One of the largest industrial factors of Bethel is the plant of the Bethel Manufacturing Company, manufacturers and jobbers of fancy, upholstered and plain rockers and chairs. The buildings as shown above are on a plot of some ten acres of ground just north of the Grand Trunk Railway station. This industry was established in 1886, by James H. Barrows, who for twenty-six years prior to the establishment of the business in this town, was engaged in a similar enterprise in West Paris.


 In 1888, the plant was incorporated as the Bethel Chair Company, with Mr. Barrows as president, J. U. Purington, secretary, and H. G. Brown, treasurer ; this in 1890, was merged into the Bethel Manufacturing Company ; the officers at the present time are James H. Barrows, president and superintendent; F. H. Young, secretary, and W. H. Winslow of Portland, treasurer and general manager. Until its destruction by fire in July 1898, the finishing department was located in the "Old Rink" on Main street; following this unfortunate event the building now used was erected: This is a two-story and a half building 125x40, which aside from the office on the main floor, is thoroughly equipped for the manufacture of chair stock, also lumber, spool stock and shingles in all of which material the company deals.


Across the way from this building is another of practically the same size within which are the finishing and shipping departments. The general office is also located in this building.


The saw mill in connection with the factory, has a capacity for the manufacture of 20,000 feet of lumber per day and a shingle machine of 10,000 capacity in the same time. An 80 h. p. engine serves as the motive and heating power of the plant, all waste material from the mill being used for fuel. Centrally located is a hose house equip­ped with 250 feet of two and a half inch hose, which with the excellent hydrant service of the town, af­fords ample fire protection.


The supply product of the Company is largely obtained from their own timber possessions, thus furnishing employment during the winter months to a large number of men and teams. The manufacturing plant employs from forty to sixty hands during the entire year.






After 1896 and before 1904, the Bethel Chair Company reorganized to become the  Bethel Manufacturing Company.  Although new officers were elected, James Barrows continued as president and general manager. of the new company. 


December 27, 2008

The Bethel Chair Factory


This article, right,  appeared in a special illustrated edition of The Bethel News in January 1904. In September 1897, E.C. Bowler had purchased a one half interest in The Bethel News which was suffering from a shortage of capital. In March 1898, Bowler purchased the remaining half. From his investment he established the News Publishing Company. Bowler said then that his intention was to establish one of the best book plants in Maine. E.C. Bowler was born in Palermo, Maine in 1870. At the time that this special edition was published he was 33.


Eric Wight found this copy of the old paper among his mother’s collection of papers and has loaned it to me so that I  can squeeze all the historically interesting information from it. I am very grateful for his discovery and his temporary loan.

W. H. Winslow, treasurer and general manager of the Bethel Manufacturing Company, is one of Portland's most enterprising and best known busi­ness men, and is the executive head of the firm of W. H. Winslow & Co., manufacturers of and wholesale and retail dealers in furniture and bedding of every variety, and to his untiring energy and indomitable will is due largely the prosperity and rapidly expanding business of the Bethel plant.


Mr. Winslow was born in Yarmouth in October 1855, and having acquired an educational training in the public schools, came to Portland when but seventeen years of age, to enter mercantile life, being at first employed in a subordinate capacity, and subsequently entering business in a modest way for himself, which through a strict application of business principles, unceasing enterprise and energetic efforts, has resulted in a mercantile establishment second to none in the Forest City. In the years he has been identified with Portland's business  interests, he has acquired considerable real estate, and that upon which stands the establishment of which he is the proprietor, is sought by the County Commissioners as a site for the new County Court House. His application of the vigorous business tactics to the Bethel plant, combined with his able assistants has wrought beneficial  results creditable to the management, the town and its allied interests.


Mr. J. H. Barrows, superintendent of the plant, has been identified with the chair manufacture in one capacity and another since boyhood, and apart from drafting his own designs, is thoroughly conversant with every detail of manufacture. He is a veteran of the late Civil war, having been a member of Company F. 23rd Maine Volunteers, and since becoming a resident of Bethel, has been an earnest advocate of all measures pertaining to the welfare of the town ; he is deeply interested in church work.


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Bethel Chair Co


Bethel Manufacturing  Co


H F Thurston & Son


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