25 Howard Street
Silver Creek, NY  14136
Town of Hanover
The Howes Plant


Huntley, Howes, Babcock, and others

Excerpted from: “ The Fredonia Censor 27 August 1884, Early History of Hanover, And Biographical Sketches Of Early Settlers—Resumed,” by Grove L. Heaton.

W. W. Huntley Esq. [was] one of the most enterprising and prominent citizens of this village, was born here in 1831. He has always resided here and for a long time was at the head of the firm of Huntley, Holcomb & Heine. Mr. Huntley was the inventor and originator of the Bran Duster and Middlings Purifier, two machines that were at one time manufactured by that firm quite extensively. About the year 1857 or 1858, Simeon Howes Esq. of this village bought out the Cogswell Patent Bran Duster and contracted with Ezekiel Montgomery & Sons of Silver Creek to build the machines for him. At the time Mr. William W. Huntley was in the employ of the Messrs. Montgomerys as a mechanic and was put to work on the Bran Dusters.

As these machines were completed, they were put up in mills in the surrounding country. It was not long before they began to show imperfections and complaints were made of them and their working. Mr. Huntley being a mechanic by nature and possessing large inventive abilities soon discovered where the fault rested and the opportunities for improving the machine. At the time he was in quite limited circumstances, and had nothing but his own genius and labor to rely upon. For this reason he was compelled to work under many difficulties and great disadvantages. He was compelled to devote regular hours for labor for the subsistence of his family, and could only devote the over time of nights and mornings to the improvement of the machine.

At that time Mr. Alpheus Babcock was building a few Smut Machines which he was placing in mills as opportunity offered. Mr. Huntley arranged with Mr. B. to join him in the Bran Duster business and also to furnish some material aid; this enabled Mr. Huntley to devote more time and attention to his machine. In 1862, they had so far improved and completed the machine that they could with confidence go to a mill owner and say to him that they would put one of the Bran Dusters into his mill, and if it did not operated [sic] to his entire satisfaction they would take it away and pay for all trouble and expense. They also made the offer of putting a machine in a mill and taking the extra amount of flour made in six months in payment for the machine. In this way they were successful in getting their Bran Duster into mills where the original machine did not give satisfaction, and was condemned.

About this time other manufacturers of rival Bran Dusters saw the success that Huntley & Babcock were meeting with; became jealous and commenced a suit for infringement on their patents, when in fact they were the pirates. They had also been compelled to operate under many disadvantages. They had no conveniences for making their castings and doing some other iron work which necessitated purchasing from other parties at a greater expense, and it also made them dependent to a certain extent upon others. About 1870 or 1871, Mr. Alpheus Babcock had decided to devote his entire time and energies to the manufacture of the Eureka Smut machine, in which he had become interested with Mr. Simeon Howes some time previous.

For this reason he decided to dispose of his interest in the Bran Duster business, and found a customer in Mr. Frank Swift. In the meantime Mr. Huntley had been at work energetically and industriously. He had purchased from C. H. Lee Esq. The present site of the Excelsior Works and had succeeded in putting up a building for a shop and getting it inclosed [sic]. About that time he was taken down with serious sickness brought on by overwork and great anxiety. This came near closing up his accounts with this world. From possessing a strong constitution he weathered the sickness, and after a time fully regained his health, when he again devoted all his energies and strength to the completion of his shop and building his machines which were becoming more popular every day, and the demand was rapidly increasing for them.

The suits for infringements that had been commenced against him had been decided in his favor. Although the suits had been very expensive it was gratifying to him to know that the parties who had purchased his machines and were using them could not be imposed upon by having Sharpers come around and demand a royalty. About the year 1872, Mr. Huntley first conceived the idea of a Middlings Purifier, a machine that is fast coming into use all over the civilized world wherever flour is manufactured from wheat. Mr. Huntley devoted much time to perfecting this machine and in endeavoring to have it as near correct as possible before it was put in competition with other machines that were being used for similar purposes.

He had been very particular in designating all points upon which they claimed improvements and for which they obtained patents, all of which were granted without a single objection that was sustained. At the same time, it was not long after their Middlings Purifier began to be used, that other manufacturers found they were looked upon with much favor by the milling public, and showed their jealousy by commencing suits for infringement of patent. However, the suits were every one decided in the favor of Mr. H. and his partners. Still it was quite annoying and somewhat expensive to have the suits to content [sic] with, and as they were a young firm with no surplus capital, it embarrassed them for a short time.

Late In the autumn of 1872, Mr. Frank Swift disposed of his interest in both the Bran Duster and Middlings Purifier to Mr. A. P. Holcomb, and transferred to him all claim and interest he might have in any and all improvements. A few months after, Mr. August Heine, who had been engaged here in the hardware business, bought a one-third interest in the works. From that time the firm became Huntley, Holcomb & Heine and continued as such until the summer of 1882 when Mr. Huntley disposed of his entire interest including all the patents and improvements in the works, to his partners, for which he received a handsome sum, sufficient if properly managed to place him in easy, comfortable circumstances, all the remainder of his life.

W. W. Huntley is worthy of all he has received. Notwithstanding his father was an energetic, hard working, industrious man, his circumstances were such that his son was thrown upon his own resources at an early period in life with nothing but his acquirements and what nature had done for him to assist him. His circumstances and record through life show that he has made good use of his abilities, and the care that he is taking of his aged parents by providing them with a good home and surrounding them with all the comforts of life, is a sure indication that he possesses all the nobler instincts of our nature.


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