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Chapter X

The Ebenezer Melvin Sawmill.

The Melvin Sawmill was perhaps the third sawmill, in point of time, to be erected in this town. It was built by Capt. Ebenezer Melvin as early, at least, as 1747; as the Hollis records for that year contain a mention of "Melvin's milldam." The mill was located on the upper part of the scabbard mill brook a few rods north of the site, afterwards, of the Thomas Bennett sawmill. Its site at the present time is marked by the ruins of its old dam; which are still of magnitude and strength sufficient to retain within their limits, especially in more than ordinarily wet weather, enough water to form a small pond.

Captain Melvin, whose genealogy is given on another page, in 1770, in company with James Gould, Jonas Hobart and Samuel Farley, Jr., all early settlers in the east part of the town, removed from Raby to Groton, N. H., where they were the first settlers, So far as known, this mill was never operated after Captain Melvin abandoned it.

The Old Sawmill on Rocky Pond Brook.

When or by whom the first sawmill to be erected on Rocky Pond brook within the limits of Brookline was built is unknown. But it is reasonably certain that a sawmill was standing upon its banks as early, at least, as 1765. For in a deed dated July 24 of that year and recorded in Vol. 3, page 5, of Hillsborough County Registry, by which Col. David Hobart conveyed to Caleb Farley a tract of land lying upon the brook's banks within the present limits of Brookline, mention is made of "Pierce's dam and Flint's meadow"; and the records show, further, that at that time and for many subsequent years, James Flint was the owner of the meadows lying on the stream above the point where, about one mile south of the village Main street and a few rods north of the point where it crosses the highway to Pepperell, Mass., the stream at the present time is blocked by the ruins of an ancient dam.

That these ruins mark the site of "Pierce's dam," mentioned in the foregoing named deed, there can be little or no doubt. For in the entire stretch of the meadows above them through which the brook flows, there is not a single place suitable for the location of a mill.

This first, or original sawmill disappeared about 1800. Some accounts say that it was destroyed by fire. Others say that it was torn down by Asa Shattuck of Pepperell, Mass., about 1808-10; and that soon after tearing it down, Shattuck built a new mill upon its site. The latter statement is probably the true one. At any rate, Asa Shattuck operated a sawmill standing upon the site of the old one for a few years between the years 1808 and 1822.

About the year 1828 the mill was again torn down; this time by James Hobart, a brother of David Hobart, Sr., who erected a new mill upon its site, it being the third sawmill to stand upon the same site. James Hobart operated the mill by him erected until about the year 1835, when he abandoned it; and from that year until 1840 the mill remained idle.

In 1841 the mill was leased by William Wright and Milo J. Rockwood who operated it until 1848, when they abandoned it. Soon after the mill's abandonment by Wright and Rockwood its machinery was sold to Alfred Spaulding by whom it was removed to and installed in his sawmill on the Spaulding brook in the southwest part of Milford. From the time of the removal of its machinery the mill building gradually decayed, and for many subsequent years it was known to the public only as a picturesque ruin. Finally all traces of the original structure disappeared. At the present time (1912) its site can be
located only by its crumbling foundations and the ruins of its ancient dam and race way.

During the period between 1808 and 1812, when it was owned and operated by Asa Shattuck, this mill was the scene of a deplorable accident, in which Benjamin Cummings lost his life.

The Blacksmith Shop of David Hobart, Sr.

In 1828-29, soon after the Washington Wright shop was torn down, David Hobart, Sr., a settler near the old mill on Rocky Pond brook, coming there from Pepperell, Mass., built a dam across the stream a few rods below the point where it crosses the Pepperell highway, and erected thereon a building in which for many subsequent years he carried on the business of blacksmithing.

The shop which was afterwards owned and occupied by Ephraim L. Hardy is still standing, but has not been used for its original purpose for many years. At the present time it is owned by Walter Taylor, who utilizes it as a storehouse.

At the date of his building the shop, Mr. Hobart owned and was living in a dwelling house which was located on the east side of the highway, a few rods north of the bridge over the brook, and near the site of the original log cabin of Phineas Bennett. This house was destroyed by fire June 10, 1877. Its site at the present time (1912) is occupied by the dwelling house of Walter Taylor.

The John Conant Sawmill.

The first sawmill to be erected on the Nissitisset river within the limits of this town was built between the years 1785 and 1790 by John Conant, of Townsend, Mass. It was located on the east bank of the stream, about two hundred rods below its outlet from Muscatanipus pond, its site being the same as that afterwards occupied by the "Upper saw-mill," so called, of Ensign Bailey.

At the time the mill was built, Conant, probably to avoid the expense of building a dam, conceived the idea of bringing the water from the pond to the mill by means of an artificial channel or ditch. He carried out his idea and caused the ditch to be constructed. Tradition says that so far as the conveyance of water by means of this ditch was concerned, the experiment was a success, but that the water conveyed by it failed to develop power sufficient to turn the mill wheel and that, as a result of this failure, Conant
subsequently spent more time in d--g the ditch than it would have taken him in the first instance to dam the river.

The ditch left the pond at a point on the south shore just west of the big granite boulder near the Orman F. Shattuck boat landing and, passing in a southwesterly direction, crossed the highway a few rods south of the present pond bridge, from whence it continued to the mill. North of the highway all traces of the ditch have long since disappeared. But south of the highway its course is still distinctly defined.

Several years after the mill was built, James Campbell, of Brookline, having bought one-half of the mill, entered into a partnership with Conant for carrying on its business. Feb. 8, 1796, Conant and Campbell sold the plant to Joseph Stickney and Benjamin Campbell, both of Brookline. The consideration for the sale was twelve hundred dollars. The description of the premises conveyed, as set forth in the deed, contained the following proviso--"Allowance had through the same for a road with a dwelling house and a sawmill and cornmill standing on the same and the damb that raises the pond for the use of said mills." From this "proviso" it would seem that the sawmill at this time was operated in connection with a gristmill. If so, the gristmill was, so far as the writer has been able to ascertain, the first mill of that description to be located on the river in this
town.

From Stickney and Campbell the mill passed into the ownership of John Colburn. Colburn operated the mill until July 5, 1808, at which date he conveyed it to Ensign Bailey, who continued to own it until his death in August, 1863. Aug. 11, 1864, the heirs of Ensign Bailey sold and conveyed the mill together with the sawmill known as the Bailey "lower mill" and located on the stream below it to Charles A. Priest and J. Alonzo Hall. Sept. 2, 1869, Hall and Priest sold the mills to James W. Cook of Reading, Mass., and S. Abbott Putnam of Lyman, Mass., and the same date Cook and Putnam sold and
conveyed both plants to J. Alonzo Hall and Joseph Peterson, both of this town. July 21, 1874, Hall and Peterson sold the upper or Conant mill to James W. Cook and William H. Hall. Sept. 14, 1877, James W. Cook sold and conveyed to William H. Hall his undivided half in the mill; and on the 5th day of October, 1877, William H. Hall sold the plant to John S. Daniels and Nathaniel Hobart. Feb. 7, 1885, John S. Daniels disposed of his interest in the mill to David H. Kendall, Henry S. Manning, Charles W. Hughes and Horace Richmond; who, in company with Nathaniel Hobart, under the firm name of Hobart, Kendall & Company, operated the plant until June 15, 1886, at which date the company sold the entire plant to Albert L. Fessenden, of Townsend, and John Buffum, of Boston, to be held in trust by them for the benefit of its creditors. Aug. 28, 1888, the trustees sold the mill privileges and site to William G. Shattuck; and on the 19th day of December of the same year, Shattuck sold the plant to George W. Bent, of Boston, Mass. At the present time the mill premises and privileges are owned by the Fresh Pond Ice Company, of Somerville, Mass.

Nov. 27, 1889, the mill buildings were destroyed by fire. At the present time they have not been rebuilt.

The Hobart Steam Sawmill.

In 1846 David Hobart built the first steam sawmill to be erected in town. The mill was located on the west side of the street which, beginning at a point near the general store of E. E. Tarbell, connects Main street with the east highway to Milford. Its site at the present time is occupied by the dwelling house formerly of Jeremiah Baldwin, but now belonging to the Albert W. Corey heirs.

In 1847, the year following its erection, Mr. Hobart sold, at different dates, and to different parties, his interest in the plant, as follows: March 10, to Wilkes W. Corey, one undivided half part; March 27, to Lemuel Brooks, one undivided fourth part; April 27, to James N. Tucker, one undivided fourth part.

After doing a successful business for several years, the mill was destroyed by fire in the summer of 1852. It was never rebuilt.

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