Charlemont — Manufacturing Industries
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
Aaron Rice made the first improvement for operating machinery in the town. Before 1753 he began building a corn-mill on Mill Brook, at what is now the village, and near the present mill-sites. The proprietors deemed his enterprise of such importance that they gave him a bonus of £21 13s. 4d., and promised further aid if he would keep the mill in repair ten years, "and grind at all convenient times for the proprietors, taking one-sixteenth part for toll and no more." In May, 1753, the proprietors met at the mill to examine the work already done and what was necessary to complete the mill. "After debates on that affair, it was voted to give Rice £13 6s. 8d. on the conditions above, and have him, also, build a saw-mill." For the latter purpose it was voted "to give said Aaron Rice the saw-mill irons belonging to ye proprietors, and to compleat the set, he engaging to build a saw-mill on the brook he hath built his corn-mill on, and to saw bords for the proprietors at ye same price, and sell bords at ye same prices that they are sold for at Deerfield, for ye space of ten years next ensuing." For the performance of these conditions and the faithful use of the £40 and the "compleat set of mill-irons," Aaron Rice gave his bond for £100, and soon commenced grinding for the "one-sixteenth part" and sawing "bords" at the customary prices. The mill was swept away by a flood in 1775, and it is said that Sylvanus Rice erected the second mill oil the east side of the stream, which had two run of stones, and which was operated until 1822, when the present mill was built by David Crittenden. In a repaired condition it is now operated by Preston Baker.
Several saw-mills have been operated since the first one, by Sylvanus Rice, Artemas Rice, Jonathan Hawks, and others. An excellent lumber-mill is now carried on by Dennis Baker, and chair-stock material is also manufactured here. The power at this point was formerly employed to operate other industries. About 1800, Aaron Lyman carded wool in a small building attached to the saw-mill; and, later, his son, Josiah, carried on the same trade in a room in the grist-mill. At a point below, about the same time, the power was used to work a scythe-factory, and was afterward employed by Capt. Joseph White to operate clothing-works. His buildings, and others which had been used by Eugene Field for a snathe-factory1, and a trip-hammer by Fuller & Rudd, were destroyed by fire. Above the grist-mill Eugene Field had a carding-machine, about 1836, which became the property of Dexter Hawks, who supplied machinery for making cloths. This was burned in 1852. Below the lower bridge, on Mill Brook, Asa Taylor built a tannery, which had among its subsequent owners Alfred Olds and Charles Richards, and in the eastern part of the village Nathaniel Rice had a small tannery which was operated by horse-power.
Besides the mills mentioned as being in operation at the village, Leonard & Green have a chair-stock factory on Mill Brook, on a site which was improved by Royal Thomas about 1845; on Rice's Brook, Roswell Rice put up a saw-mill about 1840, which is now carried on by Hart Rice. He has, also, a cider-mill and a still for making apple-brandy. In the same locality is R. Edwards' snath-factory, which gives employment to half a dozen hands, and produces 1000 snaths per week.
At East Charlemont, Othniel Taylor had a saw-mill on the brook which bears his name, before the Revolution, and at a later period the Taylors had a pottery near the public-house kept by Capt. Taylor. Farther west, Uzziah Simonds built a saw-mill soon after 1800, which had among its operators Ruel Thayer and his sons. About 1812, Ruel Thayer and William Coney started a foundry at this place for making castings for mills and farm-machinery. At a later day they cast stoves. It was last carried on by David, Alonzo, and Ruel Thayer.
Axes and scythes were made at East Charlemont about 1835 by Josiah Pratt, who had a trip-hammer, and employed a number of hands. In the place was also a tannery, started by Azariah and Noah Parsons, who were followed by Walter Pelton and Calvin and Alfred Walker. Some of these manufactured shoes on a large scale. Hats were made by Jonathan Avery, a Revolutionary soldier, and the wag of the place. "Hatter Avery" had the faculty of expressing himself in rhymes, and once produced these pertinent lines on the character of a parsimonious neighbor:
"On the flour of a grain of mustard-seed,
With the leg of a flea for bacon,
His soul would feast eternally,
If I am not mistaken!"
Other hatters at the hamlet were Solomon Rand, Lucius Hartwell, Jonathan Wheelock, Dexter Daniels, and Merrill G. Mayhew.
About 1790, Ward Hartwell had a grist-mill on Hartwell Brook, near where Bassett's saw-mill now is. The latter was put up in 1869 by Henry Bassett & Son, and is now operated by the son. Below this power was formerly a shop for the manufacture of hoes, by Booth & Upton, and handles by E. Field.
On Willow Brook, David Howard has in operation a shingle-mill, and on the upper part of Mill Brook A. P. Maxwell formerly had a small saw-mill. In early times the Goulds had a tannery in the northern part of the town. Bennett Edson had a grist-mill on Chickley's River, near its mouth, about 1815, and here a saw- and feed-mill is now carried on by the Grant Brothers.
On Cold River, E. C. Hawks erected a lumber-mill, in 1850, which he has operated since, employing at present 10 hands; and on the same stream, below, E. D. Hawks has carried on a mill for about the same length of time.
At Zoar, on Pelham Brook, Aaron Negus put in operation a saw-mill before 1820, which is now the property of E. A. & S. D. Negus. On the same stream, above, E. H. Hawks put up a saw-mill after 1850, which was burned, and a new mill erected by King Brothers, which is at present operated by
H. L. Bradford & Co. It contains also a run of stones for grinding.
About 1815, Ebenezer. S. Hawks put up a tannery at Zoar, which was afterward carried on by Alfred Old and Benjamin Tilton, the latter being pretty extensively engaged, and also made shoes on a large scale. Among other things formerly at this place was a carding-machine by E. S. Hawks, which was operated but a few years.
The records of Charlemont contain an account of a brick-yard, established by the town in 1767. The laborers were supplied by the town with the necessary stimulants, procured at Deerfield by David White. His bill shows that he charged 5s. 8d. for his time going, and 3s. 8d. for the "Rhum." Gershom Hawks, Artemas Rice, Aaron Rice, and others, furnished laborers on the brick-yard. On the 20th of May, 1768, the town sold the brick at vendue for about 12s. 3d. per thousand.
1 Or snath, the handle of a scythe; a snead.
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