Milton Mills and the Soap Salesmen

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | February 23, 2020

Here we find a 1916 recollection of two competing industrial soap salesmen – “No. 34” and “Jim” – and their sales trip to Milton Mills.

Based upon the manufacturers, hotelier, and storekeeper mentioned, it would seem that the sales trip described must have taken place in or around 1877. The Waumbeck Company had its origins in the early 1870s; Ira Miller (1826-1902) had by this time transferred his Central House hotel to Crosby B. Remick (1849-1919), and opened his eponymous store, as he did in 1877; and Edward Brierley (1817-1878) was still living. David H. Buffum (1820-1882), a principal at the Great Falls Manufacturing Company, has not yet arrived on the scene. John Townsend (1807-1891), retired founder of the Townsend blanket mill, was then about seventy years of age, while his son, Henry H. Townsend (1842-1904), founder of the Miltonia Mills, was then about thirty-six years of age.


In my early days in the soap trade, there seemed to be a broader field than there is to-day. True, there were fewer salesmen on the road selling mill soaps. As I recollect, there were two of us in New England territory, representing large houses, and, occasionally, a small maker of soap among the competitors would go out himself, and sell some mill. But the bulk of the trade was handled by my competitor and myself, I will call him Jim. There surely ought to have been trade enough for both of us. One morning I met him on the Eastern Division of the Boston & Maine Railroad, coming from Boston. He was not very amiable, rather out of sorts with me. For the truth was, I had been rather busy with the mills on that division. I had been to Great Falls the day before and sold them. The son of the owner had told me that his father had gone to Milton Mills, together with Mr. Briarly, superintendent of a felt mill he owned there to Briarly’s camp at East Pond on a fishing expedition. This is in explanation of what happened after Jim and I reached Milton Mills. We both got off at Union, N.H., and took the stage over to Milton Mills. Jim rode on the inside, I on the outside. He


and I, after one or two attempts to converse with him, subsided. The facts were that on a previous trip I had been to the mills and sold the Waumbec Company a car and sold a sample five-cask lot to Briarly Felt Mills; also sold Townsend a sample order, I have forgotten the number of packages, and had run over the month before and got encouragement from Briarly that my soap was proving very satisfactory and that he expected to give me a car order, which was my errand on the day Jim and I were on the way to Milton Mills. We arrived about dinner time, went in to dinner together. We had begun to eat when Jim started up from the table and said he had a bad attack of the toothache and could not eat. I finished my meal, while Jim walked down to the Briarly mill at least one-half mile from the hotel. Before he came back I had interviewed Henry Townsend, whom I saw coming across the square, and sold him. This left nothing for Jim except a possibility of changing Briarly


to me. Jim came back, hot and mad clean through. “Why couldn’t you have told me Briarly was down to East Pond fishing,” he said, and “saved me this walk?” It was a very hot day In August. I asked him how long he supposed I was running his business. He made me no answer, but turned to Remick, the hotel proprietor, and said, “How many horses have you got in the barn?” Remick said, “Six.” “I want them,” said Jim, “and I want you and the fastest one of the lot to drive me to Briarly’s camp.” I had not been on the road long, but I had learned a little forbearance against pushing business on a mill man when he was on a pleasure hunt away from his mill. So I began to remonstrate with Jim against going to the camp. He just laughed at me. I tried to get one of the six horses that Jim had commanded, but Remick reminded me that I had heard Jim hire the whole bunch. I told Remick that would be the last time he would have the pleasure of my company, and was making a few other


to him. When a salesman for a dye-stuffs house who was at dinner with me and had driven in from Sanford, Me., saw the fix Jim had me in, he stepped up and said it was his first trip to this country, that he had no acquaintance, and if I would introduce him to the owner of the felt mill I might ride with him. I gladly accepted his invitation. Meanwhile, Jim and Remick had started for East Pond. The dye man drove a piebald horse, not any snap to him. When he got opposite Briarly’s mill, he balked up. I sprang over the wheel, saying to my friend that his horse couldn’t do me any good. I ran all the way back to the village, and entered a grocery store kept by Ira Miller. I will say that, before going on the road to sell soap, I was eight years in a wholesale grocery store in Boston. Miller had been a customer, and when he came in to buy goods, he was always boasting about the fine horses he had. I had not him for three or four years. As soon as I got my breath, I said, “Ira, have you got a good horse?” “The best in the state,” he replied. 


and drive me to East Pond.” That horse was harnessed and put in a rig in very quick time. As we rode along, I explained to Ira the trouble I was in. That was a grand horse of Ira’s. We overtook friend Jim and Remick about five miles out. I said, “That is what I am after, Ira,” pointing to Jim. They were moping along, thinking they had done me up, I suppose. When I spoke to Ira, he said, “Hang on to the seat,” and like a shot we went by them. I looked back, and Jim had the reins away from Remick, and the whip in his hand, and was lashing that horse into a run, but that horse was not in it with Ira Miller’s animal. We left them out of sight and drove into the lake shore. “Change sides,” said Ira, who rose up and I slipped under him. At the camp I found Mr. Briarly, booked his order for a car of soap, just as he had promised me, when Jim and his friend drove into the woods. I told Ira to drive me to Wolfboro Junction, which he did. Pretty soon Remick left Jim there. But he would not fraternize with me, and staid up at the end of a long platform away from me. I had mischief enough left in me to go to the telegraph office and wire in the order I had taken. No 34.


American Wool and Cotton Reporter. (1916, May 11). American Wool and Cotton Reporter. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2013, August 12). Edward Brierley. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2013, August 12). Henry H. Townsend. Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: