AS RECORDED IN:
COMMEMORATIVE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF
TOLLAND AND WINDHAM COUNTIES CONNECTICUT.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF PROMINENT AND
REPRESENTATIVE CITIZENS AND OF MANY OF THE EARLY SETTLED FAMILIES
PUBLISHER: J.H.BEERS & CO., CHICAGO; 1903 P. 6
SYKES. The life of George Sykes, a
manufacturer of Rockville, and at this time the president of three large
manufacturing corporations of a city in which he has dwelt for upward of a third
of a century, and which he has aided very materially in developing from a
village into one of the busiest industrial centers in New England, furnishes to
the ambitious youth of to-day an example of what can be accomplished in the line
of energy, industry and integrity.
April 4, 1840, in Honley, near Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, Mr. Sykes is a
son of John Sykes (son of Joseph) and his wife Harriet Durrans (daughter of
Thomas), who came to America about 1851. In
his youth and early manhood John Sykes had been taught woolen manufacture in all
its branches, a business in which he was employed, near Huddersfield, until he
came to America. After coming to the
United States, he entered the mills of E.S. Hall & Co., of Millville, Mass.,
a firm, which then and for many years afterward enjoyed the highest reputation
as manufacturers of fancy cassimeres. After
some years Mr. Sykes removed to North Adams, where he died at the age of
eighty-seven years, his wife dying in that place at the age of seventy-six, both
respected in the community. Their
family of boys became citizens of the type that few parents are permitted to
take pride in. The mechanical skill
of the father was inherited, the pious teaching of the mother also bore fruit,
and New England profited by the presence of this little English family whose
members would have been a credit to any community.
While Mr. Sykes supported the Republican party, he took no active part in
politics, although he was much interested, a constant reader of the New York
Tribune, and a great admirer of its noted editor, Horace Greeley, until the
latter’s unfortunate candidacy for the Presidency.
Although he was well qualified, he would never accept political office,
but could argue a point and enjoyed doing so for what he considered right.
He was a mechanic, and a superior one, and his intellect was such as,
under other circumstances, would have made of him a leader of men.
Socially he was connected with the order of Foresters, and both he and
his wife were devoted members of the Episcopal Church.
And Mrs. Sykes had children as follows: (1)
George, whose name opens these lines, was the eldest.
Of the others, (2) Thomas W.
married Miss Jennie Bond, of North Adams, and has three children, Carrie Bond,
Bertha and Mattie (now Mrs. Herbert Lewis).
(3) Elizabeth is a resident of North Adams, Mass.
(4) James T., whose death occurred at Rockville on Nov. 19, 1894, at the
early age of thirty-nine years, was from boyhood a resident of Rockville, where
he was well and favorably known. Born
in 1855, at Millville, he came to Rockville at the age of fourteen and entered
the mill of the Hockanum Co., familiarizing himself with the work of every
department until he was made superintendent, a position he had filled for ten
years before his decease. His sturdy
character and honesty of purpose in all things were greatly admired by the
community. His widow, formerly
Hattie L. Vibbert, and one son, Elmer H. survive.
(5) David A.
a common school education, George Sykes at an early age entered, as a carding
boy, the mill where his father was employed.
Both his grandfathers had been skilled workmen, in the line of woolen
manufacture, one in the weaving, the other in the finishing department, and the
knowledge of this, and of his father’s skill in the same line, in addition to
the fact that his birth took place in a great manufacturing center, may have
been something of an inspiration to the fourteen-year-old lad, creating the
ambition that led to his great success in after years.
As he planned how best to use his first wages, $13 per month, he probably
could never have dreamed of the changes the years would bring, nor of how many
ciphers he could add to those first dollars as time passed by.
a natural aptitude for mechanical work, and giving his duties diligent
attention, young Sykes passed from one branch of the industry to another,
becoming a weaver, then loom-fixer, and later overseer in the weave-room.
Shortly after attaining his majority he went to Cavendish, Vt., to take
charge of the weaving in the woolen mill at that point belonging to Frederick
Fullerton & Co., and a year later, in 1864, was advanced to the
superintendency of the mill. This
position he held until he came to Rockville, Conn., on Oct. 1, 1866.
Since that time Mr. Sykes has gradually widened his influence, steadily
forging his way to the front rank of New England manufacturers and to a most
enviable place among them. During
all these years he has been closely identified with the growth of Rockville as a
manufacturing center, and has been allied with some of the largest corporations.
On coming to the village, in 1866, he became manager of the Hockanum
Mill, and though he was but a young man of twenty-six, under his able conduct of
the affairs of the company their goods became widely and favorably known in the
market, and the name of the Hockanum Co. second to none in prominence among the
manufacturers of New England. What
was known as the Saxony Mill, at Rockville, was bought and equipped by the
Hockanum Co. Mr. Sykes, in
association with the late most highly esteemed George Maxwell, purchased the
mill of the New England Manufacturing Co., whose business was established in
1836 by the late Allen Hammond and George Kellogg, re-organized it, and made it
a joint-stock company, of which Mr. Maxwell was president until his death, in
1891. Prosperity attended his
efforts, and in 1886, opportunity offering for the purchase of the stock of the
Springville Manufacturing Co., Mr. Sykes and his associates became the owners,
the mill now being operated under the old charter.
The old mill was removed and on its site was erected a new one, which is
considered one of the best equipped and most successful woolen mills of its kind
in this country. Of these three
corporations Mr. Sykes is now president, having succeeded Mr. Maxwell as
president of the New England Co. The
products of all these mills are fancy cassimeres and worsted goods for men’s
mills of the Hockanum Co. are the most extensive of the kind in Rockville.
With ten sets of cards and 162 broad looms the output is enormous.
The business was established in 1838, with two sets of woolen machinery
for the manufacture of satinets, which were its product until 1858, when the
manufacture of all-woolen fancy cassimeres was
commenced, and from that time on the aim of the company has been to make
high-grade cassimeres as regards material, style and finish, the finest to be
produced, for this purpose selecting the very best native and imported wool.
At the Vienna Exposition, in 1873, the company was awarded a medal for
the superiority of its goods; in 1876, at the Centennial Exposition, an award
was given the company; and at the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago, in
1892, the product of these mills was greatly admired by foreign experts and
others, and an award was given on fancy cassimeres “for beautiful, fine and
even spinning, excellent designs and beauty of finish,” and on worsteds “for
beautiful new designs, splendid colorings and excellent finish.”
Henry Latzko, the Imperial Commissioner of Austria, a successful worsted
manufacturer at Brunn, and one of the judges on textile exhibits, pronounced the
goods of this company equal in every respect to the best made in Europe.
In the Paris Exposition of 1900 the three mills of which Mr. Sykes is
president received three gold medals. As
a proof of the popularity of their superior goods it may be noted that the
inaugural suit of President McKinley in 1897 was made exclusively and expressly
in their establishment.
Hockanum Co. has a capital of $300,000 and gives employment to 400 hands.
The New England Co. has a capital of $250,000, and operates nine sets of
cards and 114 broad looms, and was established in 1836, under the firm name of
Hammond & Kellogg. In 1837 this
company was incorporated with a capital stock of $31,000, for the manufacture of
satinets, but in 1842 the product of the mill was changed to fancy cassimeres,
for which Crompton looms were put in, and in 1879 the manufacture of worsted
goods was commenced, these fabrics ranking among the best in the country.
This company gives employment to 350 people, and the mill has a capacity
of 300,000 yards of material annually. The
Springville Company has a capital of $250,000, operates eight sets of cards and
135 broad looms, and employs 350 skilled operatives.
This company furnished the cloth for the inaugural of President Harrison,
Sykes was married Sept. 2, 1864, to Sarah A. Fitton, a native of Northfield,
Vt., born Nov. 6, 1844, daughter of James and Mary (Watson) Fitton, both of
Lancashire, England, the former of whom was a manufacturer.
Mr. Fitton’s death occurred in England, but his body was brought to the
United States and was buried at Cavendish, where his wife had died.
Children as follows have been born to Mr. And Mrs. Sykes:
Lizzie M., born at Cavendish, Vt., graduated from the Rockville high
school, married Charles Bond, and they reside in Hartford.
Eva L., born in Rockville, graduated from the Rockville high school, and
spent two years at Mrs. Brown’s School in New York; she married Everett J.
Lake, and resides in Hartford, with two children, Harold Sykes and Marjorie
Sykes. Elsie E., born in Rockville,
graduated from the Rockville high school, and in 1900 married Hon. Charles
Phelps, of Rockville. Bertha died at
the age of eleven. George Edmund is
a member of the class of 1903, Yale University.
Sykes is a director of the Rockville National and Savings Banks; the Rockville
Aqueduct Water Co., the Rockville Railroad Co., and for years has been a member
of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers, for an extended time having
been one of the executive members of that organization, and in 1898 becoming its
vice-president. In his political
views he is a Republican, was a Presidential elector in 1892, and a delegate to
the Republican convention at St. Louis in 1896, but has never accepted public
office. He was one of the
commissioners from Connecticut at the World’s Fair in Chicago, 1893.
family are all connected with the Union Congregational Church, where Mr. Sykes
is most highly esteemed, and to the support of which he is a liberal
contributor. In 1893 he built his
elegant mansion on the corner of Ellington avenue and Prospect street, in
Rockville, where hospitality is dispensed with good taste, and without
ostentation. Socially Mr. Sykes is
an interesting companion, his reading, experience and travel having given him a
wide outlook over life. Nineteen
times has he crossed the Atlantic, and foreign shores are almost as familiar to
him as his own, and although business responsibilities press upon him at all
times he is never too occupied to do a kind action or to extend the helping hand
to a worthy but less fortunate brother.
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