Greetings from the Museum! With the Covid virus still running rampant, we have not been able to host any events, and I do miss seeing you all. I have been busy here though, and the Society is working on several projects that you will be hearing more about as the year trudges along. Hopefully we will not have to have a second shutdown and stay home order so the work can continue!
When the shutdown first began in March, I began exploring some old mill sites, and sent around photos from several of them. The last site I visited was the former Keith Saw Mill site on South Street, which is in a very good state of preservation. While photos of most of the old mills do not exist, or are scarce, there are a few photos of the Keith Saw Mill around. I'll share this one with you from my own collection of Easton goodies.
Some years ago I acquired by trade an old photo album. I bartered for it sight unseen in hopes that it might be something special. The initial clue to its origins were the gold impressed initials of H. C. Belcher on the cover. Was I ever happy to see that! Belcher is a well known name in Easton, especially where I grew up in Furnace Village. The Belchers began the operation of a malleable iron works in 1837, and the family ran it until it was sold in the early 1980's to a conglomerate. This was located on Foundry Street opposite Poquanticut Avenue. The foundry was closed and torn down only a few years ago, but a number of Belcher homes remain in the immediate area.
The H. C. Belcher (possibly Henry Clifford) album is a treasure! It contains a number of rare photographs of Easton from the late 1890's, and captures many things that no longer exist. Photos from the outlying areas of town are rare, making this album very important. Belcher himself could have a career in foundry work, but he had his sights set on other things. Possibly born in 1839, he lived during a time of invention, and one of the inventions that got his attention was photography. Backed by a successful family business, he was able to pursue his passion and at some point apprenticed with a couple of Boston photographers following the Civil War. However, the family business needed him more than he needed photography, so he came back to Furnace Village to work in the foundry business. However, Belcher soon soured his life in a foundry, and moving north, began a career as an engineer working for stone quarries in New Hampshire and Vermont. He also continued to do photography.
Fortunately for us, he took some really terrific photos around the time of the Portland Gale of 1896, and they survive in this album. Attached is a photo of the Keith Saw Mill at its height of work. The photo is taken from the pond side of the mill, looking towards the Furnace Village Cemetery (obscured in this photo). The oldest part of the mill is the section on the right. A number of large logs are waiting to be sawn into timber. To the extreme right of the photo you can see sawn lumber stacked for drying. As a side note, the image of wood cutters "jockeying" those large logs down South Street may have given rise to the early name of Jockey Lane being used for that part of South Street. Also note the carts and wagons, and the weathervane atop the mill.
I'll share more photos from this album in the next few weeks.
Stay well, and stay cool!
Frank T. Meninno
Curator, Easton Historical Society and Museum 508-238-7774