History of Mechanicsville, Connecticut

Mechanicsville dates back to 1827, when a privilege upon the French river, just above its junction with the Quinebaug, was secured by a number of enterprising men, viz., Erastus Buck, Augusus Howe, Thomas and James Dike, Jude Sabin, John Chollar, Jacob Leavens and James Cunningham, who associated together as “The Mechanics’ Company” for the manufacture of woolen goods, and put up a three-story wooden mill, a saw mill and an eight-tenement block for operatives. All members of the company were expected to help carry forward the work personally. Mr. Howe served as agent; the Messrs. Dike and Cunningham carried on the machine shop; Mr. Buck drove the mules; and Mr. Leavens superintended the weavers. A workshop bought with the land was transformed into a school house. For some unassigned reason, perhaps because one level head is a better motor than half a dozen, the co-operative experiment failed of success, and in about three years the company dissolved, and in 1835 the whole property was sold at auction to William Rhodes and Thomas Truesdell, who run the mill intermittently till it was purchased by Mr. Smith Wilkinson in 1838. For five years it struggled on under different lessees, till destroyed by fire in 1843.

In 1858 Messrs. Sabin and Harris Sayles and Mowry Ross made arrangements with Mr. Edmond Wilkinson, under which they built a small brick mill and engaged in the manufacture of fancy cassimere. In 1865 Messrs. Thomas D. Sayles and Warren Harris became partners with the Messrs. Sayles in the Mechanicsville Company, purchasing the previous establishment and adjacent territory. A new and beautiful brick building was speedily erected, 250 by 42 feet, four stories high, and fitted up with the best machinery and every modern appointment. A large number of operatives were straightway imported, new houses built, and great improvements made in the village. The dingy old workshop which had done duty for a school room was replaced by a neat brick building. Since the assumption of Mechanicsville by the present proprietors, Messrs. Thomas D. Sayles and B. S. Washburn, in 1879, very great changes have been wrought. Purchasing the West Thompson privilege, the Ellis farm, and other needful territory, the firm entered upon a work of demolition and reconstruction, costing some years of labor and half a million of money. A new and very superior dam was built, the channel of the Quinebaug deepened and in some places turned, roads straightened and new ones constructed, hills leveled and valleys filled up, resulting in an-entire transformation. The drive to West Thompson over the smooth, level road, with its iron bridges, with the sparkling blue lake on one side, and the picturesque verdant park, reclaimed from marsh land, on the other, is indeed ” a thing of beauty ” and a perpetual joy. The same good taste has transformed and beautified the village. The factory building, with its green lawn in front, occupies one of the finest locations in New England, and everything about premises and village are in perfect keeping, emblematic, it is said, of the unusual harmony in the relations between employers and employed. The present number of operatives is three hundred and fifty-Canadian French, German, Irish, Swede. A Catholic house of worship was built in 1880-” The Church of the Sacred Heart”-Mr. Thomas D. Sayles giving land and $500 for that purpose.

A new iron bridge now spans the Quinebaug near West Thompson station. The old Thompson burying ground, opened soon after 1720, is now in excellent condition. An ample addition on the north, provided by Mr. George H. Nichols, precludes the anticipated need of a modern cemetery. Descendants of Captain Jonathan Nichols, viz., Elder John Nichols, Esquire Jonathan Nichols, Messrs Faxon and Captain George Nichols, have been very prominent in town, filling many public offices with credit and usefulness. The latter is now represented by his sons, Jerome and George H. Nichols, who also serve the town in many public capacities. A third son, the late lamented Lieutenant Colonel Munroe Nichols, gave a life of much promise to the service of his country in the late war. The family of Mr. James Cunningham, one of the original proprietors of Mechanics’ Factory, still reside in the vicinity. The venerable Mr. Winthrop H. Ballard and his son, Mr. Stephen Ballard, are respected residents.

The Five Mile or Assawaga river, in the east of the town, has propelled but one small factory in Thompson, though helping run several larger establishments in towns below. Grist and saw mills have been kept at work since the first settlement of the town. In 1813 a number of gentlemen from Providence, viz., Emor Angell, Nehemiah Knight, Thomas Burgess, John Mackie, associated with Stephen Matthewson, of Johnston, R. I., and Josiah Sessions and Joseph Waterman, of Thompson, as the Quadic Manufacturing Company, and bought land and water privilege in the little hamlet of Quadic, of a well-known resident, Deacon Jonathan Converse. They soon erected a small building and engaged in the manufacture of woolen hats. The close of the war brought untimely end to this enterprise, which was soon replaced by the inevitable cotton factory, set in motion by Mr. John Mason and a new company. A larger factory was now built, and a number of dwelling houses between 1820-’22.

In 1822 Mr. Mason, for $1,900 sold one-third interest in the Quadic Manufacturing Company, set off as one-half of the late hat manufactory,” to Messrs. Sessions and Waterman, who for a number of years continued in charge, manufacturing “Quadic sheeting.” Calvin Randall and Stephen B. Winsor had also rights in the mill. Nelson S. Eddy purchased the establishment in 1835, and resided a number of years in the village, employing from fifty to seventy-five men, women and children. Quadic village, with its factory, daily stage-coach passing through it, and constant teaming to and from Providence, was then a brisk little settlement, its convenient store in pre-temperance days furnishing spirituous refreshment to many a weary traveller. After the decease of Mr. Eddy the factory was leased for a time to Card & Stone. In 1848 Mr. Lemuel K. Blackmar assumed the charge of the saw and grist mills, and a little later fitted up the old °` red hat factory,” for the manufacture of twine. Mr. David Warner, who purchased rights of the children of Mr. Eddy, also carried on twine manufacture. The privilege of deepening the channel of the Assawaga, and constructing a reservoir for supplying Dayville and Attawagan factories with water, was obtained by the Messrs. Sayles and Blackstone, resulting in the formation of a full, deep lake, setting backward to near the north bound of the town. Mowry Ross, a veteran mill owner, purchased the Quadic privilege in 1873. His sons, Mowry and Isaac Ross, built a tasteful new mill on the south side of the road, which fell into possession of Mr. A. W. Thurber, of Putnam. Its destruction by fire has apparently put an end to Quadic cotton manufacture. The old saw and grist mills also rest from their labors. A few of the former residents still linger in the picturesque little village. Sabbath schools have been kept up for many years in the Quadic school house, by earnest Baptist brethren, viz., Deacons Stephen Crosby and Welcome Bates, Mr. Newton Ballard and others.

When Brandy hill first assumed its inspiriting name is beyond the memory of descendants of the oldest inhabitant. Tradition refers it to the bursting of a brandy hogshead upon the hill, and it may be inferred that the great outflow of liquor at Starr’s tavern during the days of turnpike opening, helped to make it permanent. Succeeding stage taverns were famous for the concoction of flip, the poker being kept red hot in the glowing coals for that purpose from morn till eve. Before the much-needed temperance reform it was the custom of honored fathers of Thompson hill to take their wives and daughters, after a specially hard day’s work at house cleaning or the like, to this famous tavern, to be cheered if not inebriated by foaming flip. Brandy hill at that date boasted a special military company and trainings, with a flourishing store, and at one time secured a vote to hold town meetings part of the time at the Baptist meeting house. It was also famous for singing schools and occasional balls. A stately row of poplars was set out about 1800 by Captain Isaac Davis. The meeting house and taverns were said to have built up Brandy hill village, and with the decay of the latter the village declined. It has furnished a pleasant home for many residents, particularly the descendants of the faithful town clerk, Mr. Nathaniel Mills, whose sons, Nathaniel, Colonel Isaac, Ashley and Corbin Mills, have had homes in the village or in its vicinity. The old church still holds its own as has been noticed elsewhere, and the venerable row of poplars stands as a familiar land-mark.

The northeast part of the town was sparsely settled for many years, the descendants of Nathaniel Jacobs and Israel Joslin occupying many of its farms and homesteads. Turnpike travel increased the number of residents, and the ” Jacobs District ” became quite populous. The Methodist church and projected railroad helped to centralize this population, but it was not till the Boston & Erie railroad was fairly opened that East Thompson village entered upon existence. Its importance was increased by the junction with the Southbridge Branch. A number of families connected in various ways with the railroad interest now occupy the village. Shoe manufacture was carried on for a time by the Reverend Isaac Sherman, a useful and respected citizen. The store established by him is now conducted by Mr. George H. Wilber, the present postmaster. A store is also kept by R. J. Steins. The family which gave its name to this district is much less numerous than in former years-several branches failing from extinction or emigration. One of its oldest representatives, Mr. Joseph D. Jacobs, has recently removed from a family homestead to Thompson hill. Two of his seven sons gave their lives to their country; the survivors are engaged in business in various parts of the land.

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

3 thoughts on “History of Mechanicsville, Connecticut”

  1. Love this site and thank you for all the hard work to keep history alive!

    In the 1910 census for Mechanicsville (page 13), I find an ancestor listed as living at “Wellslee and Garianam Road”. Anybody on here have any idea where those roads were located? Was it part of tenements at a mill complex long destroyed and forgotten? I see no record in modern road maps.


    1. Connecticut Genealogy

      I’m not certain. The French River Worsted Mills was the name of the mill complex in Mechanicsville at the time… they sold out in the 1920s upon the founders death, so it is possible that the streets are no longer there. It’s also possible that they simply changed names since then. I would contact the town of Thompson Connecticut whose land area now covers the old Mechanicsville area.

      Good luck! Dennis

  2. looking for information on Charles St.Marie and his grocery store.
    I believe he is my great great grandfather. My grandmother is Lillian St. Marie Cournoyer.
    JoAnn Peckham Currier.

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