Charles Oliver Emerson, treasurer of the Emerson Shoe Company, of Rockland, Mass., one who has been prominently identified with the shoe manufacturing industry for a number of years, is a native of what at the time of his birth, July 14, 1856, was known as the town of North Bridgewater, now the city of Brockton, Mass., where he resides. He is a son of the late John Oliver Emerson and his wife, Caroline Augusta Packard, and is descended from historic old New England ancestry on both the paternal and maternal sides.
Johannes Emeryson, of Brancepeth parish, in the County of Durham, England, born before 1300, is the first of the Emerson family of England of record using the name in its present form, and from him the various branches of the English family seem to have descended. Emersons were long settled at Eastgate as hereditary keepers of the Weardale forests for the bishops of Durham. They became a clan and their servants took their name, thus accounting for the different social positions in England and among the Emersons of America. It has been the uniform tradition, that the Ipswich Emersons in this country came from Weardale, but there is no documentary evidence on this side of the water of the fact.
Thomas Emerson, immigrant ancestor of the family here considered, was probably born in Sedgefield parish, County of Durham, England, and died May 1, 1666, in Ipswich, Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was in Ipswich as early as 1638, when he had eighty acres of land granted to him. Tradition has him coming in the ship “Elizabeth & Ann” in 1635. In 1638 one Samuel Greenfield conveyed a farm of 120 acres to Thomas Emerson, which was the Turkey Shore farm that remained in the Emerson family for several generations. Mr. Emerson was a commoner in 1641, and in 1646 was one of the “seven men” to whom were committed the fiscal and prudential affairs of the settlement. He was granted land by the proprietors and enjoyed large possessions. The Christian name of his wife was Elizabeth, and their children were:
- Elizabeth Emerson, who married John Fuller and resided in Ipswich
- Thomas Emerson, who married, and died in 1653
- Joseph Emerson, who married (first) Elizabeth Woodmaney and (second) Elizabeth Bulkeley
- John Emerson, born in 1625, who married Ruth Symonds, and resided in Gloucester, Mass.
- James Emerson, of whose coming to this county there seems no proof
- Nathaniel Emerson, born in 1629. who was twice married and resided in Ipswich
- Sarah Emerson
Of these, Joseph Emerson was a native of England, and died at Concord, Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1680. He was a minister of the standing order of Puritan clergymen, preached in York, Maine, in 1648; was later in Wells, Maine; became the first minister of Milton; was settled in Mendon in 1669, remaining until the town was destroyed by the Indians during King Philip’s war, after which he retired to Concord, where he died. Through his son Joseph descended that most illustrious American, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Oliver Emerson, grandfather of Charles Oliver Emerson, was born Dec. 7, 1805, in York, Maine, and died in Boston, Mass., July 1, 1836, in the thirty-first year of his age. He was a carriage-maker by occupation, following the trade until his death. He married March 30, 1826, Mary Hale, and to this union were born the following children:
- Elizabeth Emerson, born Sept. 19, 1827, who married in the West
- Mary Hale Emerson, born Nov. 15, 1828, who married George Edwards, of Cambridgeport, Mass., and died in Brockton, March 6, 1909
- William Emerson, born Jan. 6, 1831, who married Fidelia Calista Robinson, of East Bridgewater, and now resides in Brockton
- John Oliver Emerson, born April 11, 1835
John Oliver Emerson was born April 11, 1835, in Boston, Mass. When about twelve years of age he came to Matfield, in the town of East Bridgewater, where he became apprenticed to the shoemaker’s trade, and where he resided until 1855, when he married and removed to Campello, at which place he became employed in the shoe factory of the late Martin L. Keith, in whose service he remained for a period of about ten years. In 1865 he entered into partnership with Elmer L. Keith, under the firm name of Emerson & Keith, and for a period of two years this firm was engaged in the manufacture of shoes. At the end of this time Mr. Emerson purchased the interests of his partner in the business, which he conducted alone for some years at the same location. Desiring better accommodations for his increasing business, he then, in about the year 1872, removed his business to Franklin street, near the center of North Bridgewater, where he continued successfully engaged in the manufacture of shoes until his death, which occurred in a Boston hospital Sept. 3, 1883, in the forty-ninth year of his age. Few men possessed a better business mind than did Mr. Emerson. Cool, keen, shrewd, but not selfish about pushing his own interests to the elimination of the rights of others, he had the entire confidence of his employees as well as of all the business men with whom he came in contact. As might be expected of one of his peculiar make-up, Mr. Emerson early identified himself with various fraternal and social organizations. He was a member of Paul Severe Lodge, A. F. & A. M.; Satucket Chapter, R. A. M.; Bay State Commandery, Knights Templar; Massasoit Lodge, No. 69, I. O. O. F.; Nemasket Encampment, No. 44, I. O. O. F.; and Brockton Lodge, No. 218, Knights of Honor, in all of which organizations he held various offices. In political faith he was a stanch supporter of the principles of the Republican party, but although he always took an active interest in public affairs he never aspired to public office.
A warmer and more generous heart than that of John O. Emerson never beat in human breast. There was not a single ungenerous element in his character. Ever alive to the wants of the needy, he annually gave a generous contribution to the poor and some years before his death he inaugurated the present system of giving a Thanksgiving dinner to those supposed to be unable to provide for themselves. Firm in his convictions of duty in business, courteous in his dealings with all, Mr. Emerson left a name untainted with fraud, selfishness or envy, and died without a single known enemy.
In 1855 Mr. Emerson was united in marriage to Caroline Augusta Packard, who was born Oct. 7, 1838, daughter of Lorenzo Emerson and Wealthy (Sylvester) Packard, of North Bridgewater. Mrs. Emerson survives her husband, and resides in her native town, now the city of Brockton, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She is a descendant of several time-honored families of New England, being of the seventh generation in direct descent from
- Samuel Packard, who with his wife and child came from Windham, near Hingham, England, in the ship “Diligence,” of Ipswich, and settled first in Hingham, Mass., in 1638, whence he removed to West Bridgewater, where he was constable and licensed to keep a tavern
- Zaccheus Packard and his wife Sarah Howard, daughter of John Howard
- Zaccheus Packard (2) and his wife Mercy Alden, daughter of Isaac Alden
- Simeon Packard and his wife Mary Perkins, daughter of Mark Perkins
- Zenas Packard and his wife Deborah Thayer, daughter of Ebenezer Thayer
- Lorenzo Emerson Packard and his wife Wealthy Sylvester, daughter of Gustavus Sylvester. To Mr. and Mrs. John O. Emerson were born the following children:
- Charles Oliver Emerson, born July 14, 1856, is mentioned below.
- Henry Lorenzo Emerson, born March 31, 1858, married Bethia S. Keith, of Brockton, now deceased, and died June 23, 1910, in Rockland, where he was employed by the Emerson Shoe Company.
- Edwin Leslie Emerson, born Feb. 13, 1860, married Lora Kingman, of East Bridgewater, and they reside in Braintree. He is engaged in the shoe last manufacturing business in South Boston, Mass. Mr. and Mrs. Emerson are the parents of: Merton Leslie Emerson, Carlton Murray Emerson, Lora Augusta Emerson, Louise Kingman Emerson, Edwin Leslie Emerson, Jr.
- George Walter Emerson, born May 28, 1865, resides in Brockton, where he is a shoe worker by trade. He married (first) Sadie Chandler, (second) Lucy Howard, by whom he has one son, John O. Emerson, and (third) Mrs. Idella Ryder.
- Mary Augusta Emerson is the wife of Benjamin F. Simmons, and they reside in Holyoke, Mass., where he is connected with the Holyoke Water Power Company. They had one son: Gordon Emerson Simmons, born June 19, 1905, who died in infancy.
- Lizzie Alice Emerson is the widow of Harry Sumner Hall, who was a shoe worker, and lost his life in the Grover shoe factory disaster, leaving three children
- Mildred Emerson Hall
- Mattie Bartlett Hall
- Helen Packard Hall
- John Merton Emerson, born April 19, 1872, died in March, 1882.
- Nellie Hale Emerson, who is unmarried, resides with her widowed mother.
Charles Oliver Emerson acquired his early educational training in the public schools and the high school of his native town, graduating from the latter with the class of 1874. After leaving school he entered the shoe factory of his father, where he continued for a period of about six years, during which time he worked in the various departments of the factory, thus acquiring a thorough knowledge of the details of manufacturing shoes. In 1860 Mr. Emerson, in company with Delmont L. Weeks, under the firm name of Emerson, Weeks & Co., engaged in the manufacture of shoes, and Jan. 1, 1887, Harry W. Weeks became a member of the firm. This firm was engaged in the manufacture of men’s, boys’ and youths’ medium-grade shoes of all kinds. They began business in Franklin street, and afterward, in 1883, erected their new factory building on Emerson avenue, at Montello, which is now occupied as a shoe factory by the Fred F. Field Company. Mr. Emerson continued the senior member of this firm until August. 1889, when he withdrew to become a member of the new firm of R. B. Grover & Co. This latter firm was composed of the late Robbins B. Grover, Charles O. Emerson and J. Frank Hill, of Stoughton, Mass., and they manufactured a fine grade of gentlemen’s footwear, known as the “Emerson Shoe,” their factory being located in the south end of Brockton. On Oct. 13, 1903, the business was incorporated under the laws of Massachusetts as the R. B. Grover & Co., Inc., with a capital stock of $200,000, with the following officers: Robbins B. Grover, president; J. Frank Hill, vice president, and Charles O. Emerson, treasurer. The R. B. Grover & Co. was among the best known manufacturers of shoes in the city, the “Emerson Shoe” which they manufactured having gained. for them a wide reputation. On Monday morning, March 20, 1905, their factory was suddenly and completely destroyed by fire, together with several other buildings adjoining. This was one of the most disastrous fires the city has ever known, the property loss reaching $250,000, and the buildings destroyed covering some four acres of ground. But great as was the property loss, it was insignificant when compared with the destruction of human life and the injuries inflicted upon scores of workmen. The R. B. Grover & Co. employed about four hundred and fifty workmen, and on the morning of the disaster some three hundred and sixty were in the building. The factory, winch was a frame structure four stories high, was located on Main street and extended along Calmar to Denton street. At ten minutes before eight o’clock, soon after the work for the day had begun, suddenly, and without previous warn-ing, the large boiler of the factory exploded. It was carried right up through the building, breaking the foundations and separating the timbers, causing the factory to collapse. After being lifted, the boiler was driven like a huge projectile clean through the dwelling-house located north of the factory on Denton street, which was the home of the engineer, and one hundred feet farther north into another dwelling-house, crashing into the side of the house and knocking it some two feet from its foundations. Fire immediately broke out and spread all through the factory. Even the suddenness and fierceness of the fire would not have caused the loss of life had it not been for the collapse of the structure. In some places the floors of the different stories fell to within two or three feet of each other, and the spaces between were filled with a tangled mass of machinery, pipes and shafting. These pinned many of the workmen down, as well as hemming in and cutting off the escape of others. Fifty-six persons lost their lives in the disaster and two others died within a few days from injuries received. About fifty more were seriously injured, and many others had narrow escapes. A fund was promptly started for the relief of the injured workmen and the families of those who had lost their lives in this disaster, and as a result the sum of over $100,000 was raised, contributions coming from almost every State in the Union as well as from Canada and England.
This disaster caused the R. B. Grover & Co. to make an assignment, and after the liquidation the business was reorganized on June 23, 1905, and incorporated as the Emerson Shoe Company, with a capital stock of $25,000, the business being removed to Rockland, Mass., where the George W. Hall factory building was purchased and enlarged, and where the business has since been successfully conducted. The present officers of the Emerson Shoe Company are Daniel S. Howard, Jr., president; J. Frank Hill, vice president; Charles O. Emerson, treasurer; and Arthur C. Folsom, assistant treasurer. The daily capacity of the original factory was twelve hundred pairs of shoes, while the additions which have since been made thereto have increased the capacity to twenty-four hundred pairs of shoes per day. Both men’s and women’s shoes are manufactured, giving employment to about three hundred and fifty hands, and the firm is one of the best known in the country. The product retails at from $3.50 to $6 per pair, and the trade mark, “Emerson Shoe, Honest All Through,” has become one of the best known phrases in the business world to-day.
Fraternally Mr. Emerson is a prominent member of the Masonic organization, holding membership in Paul Revere Lodge, A. F. & A. M.; Satucket Chapter, R. A. M.; Brockton Council, R. & S. M.; Bay State Commandery, K. T., of Brockton; and Aleppo Temple, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, of Boston. He is also a charter member of Banner Lodge, No. 81, New England Order of Protection. Socially he is a member of the Commercial Club, of Brockton, and of the Athletic Club, of Boston. In political faith Mr. Emerson is a firm believer in the protective principles of the Republican party, and has served his native city as a member of the common council from Ward One. He attends the Church of the Unity (Unitarian), of which his wife is a member and active worker.
On June 5, 1887, Mr. Emerson was united in marriage to Lena F. Lunn, daughter of the late Albert N. Lunn and his wife Francelia Mears, and this union has been blessed with children as follows:
- Minnie Grover Emerson, who is a student at Smith College
- Madeline Hayden Emerson, who is attending the Brockton high school
- Charles O. Emerson, Jr., attending public school in Brockton
Through his long experience in the shoe manufacturing industry Mr. Emerson has become thoroughly familiar with the details connected with the manufacture of footwear, and much of the success of the business with which he is connected is due to his energy and progressive ideas. The Emerson Shoe Company, of which he is the treasurer, holds membership in the New England Shoe and Leather Association, and in the National Association of Boot and Shoe Manufacturers.