Lincoln Iron Works was founded in 1868 by Thomas Ross, and their primary product was machines used for the marble industry, which explains why the How Scale and the Rutland Railroad were two of their largest customers. It was located on West Street just west of the Merchants Row intersection. He began the business alongside his brother in law, C.H. Forbes, but later continued it by himself. A very intelligent man, he understood intricate things far beyond his generation. Some things they produced included stone sawing, channeling machines, polishers, and quarry bars. They also invented the Crescent Coffee Mill, which led to its own production building erected next to the Lincoln cooperation. By 1882, the company employed over 60 people, which may seem like a small amount, but was significant for the size of Rutland, about 3,000 people.
In addition to there being more than twenty buildings around Lincoln Iron Works, there was also housing for the workers. In 1902, all workers went on strike due to the denied request of fair pay along with fair hours. “Plaintiff’s Exhibit 4: ‘Rutland, Vt., May 20, 1902. Trouble in Rutland. We have been on strike since May 20th, and we are obliged to continue to the end. Therefore, this is to appraise all Machinists and helpers, Metal Worker, Blacksmiths, and others that their fellow toilers in Rutland, Vermont, are on a strike against Lincoln Iron Works and F. R. Patch Mfg. Co., to accede to the request for a fair adjustment of time and pay...’” (The Atlantic Reporter, Volume 60, pg 77.)
In Vermont where the Iron Works was located, there was a Crescent Coffee Mill ran also by Thomas Ross, “As illustrated in the advertisement printed here, a sizeable factory was capable of turning out not coffee mills but light and heavy castings, stone sawing machinery, derricks, shafting, pulleys, gears, wrought iron pipe and fittings, and ‘steel and iron rope.’” (Foundry and Machine Shop). As the need for heavy products dwindled, Lincoln Ironworks moved into the plumbing and heating business and sales of home appliances. The company was able to easily shift with the changes in needs for the time, which is why they were so successful for so long. They were able to provide people with basic needs and the new popular products for a low price.
With the demise of Rutland’s rail hub and new technology in the marble business, there was no need for the Ironworks’ major products, and it went out of business in the 1960s. Several of the company’s buildings were demolished, but a few remained along West Street just west of the West Street Cemetery. The main building is still able to be seen, this is where they host the winter farmers market in Rutland Vermont. They had a few tenants but eventually lapsed into disrepair, becoming a haven for homeless people. The untimely death of Thomas Ross is what was the beginning of the end for this company. He died on January 5th, 1881, due to a bursting of an emery wheel in his own workplace. It was soon bought out by Renfield Proctor, a former US secretary of War and a US Senator, as well as a former Vermont governor. Eventually, he would establish the Sutherland Falls Marble Co., later to be joined with the Rutland Marble Co. Together and thanks to the support from Lincoln Iron Works, Vermont would soon house the largest marble company in the world.
The Lincoln Ironworks company would last for about a century, but the need for heavy products and machinery dwindled around the mid-1900s. In response, Lincoln Ironworks moved into the plumbing and heating business and sale of home appliances. However, this change in business did not keep the company alive for much longer, and it shut down in the 1960s. Many of the buildings were shut down, but in 2012, one of them was preserved and transformed into the Rutland Farmers Food Center, which hosts the Farmers Market in the winter season. Visiting the remnants of this business is fascinating, and truly gives us a glimpse of Rutland’s industrial history.