Saturday, January 19, 2013

Col Church's Sword - II

   Col Church's sword has what the Massachusetts Historical Society classifies as a "false Hounslow" mark.

Close-up of alleged "Hounslow Mark"

   Here is an authentic "Hounslow Mark."

  A "Hounslow Mark" was placed on a sword manufactured in Great Britain by the Hounslow Sword Factory, established in 1629 when a number of German swordsmiths emigrated from the continent to England to begin work at a sword factory, located in Hounslow about 12 miles just to the west of London, that was established by an entrepreneur named Benjamin Stone. The different swordmakers put their individual marks on the blades they manufactured but some put their names on instead. Many blades were left unmarked. Not a great deal is known about the individual marks but the swords produced by the Hounslow factory were the best made in England, even if they did not quite match the quality of the swords made on the continent. The Hounslow factory made thousands of blades and swords.

   Here is an authentic Hounslow Sword of the period.:
   Please note the difference in quality between this sword and Col Church's sword, which is so crudely made that it most likely was manufactured in New England ( more about this later). The blade is short and slightly curved and the grip is a simple cylinder of wood. The counterguard and knuckle bow, which does not join the pommel, are forged from a simple piece of iron. The sword is certainly not that of a professional soldier or gentleman.

Col Church's sword.

    Col Church's sword is a cutlass, a single-edged cutting sword favored by sailors and hunters. From what I have been able to determine from what few sources there are about colonial swords, Col Church's sword was probably made as a hunter's weapon.

   Now that we know that this sword is of an inferior quality and was probably made in New England since it would not have been profitable or logical to import a weapon of this quality and place a false quality mark on it, we are left to ponder just where Captain Church might have obtained it. The answer, surprisingly, is not that difficult to discern. But first some history.

   The Massachusetts Bay Colony found itself in an economic crisis when the great migration of the 1630s to New England ended. Fewer ships were coming from England resulted in iron products becoming scarcer. John Winthrop, Jr, son of the colony's governor, was very interested in developing an iron industry. In 1641 he sailed to England and by 1643 Winthrop had found about two dozen men willing to invest in a "Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England." Returning to the Massachusetts Bay Colony that year with a team of skilled workmen, the company's first venture was located in Braintree. It failed almost immediately, and Winthrop was replaced; the new manager decided on present-day Saugus as a better location for an iron works. Situated on 600 acres of land, the site he chose was bordered by the Saugus River, which was both a source of waterpower and a means of transportation. Woodlands and raw materials, such as bog iron, were nearby. 

  Hammersmith Iron Works, as it was known then but known to history as the Sagus Iron Works, produced 175 tons of iron a year' bar iron selling for L20 a ton.. Some products, such as cooking pots, weights, and fire backs were formed from cast iron right in the furnace area. Most of the cast iron, however, moved on to the forge. There, workers converted it into more malleable and stronger wrought iron bars, which could be used to make tools and building materials, such as nails.

 Concurrently with this effort, Joseph Jencks, Sr, (Jenckes, Jenks,  Jenkes) commonly referred to in the established histories as an "iron founder", was recruited to emigrate from England to Lynn, Massachusetts, to operate an iron-smelting and foundry business in connection with the iron works. Mr. Jencks, a widower, left his two sons, Joseph Jr. and George Jenks, in England with instructions to join him in America later. Joseph Sr soon proved to be the ideal man for this task. In 1646, Massachusetts granted its first exclusive right for use of an invention. The inventor was Joseph Jenks Sr. The General Court recognized that he had made speedier engines for water-mills and also mills for making scythes and other edged tools, and it allowed him "fourteen years without disturbance" from others who might set up similar inventions. Mr. Jenks purchased the right to manufacture scythes at the iron works, and in 1655 he was granted a second exclusive right for seven years to manufacture an improved grass scythe. Apparently, the common scythe of the day was short, thick, heavy and slow. Mr. Jenks made a scythe blade which was thinner and longer and was thickened on the back side for support. For over 300 years the scythe of commerce remained substantially unchanged in shape from that of Mr. Jenks. In 1654, Joseph Jenks Sr. built a fire-engine for the city of Boston to deliver water in case of fire. There were few such engines in the world and Paris did not get its first for another 50 years. Joseph Jenks Sr., died in his early eighties, leaving a large family of descendants

Sargus Iron Works
Circa 1650
Artist's Conception
   And so, that is what one would discover perusing the conventional histories of the Sagus Iron Works. In fact, Joseph Jencks, Sr. was an accomplished swordmaker who had been employed by Benjamin Stone's Hounslow Sword Factory as a swordmaker and blacksmith for at least ten-fifteen years, but was currently out of work, or about to be, because the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1640 had put Hounslow out of business. As mentioned before, some of the swordsakers at Hounslow placed their names on the swords they created; one of these swordmakers was Joseph Jencks Sr. In fact, the Powysland Musuem in Wales has an officer's sword in its collection which is signed "Joseph Jenckes me fecit Hounslo." Jencks is also the only Hounslow smith who is known to have become a member of the London Cutlers Company. His mark is a thistle with a dagger and is found on a number of finely finished table knives.

Drawing of Church Sword From Benjamin J. Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution, 1850

   Let us now turn our attention to Joseph, Jr., for I feel that he is the person of significance in the search for the origin of Col Church's sword. When first recruited to emigrate to America, Joseph Sr. left his two sons with their mother's family with the understanding that they would follow him to America. It's believed that Joseph Jr was about eight years old at that time. Joseph Jr. 's precise arrival date in Massachusetts cannot be determined but it was probably within a year of his father's immigration. At Lynn, Joseph Jr learned his father's trade while employed at the Sargus foundry. It is not known if Joseph Sr trained his son in swordmaking, but one could assume that he would have passed on this knowledge to his eldest son.

   The next mention of Joseph Jr. occurs in 1660, when he was tried for treason in Lynn, Massachusetts at the age of  28. Charles II assumed the English throne in 1660, thus restoring the English monarchy. Joseph Jr was heard to make several remarks concerning that event, one of which was "if he had the King here he could cutte off his head and make a football of it." After a trial, it was decided that Joseph Jr's words were insufficient to constitute the crime of treason and the charges were dropped. (One has to believe that there is more to this story than meets the eye.)

   At the age of 39, Joseph Jr decided to emigrate to Rhode Island and was granted land on either side of the Pawtucket River in Warwick to build a foundry. Discovering that there was not sufficient water power to power his foundry he purchased 60 acres of land near Pawtucket Falls and built a sawmill and forge for the manufacture of iron in 1671. This area, north of Providence, was wilderness at the time and Jencks' settlement grew into the modern day Pawtucket. Joseph inherited many of his father's talents and his foundry and saw mill prospered; so much so that Joseph Jr  had time to engage in public affairs and give grants of land to some of the men he employed.

  Jencks began to make various iron implements and tools and it was sometime after he established himself at Pawtucket that he probably came into contact with Benjamin Church. Church was a principal aide to Governor Winslow of Plymouth Colony, (capitol - Plymouth, MA) and was residing in Little Compton, R.I. located about 40 miles from Pawtucket. When King Philip's War broke out in 1675, Joseph Jr's saw mill and foundry were among the first things to be attacked and were burnt down, but not before Joseph, who served, as an armorer for the local militia, was able to distribute arms.

   Although it is speculation on my part, I think it is a plausible explanation that Captain Church received this sword from Joseph Jenckes, Jr. Jenckes may have manufactured this sword at his Pawtucket foundry or it may have been one he brought with him from Lynn. Church had a command independent of the Governor's command and was the first colonial who was successful in raiding the Natives' camps in swamps and forests.

   King Philip's War has long been forgotten but for the colonists and the natives it was a as devastating a war as ever fought on American soil. Entire towns and settlements were virtually wiped out. Of an estimated colonial New England population of 50-52,000, 6-800 died - a death rate twice that of the Civil War.

   Joseph Jencks, Jr prospered after the war and became a delegate to the Rhode Island Assembly. His son, Joseph III, served as Governor of Rhode Island from 1727 -1732.

   For those interested in Saugus Iron Woirks, it has been reconstructed and is under the control of the National Park Service.


Reconstructed Saugus Iron Works



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