October 2008: My Masonry Life Story


October 2008

Adam Stickney: Deep Roots in the Masonry Trade

By Peter Hildebrandt

Adam Stickney is the sixth generation in a line of bricklayers that began with James Grady when he left Ireland for Salem, Mass., in the 1850s. When James arrived in the United States, he could neither read nor write. He was a stonemason, and his son, Michael, followed in his footsteps. Michael started what became a large masonry company in Beverly, Mass., “Mike Grady and Sons.” At one time 300 people worked for Grady, including tile cutters from Italy.

“He was pretty much the largest one around back then,” says Adam. “I believe that was in the 1880s. Michael eventually became very sick and signed the business over to his son, Jim. Michael came to disown Jim, who he felt had basically stolen the company right out from beneath him, as family lore has it. Jim ended up giving all the money he’d acquired to Laurence Grady, his son.”

Michael also had another son, Frank, who is Stickney’s great-grandfather. Frank had a son, Mike, who founded another “Mike Grady and Sons Masonry.”

Adam’s grandmother’s maiden name was “Grady,” and his grandfather served in World War II. When the war ended, Adam’s great-grandfather, Frank, got his son, Stephen, into masonry. He got involved in work on a large power plant in Salem.

Shown are Lance, Stephen, Adam and Nash, carrying on generations of masonry.

Shown are Lance, Stephen, Adam and Nash, carrying on generations of masonry.

“All he did all day was cut brick on a wet saw,” says Adam. “After he did all that and left the job, they told him he could have the saw.”

Stephen met a friend, Cecil Farnsworth, whose father was a foreman at the union. Adam’s grandfather, Stephen, and Farnsworth started their own masonry company together.

Adam’s grandfather’s name was originally “Szickne.” “But when [Stephen] started his company, he found no one could find him in the phone book,” says Adam. “That’s when he decided to change his name, so it wouldn’t be such a problem for people trying to figure out the spelling of his name. His parents came straight from Poland.

“When my grandfather and Cecil (Farnsworth) parted ways — I’m not really sure why — my grandfather started his own masonry company, ‘Stephen A. Stickney & Sons,’ which is still around. It started in 1957 in Boxford, Mass. It’s run by my uncles, Shawn and Kerry. At one point, all my uncles and cousins were working for Stephen A. Stickney & Sons, as did my dad, Lance Stickney.”

Lance and Adam Stickney are now partners in their own masonry business in Andover, Maine. Lance moved to Andover in 2002, and Adam moved up in 2005, when he started Andover Masonry. “My dad basically came out of retirement to be my partner,” says Adam. “Most of my cousins and uncles who used to work for Stephen A. Stickney have now gone out and started their own masonry businesses, too. They are all down in Boxford, Mass.”

Adam’s uncles, in addition to Shawn and Kerry, include, Dan and Tony. Cousins in masonry include Scott, Travis and Ben Stickney.

Shown is Nash Stickney, a possible seventh-generation mason.

Shown is Nash Stickney, a possible seventh-generation mason.

Adam and his father are doing a lot of work in the Andover, Maine area. Lance had started his own company in Boxford called, “West Village Construction,” in 1989. In 1990, Lance purchased a camp in Andover, Maine. The family’s been going up there ever since. They’ve made this camp their new permanent location in Maine. Sunday River, a large ski resort nearby, supplies a lot of work for them. They’ve required a great deal of stonework on their clients’ second homes, including natural stonework. The winters can run from the middle of October to the end of April some years. The two try to make the best of things, working as much as possible indoors throughout the long winters.

“We’ve been specializing in large stone fireplaces,” says Adam. “We do all kinds of natural and cultured stone, but we are not afraid to tackle anything masonry. I usually tell clients, ‘If it’s heavy enough to break our backs, we can do it.'”

Adam, now 27, has been doing masonry all of his (working) life. His wife is involved with office management. Adam is the only child in his own family, though he does have numerous cousins.

His son, Nash, not quite 2 years old, may one day represent the seventh generation of masons in the family.

“Who knows,” he says. “My son can do whatever he wants. But if he ends up wanting to do this work, I’ll be here for him. It’s the same situation as with my dad. He told me I could do whatever I wanted, but if I did want to do masonry, he’d be here to teach me. That’s exactly how it has worked out.”

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