Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 28, 2013

Dalton column: Billy Wood and the Husseys Pond salmon experiment

When F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The rich are different than you and me,” Ernest Hemingway famously responded, “Yes, they have more money.”

In May 1916, the very rich William Madison Wood had begun to purchase all of Frye Village on his way to creating “Shawsheen,” a planned community for his company’s middle and upper management. One of these early purchases included Husseys Pond, Husseys Brook and a large piece of the shores of Shawsheen River. It was still three years before the actual construction of Shawsheen Village would begin, and Wood was always a man with a plan. So what could he do with Husseys Pond?

Before we begin that discussion, this is a good opportunity to discuss how rich Mr. Wood was. He wasn’t just rich in the conventional sense; he was extremely rich. His salary alone in 1918 was the equivalent of $17 million today. In 1924, he controlled 60 mills and employed 40,000 people. His wealth was so extensive that it was beyond the imagination of most people. He owned three mansions, but “Arden,” in Andover was his home. From there, he watched Shawsheen Village develop. Arden was only 200 or 300 yards from the headquarters of American Woolen Co., which he built on Balmoral Street (now a residential condominium building), and about 500 yards from the new factories.

And what kind of man was he? He was a good man, I believe, a real-life Horatio Alger story: he’d grown from owning nothing to being one of the richest men in the country. Although he was often blamed for the Bread and Roses Strike because he was the largest of the industrialists involved, he is less frequently given credit for the strike’s end, which he brought about in spite of the opposition of the communist-controlled International Workers of the World (IWW), many of whom hung around after the strike’s end to cause intermittent trouble. By the time he retired in 1924, he was beloved by many who worked for him and was called “Billy” to his face.

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