Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Voices from the Past: Hiram W. Hawes (1920)

The following excerpt came from A Modern History of Windham County, Connecticut: A Windham County Treasure Book (Volume 2), which was written by Allen B. Lincoln and published in 1920. It's about the most extensive history of Hiram W. Hawes, the legendary rodmaker, as I've ever seen. It's really a great history.


Hiram Webster Hawes, who enjoys a very wide reputation as a manufacturer of fishing rods, began business at Canterbury in 1909 and through the intervening period has continued active in this field of labor. He was born at Honesdale, Pennsylvania, October 31, 1857, and is a son of Dwight H. and Ann (Leonard) Hawes. The father attended the public schools of Ithaca, New York, and afterward learned the carpenter's trade, which he followed for a number of years, while subsequently he acquainted himself with the gunsmith's trade and began the manufacture of guns and rifles at Honesdale, Pennsylvania, where he continued in the business to the time of his death in 1868. In the family of Mr. and Mrs. Dwight H. Hawes were seven children: Irving L., Loman N., Frank H., Theresa E., Elnora, Hiram W., and Merritt E.

Hiram Webster Hawes was a pupil in the public schools of his native town and afterward went with a circus as a musician, being thus employed for a year. He next learned to make fishing rods with H. L. Leonard, of Bangor, Maine, and subsequently‘ removed to Central Valley, New York, where for twenty-eight years he was employed by H. L. Leonard, who was one of the most prominently known men in connection with the manufacture of fishing rods in the country. From 1869 until 1881 he was thus engaged at Bangor, Maine. In the latter year he entered into a partnership with William Mills & Son, owners of a sporting goods house of New York. In that year Mr. Leonard began the manufacture of fishing rods at Central Valley, New York, with the Mills house as the selling agents. In 1888 the business was incorporated as the H. L. Leonard Rod Company, with Messrs. Leonard and Mills as the principal owners, while the son of the latter continued as sole selling agent. This relationship was maintained until the death of Mr. Leonard on the 30th of January, 1907, subsequent to which time Mrs. Leonard sold her interest in the corporation to her husband's former partner, Mr. Mills.

As indicated, Mr. Hawes entered the employ of Mr. Leonard at Bangor, Maine, and accompanied him upon the removal of the business to Central Valley, New York. He thoroughly learned the rod manufacturing business under the direction of Mr. Leonard and upon the death of the latter he continued in the employ of the company until 1909, when he severed his connection with the Leonard & Mills interests and removed to Canterbury, Connecticut, where he began the manufacture of fishing rods on his own account and sent out under his own name. He established his plant under the firm style of H. W. Hawes & Company, and such was his former experience and such the expert skill that he had developed that the Hawes rod has become as popular as those manufactured by the Leonard house. His product is all handmade and enjoys a most wide and favorable reputation. The entire output of his factory is sold to the Abercrombie & Fitch Company of New Cork city. Mr. Hawes is himself an enthusiastic fisherman and is the possessor of many cups and other prizes which he has won in tournaments for fly casting, having a record of ninety feet with a four ounce rod and one hundred and two feet with a five ounce rod in contest. He also holds the record for switch fly casting of one hundred and two feet, which he established in 1887, and this record has never been exceeded. Mr. Hawes also has a record of one hundred and thirteen feet and one inch with heavy, single-handed fly rod and a record of one hundred and thirty-eight feet with a salmon rod.

On the 7th of June. 1898, at Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Hawes was united in marriage to Miss Cora Leonard, a daughter of Hiram L. and Elizabeth (Head) Leonard, the former born in Sebec and the latter in Bangor, Maine. In his native city her father pursued his education and early in life began the manufacture of fishing rods, continuing the business at Bangor, Maine, for many years, his output fast gaining a wide and well merited reputation. He was a son of Lewis Leonard, a native of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who was engaged in the manufacture of oars at Sebec, Maine, and was regarded as the best oar maker in the world, his product being shipped to England and many other countries. Mr. and Mrs. Hawes have become the parents of two children, Elise L. and Merritt E. Since removing to Canterbury the Hawes family has taken an active part in the social activities of the town and has furnished music for all, the leading social functions for the past ten years, Mr. Hawes being a fine violinist, while Mrs. Hawes is equally skilled as a pianist. and the daughter seems to have inherited the musical talent of her parents and is now a student at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

Mr. and Mrs. Hawes hold membership in Canterbury Grange, No. 70; They attend the Congregational church and are widely recognized as people of sterling worth, enjoying the warm friendship and high regard of all with whom they have been brought in contact. Mr Hawes concentrates his efforts and attention upon a rapidly developing business and in his chosen field has attained a degree of efficiency that has made his product one of country-wide renown.

-- Dr. Todd

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