NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

June 5, 2014

Pearsons cook up a name for themselves

Here is a little tidbit to nibble on: The first commercial bakery in America was birthed right here in the Port. The start of an empire began in 1792 when the Pearson clan began production of a specialty cracker known as Pilot Bread, or ship’s biscuit, a refined version of hardtack.

The Pearson name was well established way before their hot buns hit the market; they were one of the 20 industrious families who established Rowley (1639) under the charge of the Rev. Ezekiel Rogers. John Pearson, the lineal forerunner, was responsible for erecting the first Fulling-mill in the North American Colonies on Mill River and used a cedar tenter-post, brought from England (1643).

The mill was for the manufacturing of cloth; however, prosperity allowed for expansion and the Pearsons began operating a number of grist mills. One of the earliest ones, the Short-Pearson mill, was destroyed by a fire in June 1813, but Silas built another mill that remained in the family until 1843. These grist mills provided the necessary ingredients and resources to operate Pearson & Sons bakeries.

From early on, law officials cooked up strict regulations for bakers. In November 1646, the General Court of the Colony of Mass Bay ordered “that every baker shall have a distinct mark for his bread & keep ye true assise thereof” (Currier, History of Newburyport). The weight and price of bread were fixed by three elected persons in town who would post notices giving the variations in the weight of bread according to the condition of the wheat market.

After Newburyport became incorporated, bakers were ordered by selectmen Berry, Bartlett and Atkins to comply with the same assise and customs as Boston and Charlestown (Currier). The Pearsons were immersed in the market and never bit the hand that fed them; thus, they made lots of dough.

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