|One Town that 'can't be licked'
WARE--Ware became know as "The Town That Can't Be Licked" when the
citizens rallied to save its economic life after two disasters.
In 1938, the Otis Co., employing 75 per cent of the town's labor force, announced
it was moving its entire operation south.
The working people banded together to buy the plant and founded the Ware Industries
to sell stock.
Then, the next year, the 1938 hurricane hit, causing $40,000 worth of damage
to the plant. Ware Industries had to borrow $30,000, and the citizens came to
the rescue. In two years, the mill property was again on the tax rolls.
By 1942, 14 plants were occupied by 17 firms manufacturing a range of goods—textiles,
paper, shoes and machines.
Although it is a manufacturing community, Ware did not get its name from the
wares it produces. The Indians called the river Nenameseck, which means fishing
baskets, or wier. The white men pronounced this "ware."
Ware was part of the "Equivalent Lands" given to Connecticut in 1713
to settle a boundary dispute. Connecticut quickly sold off these lands and used
the money to finance Yale College. John Read bought much of what is now Ware
and called it "The Manour of Peace."
He leased the land during his lifetime but never lived here. He was the "greatest
jurist of his time" in Boston, and served on the Governor's Council.
THE FIRST SETTLERS arrived between 1719 and 1730. Despite its poor soil, the
community was as intensively farmed as the more fertile lowland towns of Hadly
and Northampton until the early 19th century.
Nevertheless, the town was a poor one. In 1771, the Commonwealth built a bridge
over the Ware River, and charged it to the county, because of "the extreme
and well known poverty of the townspeople."
Today, a covered bridge, one of the few remaining in the Commonwealth, spans
the Ware River, between Ware and Gilbertville.
Located in the extreme eastern portion of Hampshire County, Ware is geographically
isolated from the county seat in Northampton, but it has always been the route
Traffic supported hostelries, and by the eve of the Revolution, there were eight
flourishing taverns in the town.
Capt. Jabez Olmstead was not only a hero in the war, but the first man to utilize
the water power of the Ware River, establishing a grist mill on its banks.
The townspeople responded enthusiastically to the Revolution, with soldiers,
taxes and goods. However, the war rapidly depleted the town's reserves, and
as the fighting drew to a close, Ware had difficulty furnishing the requisite
number of soldiers.
In 1780, a "pottision" of Capt. William Brackenridge "humbly
sheweth that theire is a fine of Six hundred pounds added to the last state
taxt for want of one man…The man was drafted and returned to the muster
master…He went off and has not been heard of since."
THE ECONOMIC slump of the Revolution made the townsmen sympathetic to Shays's
Rebellion, and the home of Josephy Cummings "was employed as a depot for
insurgent supplies and many a Ware man marched with the insurgent forces."
Early in the 19th century, Ware residents ceased trying to wrest their living
from the soil and began to use their greatest natural resource, power from the
Ware River Falls.
In the 1820s Boston capitalists provided financial backing to develop the falls
for textile manufacturing.
Today, the town is suffering an economic downturn. Unemployment there is higher
than the state average, due to the closing of several mills.
However, "The Town That Can't Be Licked" is showing some healthy
signs. Back orders at the local mills are higher than they have been in several
(Ware has no Bicentennial projects.)