The Sturdy family of southeastern Massachusetts, while not an old family in point of time of location here, has nevertheless filled an important position in the jewelry manufacturing world of the Attleboros, as well as in other lines of endeavor.
The founder of this family in America was John Jenkins, who was born of a very good family, in Cardiff, Wales, Feb. 9, 1791. When he was but fifteen years old the sergeant of a pressgang, either by strategy or force, induced him to enlist in the British navy, and though he was under the prescribed age his parents were powerless to rescue him after he had signed the agreement. The discipline of the navy of Great Britain was at that time, as is well known, extremely severe, and after serving something more than two years young Jenkins made up his mind to escape. His first attempt was made at Land’s End, no great distance from his home, but he was captured and taken back to his ship. Before twelve months had passed, however, he made a second attempt and this time he was successful. While his ship was weighing anchor off the coast of Palermo, Sicily, he let himself through a porthole and swam three miles to shore. An American captain smuggled him on board his ship and carried him to the port of Leghorn, in Italy. An American sailor had recently died in the hospital there, and for the sum of five dollars, Mr. Jenkins bought his “protection paper.” The personal description it contained suited the purchaser fairly well, so he assumed the name of the deceased sailor – William Sturdy.
This, however, is no singular case, for many like it occurred at that period. A number of individuals in this section have ancestors who for similar reasons changed their names, taking whatever sobriquet suggested itself for a surname and a means of preventing the dreaded identification and consequent forced return to the hard service from which they were trying to escape. This impressment of seamen into her navy by England was not confined to English subjects, but extended to American citizens as well, and was one of the special causes of the war of 1812.
William Sturdy, as he was thenceforth known, then shipped on an American schooner lying at Leghorn, and bound for the United States. He finally landed at Beverly, Mass., June 9, 1809. From the port of Beverly he made several voyages as mate of American schooners, but finally abandoned the seas. He married in Beverly Clarissa Whittemore, who was born in that town Jan. 28, 1794. After their marriage they settled in Attleboro, Bristol county, where Mr. Sturdy bought land lying on the west shore of the Falls pond and engaged in farming until 1827. Here ten of his fourteen children were born. About that time, 1827, “the initial efforts in cotton manufacturing on the Blackstone had opened the way for the employment of minors,” and Mr. Sturdy availed himself of this opportunity because it had become impossible for him to procure a proper subsistence for his large family from his farm. In that year he sold out and removed to the Blackstone Valley, locating at Slatersville, town of North Smithfield, R. I., where he and his children found employment in the cotton mills. He later settled in Blackstone, Mass., where he died Oct. 16, 1834. He was a hardworking man, honest and upright in his dealings, and his large family of fourteen children reflected great credit on their home training. The wife and mother died Feb. 13, 1856. The children were:
- Clarissa Sturdy, born April 6, 1812, married Enos Hayward, and died April 12, 1892
- William Sturdy, born Aug. 30, 1814, died Sept. 14, 1905
- Mary Ann Sturdy, born Feb. 9, 1816, married George Keach, and died Sept. 2, 1902
- Sarah W. Sturdy, born May 4, 1818, married William Cass, and died March 6, 1899
- Joseph E. Sturdy, born Oct. 11, 1820, died Sept. 2, 1904
- John Francis Sturdy, born March 12, 1822, died Oct. 4, 1908
- James H. Sturdy, born Sept. 26, 1823, died June 14, 1900
- George J. Sturdy, born Sept. 26, 1825, died Sept. 16, 1876
- Martha J. Sturdy, born March 27, 1827, married William W. Knapp, and died June 26, 1903
- Charles H. Sturdy, born June 28, 1828, died May 11, 1895
- Susan J. Sturdy, born Oct. 24, 1826 (?), died June 27, 1838
- Reuben A. Sturdy, born. Feb. 4, 1830, resides in Chartley, Mass.
- Albert W. Sturdy, was born March 4, 1831
- Eliza M. Sturdy, born Sept. 28, 1832, married Warren S. Pierce, and died Aug. 6, 1865
William Sturdy, eldest son of William and Clarissa (Whittemore) Sturdy, was born at Beverly, Mass., Aug. 30, 1814. He found employment in the cotton factories at Blackstone, beginning first as a mule spinner, and after a number of years there he started in the painting business in the same town. This he followed for several years in connection with paper hanging. He then became a watchman at the woolen mills at Waterford, in the town of North Smithfield, R. I., where he remained for twenty years. When he retired from active work he made his home with his daughter, Mrs. G. L. Greene, at Providence, where he died Sept. 14, 1905, at the age of ninety-one, and is buried at Blackstone. In politics he was a Republican. He had been first a supporter of the Free-soil party, then of the Know-Nothings before the organization of the Republican party. He was a member of the Freewill Baptist Church of Waterford. Mr. Sturdy married Mercy Ann Keach, who was born in Chepatchet, R. I., daughter of Jeremiah and Mary (Potter) Keach. Four children were born of this union:
- Mary Sturdy, who married Almon Kilburn, and resides in Chartley, Mass.
- Harriet Sturdy, widow of George L. Greene, and residing at Providence, R. I.
- William A. Sturdy
- Emma Sturdy, who died young
Mrs. Sturdy died, and in 1858 Mr. Sturdy married (second) Martha Abbott, and they had two children,
- Irving J. Sturdy
- Walter Sturdy
After the death of his second wife Mr. Sturdy married (third) Elizabeth Fairfield. The two children of this union were:
- Clara Sturdy, who died young
- Lydia Sturdy
On May 1, 1867, Mr. Sturdy married, in West Brookfield, Rachel J. Pierce, born April 23, 1843, in West Brookfield, daughter of Mandly and Emily (Thomas) Pierce, of West Brookfield. Their children were:
- William Mandly Sturdy, born April 5, 1868, died Sept. 12, 1868
- Emily Velona Sturdy, born July 26, 1869, married Edmund H. Elliot, jewelry manufacturer of Chartley
- Alice W. Sturdy was born Aug. 16, 1871
- William Mandly Sturdy(2), born Sept. 27, 1873, member of the W. A. Sturdy Manufacturing Company, married Jennie L. Heckman, of Plainville
- Arthur Thomas Sturdy, born Nov. 28, 1875, member of the firm of Sturdy Brothers, married Sarah F. Cole
- Louis Allen Sturdy, born April 4, 1877, is a member of the firm of Sturdy Brothers
- Harry Pierce Sturdy, born Dec. 31, 1879, is also in that firm
William A. Sturdy has devoted much time of late years to agriculture, owning considerable land in Norton, and he also spends much time in traveling, spending his winters in the genial climate of the sunny Southland.John F. Sturdy, son of William and Clarissa (Whittemore) Sturdy, was a resident of Attleboro Falls, Bristol Co., Mass., for the long period of fifty-eight years, and he was not only one of the oldest but also one of the most esteemed citizens of that place. After over a half century of activity in the manufacturing business he spent his old age in retirement, honored by his kindred and friends, and like Paul of old he could look back over a life well spent and say, “I have fought a good fight.” His career was a successful one from more than a material standpoint, and his influence for good was extended beyond the ordinary limits. Though he passed the fourscore mark he was still vigorous and actively interested in the vital welfare of his family and his community. He died Oct. 4, 1908.
Mr. Sturdy was a native of the town of Attleboro, born March 12, 1822, and he was only a small boy when his father moved into the Blackstone Valley. He began work in the mills at a tender age, being employed at Slatersville, R. I., and Blackstone, Mass. Thus his educational opportunities were limited, so that he was self-educated as well as self-made, having been obliged to acquire the knowledge toward which his ambition led him by his own efforts. He continued to work in the mills until 1848, when he went to Providence, where, in company with his brother, James H. Sturdy, he made dies, cutters and tools for jewelers’ use, and they also engaged in the manufacture of jewelry, which they continued for a short time. They then, came to Attleboro, the home of their birth, and engaged in jewelry manufacturing at Robinsonville, Mr. H. M. Draper being a third partner in the business. They became pioneers in the manufacture of rolled gold plated stock for jewelers, the Sturdys having discovered the process of making the rolled or stock plate. James H. Sturdy sold his interest, and John F. Sturdy continued the business until 1862 with several partners, who shared his interests with him at various times. From 1862 to 1872 he did business alone, in the latter year admitting one of his sons to partnership, and later two more sons became interested in the business, the firm name becoming J. F. Sturdy & Sons. The father retired, however, in the year 1893, the three sons Fredric E., Herbert K. and Frank M. retaining the business and continuing it along the same progressive lines the founder started it. The house has been very successful through a period of many years, and the firm is well established, with a reputation for reliable products and a steady market demand for the same which can only be acquired by years of honorable effort. Theirs is one of the largest chain and bracelet concerns in the country.
Mr. Sturdy began life a very poor boy, and had to work hard to gain every advance he made, but he never allowed himself to become discouraged. His personal ambition was ever ennobled by the public spirit which impelled him to labor for the good of his fellow men as well as for his own advantage, and he was always progressive and enterprising in the best interpretation of those terms, believing in the greatest good to the greatest number in every undertaking. His descendants are justly proud of the place he made for himself in the community, for he made his success without any loss of honor or character, and his own early struggles made him sympathetic and generous toward those striving to better themselves in the face of adverse circumstances.
Mr. Sturdy took a deep interest in the Congregational Church of Attleboro Falls, and served as a member of the building committee which had charge of the erection of its house of worship. He gave the first bell to the church at a cost of $500, and in 1908 presented another bell at a like cost, the first one having become cracked. He did his full duty as he saw it in every relation of life, as business man, in his home circle, in social life and in local public affairs, every project for the benefit of his home town having received his earnest support. He erected his attractive residence there in 1851.
On Nov. 26, 1846, Mr. Sturdy married Elizabeth C. Knapp, born in Cumberland, R. I., daughter of Dr. Ephraim and Mary (Sabin) Knapp, and they enjoyed nearly sixty-two years of wedded life. Mrs. Sturdy has been devoted to her home and family. In 1871 Mr. and Mrs. Sturdy celebrated the silver anniversary of their marriage, in 1896, the golden anniversary, and in 1906 the sixtieth anniversary. Their children were:
- Ida Sturdy, born Aug. 24, 1847, died Sept. 15, 1852
- Fredric E. Sturdy, born May 4, 1849, is mentioned below
- Horace H. Sturdy, born March 24, 1851, died Oct. 3, 1852
- Ida M. Sturdy, born March 6, 1853, died Nov. 13, 1857
- Herbert K. Sturdy, born Nov. 15, 1854, a member of the firm of J. F. Sturdy’s Sons Company, married Emma R. Carpenter, and has one son
- Herbert K. Sturdy, Jr.
- Frank M. Sturdy, born April 1, 1857, who died June 20, 1909, was a member of the firm of J. F. Sturdy’s Sons Company (he married Florence Torbert and second Mary Cobb, and two children, Carleton and Isabel, were born to the first marriage)
- Mary R. Sturdy, born April 26, 1865, died Dec. 5, 1880
In politics John F. Sturdy was a Republican, and he served on the school committee, but never cared for the holding of public trusts.
Fredric E. Sturdy, son of John F. and Elizabeth C. (Knapp) Sturdy, was born in Providence, R. I., May 4, 1849. His education was acquired in the district schools of North Attleboro, after which he worked in the jewelry business with his father at Attleboro Falls. He learned the different branches of the business, and in 1872 was admitted as a partner, the firm becoming John F. Sturdy & Son. It was so carried on with success, and in 1882 the other sons were admitted, and the name became John F. Sturdy & Sons. It so remained until May, 1906, when it was incorporated under the laws of Rhode Island as J. F. Sturdy’s Sons Company, Fredric E. Sturdy being elected president and manager; Herbert K. Sturdy, vice president; and Frank M. Sturdy, secretary and treasurer. Since Mr. John F. Sturdy withdrew from the business the sons have carried it on alone, making such improvements as modern conditions demand. They give employment to over three hundred hands.
Mr. Sturdy has always been known for his enterprising business ability and for his public spirit. He was a director of the Jewelers National Bank, of North Attleboro, which failed in 1907, through the dishonesty of its cashier. In 1908, when the Manufacturers National Bank of North Attleboro was formed, Mr. Sturdy was one of the organizers and became its president. He is also a trustee of the Attleboro Savings Bank of North Attleboro. In politics he is a Republican, but has never had time for active party work. He is a man of iron will and determination, and his integrity has never been questioned. Fraternally he is a Mason, and has reached the Knight Templar degree.
Mr. Sturdy married, in Attleboro, Mass., Lydia P. Cummings, daughter of Edward H. and Mary (Sweet) Cummings, and two children have blessed this union:
- Florence A. Sturdy, who married Roswell Blackinton, and has two children
- John R. Sturdy
- Elizabeth Sturdy
- Fredric E. Sturdy, Jr., who represents the company in New York, and who married Amy Garner, and has one daughter
- Helen E. Sturdy
Mr. Sturdy was one of the best known members of a family which has held a remarkable place in the commercial life of Attleboro for many years. He was noted for his straightforward character and honor in all his dealings. He was a charter member upon the formation of the First National Bank of Attleboro, and was a director until his death. He was a director of the Attleboro Loan & Savings Association. All the public institutions of Attleboro intended to promote the general welfare received his cooperation and support, but he was not a public man in any sense of the term, his tastes being quiet and domestic. He was a member of Ezekiel Bates Lodge, A. F. & A. M., of Attleboro, and of King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter, and was a member of the Pomham Club.
Mr. Sturdy was a man of very progressive ideas, and firmly believed it a citizen’s duty to make his home and surroundings as beautiful as possible. He bought a tract of land on Park street, where his home was, and spent large sums in improving and beautifying that section, making it one of the most attractive places in Attleboro. In 1874 he took a trip to Europe, visiting many places of interest in the Old World. He and his wife were faithful and regular attendants of the Congregational Church, and active in benevolent work. In politics he was a Republican.
On May 5, 1847, Mr. Sturdy was married to Ada S. Kimball, who died April 29, 1904, and was buried beside her husband in Mount Prospect cemetery. They became the parents of two children:
- Ellen A. Sturdy, widow of Albert W. Winsor, a well-known traveling salesman, lived in her father’s old home on Park street until her death, April 22, 1911
- Louis K. Sturdy, born 1852, died Oct. 22, 1862
Charles H. Sturdy, son of William and Clarissa (Whittemore) Sturdy, was born at Slatersville, R. I., June 28, 1828, and was but six years old when his father died. His opportunities for securing an education were limited, and at the early age of eight years he was obliged to work in the Slater mills, where he continued until he was eighteen. He then went to Fall River, where he found employment in the cotton mills, remaining, however, but a short time, when he had an opportunity to gratify his ambition to go to sea. He shipped on a vessel preparing for a long voyage, but at its close, seven months later, his ambition in that direction was satisfied, and he went to Blackstone, Mass., where he learned the painter’s trade with his brother William. He followed that trade for some time in Connecticut. In 1850 he came to Attleboro, where he learned the jewelry business with another brother, John F. Sturdy, at Robinsonville, thence going to Plainville, where he held the position of foreman in the establishment of Draper, Tifft & Bacon. In 1859 he came to East Attleboro and entered into business with his brother Albert W. Sturdy, the brothers forming the firm known as Sturdy Brothers & Co. They continued together, doing a successful business, until 1871, when Charles H. Sturdy sold his interest, and some time later he became a coal dealer in Attleboro, continuing in that line until the close of his life. Mr. Sturdy was well and favorably known, and he was thoroughly respected as a good citizen and substantial business man. He died May 11, 1895.
Mr. Sturdy married Eliza J. Hodges, who survives and makes her home with her daughter, Mrs. Blake. To this union were born two children:
- Ella J. Sturdy, who married James E. Blake
- Charles A. Sturdy, of Attleboro
Charles A. Sturdy, only son of the late Charles H. and Eliza J. (Hodges) Sturdy, was born in Attleboro, Mass., June 20, 1869, and received his early education in the schools there, later attending Mitchell’s School for Boys, at Billerica, Mass., for two years, and the English and Classical School at Providence, R. I. After leaving school he entered the employ of William D. Wilmarth & Co., manufacturers of coffin trimmings, and at the end of eight years resigned to take charge of the coal business of his father. This he continued for four years, when he sold out the business and entered the United States postal service as railroad postal clerk, running between Boston and New York. Here for twelve years he has faithfully performed his duties. He is independent in politics.
On Dec. 17, 1891, Mr. Sturdy was married to Barbara V. Rogers, daughter of William Rogers, and they have two children
- Raymond R. Sturdy
- Charles H. Sturdy
It was some time after his return home from the army before Mr. Sturdy was able to attend regularly to business, but his partnership with his brother continued, the firm engaging in the manufacture of soldiers’ badges. In 1866 Albert W. Sturdy went to Brooklyn, N. Y., to attend to the selling, and remained there until 1870, when he returned to Attleboro. He continued the same line of manufacture, and after his brother sold out his interest in the business he carried it on alone until 1881, under the same name. He then took in as partners two of his foremen, Mr. James E. Blake and Mr. Edward P. Claflin, giving them an interest in the business and continuing until 1890, when he sold out his share in the concern (which became Blake & Claflin) and has since lived retired. Always active and progressive, Mr. Sturdy took an interest in various enterprises outside of his principal line of business, and he is still vice president and secretary treasurer of the Attleboro Gas Light Company and a director of the Attleboro Mutual Fire Insurance Company. He is energetic and effective in his support of all-worthy causes, and has taken a deep interest in his town and her institutions.
On Oct. 4, 1862, Mr. Sturdy was married, in South Boston, to Fidelia Page Thorp, a lady of intelligence and character, and they occupy the beautiful residence in South Main street which Mr. Sturdy erected in the early seventies. From an architectural point of view it is still ranked among the handsomest homes in Attleboro, though many beautiful dwellings have been constructed there in its day. Three children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Sturdy, namely:
- Irene Thorp Sturdy, who married Frederick Paul Hill, and has a son, Albert Frederick, born Sept. 4, 1889 (graduated from Attleboro high school in 1906, and from Dartmouth College in 1910)
- Clara Page Sturdy, who married Alfred F. Simmons, and has a son, Richard Sturdy, born Oct. 20, 1903
- Albert W. Sturdy, Jr., who died at the age of four years
In religious affiliation Mr. Sturdy is a Universalist, and he was one of the organizers of Murray parish and active in the building of its church. He presented the church an organ which is known by his name, and he liberally contributed to all worthy enterprises of a benevolent nature, whether in or out of the church. His chief interests are centered in his home and family, but he has ever been ready to give his time and influence for the benefit of his fellow men. In political faith Mr. Sturdy is a Republican, and is a staunch supporter of the principles of his party. In 1893 he was elected a representative to the State Legislature, where lie made a deep impression as a thoughtful student of public questions. He is a companion in the Massachusetts Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion, was a charter member of William A. Streeter Post, G. A. R., of Attleboro, and is a member of Ezekiel Bates Lodge, A. F. & A. M.