In a building erected by the Heards at the “Lower Mills,” James Peatfield and his brother Sanford were engaged in knitting shirts and drawers upon a rotary warp frame, invented by James as early as the year 1834. A woolen mill was constructed on the northwest side of the County Street bridge.
Encouraged by their success, the Peatfield brothers bought the land in 1840, and proceeded to build the brick factory, known later as the “Hayes Tavern.” It was equipped with machinery invented by James, and began at once a prosperous business in the production of underwear. Mr. Geo. W. Heard was the warm friend of the enterprise and advanced money for the new manufacturer. But the business had been established only a few years, when Mr. Heard was obliged to go into bankruptcy and the Peatfields were hopelessly involved.
The following is from “The History of Essex County“
The Peatfield brothers lost their building and business for a time, but recovered in a few years. Sanford Peatfield sold his share of building and land, but James Peatfield began the manufacture of the nets then in vogue for women’s wear, and continued it profitably for years.
James Peatfield was born in 1804 at Arnold a small town three miles from Nottingham England. He was bound as an apprentice to John Atherly of Arnold with whom he remained until his coming of age and learned the building of lace and woolen machinery. In July 1827 he came to the United States landing New York City. That same month he journeyed Ipswich where he took up his residence. He at once entered the employ of the Heards as a machinist, but found the machinery then in use old and imperfect All the machines had brought from England and had been in use for a time. Mr Peatfield immediately went to work to repair these machines and to make improvements finally built a new machine which was one of the first lace machines made in this country.
Mr. Peatfield then turned his attention to other fields of manufactures and in 1839 he invented and built a warp machine and began the manufacture of woolen underclothing. To James Peatfield belongs the honor of being the first person to manufacture woolen underclothing in the United States. The goods were manufactured in the lace factory of the Heards the lace machinery was removed and warp machines put in their place. The Ipswich River afforded ample water power to run the machinery and the business was very successful.
In 1842 in company with his brother Sandford, he built a brick mill on Washington Street at Depot Square near the Boston and Maine Railroad Station and continued the manufacture of woolen goods hosiery and underclothing until 1877 when he retired. In 1846 he bought some seven acres more or less bounded by the Topsfield road and the Ipswich River and planted a nursery in a part of this purchase. After leaving the building of machinery and the manufacture of woolens he devoted himself to the care of his nursery and the developing of his lands.