Letter #1 – SEPTEMBER 9, 1850  



SUMMARY
1

Map of Reading 1860
Thomas Jackson built his first rope making factory between the river and the canal. It was washed away by floods. He then rebuilt his business on the same site, six feet higher, but this one was also washed away by floods.


Here you can see the bridge that was washed away.


Jackson's Lock in Reading
This was close to Thomas Jackson's rope manufactory where bargemen had to wait to pass through the locks. Seeing a business opportunity, Thomas Jackson built a store there that was run by his brother. The lock took his name.


The Jackson Store, next to Thomnas Jackson's rope works
The approximate position of the first rope works is ringed



SOURCES

1

Historicmapworks.com - with permission

2

The Passing Scene: Stories of Old-Time Reading and Berks By George M. Meiser and Gloria Jean Meiser. Vol 2. p. 56

3

The Passing Scene: Stories of Old-Time Reading and Berks By George M. Meiser and Gloria Jean Meiser. Vol 2. p. 54

4

The Passing Scene: Stories of Old Time Reading and Berks by George M. Meiser and Gloria Jean Meiser. Vol.2 p57.

5

© The Thomas Jackson Collection.

Thomas Jackson has used one of his company's billheads to show his premises as they existed prior to September 2nd, 1850 when they were swept away by a massive flood rising 16 feet above ground level. He has drawn a red line showing how high the flood waters actually rose and has labeled the different parts of his once impressive operation.

We can only imagine how devastating this experience must have been for him, particularly as this was the second time his ropeworks had been washed away by a flood. The first time it happened was just 9 years previously on January 7th, 1841.

Jackson's Ropeworks before the flood

4

Thomas Jackson's rope factory in 1849
This view also shows the covered Lancaster Avenue Bridge that was right next door to Thomas Jackson's rope walks. Both this bridge and the rope manufactory were totally destroyed by the flood of 1850 that is described in this letter.


Jackson's Ropeworks - showing the height of the flood waters

5

Everything below the line was destroyed.
Thomas Jackson had no choice but to start all over again in a new building on higher ground.










































TRANSCRIPTION

This letter has capital letters and a red line added by pen on top of the engraving to indicate different structures:

FLAT AND ROUND ROPE MANUFACTORY White, Tarred and Manilla Rope of any dimensions. Flat Ropes for Coal Mines and Inclined Planes. Packing for Steam Engines . Towing lines of every description. Bed Ropes, Twines &c.
----------------------------------------------------
A Tar House Chimney
B Lace house Chimney
C Lace house windows
D Rope store room
E Hemp loft & Hackle shop window
F. Covered Horse ring
G. Rope Walk
H Waggon house
Wheel house was behind the front building and not seen in above view

Reading, Pa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Bo't of THOMAS JACKSON

(On reverse:) This is a bill head view of my old rope walk and buildings (except the tar house & a 4 horse two story stable that are not showed on this view) which were destroyed by the great flood of Septr. 2nd 1850. There was also a twine walk covered in.100 yds. long 12 feet wide on the other side of the large walk.

A flood used to rise into the walk 4 or 5 feet every 4 or 5 years, but we always prepared for it and suffered little loss. But this last high one was full 16 feet deep where the walk and the buildings stood & was up to about the red line I have drawn. And swept off every thing except a part of the front building which had stone and log walls. That building was 74 feet long 30 feet wide for 25 feet & 44 feet wide the other 49 feet. Lacing machine & rope rooms on first floor & Hemp & hackle loft above. It was built for a grain warehouse before I had it




AMBASSADORS' NOTES

1

Map of Reading 1860
Thomas Jackson built his first rope making factory between the river and the canal. It was washed away by floods. He then rebuilt his business on the same site, six feet higher, but this one was also washed away by floods.


Here you can see the bridge that was washed away.


Jackson's Lock in Reading
This was close to Thomas Jackson's rope manufactory where bargemen had to wait to pass through the locks. Seeing a business opportunity, Thomas Jackson built a store there that was run by his brother. The lock took his name.


The Jackson Store, next to Thomnas Jackson's rope works
The approximate position of the first rope works is ringed



SOURCES

1

Historicmapworks.com - with permission

2

The Passing Scene: Stories of Old-Time Reading and Berks By George M. Meiser and Gloria Jean Meiser. Vol 2. p. 56

3

The Passing Scene: Stories of Old-Time Reading and Berks By George M. Meiser and Gloria Jean Meiser. Vol 2. p. 54

4

The Passing Scene: Stories of Old Time Reading and Berks by George M. Meiser and Gloria Jean Meiser. Vol.2 p57.

5

© The Thomas Jackson Collection.

This letter was written to Caleb Slater, his first cousin who also was a rope maker by profession and lived in England all his life.

More on this flood
This flood was referred to later in TJ's letter of Aug 8, 1863 as follows,

"When I came to Reading I happened to locate too near the Schuylkill river. On the 7th Jany 1841 my rope-walk was washed away by a flood. I then built another and a larger one on ground 6 feet higher and thought I was safe. But on the 2nd of Septr 1850 the river rose 8 feet higher than any white man had ever known it rise before, and my whole ropewalk went again."

This calamity is just one example of many challenges that new arrivals in an unfamiliar country had to overcome. In this case, all the rivers Thomas Jackson would have known in England would never have risen more than a few feet so this sort of massive flooding would be something he never had planned for when locating his first business.

We know from other letters that his later buildings were burned down at least once so he had to start his business anew on several occasions in his life

Unfamiliar names

We did not know the meaning of hackle but found it to be "a comb or board with long metal teeth for dressing flax, hemp, or jute" (Mirriam Webster on line)

Here we can see the location of Thomas Jackson's first and second rope manufactories.
































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