W. H. and J. H. Cary

W. H. Cary Yankee Plow Plane
This plane was loaned to The Davistown Museum by Bob Wheeler for the 2002 "An Archaeology of Tools" exhibition
The description of this plane is in the Museum's Cary tool collection listing.

Bob believes this is a Maine-made plane and W. H. Cary is listed as a Maine planemaker in the Registry of Maine Toolmakers.  Trevor Robinson does not believe Cary made any planes in Maine.  Pollak's A Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes, 4th edition states W. H. Cary "is unlikely to have made any planes in ME."  (pg. 80).  Additional information and opinions received by the Museum about W. H. Cary as a Maine planemaker (or not) will also be posted here.

The following information is courtesy of Trevor Robinson of Amherst, MA.

In the last ten years more than a half dozen planes have appeared with the stamp "W. H. Cary" (illustrated in Plane Talk, Vol. 15, p. 350), and another plane stamped "J. H. Cary". There has been no information available about either of these men, or a possible connection between them. A search of the Mormon International Genealogical Index, census records, county records, and genealogical material has made it possible to gather a good amount of information about them, revealing that W. H. was actually the father of J. H.

It seems that most of the Carys in New England derive from John Cary, who was born near Bristol, England about 1610 and joined the Plymouth Colony in about 1634. A century later there were many of his descendants in the neighboring town of Bridgewater, among them Ephraim (or Ephriam) Cary, born 1748 and the father of William Holman Cary, who was born in Bridgewater May 12, 1779. Ephraim's wife was Jane Holman. The next record that appears is the marriage of  W. H. Cary to Catherine Haskell in 1800 (or 1801, documents differ). This marriage took place in Litchfield, Connecticut; and the Haskell family came from Connecticut; but the 1800 Census does not show any Carys or Haskells resident in Litchfield, so why they were married there remains a mystery.  In 1802 W. H. Cary was granted land in New Salem, Massachusetts following a decision taken at a meeting of the inhabitants of the town on November 16, 1801. In this grant W. H. Cary is described as a "housewright." It was not a completely free grant, as he paid the town $15. The land, comprising 3/8 of an acre  is described in the deed as part of the Meetinghouse Common, adjacent to land of the New Salem Academy. The surprising thing is that in 1803 Cary sold this land to Shubael C. Stratton for $239.70 - a good profit in one year! The Carys must have continued living somewhere in New Salem, perhaps in rented property, because the 1810 Census shows them there with four sons and one daughter. They were still there in 1817 because there are baptismal records for two of their children in that year. The appearance of the W. H. Cary planes suggests that they were made during these early years in New Salem; and the fact that four examples have appeared in western Massachusetts supports this idea. Nevertheless there is no contemporary document that refers to William Holman Cary as a planemaker.

The 1820 Census does not have any Carys living in New Salem, and where they were then remains unknown; but a genealogical history of the Cary family reports that they moved to Houlton, Maine. Land was available in Houlton because the citizens of New Salem were granted a piece of the Maine wilderness by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Maine then being a part of Massachusetts). This land became the southern half of Houlton, and several families from New Salem moved there, starting in 1805. In 1822, W. H. Cary arrived with his wife Catherine, sons Shepherd (or Shepard) and W. H. Jr., and daughter Catherine.  Shepherd Cary at the age of 21 opened a store in his father's house and, in a few years, became an important person in Houlton. He had extensive timber interests, owned a foundry, carding, and grist mills.  He was elected to the U. S. Congress for 1843-1845. The 1840 Census has Shepherd as head of a large household in Houlton, Maine. No other Carys are named, but from the ages and sexes it is possible to infer that in his household were W. H., Catherine, and their daughter, also named Catherine. W. H. Jr. moved away from Houlton and ended up in St. Paul, Minnesota. William  H. Cary, Senior, was associated with Shepherd in operation of the various Cary Mills, and it seems unlikely that he made any planes in Maine. He died in Houlton January 27, 1859.

Jonathan Haskell Cary would have been twenty years old when his parents moved to Maine, and he either remained in New Salem or moved back there soon after. In the 1830 Census of New Salem and all subsequent ones until his death in 1875 he is listed as "carpenter."  In 1831 he married Eliza Haskell. (New Salem was full of Haskells.) No actual records of his plane-making have turned up, but the EAIA Directory of American Tool Makers (draft copy) lists him as maker of a log caliper (erroneously in North Salem). The probate records of Franklin County include a highly detailed estate inventory for him. The inventory of his workshops alone (4 separate locations) takes up two, closely written pages. Nothing in the list surely identifies him as a planemaker; but the listing of "13 caliper measures" is evidence of his activity as a maker of log calipers. A surprise is that he had a number of gunsmithing items and is recorded in New Salem records as a "gunsmith." He did have a good number of planes, but none of these appear to be in the multiples to be expected of a plane manufacturer. Here is a listing of his planes:

long jointer, 2 short jointers, 3 smooth planes, 2 lag planes, 2 rabbet planes, pair match planes, 6 pairs hollows and rounds, 8 molding planes, 3 small rabbets, 1 felloe plane. It would appear that at the time of his death he used planes but was well out of the planemaking business.

Records at the Franklin County Registry of Deeds show that Jonathan had many property transactions, but probably his last location was at the northern edge of New Salem, adjoining the town of Orange. A map of 1858 locates him along the north side of the middle branch of the Swift River and on the West side of Elm St. Nearby were a tannery, sawmill, and blacksmith shop. No buildings remain today in this location.

J. H. Cary died March 28, 1875 and his wife died before him, in 1873. Presumably his only child, Henry Francis Cary, also predeceased him because his will left the bulk of his estate, after payment of bills, to his granddaughter, Alice Evelyn Cary of Fitchburg; and she sold the property to Francis W. Newland. The graves of J. H. and Elizabeth Cary are in the North New Salem Cemetery.

The Planes:

Tongue plane for 1 inch stock. Cherry wood. 10 inches long. No name on iron. Flat chamfers. Stamp "W. H. Cary"

"Yankee" type plow. Beech. 8 3/8 inches long. Brass thumbscrews in brass nuts clamp the slide arms. Wooden thumbscrew clamps the wooden depth stop. No name on the 1/4 inch iron. Stamp "W. H. Cary"

Nosing plane. Beech. 9 15/16 inches long, flat chamfers, birch wedge. Stamp "W. H. Cary" (listed in the Catalog of American Wooden Planes (CAWP), Sept. 1992 [a sales list sent out irregularly by Michael Humphrey of Sherborn, MA].)

Grooving plane. Beech. 9 9/16 inches long. Round chamfers. Stamp "W. H. Cary"

Tongue plane, found with the above. Beech 9 3/4 inches long. Flat chamfers. Stamp "W. H. Cary"

Unusual shape molding plane, unknown function. Described in CAWP Dec. 1992, p. 13. Beech 9 15/16 inches long. Stamp "W. H. Cary"

Sash plane Beech. 9 7/16 inches long, 1 7/16 wide. Rounded chamfers 3/8 in. Single iron, ovolo cut. Stamp "W. H. Cary."

Two planes by W. H. Cary were mentioned briefly in Plane Talk, Vol. 10:2 p. 12. No descriptions were given; and their whereabouts are now unknown.

Also see the Registry of Maine Toolmakers listing for W. H. Cary.

Tools signed Cary in the Museum collection and exhibits.