BRADFORD HENRY E. In the portion of this volume that is devoted to a description of the past and present manufacturing
interests of Bennington the statement appears that Henry E. Bradford was the pioneer of the knit goods industry
in the village. His Operations in founding this industry began in 1853, when he became the owner of the Wills and
Fairbanks property, and soon afterwará in the spring of 1854 put it in operation in the manufacture of woolen
cloths. This was continued until 1857, at which time George S. Bradford, a brother of our subject, became interested
in the business, and the firm of H. E. Bradford & Co. was established and has continued until the present time,
although neither member of the original partnership is now living.
Henry Edwards Bradford, the senior partner of the firm above referred to, and its principal member, was a native
of Southbridge, Mass., born September 19, 1819. His parents were Elisha and Sally Bradford, and of their eight
children Henry was the youngest. At the age of nine years the lad Henry was put at work at wool sorting, that occupation
being at that time a trade, and so continued for several years until he became a practical and reliable sorter.
In the course of time he accumulated some little means, and then about 1847, in partnership with John Tenney, he
engaged in the manufacture of woolen cloths at Milibury, Mass.; but at the end of four years Mr. Bradford sold
out to his partner and went to North Amherst, where he again engaged in business, this time in partnership with
Thomas Jones, the latter furnishing the necessary capital for the firm, while Mr. Bradford was the practical man
in charge of the manufacturing department. Their product was cloths, principally Kentucky jeans, and their business
was conducted with reasonable success for a period of about three years.
During the time of his business operations, both at Milibury and North Amherst, Mr. Bradford had a desire to establish
a business for himself, but he lacked the requisite means, and therefore was obliged to work with others until
his own capital was sufficient to warrant an investment of it; and the latter part of his three years partnership
at North Amherst seems to have found him sufficiently well possessed for his purpose, or at all events be then
determined to make the venture. Looking about for a desirable place to locate Mr. Bradford discovered an opening
at Bennington, and he thereupon purchased the old Wills and Fairbank property that had formerly been a cloth factory,
but the business had not been conducted with any great degree of profit. This property, as has been stated, Mr.
Bradford purchased in 1853, and in the spring of 1854 took up his abode in Bennington. For the next three years
the mill was run as under the preceding firm, but at the end of that time its character was changed and the first
mill for the manufacture of knit goods was established in Bennington. The business of the firm was soon made a
successful and profitable one, and enlargements were necessitated to meet the increasing demands for their product.
Other persons saw too that the Bradfords were on the road to prosperity, and they in turn commenced similar manufactures
until the village acquired the reputation of being an extensive knit-goods manufacturing center.
In the year 1863 George S. Bradford and Henry E. Bradford dissolved partnership and divided the property formerly
held and operated in common; but the retirement of George S. Bradford did not affect the firm name, as Lyman F.
Abbott, whose sister Henry E. Bradford had married, at once succeeded to the vacant place. John Kelso also became
interested in the business, and continued in the firm until about the year 1884 George S. Bradford took what the
former firm had always called their "upper mill," and there he conducted business until the time of his
Henry E. Bradford was a stirring, energetic and thorough business man, and while he was a practical workman he
also had the capacity of managing the entire business in the office as well as at the work-bench. Thus was Mr.
Bradford engaged at the time of his death, April 10, 1878. By his death the village of Bennington lost not only
one of its most prominent business men, but one who had at heart the interests of the town as well as his personal
affairs, and one whose influence for good in the community was remarkable. While the turmoil of politics bad no
charms for him he nevertheless was not backward when his friends requested him to represent the people in local
offices, but beyond this he would not consent to go. Mr. Bradford, too, was a generous man, and gave liberally
of his means to the support of the church of which he was a member-the Methodist Episcopal-as well as to all other
worthy objects. He was an earnest advocate of the graded school for the village, and when that institution was
erected Mr. Bradford generously donated to the trustees some desirable apparatus for experiments in the scientific
After Mr. Bradford's death the business of the firm was continued without changing its name, although several changes
in partners have been made. As now conducted the persons interested in the firm of H. E. Bradford & Co. are
Lyman F. Abbott, William H. and Edward W. Bradford, sons of Henry E. Bradford.
Henry E. Bradford was twice married. He was first married on the 16th day of August, 1843, to Lucy Ann Proctor,
of Fitchburg, Mass., at which place Mr. Bradford was then working at his trade as a wool sorttr. Of that marriage
one child, Frances Ann, was born. She died during childhood. Lucy Ann Bradford died May 9, 1847. Again on the 8th
day of November, 1849, at Millbury, Mr. Bradford was united in marriage with Eleanor Abbott, the daughter of Asa
and Sarah Abbott, then residing at Worcester. There have been born of this marriage seven children, viz.: Herbert
Waldo, who died September 8, 1857; Frederick, who died March 19, 1859; William Henry, of Bennington; Carrie Frances,
who died September 10, 1859; Edward Walling, of Bennington; Lizzie May, the wife of Chester J. Reynolds, of Chicago;
Emma Amelia, wife of Charles Henry Dewey, of Bennington.