Early History of Industry in Putnam, Connecticut

In 1742 the Howe mills passed into the hands of Captain Nathaniel Daniels, together with dwelling house, barn, malt house, shop and the whole manufacturing stock of Quinebaug valley, viz.,.” ye conveniences of three coppers, two presses, one iron screw, two pairs shears, two iron bars, a blue pot, paper for pressing and searcloth for malting.” Noah Sabin had succeeded to ‘the mansion house and valley land of his father. Peter Aspinwall had disappeared from public life and was probably sleeping in his own grave yard, though no stone perpetuates his memory. Captain Joseph Cady was succeeded by his son justice Joseph, a man of equal probity and influence, the richest man in the community, and, according to tradition, the first man to own a coach.” William Larned died in 1747, leaving his homestead to his son, Captain William, who sold the same to Isaac Parks, whose name still clings to the historic hill and neighborhood. Captain David Cady, Jonathan Cady and other descendants of Captain Cady, Sr., were settled on farms west of Killingly hill. John Felshaw had opened a popular house of entertainment at the north end of the hill. The first practicing physician of this town, Doctor Thomas Moffatt, had his residence upon the hill, as also Noah, youngest son of justice Joseph Leavens. Simon Bryant died in 1748, leaving his homestead to his grandson, Simon Larned. Deacon Jonathan Eaton died the same year. His successor in the deacon’s office, Lusher Gay, of Dedham, purchased the farm originally laid out to Samuel Lee in 1738. Samuel Perrin was rearing a large family in the pleasant Perrin homestead. Jonathan Dresser, Samuel and Seth Paine, were residents of the Quinebaug valley. Captain Isaac Cutler and his numerous sons still held possession of the mills and privileges of the Assawaga, eastward.

Captain Nathaniel Daniels carried on his various business enterprises for a number of years, and was prominent in many public affairs. In 1760, he sold the whole establishment, viz., land, water privilege, mills, dwelling house, together with his “clothier’s, fuller’s and grist mill tools and utensils,” to Benjamin Cargill, then of Mendon, Mass., a descendant of Reverend Donald Cargill. Captain Cargill at once took possession of his purchase and by shrewdness and good management increased and extended the business and became very widely known throughout the section. Rival mills at the Upper Falls now established by the sons of Deacon Eaton made business more lively. A new road to Thompson was laid out “from Capt. Daniels’ land to another highway between Landlord Converse’s and Martha Flint’s ” in 1763-now known as ” the Mountain Road ” between Putnam and Thompson, passing Origin Alton’s and Stephen Ballard’s. Messrs. Jared Talbot and David Perry had set up grist and saw mills upon the Assawaga at the site of the ruined Daniels’ mills.

Killingly hill had now received another practicing physician. Doctor Samuel Holden Torrey, son of the famous Doctor Joseph Torrey, of South Kingston. His young wife, Anna Gould, of Branford, brought with her four slaves as part of her marriage portion. His brother, Joseph Torrey, settled east of Killingly hill, marrying a daughter of Reverend John Fisk. Deacon Ebenezer, son of William Larned, whose wife was one of the eight capable daughters of justice Joseph Leavens, also occupied a farm on the same road near the Cutler farms. His brother, James Larned, a shrewd business man and reputed usurer, resided near Felshaw’s tavern. Among other residents upon homesteads now within Putnam limits were Isaac Cady, Sampson and Pearley, grandsons of Captain Sampson Howe, Hezekiah and Benoni Cutler, Benjamin and Noah Leavens, Benjamin, Jonathan, Nedebiah, Joseph, David and Isaac Cady, Jonathan and Samuel Buck and Joseph Adams. West of the Quinebaug the residents were not numerous, the land being held mostly by the Perrin and Sabin families. ” Cargill’s bridge ” below the High Falls, was rebuilt in 1770-John Grosvenor, Samuel Perrin and Benjamin Cargill, committee. An attempt to lay out a more direct road from Cargill’s westward was defeated.

In the various wars in which the colonies were concerned, the future Putnam bore her proportionate share. Ensign Samuel Perrin served actively in the French and Indian war, his wife supporting her family mainly through “the hard winter” of his absence by a crop of carrots raised by her own hands. Samuel, oldest son of William Larned, served as first lieutenant of Captain David Holmes’ regiment. James Wilson was so unfortunate as to be carried captive into Canada, returning just in time to save his wife from a second marriage. As the revolutionary war came on the whole valley was stirred. The old Cady homestead, upon the decease of Captain Joseph Cady. was purchased by Darius Sessions, son of Nathaniel Sessions of Pomfret, and then deputy-governor of Rhode Island, one of the prominent leaders among the revolting patriots. The house, already “old,” was thoroughly reconstructed, enlarged and beautified, transformed into a stately, colonial mansion. Governor Sessions also took much pains with his grounds and farm, making, according to President James Manning, ” truly wonderful ” accommodations. In this fine country seat many patriots found a safe retreat from the constant alarms and perils of the seaboard, making it almost a war office and place for general consultation. Killingly hill, with its lofty banner and bonfires, the South Neighborhood Elm, a noted place of rendezvous, are memorable revolutionary localities. Even more sacred is the little triangular common at the junction of the Woodstock and Pomfret roads, west of the Drill river, where Captain Stephen Brown paraded with his company before marching to Cambridge after the Lexington alarm. Three giant Sabins were in this company, of whom at least one, Ichabod, was slain at Bunker hill. Elihu Sabin was also in that battle, and lived to delight many hearers with the story of his experiences, and especially of that last charge of ammunition which he kept in reserve until hotly pursued by a gallant British officer. ” And did you kill him?” the boys would ask eagerly. ” Well, I don’t know exactly,” he would answer, ” but the last I saw of him he was getting off his horse.”

With the adoption of the federal constitution and the quickening of business enterprise all over the United States, new life developed in the Quinebaug valley. Ebenezer Bundy came into possession of the Eaton farm and privileges after the removal of the Eaton families to western Massachusetts. He built a new dam or reconstructed the old one, his grist mill being set upon the rocks, near the bank of the river, the site now occupied by the north end of the mill owned by the Putnam Manufacturing Company. Great efforts were made to secure a road direct from this point to Larned & Mason’s store in the South Neighborhood, which was now the headquarters of mercantile enterprise. but just at this juncture public men were too much occupied with the new town question to give attention to road making. Captain Cargill meantime was greatly extending his business operations, buying land east of the river, setting up a gin distillery, building new mills and houses. In 1787 he completed the new grist mill, fitting it up with all the best art of the day. with three complete sets of grist mills and a bolting mill. A blacksmith shop, and two trip hammers, a fulling mill, and mills to grind scythes and ” churn butter ” were among his achievements. Mr. Timothy Williams of Woodstock, speaks of Captain Cargill’s new enterprise with much enthusiasm, “Viewed from lofts at Cargill’s mills ” (the first and second were used for mill purposes); ” the third a Baptist meeting room; 4th, a large, convenient, well replenished granary.” With such accommodations and the best attendance, it was no marvel that the establishment took precedence of all other mills in the section, farmers in neighboring towns driving by their home mills because of the superior quality of Cargill’s grinding.

The captain was a genial, whole-souled man, the life of the business and settlement, delighting in his large family and varied business enterprises. The rude rhyme in which he incorporated the names of his eleven children almost parallels that of the famous” Hutchinson Family” song. His oldest daughter, Lucy Cargill, married as his second wife, Doctor Albigence Waldo, of Pomfret, the most noted physician and surgeon of his day, a man of varied gifts and attainments. Mrs. Waldo sympathized in her husband’s literary tastes, and was herself a writer and poetess, especially noted for her proficiency in the ” art of letter writing.” Cargill’s Mills was thus noted for literary society as well as a business center. The third meeting of the first medical society in Connecticut was held at Cargill’s, September, 1786. Still there were no residents at the mill beside the Cargill family and those employed by them. A block of three wooden houses was built west of the grist mill by Captain Cargill about this date, which survived some years after Putnam was made a town.

The Pomfret Factory grave yard,” west of the old factory, must have been opened at this time, as the children of Mrs. Waldo were buried there. Many of the descendants of Captain John Sabin were also buried there. His original homestead, the old historic Sabin house, had now passed into the hands of his grandson, Cornet Jonathan. Not far from the house but on the east side of the road, so that it came within the limits of the present Putnam, stood a quaint old house with diamond windows, known as the “Silas Sabin place,” and a little north of it stood the ” Peter Sabin house.” Silas and Peter Sabin were brothers, descended from Deacon Benjamin of Pomfret, who bad contrived to get possession of some of the John Sabin land, for which, it was said, they paid a trifling yearly rental. The wives of Cornet Jonathan and Silas Sabin were sisters, daughters of May, so that these three families were very closely connected. They were all of immense stature and fine singers, social and hospitable, and most heartily improved their remarkable social privileges. Still another pleasant Sabin homestead was that of the revolutionary veteran, Deacon Elihu Sabin, and his excellent wife, a favorite resort for young and old.

Land from Cornet Sabin, and other tracts from various parties, increased Ebenezer Bundy’s farm to at least five hundred acres on both sides the Quinebaug. Renewed petitions for a road from Larned’s store to Bundy’s mills excited much discussion and some opposition in Thompson. Though much addicted to road making, this young town was chary of cost. When it was decided in 1797 that a turnpike was actually to be laid out through West Thompson, renewed efforts were made to procure a direct road from Larned’s store to Bundy’s mills at the Upper Fall, and thence west to intersect the stage road near Abel Alton’s. The committee reported in favor of such road, but their report was rejected again and again. It was not until Mr. Bundy offered to build a good substantial bridge, at his own cost, over the Quinebaug, and the owners of the land volunteered to give what was needful, fence the road and make it passable, that the town reluctantly consented to allow it. This road, as laid out, began twenty-six rods west side the Quinebaug, then across the river where Eaton’s bridge had formerly stood, then in a straight line up hill and down to intersect the old road from Thompson meeting house to Cargill’s, near the house of Isaac Parks. It made a very direct route from Woodstock and the Quinebaug valley to Larned’s store and on to Providence, but the steepness of the hills made it a very hard road to travel, and children going to Bundy’s mill on horseback were often pitched head over heels descending these declivities.

Cargill’s mills had now been thrown into market. The death of Doctor Waldo, and of some of his own children, had broken the health and spirits of the good captain, and he felt unable to compete with his enterprising rival above. In his advertisement in 1793 lie sets forth in glowing terms the peculiar advantages of his ” noted inheritance,” with land of the most valuable kind, water sufficient to grind three hundred bushels the driest day ever known, and prophecies that the place is and must be a place of great trade.” In 1798 he effected a sale to Moses Arnold and John Harris, of Rhode Island. In 1800 Arnold’s share of this purchase was sold to Jeremiah and -Nehemiah Knight, of Cranston. “Knight & Harris ” ran the various mills and works for a few years, under the superintendence of Mr. Nehemiah Knight, afterward governor of Rhode Island. A store was now opened in one of the three Cargill houses. Some local improvements were accomplished by Mr. Knight, who beguiled his lonely hours in this isolated valley by laying out ” a solitary walk ” on the tongue of land between Quinebaug and Mill rivers. This walk, rechristened ” Solitaire,” was long a favorite rural resort. Captain Cargill removed to Palmer, Mass., with his widowed daughter and the remnant of their families, but his name and memory were long preserved. While for a hundred years the vicinity of Quinebaug High Falls was widely known as a crossing place, fishery and mill site, it had few residents and fewer school and religious privileges. Its scattered families attended church and school in whichsoever of the three towns they chanced to be located. During the revolutionary war a strong Baptist element developed, through the labors and influence of President Manning of Brown University. A Baptist society was organized in the Quinebaug valley, taking in residents of Pomfret and Killingly. Reverend Mr. Kelley labored with them as a pastor, holding services in convenient residences, which were well attended and productive of much good. One of the rooms in Captain Cargill’s mill was used for a Baptist meeting room. Mr. Tanning was very anxious to establish a Latin school in this valley, to serve as a nursery for the college,” foreseeing its probable development.

Methodism met with equal favor. As early as 1792 a noted Methodist itinerant, John Allen, was allowed to hold a religious meeting in Cargill’s press room. His plain and pungent preaching struck conviction to the hearts of the hearers. A number of young women professed conversion, and soon were gathered into a class. They were joined by three young men-Elijah Bugbee, William Gary and Noah Perrin. The latter was appointed class leader, and opened the hospitable Perrin house for public services. Pomfret was included in New London circuit, and made a regular preaching station. A number of respectable families joined with the -Methodists–the Sabins, with their grand voices, Perrins, Garys, Cadys, Bucks, etc. Wonderful meetings were held in the Perrin house and Cargill’s meeting room. The Methodist singing and the fervid exhortations and prayers carried everything before them. In 1795 Pomfret circuit was formed, with 169 professed Methodists; Jesse Lee, presiding elder; Daniel Ostrander and Nathaniel Chapin, preachers. Though meeting much opposition from the established churches upon the hill-tops, the Methodists continued to gain ground in the valley, and became an element of much power.

Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889

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