Greencastle's Century of
By now the Civil War was in its second year and the demand for labor saving farm equipment soared. Throughout the North there was prosperity everywhere as prices rose and profits and wages kept growing too. This prosperity did not escape the new Greencastle partnership. Crowell and Davison hired more men and the production of grain drills and hay rakes reached all-time highs. The grain drills were improved with an attachment that enabled them to be used also as fertilizer spreaders. In addition to these two popular farm machines, the firm continued to make corn shellers, rakes, plows, bells and stoves. The saw mill also worked constantly to provide lumber and prefabricated doors, frames and sashes. In addition, the company served as the town's principal building contractor.
The Crowell-Davison partnership continued until 1869 when Jacob Deardorff bought a quarter interest from Davison. Then, in the spring of 1870, J.B. Crowell purchased the remaining interest Davison still held. He now controlled the business and the firm's name became the Crowell Manufacturing Company.
Five years later, June of 1875, fire destroyed most of the company's buildings. The sawmill, door factory, foundry, storage buildings and office lay in ashes. The loss was estimated at $30,000 with only $6,000 covered by insurance. Again temporary buildings were immediately constructed and the task of rebuilding permanent housing began. However, this time the company's quarters were to be made of brick. Across the street was Christian Hoover's brickyard and over the next several years there rose form the ashes what was to become Greencastle's first industrial complex.
During the first year of rebuilding, Joseph E. Crowell of Ohio, a nephew of Jacob B., secured the Deardorff interest and the firm's name then was changed to J.B. Crowell and Company. The Crowells now owned it all and J.B., the laborer who had come to Greencastle in 1836, at the age of 19, was now the town's leading industrialist.
The J.B. Crowell and Company buildings were constructed on a two-acre lot bounded on the west by South Cedar Lane; the south by Leitersburg Street; and on the east by South Washington Street. A three-storied structure was the principal building. It was crowned by a bell tower and Crowell's workers were notified of the beginning and ending of working shifts by the bell's gentle tolling.
Next to the main building was a long two-storied structure extending to Leitersburg Street. The interior of the lot contained stored lumber - hickory, oak and walnut cut in the sawmill building on the northern edge of the lot. Machine shops extended the length of the company's holdings along Washington Street. The constant danger of fire was minimized by keeping the foundry and boiler in separate buildings. A special brick building with no windows and an iron door was erected along South Cedar Lane opposite the main buildings in which all patterns and designs were stored.
A bookkeeping ledger of the J.B. Crowell Company, covering the years from 1870 to 1877, now owned by Edward S. Zarger [donated to the museum], shows that it was quite evident that the Crowell Company provided many services to the community in meeting buildings, household and farming needs.
The company bid on the specifications to build the Town Hall and an entry in the ledger shows that the Town Hall Association had awarded the job to this firm. (This is the three-storied building on the corner of East Baltimore and South Washington streets known by older residents of Greencastle as the Arco Building. It now houses two stores and several apartments.)
A news account, written by J.M. Cooper for the Valley Spirit of Aug. 15, 1877, tells of the prosperity of the business resulting from the popularity of Crowell window and door frames, shutters and blinds, and wind mills, constructed for the Stover Wind Machine Company. The leading line was, of course, grain drills with rubber springs and attachments for sowing a variety of grains and fertilizer. The demand for this drill was evident. Shipments were being made to dealers as far away as Kansas and Texas.
A note of interest in Mr. Cooper's article concerns a reed organ maker who was using a corner of the machine shop to construct his musical instruments. His dream was to get finances to construct a factory in Greencastle where he could make pipe organs. He failed to receive the support he needed. However, in 1881, money was raised in a nearby town to make his dream come true. Hagerstown invested in Mathias Peter Moller, where he operated the Moller Pipe Organ Company.