History of Fisherville, Connecticut

The factory at Fisherville was built in 1828 on land previously owned by Calvin Randall. So rough and rocky was this region, and so apparently absurd to think of utilizing it to any extent, that wits of the day dubbed the infant settlement Mount Hunger, a fitting counterpart to the neighboring Swamp Factory.. John Nichols, Darius Dwight, of Thompson, and William Fisher, of Killingly, formed the first company, but soon admitted Cornelius G. Fenner and Thomas D. Fenner, of Providence, forming what was first styled ” The Thompson Village Company,” which erected dam, factory building and needful dwelling houses, entering upon manufacturing work early in 1829. The following year Mr. Fisher bought out the other stockholders, becoming sole proprietor of factory and village. The latter now took, for itself the name of Fisherville, though some years passed before it outgrew the original nickname. Mr. John Andrews, of Providence, joined with Mr. Fisher for a few years, and it then passed wholly into the hands of William Fisher & Sons.

Mr. Fisher was born in Dedham, Mass., March 15th, 1788; engaged in manufacturing enterprises in Attleborough; removed to Howe’s Mills, Killingly, about 1820, and to Thompson in 182S. By his judicious management, in a few years a remarkable transformation was effected. The craggy, rocky woodland had been made to bud and bloom like the rose. Mr. Fisher was much interested in farming, and took great delight in subduing the wild land around him. A class of substantial farmers were brought into the growing village, building homes for themselves in addition to the usual rented houses. The factory of the olden time was well represented by Fisherville-the owner at home among his people, all bound together by common interest and regard; the number of workmen so small that all could be known to each other, and to the families of the proprietors and overseers. Among the operatives were many typical New England women, choosing the independence of factory life, and working on year after year until they had laid up a sum sufficient for future support; others were young girls working to fit themselves for something better, using their wages for schooling or marriage outfit. The factories were a great benefit to many men of small means, who, by the labor of their children and the ready money paid themselves, were able to lift a cumbering mortgage or buy a small farm for old age. Great pains were taken at Fisherville to procure help of good character and standing.

Mr. Fisher was one of the pioneer temperance workers in Connecticut, and before leaving Killingly had drawn up and circulated the first pledge taken in that town. A thriving temperance society was now established in Fisherville, and great efforts were made to bring in every person employed by the company, Mr. Fisher being able to boast on one occasion that every man hired for the year had pledged himself to temperance. Some friction was excited by Mr. Fisher’s adherence to Masonry; but caused no serious inconvenience. Mr. William Fisher, Jr., and Mr. J. Ellis Fisher were able and efficient assistants in carrying for-ward the business-the former as superintendent, the latter in charge of the store. The oldest son, Doctor N. Augustus Fisher, left home at an early age to pursue his studies, and then engaged in the practice of dentistry in Providence. Foremost among the dentists of the day, his high character, pleasing manners, and the patience with which he bore long and wearisome infirmities, brought him even greater respect and honor.

Mr. William Fisher, Jr., a man of great rectitude and solidity of character, died in 1843. The ill health of Mr. Ellis Fisher, following the loss of his brother, made the charge of the business too heavy for Mr. Fisher, Sr., and in 1855 he made over his interest in the whole establishment and went south for a season. The breaking out of the rebellion made this sojourn much longer than was intended, even until after the return of peace. The remainder of his life was mainly passed with his daughter, Mrs. Lowell Holbrook, at Thompson village, where he died in serene old age, with remarkable preservation of mind and faculties, in October, 1878. The family had long passed from the home they had created, but their impress and influence still survive in the pleasant valley.

January 1st, 1856, Messrs. David Goddard and Jeremiah Pritchard, of Boston, assumed administration of Fisherville factory, and carried on the business successfully for five years. Mr. Charles Albro, of Taunton, then succeeded to part of the interest, but only retained it a short period. March 31st, 1864, Messrs. Grosvenor & Briggs purchased the whole Fisherville property from Pritchard & Albro, Mr. Grosvenor becoming the owner of three-fourths and Mr. Briggs of one-fourth. The sons of Mr. Grosvenor, William Grosvenor, Jr., and James B. M. Grosvenor now purchased each one-sixteenth of Mr. Briggs’ interest. Four years later, in 1868, these young men received shares in the Masonville Company and it was then that the two .companies were consolidated and the present Grosvenor-Dale Company instituted. The ownership had passed in both companies from the original founders into the hands of the Messrs. Grosvenor mainly, and it was fitting, as well as a matter of great convenience and almost necessity, that these several villages and interests should be ranged under the name of the standing proprietors. Masonville, with its factories and village, was therefore appropriately re-christened Grosvenor Dale, and Fisherville replaced by North Grosvenor Dale. Much additional territory was purchased by the new company, including a water privilege as valuable and capable of affording as much power as either of those previously utilized, so that their land extended from Wilsonville to Mechanicsville. An advance along the whole line was immediately ordered. To provide for a greater head and more permanent supply of water, a new dam and reservoir were to be constructed. These works were accomplished by great outlay of money and labor in the most substantial and thorough manner.

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

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