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The Mishawaka Axe and Windmills

Harrison Barnes Bement was born in Tunbridge, Vermont, on September 5th, 1813, the son of Samuel and Lucy Bement. Little has been found about the years of his youth, but records note that by the age of 20 he was living in Bradford, New Hampshire, about 60 miles southeast of his birthplace. In 1834 he would marry Hannah Powers of Dublin, New Hampshire, and the couple would settle in nearby Peterborough. Between 1840 and 1846, the couple, along with 3 children, would move to Mishawaka, Indiana, where Harrison would begin manufacturing axes and other edge tools. His axes would become locally favored, and by 1860 would be advertised with the likes of those axes of Isaiah Blood and James Lippincott. Early in production they were noted as being of the “Mishawaka Pattern”, and later, after his death, the “Bement Pattern”. Bement produced axes until his death on December 22nd of 1862. Despite a cessation to the manufacturing of the “Mishawaka Pattern” axes by a local manufacturer, the popularity of the form led other producers of axes, like William Mann and Company, to manufacture and market their own Mishawaka Pattern axes after Bement’s death.

The Bement Axe Factory sat unused for around 5 years until Palmer C. Perkins purchased the factory and its remaining assets. Perkins, originally from New York, had moved to the Mishawaka area in 1864 from Clayton, Michigan, a city about 115 miles to the east of the Indiana town. Perkins was one of 10 brothers, one of which, name Pardon, was Palmer’s twin. The Perkins twins had been born on April 13th, 1824, in Bolton, New York. As they grew to adulthood, they had taken an interest in blacksmithing, and had apprenticed under S. L. Judd, a local axe maker in the Lake George area of New York. After training under Judd for 6 years, Palmer moved south to the Cohoes region, taking up work in the factory of Daniel Simmons. Pardon would follow in 1849, after marrying his wife, Elizabeth. The brothers would craft axes in Cohoes until 1853, when Pardon would head west to the Chicago area, buying a farm and taking up agriculture as a trade in Sugar Grove. Palmer would linger in the Cohoes area, though he would leave the employ of D. Simmons, moving across the Mohawk to Waterford, where he rented an axe manufacturing facility and worked under his own name. He would manufacture from this location until 1861, at which time, due to failing sales, he relocated to Rochester, New York, and forged for D.R. Barton. Per records, he only lingered with Barton for one season, before leaving to reside with another of his brothers, Elmeron, in Clayton, Michigan. Perkins would remain for a year fulfilling blacksmith work, at which time the death of a locally famous axe manufacture in Indiana caught his attention. This axe maker, who had become known for his “Mishawaka Pattern” axes, was H.B. Bement. Soon after receiving word of Bement’s death, Palmer C. Perkins would move to Mishawaka, and within 3 years, he had built his wealth to the point of purchasing the old Bement Axe Factory.

Though Perkins would begin turning out axes there at the Bement Factory around 1867, by 2 years later, his attention would be directed toward another endeavor entirely. On August 10th of 1869, Perkins was awarded a patent for an “Improvement in Windmills” as patent 93,472. Soon after his design had received its patent, he turned over management of his axe factory to his nephew, Newman Perkins, Elmeron’s son, from Clayton. Palmer would start the Perkins Windmill Company as his design for windmills would be quite successful. His sales volume skyrocketed his wealth, and he soon began to invest in real estate and other endeavors such as horses. In 1871, the success of the company would cause an expansion, and Palmer’s twin Pardon would move to Mishawaka to join the business. Palmer would patent an improvement to his windmill design in 1872 (Re-issue 5,122), and in 1873, the two brothers would form a joint stock company fusing the axe manufacturing business with the windmill company, calling it the “Perkins Wind Mill and Ax Company”. The company would be widely successful, allowing the brothers to further invest in other companies, including banks and a furniture business. During the rise of the windmill side of the business, advertising for “Mishawaka Pattern” and “Bement Pattern” axes dwindled. Most media notes of the Mishawaka made axes were limited to local hardware stores such as “Nottage and Ball” and their successor, “J. S. Ball & Co.”. By 1878, advertisements had completely ceased, and by 1880, Newman Perkins, once the manager of the axe factory, was noted as living in Grundy County, Illinois, near where Pardon Perkins had been farming, and was listed in the U.S. census as a “Farmer” (he had been listed in Mishawaka as an “Axe Manufacturer” in the 1870 census). The evidence seems to indicate that axe manufacturing had slowly ceased, despite the “Ax” portion continuing to be noted on letter heads and advertisements for the company’s Windmills. The 1880s would see a huge growth in the company, with the factory itself growing within Mishawaka. The 1886 Sanborn Insurance Maps note multiple buildings on both sides of Bridge Street, pushing up to the side of the St. Joseph Manufacturing Company’s already crowded area.

In March of 1895, Pardon J. Perkins would pass away, followed less than a year later by his twin Palmer in February of 1896. The company would continue on with the brother’s heirs as directors and occasional leaders. In the early 1900s, the name of the company would finally lose the “Ax” portion, leaving it as the “Perkins Wind Mill Company”. The company would fall on hard times just prior to the Great War, and would fall under the receivership of William Holland, Sibley Machine Co of South Bend, in 1917. The Perkins Windmill Company would move completely to South Bend in 1925. Soon thereafter, though, it ceased windmill production in the face of declining demand, due to rural electrification causing the decline of windmill sales.

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2 bình luận

Thành viên không xác định
05 thg 9, 2023

I'd love to see an example of the Mishawaka and Bement patterns. I'm curious if they were indeed unique, or if they were functionally identical to other patterns that were known elsewhere.

Thành viên không xác định
06 thg 9, 2023
Phản hồi lại

I'm still searching for a picture of one. Unfortunately, Bement was producing before catalogs from axe companies were common place.

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