New Hampshire’s Famous Concord Coach and the Abbot-Downing Company

Mark Twain described it as “an imposing cradle on wheels.”

Concord Coach as found in the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake NY. Copyright 2000 by Janice W. Brown.

In 1867 Wells Fargo, the operators of the largest stagecoach company in the American west, ordered forty of these coaches. This coach became so much a part of their corporate identity, that today it is still the corporate symbol of the company.

The Concord Coach weighed about 2500 pounds and was made to carry from eleven to fourteen passengers at a time. It was drawn by four or six horses.

From 1830 to 1900 the Abbot-Downing company made about 3,700 coaches, sold to customers not only in the United States, but Canada, Europe, South Africa, South America, and Australia.

According to the “History of Concord, New Hampshire:” in May 1813, Lewis Downing, a young man one month short of his majority, came to Concord [NH] from Lexington, Massachusetts, to engage in mechanical industry. The items of his capital were: cash in pocket, sixty dollars; tools, valued at less than one hundred; a hand and a brain not to be appraised in dollars and cents.

Locating himself in business at the north end of main street, nearly opposite the “Upper Bank,” he worked for one year entirely alone, and in November after his arrival completed his first “Concord Wagon,” “every part of the work” having been “done by hand labor,” unaided by any “power machinery.” for the next twelve years he employed from three to six hands, having, meanwhile, in 1816, removed his shop to the “Duncan estate” at the South End, the permanent site of his carriage manufactory.

 A sketch of the Abbott Downing Company from Leading BUsiness Men of Concord, 1890


A sketch of the Abbot Downing Company from Leading Business Men of Concord, 1890

With shop enlarged, and with blacksmithing, painting, trimming, and other branches of his industry started, he fortunately secured, in 1826, the services of J. Stephens Abbot, of Salem, Massachusetts, a promising young man and mechanic, twenty-two years old, to assist at first in the manufacture of the “Concord Stage Coach,” a vehicle to become famous round the world.  The efficient employee constructed the first “coach bodies” ever made in New Hampshire, and in 1828 became a partner in the firm of Downing & Abbot, which, for nearly twenty years…achieved prosperity and a high…reputation….”

The obituary of J. Stephens Abbot (shown in its entirety below) explains in addition: “Mr. Abbot was born Feb. 22, 1804 at Albany, Oxford county, Me., and early learned the trade of a coach body maker at Salem, Mass., with Frothingham & Loring.–In 1826, on Christmas Eve, he came to Concord to build three coach bodies for Lewis Downing Sr. On completing his work he went to Framingham, Mass., to enter into business relations, but was dissuaded by the advice of a tavern-keeper, went to Providence, R.I., and came back to Concord. Jan. 1, 1828, he became Mr. Downing’s partner, the firm continuing until Sept. 1847.– In 1849 the present shops were built. In 1852 Mr. E.A. Abbot became a partner, and Jan 1, 1865 the present firm of Abbot, Downing, & Co. was formed. ”

The September 13, 1844 newspaper, Daily Atlas, Boston MA published the following: “The Newark Advertiser states that W.F. Peterson of Wheeling, Va was at Concord, N.H. last week and contracted for as good a Coach as Messrs Downing & Abbot can make, to have the likeness and name of HENRY CLAY painted upon it, and to be delivered to him in Wheeling, the last of December next. This coach is to be used for the first time to convey Mr. Clay from Wheeling Va to Cumberland Md on his way to Washington the last of February or first of March next, to assume the office of President for the next four years. Mr. Clay will come to Wheeling by steamboat, and will take the cars at Cumberland for Washington. The 130 miles from Wheeling to Cumberland, passing the mountain, is the only stage route from Ashland to Washington.”

In 1854 several newspapers erroneously reported the death of Joseph S. Abbot. On July 29, 1854 the Boston Evening Transcript printed the following: “Death of a Prominent New Hampshire Man.” Under this caption we last evening announced, on what we believed to be perfectly correct authority, the death of Joseph S. Abbot, Esq., the well known coach manufacturer of Concord, N.H. as occurring in New York city. We are happy to learn, this morning, that the statement was a mistake, and that Mr. Abbot is at home in the enjoyment of good health, and engaged as usual in the prosecution of his extensive business. The person telegraphed as dying in New York of cholera proves to be Mr. John D. Abbot, of that city. He was a native of Concord NH and formerly a merchant there, and was brother-in-law of Gen. Joseph Low, the present Mayor of Concord….”

Concord Coach as found in the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake NY. Copyright 2000 by Janice W. Brown.

Inside view of Concord Coach as found in the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake NY. Copyright 2000 by Janice W. Brown.

At one time J. Stephens Abbot was a member of the Governor’s Horse Guards. Eventually from humble beginnings, by 1873 this partnership evolved into the “Abbot-Downing Company” with a payroll of over three hundred men, capital of $400,000, and a manufacturing plant covering six acres.  By 1880 Lewis Downing was President; Edward A. Abbot, Treasurer and Frank L. Abbot Secretary.

The Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket RI) of February 19, 1900 published an article, “Abbot-Downing Company of Concord N.H. Goes Down” indicating that the board of directors had recently voted to assign the company to Abbot Treadwell of Concord and Gerald Wyman of Boston. About 1916 the company entered into the motor truck field, and in 1918 E.E. Vreeland came President of the Abbot-Downing Truck & Body Company. In 1902 Col. William F. “Wild Bill” Cody donated the old Deadwood stage to the National Museum [per the Denver Post].  In 1909 the company went into receivership.

Abbott Jack coach, , made by J.S. Abbot of Concord NH and imported by Cobb and Co. in the 1860s at Dunedin, New Zealand. Arents Cigarette Cards, George Arents Collection, NYPL Digital Library

Abbot Jack coach, , made by J.S. Abbot of Concord NH and imported by Cobb and Co. in the 1860s at Dunedin, New Zealand. Arents Cigarette Cards, George Arents Collection, NYPL Digital Library

The Abbot-Downing Company buildings were demolished in 1971.  In 1979, the State of New Hampshire erected a Historical Marker in front of where the complex was formerly located.  The inscription states: “”The Abbot-Downing Company began in 1813 when Lewis Downing founded a ‘waggon’ factory, located here from 1816 to 1828. In 1828 he was joined by J. Stephens Abbot. The next century saw fourteen styles of ‘stage’ coaches, the most famous being the Concord Coach, and forty styles of commercial and pleasure vehicles carrying the name of Concord all over the United States and around the world.”

Are you curious now about where you can get a ride on one of these coaches?  One place is Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, where a stagecoach ride was recently added to this village-museum’s offerings.

=====GENEALOGY OF Joseph S. aka J. Stephens ABBOTT=====
(Genealogy added 1 Dec 2014) (For Genealogy of Lewis Downing, see here)

George Abbott (1615-1691) & Hannah Chandler (1630-1711)

John Abbott (1648-1721) & Sarah Barker (1647-1729)

STEPHEN ABBOT* (1678-1766) & Sarah STEVENS (1648-1718) — my 6th great-grandparents

Stephen Abbott Jr., son of Stephen and Sarah (Stevens) Abbott; He was b. 2 March 1717 in Andover MA, and d. 8 Nov 1768 in Andover MA m. 24 May 1743 in Andover, Essex Co MA to Mary Abbott (as her 2nd husband). They are buried at South Church Cemetery, Andover MA.
————————-
Children of Stephen & Mary (Abbott) Abbott:
1. Mary Abbott, b. 8 March 1744 Andover MA
2. Deborah Abbott, b. 13 Oct 1745 Andover MA
3. Sarah Abbott b 1 Aug 1747 Andover MA
3. General Stephen Abbott b 1 Aug 1749 Andover MA
4. Abner Abbott b 26 Aug 1751 Andover MA
Andover MA Vital Records: “Abner, s. Stephen, jr. and Mary, Aug. 26, 1751.”
5. Hannah Abbott b 10 Aug 1753 Andover MA
6. George Abbott b 10 Aug 1753 Andover MA
7. George Abbott 2nd, b. 13 June 1756 Andover MA
8. Dorcas Abbott b 23 Sep 1758 Andover MA
9. +Abner Abbott, b. 29 January 1761 Andover MA
Andover MA Vital Records: “Abner, s. Stephen [jr. C. R. 2.] and Mary, Jan. 29, 1761.”
10. Samuel Abbott b 27 Apr 1763 Andover MA
11. Elizabeth Abbott, b. 22 Oct 1766 Andover MA

Abner Abbott, son of Stephen and Mary (Abbott) Abbott was b 29 January 1761 in Andover, Essex Co MA and d 16 Sep 1833 [Holt history erroneously says 1843] in Albany, Oxford Co. Maine; He m. 29 January 1784 in Andover, Essex Co. MA to Ruth Holt, daughter of Joseph & Ruth (Johnson) Holt of Andover MA. She was b. 25 Feb 1765 in Andover MA, and d. 21 Nov 1806 in Albany Maine. He m2d) Dorcas Nason. They are buried in Hunts Corner Cemetery, Albany Maine
——————————–
Children of Abner & Ruth (Holt) Abbott:
1. Ruth Abbott, b. 26 July 1785 Albany ME
2. Sarah Abbott, b. 11 July 1787 Albany ME
3. Obed Abbott, b. 14 Sep 1789 Albany ME
4. Stephen Abbott, b. 1 Oct 1792 Albany ME
5. Mary Abbott, b. 12 May 1797 Albany ME
6. + Joseph S. Abbott, b. 22 Feb 1804 Albany, Oxford Co. ME

J. Stephens Abbott. Likeness from History of Merrimack and Belknap Counties NH, page 143

J. Stephens Abbott. Likeness from History of Merrimack and Belknap Counties NH, page 143

Joseph S. Abbott, aka J. Stephens Abbott, son of Abner & Ruth (Holt) Abbott, b. 22 February 1804 Albany, Maine, and died 16 March 1861 in Concord NH. He married 5 Dec 1829 in Sullivan, Cheshire Co. NH to Grace S. Wiggin, daughter of Sherburn & Margaret (Sargent) Wiggin. She was b 6 October 1806 in Concord NH and d. 21 September 1886 in Concord NH. He was a carriage maker in Concord NH, i.e. of the Downing-Abbott Co. [This post is about his carriage company] [Editor’s note: he is my 2nd cousin 5x removed]
—————
J. Stephen Abbott was born in Albany, ME on Feb 22, 1804. Apparently, he was orphaned or somehow lost his parents because his uncle, General Abbott took him to Old Salem to an Aunt, Mrs. Chase, who adopted him and raised him. After acquiring what limited education he could, he was apprenticed to Frothingham and Loring of Salem as a chaise builder. Then some time later, he was convinced to go to Concord, NH to work with Lewis Downing on Concord coaches. In 1828, he became a partner with Downing, and the business changed to Downing and Abbott. Then in 1847, the business was dissolved; Downing started in a new location, and Abbott stayed in the original. In 1852, he (Abbott) took his son into the business with him and it became the firm of J.S. and E.A. Abbott. In 1865, the business again added the name of Downing to it with the addition of Lewis Downing’s son. At one time, there were three Abbotts there, J. Stephens, Edward A. and Joseph H.. Dec 15, 1829, J. Stephens Abbott married Grace Wiggin, b Oct 6, 1806, daughter of Sherburne and Margaret (Sargent) Wiggin. They had 5 chilldren: Edward Augustus, Margaret Ann, Joseph Henry, Francis Lewis, and Mary. He died Mar 16, 1871 in his 68th year.[ History of Merrimack and Belknap Co’s of NH, edited by D. Hamilton Hurd, printed in Philadelphia by J. W. Lewis & Co., 1885. ref. pgs. 142-3.]
———————-
Wednesday, March 22, 1871 New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, Concord NH — HOME MATTERS. A Loss to the Community.–The death of Mr. J. Stephens Abbot, which took place at his residence in this city on the morning of the 16th, after an illness of three weeks, elicits from every townsman sincere expressions of deep and heartfelt regret. As a self made business man, as a public spirited citizen, as a friend, a neighbor, a husband, and a father, Mr. A., held the genuine esteem of every person who came in contact with him. In no relation of life can a stain be found upon the honorable name he won for himself. Quiet, unobtrusive and firm in his convictions, he was generous and tolerant in judging others. His purse was ever open to the needy and in no good work was his hand reluctant. More than this we may not say, though in no good trait that adds to the favor of public opinion does he seem to have been lacking. His loss is not alone to those of his family, but to our whole community. —Mr. Abbot was born Feb. 22, 1804 at Albany, Oxford county, Me., and early learned the trade of a coach body maker at Salem, Mass., with Frothingham & Loring.–In 1826, on Christmas Eve, he came to Concord to build three coach bodies for Lewis Downing Sr. On completing his work he went to Framingham, Mass., to enter into business relations, but was dissuaded by the advice of a tavern-keeper, went to Providence, R.I., and came back to Concord. Jan. 1, 1828, he became Mr. Downing’s partner, the firm continuing until Sept. 1847.– In 1849 the present shops were built. In 1852 Mr. E.A. Abbot became a partner, and Jan 1, 1865 the present firm of Abbot, Downing, & Co. was formed. We need not recapitalate the great good that Mr. Abbot has worked in our city, the prosperity that he has made within our borders; each citizen knows and owns it, and to-day the regrets of our whole populace form the noblest meed of praise that could be accorded the memory of the dead. Mr. A was not the man to seek public position, or desire it, but, on the contrary, sought to avoid it. He was for several years a Director in the in the Concord Road and filled well the place. He leaves a widow and five adult children.
———————
Children of Joseph S. “J. Stephens” & Grace (Wiggin) Abbott:
1. Edward Augustus Abbot, b 12 Sep 1830 in Concord NH; he m. 11 June 1856 in Charlestown MA to Mary Elizabeth Thompson. 4 children: Maude, Charles T., Harry Stevens, and Ellen Marian [who m. her cousin Abbot Treadwell].
2. Margaret A. Abbot, b 16 Apr 1834 Concord NH; married in 1858 to Lieut. Col. Thomas James Treadwell, son of Thomas P. Treadwell (at one time NH Secretary of State). They had 3 children [Treadwell]: Grace [who m. Pedro Pablo Laureano de Arozarena of Cuba], Abbot [who married his cousin, Marion Ellen Abbott ] and Major Thomas Conrad.
3. Joseph H. Abbot, b. 6 Feb 1837 Concord NH, d. 10 May 1896 Concord NH. He is buried in Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord NH. Single.
4. Francis Lewis Abbot, b. 20 May 1843 in Concord NH, d. 22 July 1896 in Manchester MA. Single.
5. Mary Abbot, b. 27 July 1845 in Concord NH; She m. 31 Oct 1883 in Concord NH to Gerald Wyman, son of William & Mary W. (Lapham) Wyman. No children.

*Additional Reading*

Abbot-Downing Historical Society

The Abbot-Downing Concord Coach

Adirondack Museum (where I took the photographs above)

Downing & Abbot Company Founder and Carriage Builder of Concord New Hampshire: Lewis Downing (1792-1873)

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6 Responses to New Hampshire’s Famous Concord Coach and the Abbot-Downing Company

  1. Sherwood D. Simons says:

    I am from Deerfield, N.H. My grandfather Herman Simons drove a Abbot Downing coach from Deerfield to the railway station in Candia. It was called the Deerfield Candia stage. I now live in FL. but still very interested in Abbot Downing Co. and the history of the Concord Coaches

  2. Norma Wells Keeler says:

    My great grandfather John S Green was a foreman there and before we sold our house– many years ago- we had many of his tools..So sorry we did ot have aplace to keep them..

  3. Pingback: Downing & Abbott Company Founder and Carriage Builder of Concord New Hampshire: Lewis Downing (1792-1873) | Cow Hampshire

  4. Joan says:

    I want to ride in an original stagecoach, do u still have them and I’d like to know where I can go and how much does it cost, thank you.

  5. Pingback: NH Tidbits: Concord New Hampshire At A Glance in 1891 | Cow Hampshire

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