrating his ambition, perseverance, and energy. After a preliminary course in the Greenfield public schools, he went at the age of fifteen, as a clerk in a country store for two years. He then entered Williston Academy, then attended Deerfield Academy for a time, and completed his college preparatory work at Westminster, Vermont. He taught school and worked at whatever presented itself in order to make money to pay his way through college. After a year and a half at Amherst, a fire destroying the students’ dormitory, he entered Dartmouth College, where he graduated in 1859 with Phi Beta Kappa honors. He was a member of the Psi Upsilon Society, and in that as in all his college associations he retained the liveliest interest until his death.

His education complete, Mr. Newton embarked on his mature career, electing the profession of teaching. For five years he was principal of the Thomas Grammar School in Worcester. In this work he became famous throughout the city because of the excellent discipline prevailing in his school and the high standard of scholarship maintained. In 1864 he moved to Holyoke and embarked in business along with two brothers, organizing and incorporating the Hampden Paper Company. For two years Mr. Newton was business manager and treasurer, then sold his interest. To enumerate all the enterprises inspired or encouraged by a man whose creative ability was unlimited would be virtually to write an important chapter of the history of Holyoke. James H. Newton organized seven great paper mills, actually performing the work of drafting them on paper, financing them, incorporating them, and building their plants everything from plan to finished product was his handiwork. This gigantic achievement included: The Franklin Paper Company, the Albion Paper Company, the Newton Paper Company, the Wauregan Paper Company, the Norman Paper Mill, and the Chemical Paper Company. Several of these were taken over by the American Writing Paper Company and are still functioning. Besides the creative work, Mr. Newton excelled as an executive of the plants in operation, winning by his just and fair-minded attitude toward employees the same cooperation his students had given in his pedagogic days. In 1869 Mr. Newton invented and patented a process for making cloth paper for collars. The process consisted of running cotton cloth through the paper-making machine at the same time with the paper pulp, thereby forming a layer of paper of suitable texture and thickness on one side and firmly attached to the cloth. This was the first successful combination of that character. The Franklin Mill was fully employed in this industry, until 1873, when a more modern method proved superior to that in use, and the mills were devoted to making paper for use in the new method elsewhere in operation.

The untiring energies and endless genius of this man were not exhausted by these herculean industrial labors. He was active in organizing several Holyoke banks : The Mechanics’, of which he was for twelve years president; the City Bank, and the People’s Savings Bank From 1873 to 1882 he was on the directorate of the Third National Bank of Springfield. In 1884, in association with others, he organized the Home National Bank of Holyoke, of which he was president for thirty-two years, until January 17, 1916. This is now merged with the Hadley Falls Trust Company.

A third field of activity claimed Mr. Newton’s devoted attention-that of civic affairs. He was chairman of the school committee from 1865 to 1868; represented his district in the State Legislature for the year 1877; served on the Board of Public Works for the year 1897; aided in the organization of the Holyoke City Hospital, which he afterward served as director, and of the public library, of which he was a trustee and president. Endowed by nature with the tastes of a student, possessing high intelligence and broad culture, Mr. Newton threw himself enthusiastically into every movement for promoting cultural opportunities in Holyoke. He was chairman of the parish committee of the Second Congregational Church for six years and superintendent of its Sunday school for a year. Always keenly interested in college affairs. He was president of the Dartmouth Western Massachusetts Almuni Association for two years. For a year he was president of the Connecticut Valley Congregational Club. As a form of philanthropy which proved highly beneficent, he used his real estate opportunities to erect a number of tenements and cottages for working people, with liberal concessions in the matter of payment. Mr. Newton became a Republican in politics when that party superseded the Whigs, and he remained loyal, though never bigoted.

Mr. Newton died at his home in Holyoke September 21, 1921. He had been active and interested in current affairs to the very last, in spite of his burden of nearly ninety years.

He married (first), November 23, 1863, Susan Wadsworth Taft, daughter of Calvin and Eliza (Taft) Taft, and she died in Holyoke in 1900. She was a member of the Congregational Church. Calvin Taft assisted in financing two Holyoke industries-the Franklin and Albion Paper companies. To Mr. and Mrs. Newton were born the following children: Edward Taft; Frederick Hale, deceased in 1911 ; Eliza Taft, who resides in Holyoke; and James Bertram, also of Holyoke. Mr. Newton married (second), in 1904, Emily Norcross, an associate teacher of Latin at Smith College, who survives him.

A builder in the most comprehensive and idealistic sense, James Hale Newton built banks, paper mills, material prosperity for a city, growth in population, wealth and power for a small New England town, and the civilizing institutions of the present-day democracy. Holyoke to-day is, indeed, a monument to this powerful one of its creators. A local newspaper describes the personality and appearance of the man so well known to his fellow citizens thus:

Clarity of thought, soundess of Judgment and sturdy will distinguished him as a business man; responsive generosity and tireless interest in public affairs marked him as a citizen, while his warm heart and genial, sunny temper made him beloved in all private relations. Mr. Newton’s activity of mind and keen interest in affairs never slackened; indeed, it was hard to think of him as old, for his heart and mind were ever fresh and vigorous, and his superb physique was little altered by age. He retained always a touch of the olden simplicity in his dignified bearing and courteous gentleness of manner. One felt in him the foundation spirit of our earlier New England, all the while his mind kept abreast of the swift currents of modern thought. Among all his strongly marked characteristics, which made him strongly individual even in this individualistic New England, none was more notable than the blending of resolute firmness in his mature convictions with absolute open-mindedness for new ideas.


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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