It has already been stated that the town of Plainfield is largely dependent upon its manufacturing enterprises for the degree of prosperity which it enjoys. There are in the town several localities of more or less importance which have been built up by this industry. These are Moosup, Central Village, Wauregan, Kennedy City, Almyville, Gladdingville and Packerville, which last is on the Canterbury line.
The water power at the Union Mills was used for many years for a carding machine. The original mill was built about 1505, and was very small; afterward enlarged twice, owned at first by a joint stock company composed of Jonathan Goff, John Dean, Elias Dean, John Dunlap, Jonathan Whaley, Doctor Baldwin, David Anthony, of Providence, and others. The stone mill was built subsequently. Mr. Andrew Young, from Rhode Island, became superintendent in 1815, and continued fourteen years
After the failure of Mr. Almy the mill stood still for two years, when it was bought by D. L. Aldrich of Hope Valley, and S. G. Gray, for $33,000, by whom it was run till the lamented death of dir. Gray, September 27th, 1855, when Mr. Aldrich became sole owner. The stone mill was put in operation in 1879, with 140 looms and 7,000 spindles, on 56 x 60 print cloths. At that time Mr. Aldrich was agent; Mr. Gray, superintendent; G. E. Tillinghast, bookkeeper; P. S. Phillips, overseer of weaving; W. J. Potter, overseer of carding and spinning; and John Gibson, overseer of mule spinning. In 1880 an addition was built on the back side of the stone mill 40 x 60, two stories, used as a lapper and slasher room. In the fall of 1881 another addition was built, to be used as a boiler and engine room. In the summer of 1882 an addition of 108 feet was built on the west end of the mill, of the same height and width as the mill, to accommodate the machinist, and for other purposes. In 1883 the old mill was torn down, and nearly on the same spot Mr. Aldrich laid the foundation for an addition of 100 feet in length, built the next summer, three stories high. Another story was added to the main mill as far as the tower. The mill has a capacity for 350 looms. It has 10,000 spindles, and employs upwards of 100 hands. D. L. Aldrich is sole owner and agent; G. E. Tillinghast, superintendent; W. J. Nichols, bookkeeper; P. S. Phillips, overseer of weaving; Frank Boudroe, overseer of carding; J. Gibson, overseer of mule spinning; H. A. Bell, overseer of spinning; Henry Daggett, in charge of slashing; G. Wilbur, boss machinist.
The energy and resources brought to bear on this enterprise by the owner, give assurance of the largest success. Several houses in good style of architecture he has already added to the village of Moosup.
In the northwestern part of the town is the manufacturing village of Wauregan, having a Congregational church within its limits proper, and a Roman Catholic church on the opposite bank of the Quinebaug, in the town of Brooklyn. The village is under the control of a company in whose manufactory the people are employed. There are in the village one store and a large hall for concerts, lectures and the like. The village has a library of one thousand volumes from which any one can draw books by the payment of ten cents a week.
About the year 1850 Mr. A. D. Lockwood bought the privilege, and in 1853 a company was formed, which obtained a charter from the state legislature under the name of the Wauregan Mills. In 1853 and 1854 a building 250 feet in length and 45 feet wide, three stories high, was erected. In 1858 and 1559 the length of this was doubled. In 1867 and 1868 another building 500 feet in length and four stories high was built on the opposite side of the trench, and the two parallel buildings were connected in the middle by a building 250 feet long, extending across from one to the other. This makes a total length in the three parts of about 1,250 feet. It is built of rough stone, which was quarried in the vicinity, the outside being plastered. Both water and steam power are used. Water from the Quinebaug is carried through five turbine wheels, giving what by estimation is equal to one thousand horse-power. A steam engine of four hundred horse-power is also ready for use when occasion requires. The factory is lighted with gas, which is made on the premises from coal oil.
There have been no changes in ownership, except as sons of the original proprietors have taken the places of their fathers. The stock is owned mostly in Providence, R. I. Mr. A. D. Lockwood was agent at the commencement, but soon disposed of his interest. Mr. J. S. Atwood, who had been superintendent from the start, was then made agent, and retained the position until his death, February 20th, 1.885. The works have now in successful operation 56,000 spindles and 1,400 looms, making different kinds of plain and fancy cotton cloths. The payroll of the company contains more than eight hundred names. The annual product is between eight and nine million yards. Seven hundred cords of wood and fifteen hundred tons of coal are annually consumed. The farm owned by the company contains twelve hundred acres of as fine land as can be found in the state.
On the Moosup river, in the upper borders of Moosup village, is the locality known as Almyville, a factory village. In ancient times a carding machine occupied this water power for many years. The old mill, known as the woolen mill, was built by William Almy, of Providence, about sixty years ago. It was started and operated by Darius Lawton, making fine broadcloths, being about the first made in New England. At the end of ten years Mr. Lawton left, and Sampson Almy succeeded to his place and continued the business about ten years longer, when the change was made to cotton, and a variety of cotton goods was manufactured.
There was another mill built in 1856, and run as a woolen mill till it was burned in 1875. The present owners, Aldrich & Milner, bought in 1879, and have built a large mill on the site of the burned woolen mill. They have now running eight sets of cards in the new mill, and four sets in the old woolen mill; and are now running 14 sets of machinery, with 84 broad looms, employing about 230 hands, with a pay roll amounting to nearly $8,000 a month.
A new mill at the upper dam has been built, where are now running two sets of improved cards, with mules for spinning, and a Garnet machine for opening ends. Several new houses have. been recently added to this beautiful village. Mr. Julius S. Bowes is the efficient superintendent of the Almyville mills.
Another section of the village of Moosup is locally known as Gladdingville, or Kiswaukee. A mill was built at this place by Joseph S. Gladding in 1817, for the manufacture of cotton cloth. Since then it has been owned by James B. Ames, by Hale & Miller, and by David Harris. It is now owned by Floyd Cranska, and is occupied in the manufacture of a very excellent article of thread. The mill is supplied with four thousand spindles, and some thirty to forty hands are employed.
Allen Harris, one of the pioneers of manufacturing in Central Village, was born in Smithfield, R. I., May 16th, 1790, and came with his parents to Plainfield in 1800. He, with Arnold Fenner, built the upper brick mill about the year 1828. For a while the village was known as Harrisville. Previous to that time Fenner & Richards had built the old wooden mill still standing in the upper part of the village, though not used as a mill for many years. That mill was afterward owned by Fenner & Borden. The lower brick mill was built about the year 1845. Borden died and Bowen became a partner, the firm being then known as the Central Manufacturing Company, of which mention has been made in a previous paragraph. After the death of both owners, the business was carried on by the heirs of Fenner & Bowen till the property was sold to the Leavens Brothers. J. Leavens’ Sons, of Norwich, bought the property in July, 1881, and gave it the name by which. it is now known, viz., the Kirk Mills. They immediately commenced making such changes as were necessary to manufacture the same kind of goods which they had formerly made. For that purpose the upper mill was arranged for fancy goods. This also necessitated many changes in the lower mill. The mills now contain 11,000 spindles and 234 looms. They are making fancy goods, wide prints and light plain goods, and employ some one hundred hands or more. The superintendent is Mr. H. Truesdell.
A locality in the suburbs of Central Village is known as Kennedy City. In ancient times here was only a grist mill. After the property was bought by John and Robert Kennedy, a saw mill was added, and a fulling mill. After some years John Kennedy sold out to Arnold Fenner, who built a cotton mill about fifty-five years ago. Previous to this time, some five years, the fulling mill on the north side was made into a flannel mill. About thirty years since machinery for making wicking and twine was put in, and work in this line has gone on till the present time. The works are now operated by Thomas Sheldon.
The ancient grist mill, located near here, on the Canterbury road, was built by Jared Cook about the year 1768. It was sold to William Cutler in 1775. He in turn sold it to John and Robert Kennedy in 1794; and it was again sold to Henry Cutler in 1856. It is still owned by him. About thirty horsepower of water is employed, and the mill grinds 250 bushels a week of corn, wheat and feed. The dam is supposed to have been built by one Pope some years earlier than the date given above, and a saw mill built on the opposite side of the river.
The Robinson & Fowler Foundry Company had its origin, as far as active work is concerned, in Canterbury twenty-five or more years ago, and was removed to Plainfield junction in 1868. It is located near the railroad depot, and employs from thirty to forty hands. The works are largely engaged in making castings for the ” Webster ” and the Richmond ” furnaces. The present officers of the company are: J. Hutchins, president; Roswell Ensworth, secretary; W. Tillinghast, treasurer, and S. P. Robinson, agent. They also manufacture farmers’ boilers, cook stoves, parlor stoves and office stoves, hollow-ware, cellar windows, cultivators, plows, horse hoes, cauldron kettles and machinery castings.
One of the most destructive freshets ever known in this town occurred on the night of February 13th, 1.886. The Moosup river burst its banks, carrying away bridges and flooding buildings. An eye witness describes it thus:
” The Moosup River, usually so quiet and peaceful, had yielded to the elements and soon was beyond control, sweeping with a mad, irresistible force everything before it. At the vicinity of the `Central bridge,’ so called, the roads were completely ruined, while of the bridge nothing remains. All the houses on the flat were vacated, and on Sunday the scene was a terrible reality to the many visitors. The trench of the Central Manufacturing Company was completely torn out, stopping further operations at the mill, and throwing many out of employment until repaired. A few rods further down the stream is an old bridge, just above the railroad bridge, erected on apparently loosely built abutments, which took the first shock of the ice and debris from above, and, strange to say, the old bridge stood there, with the road washed away on both sides, a pigmy mocking at the strength of a giant. A few feet further down was the railroad bridge on strongly built abutments, which presented an entirely different aspect. The force of the stream was such that the south abutment was half gone, the bank under the track torn away, while the rails on the bridge were twisted toward the east quite a distance. The north abutment at first glance would seem but little damaged, but on close inspection, the now falling river showed that it had been undermined, so that considerable work will have to be done there.
” Below the railroad bridge was situated a building owned by J. P. Kingsley of Plainfield, and occupied by French’s grist mill, Torrey Brothers’ carriage shop, where they also made stable forks and wagon jacks, and in the basement by Fitch Cary and Torrey Brothers in making ox bows and yokes. Below the building the bank completely Bullied; broken machinery, lumber stock and debris from above were mingled in wild confusion, the whole shop being a complete wreck. The water rose higher and higher until it reached the floor above, sweeping through the sides of the building and carrying away at least a third of the side towards the stream. The Torrey Brothers fortunately saved most of their tools on this floor, and of 500 bushels of corn grist put into the grist mill, 350 bushels were saved. Half the dam here is swept away, the high water still hiding traces of further destruction. On the roadway to the shops above mentioned was situated a barn and sheds, which the freshet, in its destructive career, swept away with half the road. The fields as far as the eye could see were strewn with broken timbers and wreck of every description.
” At Kennedy City, a short distance down the river, are situated small mills owned by Henry Cutler and Mr. Tourtellotte. Cutler’s mill is occupied by Mr. Sheldon, but beyond the flooding of the lower part of the building the loss is slight. The flume was destroyed, and also the trench to the grist mill, making a loss of $500 at least. Tourtellotte’s mill was run by George Tripp. The flood came with such force that a new bulkhead was torn away, destroying the flume and saw mill. Mr. Tourtellofte’s loss cannot be less than $1,000. The mill caught fire from old waste belonging to Mr. Tripp. His loss is nearly $100.
” Moosup is in a bad shape on account of the freshet. The bridges are most all gone, and the roads in that section, many of them, are useless. The first bridge to go was the one about three miles above the village, then followed the David Hall bridge (abutments and all), the -Morgan bridge at Almyville near the Blodgett House, the Kishwaukie bridge by Floyd Cranska’s. The Carey bridge, it is thought, can be saved, though Sunday it was under water. A tenement house owned by Aldrich & Gray was carried off with the flood, giving the occupants barely time to get out, they losing all their furniture. Large numbers were at work on all the dams, but it seemed at one time as if all their efforts would be in vain. The ice started Friday night and came with such a force that it moved the cap stone at Aldrich & Milner’s. The roadway of this firm was washed in two places. Floyd Cranska’s race-way is damaged, and the dam at one time was in danger of going.”
The four main bridges of the town were swept away. To replace them the town–hired $20,000 and built substantial iron bridges. The damage to corporate property of the town amounted to about $25,000.
Plainfield junction for many years was nothing but a railroad crossing, but now carries on foundry works and steam saw mills, and is building up into a village.
Old Plainfield Village has perhaps the finest avenue of trees in Windham county, and many handsome residences. Plainfield, like many similar towns, suffers from a multiplicity of interests, its villages being practically independent organizations. The senior village, however, occupies a nominal head-ship, and has still been able to retain the administration of the probate court. Its charge was held for twenty-three years by Hon. David Gallup, who removed his residence to Plainfield at an early age. and became very active in town and public affairs.
James B. Kilborn Post, No. 77, Department of Connecticut, G. A. R., was organized March 4th, 1886. Its charter members were John Allen, George A. Rouse, Stephen Aldrich, Henry F. Walker, Willis D. ,Rouse, Horace S. Swan, Henry C. Torrey, George Torrey, Daniel Champlin, Nathaniel P. Thompson, William H. Johnson, Henry F. Newton, Charles H. Rogers, Charles B. Wheatley, Joseph D. Lewis, George R. Bliven, James P. Pellett, Minor Spicer, John W. Fisk, William Dean, Elijah Green, James Whelan, Austin Fitzgerald, Jeremiah H. Pierce, Michael Fitzpatrick, Isaac Whitaker, William Gill, James McCaffrey, Robert Scholes, James F. Knight, Charles C. Card and John Rankin. Its meetings have always been held in Central Village. It has a nice hall in Barbour’s building. Its first officers were: Post commander, George R. Bliven; S. V. C., Daniel Champlin; J. V. C., Charles B. Wheatley; O. M., N. P. Thompson; surgeon, Charles H. Rogers; chaplain, Henry C. Torrey; officer of the day, Horace S. Swan; officer of the guard, John Rankin; adjutant, Henry F. Walker. The post commander for the years 1887 and 1888 was Charles B. Wheatley.
On May 6th, 1887, the post was presented with a most elegant silk double flag, with stars and stripes on one side and post flag on the reverse, a present from Hon. Joseph Hutchins, Mr. Edwin Milner, Mr. J. Arthur Atwood and Comrade Charles B. Wheatley. The flag is probably second to none owned by any post in the state. The post has now 82 members. The officers elected for the year 1889 are: Commander, George Torrey; S. V. C., James P. Pellett; J. V. C., William I. Hyde; surgeon, Charles H. Rogers; chaplain, Henry C. Torrey; O. M., George R. Bliven; O. D., William Dean; O. G., Stephen Aldrich.
Moosup Lodge, No. 113, F. & A. M., was chartered June 4th, 1872, Its location, as its name implies, is in the village of Moosup, where it regularly meets. The first W. M. of the Lodge was George H. Lovegrove. The present incumbent of that office is Charles N. Allen. Other officers are: Charles Bragg, S. W.; Orrin W. Bates, J. W.; George R. Bliven, treasurer; William H. Sargent, secretary; Reverend John McVey, chaplain. The Lodge has always met at Moosup. It owns no property except its regalia.
Protection Lodge, No. 19, I. 0. 0. F., was organized in Moosup in August, 1888, with 26 charter members. The first officers were: C. B. Wheatley, N. G.; Thomas Hurst, V. G.; F. T. Johnson, secretary; W. C. Bates, treasurer; John Westcott, permanent secretary. The Lodge at present numbers thirty-seven members. The present officers are: Thomas Hurst, N. G.; Henry N. Wood, Jr., V. G.; F. T. Johnson, secretary; Charles A. Wood, treasurer.
Quinebaug Lodge, No. 22, A. O. U. W., of the town of Plainfield, was organized July 9th, 1883. Its charter members were Charles B. Wheatley, Amos Kendall, George W. Shepard, Albert F. Shepardson, Oscar F. Farland, William L. Green, George P. Dorrance, Thomas E. Main, George E. Tillinghast, George R. Fowler, Henry R. Brown, Charles W. Lillibridge, Sessions L. Adams, Edward H. Lillibridge, and James F. Pellett. The first officers were: Amos Kendall, P. M. W.; Charles B. Wheatley, M. W.; George R. Fowler. foreman; C. W. Lillibridge, overseer; George E. Tillinghast, recorder; George P. Dorrance, financier; S. L. Adams, receiver; O. W. Farland, guide; A. F. Shepardson, I. W.; W. L. Green, O. W. The successive master workmen from that time to the present have been: Charles B. Wheatley, 1884: George E. Tillinghast, 1885; A. H. Gulliver, 1886; James P. Pellett, 1887; Charles B. Wheatley, 1888; Thomas Hurst, 1889. The present officers are: George R. Bliven, foreman; Joseph Dawson, overseer; Henry R. Brown, recorder; Frank B. Wilson, financier; S. L. Adams, receiver; Henry N. Wood, Jr., guide; George Shepard, I. W.; George R. Fowler, O. W. The Lodge now has forty-seven members.
Two hundred and fifty-two men enlisted from Plainfield in Connecticut regiments, during the late war for the suppression of the rebellion.
Among the esteemed men of a former generation may well be mentioned the following: Deacon Caleb Bennett, who was elected deacon of the Baptist church in 1817, and held that office here 40 years, and on removing to New Britain he was again chosen to fill the same station, in which he remained till he died, November 13th, 1882, aged about 81 years. Andrew Young came from Rhode Island about 70 years ago, and was superintendent of the Union Mill 13 years. He reared two children, one of them, Sophia, is the wife of Mr. Charles A. Tillinghast, of Moosup; the other, now deceased, was the wife of Mr. Jason Potter, now of Sterling. Jonathan Goff was justice of the peace for a considerable time; he once represented the town in the legislature, and was clerk of the Baptist church fifty years. John Dunlap was judge of probate, justice of the peace and postmaster. Samuel D. Millett was one of the highly esteemed citizens of the town; was representative, justice of the peace, and filled many other offices of trust. In the Methodist church he was very useful, filling the important offices of trustee and steward many years, and always ready to help in every good work. He died December 2d, 1884. Stephen Hall, Esq., commenced a private school for classical studies and the higher branches of English, in 1847, which he continued for about fifteen years. Among the hundreds of scholars trained by him, now scattered from Maine to California, may be mentioned Hon. Daniel Spalding, of the interior department; Alfred Fairbanks, a millionaire of California; Mr. Tillinghast, a prominent lawyer of Providence; and Reverend Jeremiah Aldrich, now of the state of Massachusetts.
Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889