Did You Know? The 4th of July

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The 4th of July

Reprinted from the Merrimack Mill Village Newsletter – June/July, 2010
Did You Know? articles provided by Jim Marek.

Did you know that the 4th of July has a special meaning to Merrimack Village? It is on this date 111 years ago that the Merrimack Manufacturing Company of Lowell Massachusetts broke ground for Merrimack Mill #1 and began building the houses for its employees that we occupy today.

It all began when Tracy W. Pratt had the vision of Huntsville, then a quiet little town in the center of a cotton raising area, as a thriving textile city manufacturing cotton into cloth. At the time, Pratt was head of the West Huntsville Mill, a small mill located west of Triana Boulevard on what is today 9th Avenue. In the latter part of 1897, he heard that the Merrimack Manufacturing Company of Lowell Massachusetts was interested in a southern plant site. Pratt saw this as the opportunity to make his vision come true and was able to gain the interest of the Merrimack officials in the Brahan Springs vicinity, owned by William J. “Bud” McCalley, as a location for their textile mill. The night before the Merrimack officials were to arrive in Huntsville to inspect the site, the city suffered one of the worst rain storms in its history flooding large areas of the city including the area for the proposed plant. Unable to conceal their disappointment when seeing only standing water where ever they looked, the visitors from the north questioned, “Did you think we wanted to locate in a lake?” Pratt was not discouraged. He secured letters from the Mayor and local clergy attesting that this condition had never happened before in anyone’s memory, boarded a train for Boston, and delivered the letters personally to the Merrimack officials. Reportedly after much begging, he was able to convince them to a return visit to Huntsville. Upon their return, the sun was shining and they found the proposed plant location high, dry, and ideal for erecting a textile plant. Pratt was then able to broker the deal for the land between the Merrimack Company and Mr. McCalley, culminating in the ground breaking ceremony for Mill #1 on July 4th 1899.

On February 22, 1899, an article in “The Huntsville Weekly Democrat” heralded the additional industry to Huntsville and congratulated Pratt and other prominent business men of the city on their “great triumph”. By the way, Pratt’s small brick office building can still be seen today on 9th Avenue. It is currently occupied by Faith Christian Day Care at 3301 9th Avenue.

Resources:

  • The Huntsville Parker, September, 1955, Volume 8, Number 1
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