Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jared B. McLane & His Wagon Factory

Around 1887 Jared B. McLane started the McLane Wagon Factory in North Reading. McLane Wagon Factory became a dominant manufacturing establishment of the town. McLane wagons were purchased and used across the United States.

The average number of workmen at the McLane factory was about fifty. He employed cabinet makers, blacksmiths, sign painters and carpenters. The output of the factory included a full line of commercial wagons, sleds and parts for replacement and repairs.

Jared Brown McLane was born in Pugwash, Nova Scotia on May 8, 1853 to Alexander and Harriett (Brown) McLane. When he was young he apprenticed with a carriage maker and blacksmith to learn the wagon-maker’s trade. At nineteen he left Nova Scoria and moved to Topsfield, Massachusetts where he worked for D. E. Hurd, wagon and carriage builders. In time he became a partner of Mr. Hurd, which lasted several years. They were contemporizes of my great grandfather, C. Fred Jordan, a prominent Topsfield blacksmith.

About 1873 he sold his interest and came to North Reading and started a blacksmith shop in the rear of the present Flint Memorial Library. Eventually he purchased an adjacent building and began building wagons. One of his first wagons was purchased by the town as a patrol wagon and was used by Constable Henry Dane.

Mr. McLane’s well constructed, lettered and varnished wagons were used by police departments in many surrounding cities and towns. In 1902 he produced an illustrated catalog showing several types of wagons: “Market, Store, Express, Milk, Meat, Ice and laundry” as well as “Carts, Caravans, and Pungs built by our design or your specifications”.

Mr. McLane was very active in town affairs. When the North Reading Board of Fire Engineers (the early fire department) was organized in 1895, Mr. McLane was a charter member and was appointed as engineer, responsible for the care and maintenance of all the firefighting equipment. He was also a member of the committee for the erection of the new LD. Batchelder School building. He held the chairmanship of the town finance committee, and was a member of the Good Fellowship Club.

Mr. McLane became a director of the First National Bank of Reading. In 1914 he was elected to the General Court of Massachusetts, representing the towns of North Reading, Reading, Woburn, Wilmington, and Burlington.

Mr. McLane married Alice M. Long of Topsfield on September 16, 1875. She was the daughter of Henry and Catherine (Perley) Long. Henry was of North Andover, Massachusetts and Catherine was of Boxford, Massachusetts. Mr. McLane died in Pinehurst, North Carolina, March 27, 1917 and funeral services were held at the Union Congregational Church in North Reading. Following his death the J.B McLane Wagon Factory became the North Reading Wagon Factory. The factory was destroyed by fire in February 1928.

The Jared B. McLane house still stands at 148 Park Street, North Reading. It was built in the federal style in 1818 by Ebenezer Damon on land purchased by Dr. Jacob Goodwin. Three years later it became the home of Reverend Cyrus Pierce the third pastor of the Congregational Church. In 1828 the property was purchased by Dr. David A. Grosvenor and in 1876 conveyed to Jared B. McLane.

North Reading Historical Commission, North Reading Cultural Resources Survey Part I. 1978

Murphy, Leo. North Reading Review: Annals and Reminiscences, North Reading’s Industrial Past. No. 5. December 1962

Noble Advisory Board, American Biography: A New Cyclopedia, Volume 5. New York. American Historical Company. 1919