Mss:301 1650-1685 L989
Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England. Records of the iron works
at Lynn, Mass., 1650-1685 (inclusive): A Finding Aid
Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Call No.: Mss:301 1650-1685 L989
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Creator: Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England.
Title: Records of the iron works at Lynn, Mass.
Quantity: 3 linear feet (62 items)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: The records of the Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England document
the operation of the iron manufacturing works at Lynn, or Saugus, Massachusetts, 1650-1685.
Gift, circa 1927; purchase, 1943.
This collection is stored onsite. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
regarding this collection.
The entire collection is available on microfilm (1 reel, 35mm.) from Historical Collections,
Baker Library, Order no. 72-792.
A volume of typescript transcriptions of the sixty-two original documents, created
by Richard Wormer in 1943, is available in the Historical Collections Reading Room,
Cite as: Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England. Records of the iron
works at Lynn, Mass., 1650-1685 (inclusive). Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
The Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England was established in 1645
to develop an iron manufacturing operation in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The joint
stock company was founded by John Winthrop, Jr., and several other colonial entrepreneurs,
and their English investors, including John Becx, a leading English iron manufacturer.
The enterprise began with a small iron works at Braintree, Massachusetts, by 1645.
The company then established an iron works at Saugus, Massachusetts, which was then
a part of the town of Lynn. The Company of Undertakers hired Richard Leader as its
managing agent, and he began building the iron works on the Saugus River in 1646.
The company village, called Hammersmith, included the iron works and housing for
the workers and their families. By 1653, the works employed thirty-five skilled workers,
and many other part-time laborers who supported the operation in various ways. The
workers included Scottish prisoners of war, who were bound to the company as indentured
servants after the Scottish defeat at the battle of Dunbar in 1650. In 1653, thirty-seven
Scottish men were listed as property of the iron works. The iron works produced pig
iron, cast and hollow iron ware, and bar and rod iron.
The iron works reached the height of its success in the early 1650s. The relationship
between the company's agents in Massachusetts and the investors in England became
increasingly contentious, and sometimes litigious. John Gifford, who replaced Richard
Leader as managing agent in 1650, frequently clashed with the company over management
and auditing issues. By 1653, relations between Gifford and the investors were so
bad that the company sued to remove the agent from his post. Gifford was arrested,
and after his release, countersued for lost wages.
The litigation proved costly for the iron works, which languished as the legal battles
continued. In 1658, the Company of Undertakers sold the works to its local creditors
in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The business continued to decline during the 1660s,
and the operation of the iron works at Saugus largely ceased by roughly 1670.
The records of the Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England consist
of sixty-two documents, dating from 1650 to 1685. The records include correspondence
and instructions from the Undertakers to their Massachusetts agents, 1650-1652, and
the articles of agreement between John Gifford and the Undertakers from 1650. Also
included are accounts for expenses incurred at the iron works for labor, equipment
and supplies, circa 1651-1653. There are also inventories of equipment, facilities,
and real estate at both the Saugus and Braintree works.
The bulk of the records document the legal dispute between the Undertakers and their
agent John Gifford before the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The case
involved questions of land ownership and of the payment of wages and other debts.
The legal documents include attachments and returns on the goods of John Gifford (which
led to his arrest), testimony and depositions of individuals called as witnesses in
the case, and the jury's verdict, circa 1653-1654. The legal records also cover Gifford's
lengthy battle to recoup his lost wages from the Undertakers after the company's failure.
Gifford's countersuit commenced in 1658, and a letter to the court dated 1680 indicates
that the matter was still unresolved.
- Volume 1Typescript, "A Collection of Papers Relating to the Iron Works at Lynn and More Particularly
to the Suit between Mr. John Gifford, the Agent for the Undertakers of the Iron Works
and the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Dated 1650 et seq."
A volume of typescript transcriptions of the sixty-two original documents, created
by Richard Wormer in 1943.
- Box 1, Folder 1Summary of the evidence in John Gifford's case.
- Box 1, Folder 2(Copy) Bond of John Saunders to Philip Read for costs awarded by court. January 27,
- Box 1, Folder 3(Copy) Articles of agreement between John Gifford and Undertakers for the Iron Works
in New England. August 1, 1650
- Box 1, Folder 4Gravesende, August 28, 1650 - Letter of John Becx, W. Hicocke, and Joshua Foote, to
Mr. Webb and Mr. Tynge. Notify them that Mr. Leader is dismissed and Mr. Gifford will
- Box 1, Folder 5Account of bar iron sold by William Selbye to various people and also sent to London.
- Box 1, Folder 6Deed of land in Lynn, from John Knowles to John Becx and Co., being 20 acres more
or less. October 25, 1651.
- Box 1, Folder 7Receipt of William Aubrey for abstract of Jno. Gifford's books. December 24th, 1651.
- Box 1, Folder 8Copy of letter from London to John Gifford with detailed instructions. April 26, 1652.
- Box 1, Folder 9Accounts current showing various expenses at works and to whom paid. 1652.
- Box 1, Folder 10Sundry accounts showing various expenses at the works, and to whom paid. 1653
- Box 1, Folder 11Sundry accounts showing various expenses at the works, and to whom paid. 1653
- Box 1, Folder 12Francis Perry account. 1653
- Box 1, Folder 13Petition of Robert Bridges, Henry Webb and Joshua Foote, to the General Court for
an opportunity to present their case. 1653
- Box 1, Folder 14Deposition of Samuel Hart relative to Mr. Gifford's use of Company land. April 27,
- Box 1, Folder 15Testimony of Theophilus Bayly as to Mr. Gifford's orders to him. May 26, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 16Testimony of George Kesar as to statement of Robert Bridges. June 2, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 17Bills of George Curwen, Ralph Mason and Joseph Rocke for bills of exchange which were
protested July 13, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 18Expense on protested bill of exchange. July 13, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 18aFinding of jury in suit of Capt. Thomas Savage against Undertakers for the iron works,
July 15, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 19(Copy) Accounts and testimony of John Gifford. July 27, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 20Testimony of Arthur Lewes as to a conversation between the commissioners and Mr. Gifford.
August 15, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 21Expense on protested bill of exchange. September 12, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 22(Copy) Petition of divers workmen to special court held in Boston for their wages
due. Sept. 15, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 23Petition of various workmen to special court for their wages due. Probably September
- Box 2, Folder 24Inventory at Lynn and Braintree. September 21, 1653.
- Box 2, Folder 25Attachment and return on goods of John Gifford. October 1653
- Box 2, Folder 26Attachment and return on goods of John Gifford. October 1653
- Box 2, Folder 27Part of an inventory.
- Box 2, Folder 28Inventory at Lynn:. and Braintree. Probably March 4, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 29Inventory. Mar. 4, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 30Depositions - Joseph ---------, Jno. Forsyth, Jno. Clarke as to the amount of coales
brought to the works. November 24, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 31Part of a deposition of Jno. ----------, 1653
- Box 2, Folder 32(Copy) Testimony Samuel Benett relative to the account between Mr. Awbrey and Mr.
Gifford. April 6, 1655
- Box 2, Folder 33Letter from John Becx to the creditors of the Iron Works. March 10, 1654/5
- Box 2, Folder 34Attachment and return on goods of John Gifford. June 16, 1654
- Box 2, Folder 35Attachment and return on goods of John Gifford. June 16, 1654
- Box 2, Folder 36( Copy) Testimony of Francis Nucom, Henry Neale, and Joseph Armitage relative to land
belonging to the Iron Works. July 13, 1655
- Box 2, Folder 37Verdict of jury by foreman. September 15, 1654.
- Box 2, Folder 38John Gifford's statement of accounts. June 20, 1655.
- Box 2, Folder 39Petition of John Gifford to Hon. Joseph Dudlye from prison. June 3, 1656
- Box 2, Folder 40Deposition of Robert Gainsford as to a conversation with William Awbrey on the Royal
Exchange, London. September 26, 1657
- Box 2, Folder 41Testimony of Cornelius Vermuyden as to William Awbrey's accounts. Oct. 24, 1657
- Box 2, Folder 42Testimony of Samuell Benett and Joseph Armitage as to agreement of Thomas Savage to
pay the workmen. June 2, 1658
- Box 2, Folder 43Testimony of Josiah Armitage as to Mr. Gifford's relation to the defendants. June
- Box 2, Folder 44Testimony of John Gifford offering to defend the owners. June 2, 1658
- Box 2, Folder 45Testimony of Anthony Stoddard as to paying the debts of the company. June 4, 1658
- Box 2, Folder 46Testimony of Wm. Osborne as to interview with John Becx in London. June 4, 1658
- Box 2, Folder 47Some grounds of exception by John Gifford as to testimony given in the case. June
- Box 2, Folder 48(Copy) Deposition William Howard as to Capt. Savage's agreements. February 4, 1660
- Box 2, Folder 49(Copy) Testimony of John Fernside as to Henry Webb's books. July 20, 1660
- Box 2, Folder 50(Copy) Testimony of Henry Knowles as to delivery of iron for building a vessel. June
- Box 2, Folder 51(Copy) Articles of agreement between Saml., Nathaniel and Thomas Leonard, and Simon
Bradstreet, Daniel Denison, and John Puttnam for the owners of the Iron Works. Also
(Copy) deposition of William Smith and Jeremiah Hood. March 30, 1675
- Box 2, Folder 52Testimony of Johanna Livingston as to the use of land and houses. January 6, 1679
- Box 2, Folder 53(Copy) Statement of John Gifford. Apr. 27. 1680
- Box 2, Folder 54(Copy) Testimony of Ebenezer Stocker and Joseph Edmunds as to wood taken from companies
- Box 2, Folder 55(Copy) Deposition of Josiah Rhodes and Wm. Killin as to land in Lynn. June 8, 1685
- Box 2, Folder 56aDeposition of Richard Waite and George Hulson. February 4, 1660
- Box 2, Folder 56bDeposition of John Blany. April 28, 1681
- Box 2, Folder 57Agreement between Mr Henry Webb of Bostone and Mr. Samuel Bennett. October 20, 1658
(True copy taken out of Salem court records)
- Box 2, Folder 58Mr. Henry Webb ordered to pay £50 to Mr. Samuel Bennett. n.d. (True copy taken out
of the Salem court records)
- Box 2, Folder 59Testimony of William Franklin, September 2, 1654.(Gift of Professor Kittredge, through
- Box 2, Folder 60Attested copy of assignment of John Giffard to Henry Furber and further endorsements,
September 14, 1652. Attested by Edward Rawson, Recorder and Secretary of State. (Gift
of Professor Kittredge, through Houghton Library)
Iron industry and trade--Massachusetts.
Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England.
Lynn Iron Works.
Saugus Iron Works.