From The Biographical Review published in Boston, MA by the Biographical
Review Publishing Company in 1898. This article is contained in Volume XXIX.
WILLIAM DOBSON, senior member of the firm of Robert Dobson & Co., of
Pittsfield, Me., manufacturers of woollen goods, and one of the best known and most highly
respected citizens of Somerset County, was born in Galashiels, Scotland, on November 19, 1846,
son of Robert and Janette (Wayness) Dobson. His parents were both natives of Galashiels,
Robert Dobson came to America in 1856, a year before his family, having
been previously employed as general manager for P. & R. Sanderson, of Galashiels, who operated
one of the largest tweed mills in North Britain. Upon his arrival in America he was first
employed in the Hodges Mill at Cherry Valley, four miles from Worcester, Mass., now owned by
Olney Brothers, Richard Olney, late Secretary of State, being a member of the firm. Thence he
went to Amesbury, Mass., where he was employed by the Salisbury Mills Corporation for three or
four years. At the end of that time he was called to Peconic, Conn., a few miles from
Bridgeport, to reorganize the company there engaged in manufacturing yarns and to start a new
mill. Owing, however, to disagreement among the stockholders, these plans were not fully
carried out; and at the end of a year Mr. Dobson went to Schaghticoke, N.Y., where he took
charge of the mills then called the model mills of America. He subsequently acted as
superintendent of the shawl-mills at Leeds, N.Y., owned by Hunt, Tilling-hast & Co. In 1868 he
came to Pittsfield, being attracted by what he believed to be a good location for a
woollen-mill. After the matter had been thoroughly discussed with the citizens of the town,
who were unanimously in favor of aiding in the building of a woollen-mill, it was voted that
the town should contribute fifteen thousand dollars toward the enterprise and should exempt
the plant from taxation for a period of ten years. The mill was accordingly built and the
machinery set up; and upon its completion it was purchased by Robert Dobson, William Davis, of
Lawrence, Mass., and William Dobson, a small sum of money being paid down and a mortgage being
given to cover the rest of the amount. This was in 1869. The new firm was known as Dobson,
Davis & Co. Mr. Davis remained as a member of the firm for about four years, and then sold
out his interest to Gordon Dobson and Dennison Walker, the borhter and brother-in-law of the
subject of this sketch,the firm name being changed to that of Robert Dobson & Co.
With characteristic energy and with an inlligent conception of means and
ends born wide experience, Mr. Dobson set to work to build up a successful and vigoious
busiuess, to this end devoting his whole time, scarcely allowing himself proper hours for rest.
It was his custom to rise very earlv in the mornimg, often at three o'clock, to look alter the
books amd attend to the correspondce of the firm before the workmen began to arrive at the
mill. When, finally, the big wheels began to revolve and all parts of the machinerv were
set in operation, he was on hand to oversee everything. Understanding throroughly every detail
ol the business, he could determine at once whether or not work was being properly done, and
could quickly detect any irregularity in the running of the machinery. The goods manufactured
were therefore of superior grade, and up to the present time have borne that reputation in the
market. From time to time the mill has been enlarged and new machinery added; and to-day it is
a twelve-set mill, equipped throughout with the most improved modern machinery and employing
about two hundred and fifty workmen. The manufactrued product is sold mostly in Boston, New
York, St. Louis, and other large cities. Only one serious loss has been met with.That was in
1872, when a large lot of goods that had heen manufactured for the Southern trade and were
stored in a warehouse in Boston were destroyed by the great fire in that city. This loss was
estimated at twenty thousand dollars. The iwo small fires that have since occurred did but
little damage. The handsome and roomy office building at present occupied by the firm was
completed in December, 1982, and is in every respect suitable and convenient for its puipose
as well as elegant in its design and finish.
Robert Dobson and his wife had six children, two sons and four daughters.
Only their sons, William and Gordon, are now living. Mrs. Dobson resides with the last named
of these, who is unmarried. Her daughter Phoebe died at Lawrence, Mass.; Lizzie died shortly
after the family moved to Pittsfield. Jennie married Dennison Walker; and Mary became the wife
of Orlando Briggs. Mr. Walker, who became a member of the firm of Robert Dobson & Co.
after the retirement of Mr. Davis, remained in it for about twelve years. At the end of that
time he sold his interest to the other partners and built a four-set mill, known as the Maple
Grove Woollen Mill, which he now owns and operates. Mr. and Mrs. Briggs had one child, Frank
Briggs. He now lives with his grandmother, his father and mother having boih passed away. Mr.
Dobson was a friend of the late James G. Blaine. He was a man of fine literary tastes,
familiar with ancient and modern history and keenly observant fo current events. Although
loyal-hearted American, he cherished a warm feeling toward his native land. Indeed, love of
Scotland was with him a passion, and a stranger visiting his beaurtiful home would at once see
evidences of this fact: the thistle adorned the glass panels of the front door; pictures of
Sir Walter Scott's monument, Edinburgh Castle,Glencoe and Balmoral Castle were hung on the
walls; and portraits of Burns and Scott, the memory of whom was especially dear to Mr. Dobson,
and Christopher North and other famous Scotsmen, were seen in different parts of the house.
Mr. Robert Dobson's death, which took place at Young's Hotel, Boston, Mass., April 11, 1896,
was deeply regretted, and called forth many tokens of respect and admiration not only from his
own townspeople, but from prominent men throughout the State of Maine, and even from men of
William Dobson, whose name appears at the head of this sketch, was educated
in the common schools, and began his working life under is father's direction. He and his
brother now hold a large interest in the new Waverly mill, which was built in 1892 for the
manufacture of men's wear, and is one of the finest mills in the State, employing about one
hundred and eighty hands. Their father took an active interest in the establishment of this
mill as he desired to see the water power utilized. The firm has also an interest in the Old
In 1873 Mr. William Dobson married Lacitna M. McMaster, daughter of Albion
P. McMaster, president the National Bank Pittsfield and a prominent merchant of this town. Mr.
and Mr: William Dobson have two children: Hattie E. who married S. Haines, of Pittsfield, and
now assistant superintendent at the woollen-mills; and Mae McMaster, who resides with her
parents. Mr. Dobson takes a warm interest in public affairs, and at one time represented
Pittsfield in the State legislature, to which he was elected on the Republican ticket. He is
affiliated by membership with Meridian Lodge, No. 125, F. & A. M. ; Ira Berry Chapter,
Pheltoma Lodge, I. O. O. F. ; and the Encampment of Pittsfield.
Mr. Dobson sustains the credit of the good name bequeathed him by his
father, and has proved that he is worthy in his own right to manage the great enterprises of
which he is the head, and which furnish employment to and affect the happiness of a large
number of his fellow-men.