Born October 2, 1826 on a small family farm in Samford Vermont, Calvin Sampson became one of North Adams' wealthiest residents.
Sampson had very little schooling but was a vigorous reader and saved money for textbooks any chance he got. He performed odd jobs around the farm, one of which was hauling wood four miles from his home into the village of North Adams. This task would prove invaluable as he met friends along his route who “were useful in later (business) operations.” Leaving behind a wife and children, Sampson’s father Calvin Sr. passed away when Sampson was just twenty years old. His older brother Chester took over their family farm which was now over one hundred acres as their mother had inherited a little over forty-five acres from her parents. Sampson’s sister was also able to purchase some land, requiring Sampson to hire farm hands. This act allowed Sampson to marry Julia Hayden of Clarksburg, Vermont three years later. In the same year his cousin George Millard purchased a shoe factory in North Adams and asked Sampson to sell off some of the extra supplies housed in the building. In 1850 Sampson and his family decided to sell their farm and move into North Adams, where he opened his own shoe shop a year later.
In 1851 he opened his first shoe store and within two years he began to make his own shoes. Sampson’s shoe industry took off with the purchase of the old plant on Marshalls street in 1869. He worked as the president of the plant until 1891 when he retired and left the factory to the companies treasure George W. Chase.
Sampson’s career as a business man became a nationwide story when he decided to bring Chinese workers to North Adams to break the strike in his factory. Conflict with the labor union, known as the Knights of St. Crispin, began in 1868. The tension between Sampson and the Knights of St. Crispin continued over the next two years, ending in the year 1870, and lead to the strikes. The Sampson mill ended up discharging all known active members of the Knights of St. Crispin. To supplement the loss of workers Sampson brought in Chinese workers from San Francisco. The men and women workers who were brought to the Sampson Mill stayed in the area for ten years and numbered around 120 workers. Sampson’s Chinese workers were able to turn out more pairs of shoes at a higher rate of efficiency compared to the performance of the Crispins. The introduction of the Chinese workers into the North Adams workforce inspired many other business men to explore the idea of Chinese workers. Sampson’s humble beginnings as a shoe peddler going from house to house to a booming business man who was notorious for bringing in Chinese workers from the west coast and influencing others to do so.
Calvin T. Sampson passed away in 1893 and is buried in Hillside Cemetery.
Map Coordinates: 42.691575, -73.1247837