History of Chestnut Hill, Connecticut

The eastern part of the town of Killingly is the locality known as Chestnut hill, or East Killingly, the latter being the post office name, and properly comprehending several other localities within its limits. In this section are several mills and two Baptist churches, which will be noticed in detail separately.

The organization of the first Baptist church dates May 22d, 1776. At that time the membership numbered thirty-two males and twenty-seven females. But little progress was made. A minister was employed for a short time, but about the year 1790 the ordinances of the church were suspended and the effectiveness of the organization weakened. At one time the hand of fellowship was withdrawn by the neighboring churches on account of disorderly proceedings, but on being restored a minister was obtained, and the work went more smoothly forward. A renewal of the covenant was made in 1800, at which six brethren and nine sisters subscribed themselves. The pastoral labors of Reverend Calvin Cooper, which lasted about a year, added about one hundred members to the church. While Reverend Albert Cole was in charge of the church, a revival in 1831 and 1832 added eighty-five members. About seventy more were added as the fruits of a revival which occurred in 1838, under the pastorate of Reverend N. Branch. Reverend James Smither was pastor of the church from 1841 to 1843. During that time sixtytwo members were added.

The ministers of this church have been as nearly as can be ascertained as follows: George Robinson, July, 1776, dismissed, 1785; Campbell, a short time; Elders Lamb and John Cooper, 1786 to 1796; Elder Peter Rogers, 1796 to 1803; Calvin Cooper, September, 1805, ordained October 14th, to about 1826, being the longest pastorate the church has ever had; Elder Appleton, between the years 1827 and 1530; Albert Cole, ordained December 1st, 1830, to about 1833; Reverend Jonathan Oatley, May, 1834, one year; Reverend Erastus Duty, 1836; N. Branch, 1835; James Smither, 1.841 to 1542; Tubal Wakefield, 1842 to 1844; N. Branch, six months in 1844; Joseph Damon, 1845-46: L. W. Wheeler. 1847 to 1850; Henry Bromley, 1551, for six months: Ebenezer Loomis, 1854; N. Branch, supply, 1855 to April, 1856; Hurley Miner, 1857, about three years; J. Aldrich, 1860 to 1863, ordained January 19th, 1861; H. B. Slater, son of Deacon Silas Slater of this church, September, 1865, to February, 1866; Austin Robbins, April, 1866, to April, 1872; Curtis Kenny, 1874, four months; N. Mathewson, 1876; James Rhea, 1878, a short time; C. B. Rockwell, October, 1879, for one year; Charles Nichols, 1880, one year; William C. Walker, 1882, a few months; Robert H. Sherman, ordained February 14th, 1884, resigned July 5th, 1885. Since that date there has been no regular preaching in the church.

The first house of worship was built at some time previous to 1790. A new meeting house was begun about 1802, and completed in the course of two or three years. The present house of worship was begun in 1834, and completed about 1836, the cost being $1,400. In 1843 twelve feet was added to its length, and a bell was purchased. In 1882 extensive repairs and improvements were made, including the addition of a baptistery, an expense of $800. The deacons have been Ephraim Fisk, Jonathan Harrington, Sampson Covil, Silas Slater, Bergen Slater, John A. Randall, Sampson B. Covil, John Murray, E. L. Barstow, Chauncey F. Barstow, Edward R. Oatley and Charles A. White. The church clerks have been N. Aldrich, P. Rowey, Samuel Bullock, N. A. Durfee, Benjamin Brown, Sampson B. Covil, George Pray and E. A. Hill.

A Free Will Baptist church grew out of a union of elements at Foster and Killingly some time previous to 1840. Elder Daniel Williams preached in schoolhouses in both places alternately till circumstances warranted starting a church here. Elder Williams began preaching about 1825, but did not continue to preach regularly for a long time after the church was built. Land was bought of Susannah Peckham in 1851, and the erection of a meeting house at once begun. The house was 30 by 40 feet on the ground and 15 feet high. It was completed during the year. Pastors Amos Redlon (in 1860), Cheeney, Burlingame, Bradbury, Baker, Isaac H. Coe and one Cortes (about 1865 and again in 1874), have at different times served the church. Elder Childs, the last regular minister, served about four years, up to 1887. Since then this church, with part of the other Baptist society, have sustained preaching part of the time by temporary supplies. They are now supplied by Reverend William H. Beard, of the Congregational church at South Killingly. The membership of the church numbers about one hundred and fifty.

From the heights of Chestnut hill across to the west side of the town, the Whetstone or Chestnut hill stream runs, carrying on its way a number of manufacturing establishments. It is a rapid running stream and in its upper course has a great fall, affording abundant power for driving mills. This has been improved to some extent, but not by any means to its full measure. The stream makes a descent of 175 feet in about a mile, carrying five mills on the way. We shall now notice the different mills on this stream.

The Chestnut Hill Mill stands at the upper end of one of the wildest and most precipitous gorges in the state. It has an available fall of twenty-seven feet. The mill was built about 1846 by Westcott & Pray. It fell into the hands of John Burgess, and afterward into the hands of Mayhew, Miller & Co., of Baltimore, Md. They leased it to Westcott & Pray, who ran it up to 1.859. Mayhew Miller, a son of one of the former proprietors, was placed in charge, and continued until 1869. The senior Mr. Pray then, in 1869, bought it back, and Thomas Pray, Jr., ran it five years. The present owner, John L. Ross, took it about 1874, and has run it since that time. Light sheetings, 60 by 52 picks, are made. The mill is fitted with 104 forty-inch looms and 6,000 spindles. About sixty hands are employed, and 25,000 yards a week are turned out. The building is of stone, 36 by 100 feet, four stories high, with two wings, one 49 by 37 feet, two stories, and the other 36 by 40 feet, two stories high. H. H. Hammell is the efficient superintendent.

Scarcely more than a stone’s throw below the last mentioned are the Albion Mills, sometimes called Youngs’ Mill. Here we find a remarkable fall of seventy-two feet available to this mill. It is devoted to the manufacture of cotton yarns, having 26 cards, 100 looms, 6,000 spindles, two steam boilers, besides two water wheels. The mill is in the hands of trustees-C. L. Tiffany, of New York, J. A. Williams, of Danielsonville; and George D. Handy, superintendent. This mill was one of the first built on this stream, the date of its origin being about 1815. It is owned by the heirs of Ebenezer Young, and has so been ‘operated for years. The main building is about 50 by 75 feet, five floors, and two wings adjoin, one about 50 by 60, four floors, and the other 45 by 60, three stories high.

About one-fourth of a mile below, we come to the Whitestone Mills. This mill was first built by Westcott & Pray in 1858. The stream here affords an available fall of about thirty feet. The building is about 160 by 50 feet, four floors, with a two-story wing about 50 feet long. Connected with it are two stone buildings, each of which is a twelve-tenement house, three stories high. Cotton sheetings and baggings are made here. The mill has 150 looms and 8,032.. spindles. Steam is used in connection with waterpower when necessary. The superintendent is Frank -Mitchell.

About one-third of a mile below the last mentioned, we come to the Himes’ or Robinson’s Mill. This is a building about 160 by 50 feet on the ground, having three floors, and a wing of brick 30 by 40 feet, two stories high. The main mill is built of stone. Cotton is manufactured.

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

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