Born of humble parentage and like Lincoln, General William C. Plunkett overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to attain success as a teacher and textile manufacturer. He held many offices of trust in the state, serving as Lieutenant Governor with Governor Emory Washburn of Worcester in 1854 and also served in the Senate and in the House on several occasions.
Fifty years have elapsed since his death at Adams, Jan. 19, 1884, but the textile mills that he established are still in operation. He was the last of three brothers — William C., Charles H. of Hinsdale and Thomas F. Plunkett of Pittsfield — who left their imprint on the business, social and political life of Berkshire.
General Plunkett, whose title was acquired in the early military days, was born in Lenox in 1800. His father, Patrick Plunkett, was 29 years old when he left County Wicklow, Ireland in 1795 to seek his fortune in the colonies. The Plunketts were ambitious and thirsty for knowledge. William aspired to college but this was to be denied him. However he attended the old Lenox Academy where many famous men were destined to receive their classical training and there became an ardent student of Latin. Hard pressed for funds however, he was forced to teach and attend school alternately. One winter he taught in Lee and later when his family moved to Lanesboro he accepted a position as teacher in that town. His success there as a teacher was phenomenal.
Possessed of a magnetic personality, General Plunkett so inspired the girls and boys of Lanesboro, that he finally had to open school long before the scheduled hour and keep it open until long after closing time.
Imagine the shock to Lanesboro parents 100 years ago, to see their children starting off for school at 5 o’clock in the morning, remaining all day and then returning at night for spelling bees and other extra curricular activities.
General Plunkett’s salary as a teacher in Lanesboro was $20 a month and board. After teaching there two years he entered a partnership with Thomas Durant in conducting a general store. Successful from the start, the business venture proved to be a turning point in General Plunkett’s career.
Mr. Plunkett remained in Lanesboro eight years. In 1830 he went to Adams with a capital of $270 which was the foundation for the large manufacturing industries with which he was identified to the time of his death. He made cotton and woolen goods and the Plunkett Manufacturing Company and the Greylock Mills through their long period of activity attest to his enterprise and industry.