Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
March 15, 2017
The following fascinating article was originally printed in the Warrensburg Historical Society Quarterly newsletter, Vol. 21, Issue 2. It was written by Warrensburg Town Historian Sandi Parisi and reprinted here with permission.
Samples of the shoe pegs the factory made. Photo courtesy of Sandi Parisi, Warrensburg Town Historian.
From the Files of the Town Historian
SHOE PEG FACTORY
Or a lesson in how confusing history is to interpret…
From one source the editor believes dated c.1885, the following was found:
“Wyman Flint of Bellows Falls, Vermont started the Peg Factory still running in January, 1882. The buildings were erected at that time by I.J. Brill. The capacity of the factory is indicated by the statement that it turns out about 20 barrels of pegs daily. White, yellow and black birch are used exclusively, and are drawn from the forests in the vicinity. Charles White is the foreman. Two sets of hands are employed, one numbering 15 and the other about 27 or 28.”
On April 13, 1886 the Warrensburgh News printed the following: “It is with deep regret that the News chronicles the loss of one of Warrensburg’s thriving industries removed from our midst. A manufacturing plant which furnished steady and remunerative employment for nearly 40 people. It is indeed a heavy blow to the business industry of the town and one to be deplored. Nearly every branch of trade will be either directly or indirectly affected. It is now a settled fact that J.R. Foster’s Shoe Peg Factory is to remove to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts this summer. This has been contemplated by Mr. Foster for some time.
For the past two or three years there has been a scarcity of peg wood in this vicinity and more recently, the quality has been so deteriorated and the quantity become so limited that a removal has become imperatively necessary.”
From a 1963 article by Egrynwen R. Whitacre: “During the latter part of the nineteenth century there existed in Warrensburg a Shoe Peg Factory. This factory was located on the Schroon River near the present Pasco’s Hardware Store (Curtis Cash and Carry). Shoe pegs were made from white birch and were used in the making of shoes. The pegs, about 1/2” long, were used to hold the heels on.”
The Warrensburg factory was owned by J.P. Foster and their products were “Blue Star Shoe Pegs.” The German army was a major market for the pegs, but this article in the Warrensburg News on February 4, 1892 tells of a costly accident at sea:
“The S.S. Eider which left New York for Bremen, January 23rd and was wrecked off the Isle of Wight Monday carried as a portion of her cargo 123 barrels of Blue Star Shoe Pegs, the products of our local factory. The value of the pegs was about $325. At last reports the vessel was going rapidly to pieces and the entire cargo will doubtless be lost.”
In 1893 the factory was forced to move to Shelburne Falls, MA, because the raw material, white birch, became scarce. The peg factory flourished in that community until 1904 then due to raw material shortage, it was again forced to move, this time to Plymouth NH where it continued until the blockade of WWI closed the German market and put the shoe peg factory out of business.
Articles from the April 17, 1890 Warrensburgh News state that Mr. B. W. Sherwood of Thurman has contracted to furnish 50 c. of peg wood to the factory and Ames Austin has also 50 c. wood ready which he will draw to the factory as soon as the ferry across the West River is in operation. The “West” River mentioned no doubt, is the Hudson River.
In July 1893 Mr. Foster was forced to close his factory here as previously stated. The following article from the Warrensburgh News of July 13, 1893 relates the story of the last days of the factory. “At J.P. Foster’s peg factory yesterday afternoon each one of the male employees sawed a portion of the last log that will ever be worked up into “Blue Star” shoe pegs in Warrensburg. The machines were all shut down yesterday at 3:30. It will probably take the balance of the week to finish the pegs by hand screening, bleaching and barreling them, and in the meantime the work of preparing the machinery for shipment to Shelburne Falls, Mass. will be vigorously pushed. Mr. Foster’s new building in Shelburne Falls is rapidly nearing completion and the factory will probably be in full operation there early in August. That this thriving business is lost to Warrensburgh is to be regretted but all will join in wishing Mr. Foster the greatest measure of success in his new home. With improved facilities for production and his unequalled knowledge of the business he will have no difficulty in maintaining the position now occupied by the “Blue Star” peg as the best in the world and supply the great demand.”