Coram Rug Works

Coram Rug works, 1966

The Coram Rugworks will provide a diversion from the weather, which has occupied much of our time this past week. The business grew from a single loom to one of the biggest carpet businesses on the east end of Long Island.
The Overton homestead in Coram is located on the east side of Mill Road near the junction of the Patchouge-Port Jefferson State Highway and Middle Country Road. It was purchased on August 4, 1843 by Lewis R.Overton from Sarah Williams. The Overton’s first came to Coram in 1740when David Overton purchased a number of the Long Lots that went from Middle Country Road to Granny Road. Lewis’ grandfather Palmer Overton was a Patriot who fought against the British during the American Revolution. (Davis Erhardt collection)

Looking at the back of the Home Depot building. Approximate location of the Overton house.
LewisRoe Overton. Mr. Lewis R. Overton was a schoolteacher in the Coramschool. He would eventually rise to the position of school superintendent. He also served as Coram's Postmaster and from 1857-1859,he served as Town Clerk of Brookhaven. His family still has the resolution with the red, green, and blue seals of Brookhaven Town alongwith some of the family's valuable original furniture. Helen Overton once ran a millinery shop inside the house after the death of Lewis R. Overton. As a young man he traveled throughout the country as a tutor. He kept a diary detailing his travels from a packet boat on theErie Canal to witnessing a slave auction in the south. The following isan excerpt from his diary.
Monday, 2 January, 1821
“This day opened a day and evening school in Middle-Street. Afternoon attended the annual slave market held at the courthouse. The scene is revolting to every better feeling of humanity and patriotic freedom. The unfortunate beings are conducted like herds of cattle to a fare and the mingled passions of hope and fear are depicted on each countenance. Some hopingin a near-compassionate and human master to find a deliverance from unfeeling tyranny and others dreading the chance of falling into the hands of rigid severity. "Oh, Liberty how is thy alter profanited by those who call themselves thy sons?"…Latin quote. A day, an hour of virtuous liberty is worth a whole eternity of bondage- how pitiable must be the condition of those unhappy slaves who can never hope to enjoy one of nature’s noblest gifts. The week between Christmas and the New Year is here generally allotted them as a relief from their toll. Some are even denied this short holiday.”

Elisha Webster Overton, son of Lewis Roe Overton. Elisha was a member of the11th New York Cavalry. He fought during the Civil War and helped to end he slave system that his father detested.
Christina Overton
Coram,circa 1890. Christina Overton, daughter of Elisha Webster Overton. Looking directly at the picture,Christina is sitting to the right. Miss Emma Norton sitting in the middle. She married a much older Edwin Hawkins and one son Edwin, who was named after her husband.
edwin Hawkins
Edwin Hawkins, son of Christina Overton with his half-brother, Elihu Hawkinsat their rug shop. Edwin began working in the shop in 1933 at the age of8. Local residents saved cloth and went to the factory where it was made into rag carpets. The factory was located across from the house but was later moved a short distance west from the original standing place.
Edwin was fond of saying how Elihu returned to Coram after traveling around with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. He needed to regain his health as he had a bit too much fun with Wild Bill and the other show mates.

In1920 Elihu Hawkins started making rag carpets as a hobby. It eventually grew into a thriving business. His first shop in Coram was a small one with one hand loom. But as demand grew, he purchased a second machine.Word soon spread of the durability and fine appearance. Women came from far and near with bags of rags that had been cut into strips and sewn together. Edwin Hawkins assisted his brother and at the age of eight he made his first rag carpet. In failing health Elihu gave up the business, and the newly married Edwin took over the business with his wife Clara. In 1939 they bought a building and moved it to the property at the intersection of Route 112 and Mill road.During WWII Edwin closed the shop as finding materials became scarce.Returning from Merchant Marine service he reopened the shop in 1946. The business was now equipped with five looms with automatic shuttles and could make rugs from 3-5 feet wide. It eventually became more economical to sell pre made carpets and racks were installed to hold the new carpets. . (At the time of the interview he still had his original loom in his Florida home. As a hobby he taught his grandchildren to make rag carpets)
The Coram Rug Works
Edwin Hawkins, the son of Edwin and Christina Overton Hawkins was born April11 1918 in Coram, member of the Coram F.D. serving as Chief from1948-1949 and Commissioner for four years. Died November 22 1999, 81years old. "Ed" started working as a boy at a rug factory which he would later become the owner and operated of what would be called the Coram Rug Works located on the corner of Mill Road and Route 112.
The Coram Rug Works quickly became one of the largest distributors in New York State until they closed in the 1970's. He also loved racing and raced midget cars, once topping 150 miles per hour and would later become the owner and operator of the Riverhead Raceway.
I went to interview Mr. Hawkins in 1997 at his Florida home. As you walked in you couldn't help but notice his midget race car in the middle of the living room. His wife seeing the surprise on my face replied that the car was the only vice he had so it’s allowed a place in the home. Mr.Hawkins smiling proudly responded that it was the midget racer that he-had set the speed record at Daytona Raceway with at 150 mph.
View of where the Coram Rug Works was located, 2015.
Sketch of the original building where the rag carpets were made.

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