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Saugus History: A look at the legacy of Edward Pranker

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By Laura Eisener


The May program of the Saugus Historical Society was about Edward Pranker and his legacy in Saugus. Pranker was an emigrant from England who spent his life manufacturing fabrics. Arriving in 1820, he honed his skills in Danvers and North Andover, Mass., as well as Salem, N.H., before purchasing an abandoned mill on the Saugus River. Together with two partners, his son George Pranker and John Armitage, he formed Edward Pranker & Company in 1857. In 1860 they enlarged the original mill and built another across the street because the business was so successful. Like most notable 19th century businessmen, Pranker also became involved in the railroad business, and he was one of the men who helped shape the Saugus Branch Railroad. After his death, the mills continued to be used by a succession of businesses, and still stand as a reminder of when Saugus was the home of many different industries.

Ron Wallace has been working on restoring Pranker’s grave in Riverside Cemetery, as he has for some other Saugus historical figures, and his work was the inspiration for this mini symposium. Ron spoke about the work he has been doing as a volunteer, and many of the attendees at the meeting were very interested in his work. Bill Stewart, known as “The

Old Sachem” from his history and sports column in The Saugus Advocate, worked in the mill for the summer after he graduated, since he was not yet 18 and not permitted to start the apprenticeship program at General Electric as he wanted. He spoke a bit about his experience in the historic buildings.

Paul Kenworthy, seasonal park ranger at the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, described the Pond now known as Prankers Pond, which once was much larger and stretched across to what is now known as Route 1. The original pond on the site was built in the 1640’s for the Saugus Ironworks, torn down in the 1660’s, rebuilt in the 1770’s, and repaired and changed several times over the years. For a time in the early 20th century, it was the focal point of social life in Saugus, known as Lily Pond, where people canoed and fished in summer and skated in winter. There was a beach and a ballroom on its banks, and several businesses, including some ice houses and a mushroom growing facility. The dam was breached in 1956, and the much lower pond and surrounding area was preserved as a passive recreation area with the name Prankers Pond in 1976.


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