Biography of Jonathan T. Lincoln
Bristol County, MA Biographies

JONATHAN THAYER LINCOLN was for many years recognized as one of the leading business men of Fall River and to his mechanical ingenuity and business sagacity was largely due the successful building up of the firm of Kilburn, Lincoln & Co. He was a son of Caleb and Mercy (Thayer) Lincoln, and was born in Taunton, October 17, 1805. Caleb Lincoln was a farmer and miller, living on a farm in the now village of Westville, Taunton, which had been in the possession of his family since their settlement in the town about the year 1658 and which is still owned and occupied by one of his sons. He was a soldier in the Revolution. Caleb's father was William Lincoln who married Hannah Wade. Children, Zilphy, Sally, Lurana, Rebecca, Deborah, and Caleb. William's father was Thomas Lincoln who married Rebecca Walker. Children, William, Silas, Nathan, and Tabatha. Representatives of the family were among the earliest settlers of Bristol county and re moved to Taunton from Hingbam. It is an interesting fact that nearly all the Lincoln family in the United States trace, with more or less distinctness, their first settlement therein to Hingham. Hon. Solomon Lincoln, in a monograph on the Lincoln families of Massachusetts, claims that all the Lincoins in Massachusetts are descendants of the Lincoins who settled in Hingham in 1686 and 1638. He says: "We have evidence of authentic records that the early settlers of Hingham of the name of Lincoln were four; bearing the name of Thomas, dis. tinguished from each other by their occupations as miller, weaver, cooper and husbandman; Stephen (brother of the busbandman), Daniel, and Samuel (brother of the weaver)." He adds, "Our claim is that the early settlers of Hingham above enumerated were the progenitors of all the Lincoins of the country. From Hingham the Lincoins trace their early home to Norfolk county, England."

Jonathan Thayer Lincoln, the subject of this notice, received his preliminary education in the old red school house at Westville and later studied at the private school of Rev. Alvin Cobb, which then enjoyed considerable local fame. At the age of sixteen he went to work in what was called the "Shovel cake" cotton spinning factory at Westyule. Two years later he was apprenticed to David Perry, who owned a machine shop on the White Birch stream in Dighton. Here he had abundant opportunity to gratify his passion for machinery and learned the trade which had been his choice from boyhood. Having completed his time, and reached his majority, he was given the usual "freedom" payment of an apprentice for his three years service at his trade fifty dollars in money and a new suit of clothes. He soon made his way to Pawtucket where he found employment in the machine shop of David Wilkinson with whom he remained about three years, having as fellowworkmen, David Fales and Alvin Jencks, afterwards founders of the firm of Fales & Jencks, and Clarke Tompkins, afterwards the successful machine maker of Troy, N. Y. After leaving Pawtucket he returned to Taunton and remained a year, during which time he was engaged to change a single color printing machine into a multiple color machine, one of the first probably ever made in this country. In 1829 he came to Fall River and in. 1831 was employed as master mechanic by the Massasoit Mill Company, which then leased the mill property on Pocasset street owned by the Watuppa Manufacturing Company. In 1845-46 the Massasoit Company moved its machinery to its new mill on Davol street. The Watuppa Company, of which Linden Cook was agent, decided to fill its mill with improved machinery, and engaged Mr. Lincoln to build a part of the looms, which he did in the machine shop of the mill. The job of looms was divided into three parts. Mr. Lincoln had at first a third and Mr. John Kilburn a third, with the understanding with the company that the one who completed his part first should have the remaining part to make. Mr. Lincoln was the success ful competitor and so made two thirds of the looms. The style of loom then made was widely known as the "Fall River loom." In 1844, John Kilburn, a native of New Hampshire, began in Fall River the manufacture of cotton looms and the Fourneyron Turbine, the latter a French invention which was being introduced into the New England mills as a water moter. He had been in business but a short time when his health failed and he died in 1846.. After his death a copartnership was formed, comprising his widow, his brother Elijah C., and Mr. Lincoln, which succeeded to the business be had been engaged in establishing. The firm, which was called E. C. Kilburn & Co., manufactured turbines, shafting, and various kinds of machinery for print works and iron mills. Mr. Kilburn had charge of the office work and Mr. Lincoln of the mechanical. Both were industrious, hard working men, and they soon built up a flourishing business. The firm continued until 1856 when a new firm, Kilburn, Lincoln & Son, was formed, consisting of Mr. Kilburn, Mr. Lincoln, and his oldest son, Henry C. Lincoln. The younger Mr. Lincoln brought into the business a practical knowledge of mechanics and a thorough business training, having been associated with his father in business in various capacities since early manhood.

The firm made a specialty of the "Fourneyron Turbine." This, as improved by them, had a large sale, displacing the lumberingbreastwheels, and utilizing a percentage of power which the best of the latter never rivaled. In 1859 Mr. Lincoln made an extensive business tour through the Southern States, his firm having built up a considerable business with the manufacturers of that section of the country. In 1867 it was found necessary to build a larger machine shop, and it was decided to add an iron foundry to their works. To insure the success of the new feature, Charles P. Dring, who had been associated with the Fall River Iron Works Company for many years, became associated with them. The name was changed to Kilburn, Lincoln & Co., and they became an incorporated company in 1868 under the Massachusetts General Incorporation.. Act. Mr. Lincoln's son in law, Andrew Luscomb, who had been engaged with them in the manufacture of gun parts for the United States Government, was also admitted. The new works were completed on a tract of three hundred rods of land in an eligible location near railroads and tidewater, and comprised a machine shop, iron and brass foundries, pattern house, paint shop, warehouse, and setting up shop. Mr. Lincoln was elected president of the corpo. ration and held the position until his death, when he was succeeded by his oldest son, Henry C. Lincoln. Mr. Kilburn was elected treasurer and continued as such until 1872, when he was succeeded by Leontine Lincoln, who still serves. At this time Mr. Kilburn withdrew his interest and was elected treasurer, of the King Philip Mills. In the same year addittons were made to the works, with a view to the manufacture of looms on a large scale, and since then the company has been among the largest manufacturers of looms for cotton and silk weaving. It has a capacity of 5,000 looms per annum, besides other kinds of machinery, as shafting, pulleys, dye works and bleachery machinery, of which it has made a specialty.

Since Mr. Lincoln's death his interest has been held by his family. The company is now organized as follows; President, Andrew Luscomb; treasurer, Leontine Lincoln; directors, Andrew Luscomb, Leontine Lincoln, and Charles H. Dring.

In 1855 Mr. Lincoln became associated with his brother Lorenzo, his nephew James M., and his son Edward Lincoln in a paper manufacturing enterprise in North Dighton. The firm was called L. Lincoln & Co., and succeeded to the business, which was established in 1850 by Mr. Lincoln's two brothers, Caleb M. and Loreuzo. He retired from the firm before his death.

Mr. Lincoln had the greatest faith in the success of Fall River as a center for the cotton manufacturing industry, was one of the original stockholders of the Union Mill Company, an owner in several other corporations, and a director in the Tecumseh Mills from the time of the organization of that corporation. Although he took a deep interest in public affairs, Mr. Lincoln was adverse to holding public office, and never held but one, that of member of the Common Council of the city. He was one of the oldest members of Mt. Hope Lodge of Masons, of which lodge he was treasurer for many years. In politics he was a Free Soil Whig until the formation of the Republican party, when he became an earnest adherent to the principles of that party. He was a man of sunny temperament, earnest of purpose, charitable in judgment, and distinguished in acts of practical benevolence. The Fall River Daily News closed an editorial notice of his death as follows: "Mr. Lincoln was held in great esteem and respect by his fellow citizens generally. He had the reputation of being an ingenious and skillful mechanic, and a business man whose integrity was unquestioned. He was a worthy and valued citizen whose loss must be felt."

Our county and its people
A descriptive and biographical history of
Bristol County, Massachusetts
Prepaired and published under the auspices of
The Fall River News and The Taunton Gasette
With assistance of Hon. Alanson Borden
The Boston History Company, Publishers, 1899.

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