Hello! I hope that this will find each of you well and hopefully doing your social distancing. I have been spending more time looking at old mill sites, which makes social distancing relatively easy. But first...
Thanks to those of you who provided some answers to last week's question regarding Johnny's Cider Mill. We have a few clues, but still no definitive date. If you think you can help, please let me know.
This week I will take a look at one of the best, if not the best, preserved colonial mill sites in Easton. I will do part one today and part two next week. Take a trip with me down the Beaver Brook to dear old Furnace Village. The Beaver Brook flows under Foundry Street, and just south of that, it converges with the Poquanticut Brook. It is in this lonely place that enterprising locals dammed up the meadow to take advantage of greater water power from the Mulberry Meadow Brook, the newly named water way created by the joining of the other two brooks. It was there, about 1000 feet in the woods, that Eleazer Keith, Silas Williams, and Benjamin Williams built a dam that flooded Mulberry Meadow in May, 1742, creating Keith's Pond. They soon erected a saw mill at that site, and the oldest stone work is what remains from that mill. Unfortunately, the flooding of a valuable meadow owned by someone else made things difficult. The three men were sued by Mark Keith, a nephew of Eleazer, and John Manley, in 1749 for damages to their meadow. The suit was settled at an inn owned by John Williams (yes, this seems to be a family affair, and the Keith and Williams families were also related by marriage). They found, and the Court of Sessions agreed, that the offended party would be "yearly damnified to the amount of four pounds each, old tenor" after which presumably all parties left in peace.
Business was OK for a while, but the erection of a dam to create Old Pond in 1750 just above the Keith mill could spell trouble for anyone downstream. By this time there were other saw mills running (Eleazer was also part-owner in an older mill further downstream that was also a saw mill), and facing competition, they men turned the South Street mill into a grist mill in 1765. Eleazer Keith deeded the mill to his son Lemuel at this time, and things stayed pretty much the same until after 1800, when we pick up the story next week.
A walk through this site, on the west side of South Street and opposite the Furnace Village Cemetery, will give you a true appreciation for old mills. The remains are untouched by modern development, and the site would make a wonderful attraction were it properly preserved and maintained. One can see the old foundation very well. You can also see the original and well-preserved wheel pit for the undershot water wheel, and the man made canal that was used to flow water through the mill. There is an excellent dry masonry stone bridge and more! The site is now protected as it has been given to the Town of Easton by the developer who is going to build on the former Belcher Malleable Foundry site.
Attached are three photos: one of some of the stone foundation, one of the dry masonry bridge, and one of the wheel pit.
Until next week, stay well!
Dry Masonry Bridge