Mills & Village Histories
This section will always be under construction - come back often to see additional updates.
We will include historical information on the separate sections of our town; The Bush, City Mills, Highland Lake, Mirror Lake, Pondville, Downtown, Abbeyville, Vinegar Hill, Tuckertown, Toadville, etc. and answers to some of our most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - if you have any questions or can expand on any of the information offered in this section please let us know.
The "shoddy" industry revolved around the recycling of old woolen items by mixing them with new wool and making them into heavy blankets and uniforms but there is a lot more to the story...
Many mills in New England in the 1800s produced shoddy; a recycled or remanufactured wool material that was considered inferior in quality to that of original wool but was able to be produced from recycled materials, ones that were loosely woven. The process was invented in Yorshire, England around 1809 probably by T.D. Lamb or Benjamin Law. The production of shoddy is also associated with the production of mungo which is a fibrous woollen material produced from recycled waste fabric, particularly tightly woven cloths.
Several types of cloth can be woven from wool. "Woolens" were heavy felted cloths of the type used for coats and blankets. Besides woollen cloth, other goods, such as druggets, used as carpets, horse-rugs, floor-cloths, etc, were made of shoddy. Flushing may at one time may also have been synonomous with shoddy - as one definition of flushing describes it as "a course heavy woolen fabric" of the type used in military uniforms.
Shoddy has come to mean something made with inferior material. However, the development of shoddy was of significant importance to the woolen trade in the 1800s and later. In fact, a publication in 1880 goes so far as to state "Such was the discovery, and it ranks amongst the greatest and most important of those of the 19th century. By contributing to the comfort and wealth of the whole nation and ameliorating the condition of society, it takes its place by the side of the railway and the electric telegraph, and Benjamin Law was not less a benefactor to his country than George Stephenson. [...] next to cotton [shoddy was] one of the greatest revolutions in the textile industry."
The word shoddy may be similar to the Persian/Arabic "shodjy" or "shodjah" signifiying a tangled mass - in this case - a tangled mass of wool. Law did not invent shoddy but had the incite to see it applied in the manufacture of cloth.
Benjamin Law and the Development of Shoddy
One of the major problems in the woolen trade in the early 1800s was the lack of sufficient yarn to meet the demands of all the weavers. In the time before the Industrial Revelation much more time and many more people were needed to prepare and spin the yarn than were needed to weave the cloth. Spinning was a time consuming activity. On the other hand the weaving went relatively quickly. The word "spinster" - to denote someone who never married - is a reflection of the need to have people who had virtually no life except spinning in order to provide the family with enough yarn to keep the family clothed.
Spinning wheels greatly speeded up this process, but it still required more spinners than weavers. With the advent of carding and spinning machines the process was accelerated to the point that spinning could more than keep up with weaving. The cloth industry grew at a rapid rate after the introduction of carding and spinning machines. The increased demands for cloth created a need for more raw materials and out of this need, shoddy was born.
At the start of the Industrial Revolution, around 1813 in Batley, England, Benjamin Law developed a process using finely shredded recycled woolen rags combined with virgin wool to produce woven cloth known as "Shoddy", which had a revolutionary effect on the textile industry at the time. Law was unable at the time to figure out a way of incorperating tailors clippings into the process. This was figured out by his nephews several years later and was called "Mungo".
By 1855, 35,000,000 pounds of rags were being sorted and processed into yarn to make "mungo" and "shoddy". The making of shoddy and mungo is a similar process to the making of woolen and worsted, once the rags had been ground up and processed into yarn. The manufacture of shoddy cloth probably dates as far back as 1809. In those early days of the shoddy trade people looked askance and with aversion on the heaps of old woollen garments which had been collected for the purpose of being reconverted into wool but in 4 short years it had taken hold in Batley and by 1815 had become the staple trade of the village, of 3,000. It raised Batley from a country village to a busy manufacturing town with numerous mills, handsome stone warehouses and palatial residences.
Mr. Law was a manufacturer of woolen cloth before he made his discovery which resulted in the application of shoddy to the manufacture of cloth. He was one day trying to dispose of a quantity of flocks to a saddler in London. Flocks are shredded wool used for stuffing cushions mattresses etc. The saddler showed him a material which he said was equally as good as flocks but was cheaper. While handling this substitute for flocks, which was woollen rags torn into shoddy and twirling it in his fingers to test its textile qualities, he conceived the idea of applying it to the manufacture of cloth. He purchased a quantity to try the experiment and it was successful. Mr. Law found shoddy ready made, he did not invent it. The invention did not consist in the converting of rags into shoddy but in the application of an almost worthless material to the manufacture of a less expensive cloth. Mr. Law was born on November 8th, 1772 at Great Gomersal and died February 21st, 1837 at the age of 65.
The invention of mungo, or rather again the discovery of the application of it to manufacture cloth, may be considered as a corollary discovery to the application of shoddy but it took another 25 years after the discovery of shoddy, about 1834, by George Parr, the nephew Benjamin Law. It came about much in the same way - Mr. Parr was examining some flocks which had been pulled from tailors clippings and old cloth garments when he conceived the notion of manufacturing cloth from it. He purchased a quantity but the pieces of cloth were spoiled by the presence of the cotton thread with which the garments had been sewed. So women were employed to cut off the seams of the garments and the material was a great success. It differs from shoddy in being of a finer nature and is used in the manufacture of a higher class of goods. While trying to sell some of the material but being unable to persuade a prospective customer to purchase it a salesman remarked "but it mun go" which meant in the venacular - "it must go" and the name thus stuck. Previous to mungo this cloth was intended for bed flocks or was sold for manure.
Rags were collected from two sources: (1) Old rags from old clothes were collected by ragmen for a price. The ragmen would then sell them to the rag merchant. (2) New rags were bought by the rag merchant as scrap from clothing manufacturers and tailors.
Old rags were not as valuable, as they were dirty and needed more processing to turn into yarn. New rags were used for mungo, which was a finer cloth than shoddy. Mungo was developed by Benjamin Law's nephews.
The sorting of the rags was mostly done by girls and women. The sorting was done in large well-lit rooms over tables with "riddles" which were basically wire mesh which allowed the dirt and dust to fall through. Baskets were placed all around the worker, who sorted the rags into to the baskets by quality and color. Sorting was skilled labor. Rag sorters had to recognize the difference in quality of the rags in mixed lots both accurately and quickly. A smart rag sorter could sort about one cubic weight of old rags in one hour. New rags took longer, because it required greater care due to its higher value. Only woolen and worsted were used to make shoddy and mungo. Cotton rag was used to make paper.
Some interesting quotes regarding the use of used rag materials to produce new garments;
"The trade or occupation of the late owner, his life and habits, or the filthiness and antiquity of the garment itself, oppose no bar to this wonderful regeneration; whether from the scarecrow or the gibbet, it makes no difference; so that, according to the change of human affairs, it no doubt frequently does happen, without figure of speech or metaphor, that the identical garment to-day exposed to the sun and rain of a Kentish cherry orchard or saturated with tobacco smoke on the back of a beggar in a pothouse, is doomed in its turn to grace the swelling collar, or add dignified proportion to the chest of the dandy".
– Sir Geoge Head
"Hither are brought tatters from pediculous Poland, from the Gipsies of Hungary, from the beggars and scarecrows of Germany, from the frowsy peasants of Muscovy; to say nothing of snips and sherds from monks' gowns and lawyers' robes, from postillions' jackets and soldiers' uniforms, from maidens' bodices and noblemens' cloaks" A heterogenous collection truly, to be shredded by "devils" into mungo fibre, re-spun and re-woven, and thus resurrectioned into new material for the backs of people who little dream of the various vicissitudes through which their garments have previously gone."
– Yorkshire Scenes Lore and Legends, M Tait, 1888
"About the years 1829 and 1830, I recollect a man who was a manufacturer of flocks... He had a grinding machine which was worked by hand, and with this machine he ground woolen rags, commonly called "hard woolens", old cloth garments, into flocks. This grinding mill was very much like the apparatus at a well, for the purpose of drawing up water, with the exception that the wheel, instead of having a rope attached to it, had many iron-spikes or teeth well sharpened fixed in it; and, in lieu of the well, there was a large wooden box, into which dropped the rags which had been speedily rent or torn into flocks by the iron teeth of the roller, when the crank attached to it (was turned). Flocks thus ground much resemble wool, the originals fabric of which woolen cloth is made, but being of course the "worse for wear" and in consequence of the pulling to pieces by the mill, are of a much shorter nature, or fibre, than the new wool is; but not withstanding this drawback, woollen rags disentangled in this manner by mills, have become a famous article of traffic...... With the admixture of a little new wool, the flocks, called "shoddy", produced by grinding "soft woolens", old stuff garments, flannels, etc., have become extensively used ...... and are manufactured into "new cloth" and other kinds of new woollen goods, suitable to be made into new wearing apparel! Invention and the skill of man are always progressing; and in course of time it was discovered that cloth rags, hard woolens, when properly separated from sewing thread and cotton linings, were much superior than soft woolens in being made up into new cloth, and this caused them to much exceed the latter in price ...... There is one fact with regard to woollen rags, which, more than any other is calculated to make a person smile ...... woolen rags, especially hard woolens, have frequently in large quantities, used as manure for potatoes, and when the new potatoes were gathered; and, after the latter's going through the process of grinding by the shoddy mill , they have been re-manufactured into "bran-new cloth". I can vouch for this; for I have seen potatoes manured with woolen rags ......and which same rags were afterwards sold at a good price for manufacturing purposes to the shoddy manufactures!"
– from an 1862 publication giving a description of a British Shoddy Grinding Mill
Buckley & Mann Inc. / The Bush / Abbeyville
At Bush Pond on Lawrence Street, Norfolk, MA
The Buckley and Mann property on Lawrence Street has a long history as a mill and factory location. As we read above......Only woolen and worsted were used to make shoddy and mungo. Cotton rag was used to make paper. This is of great interest as the Norfolk tax records clearly indicate that for a large part of its history in the late 1800s the mill at the Buckley & Mann site was used as BOTH a shoddy mill and a paper mill.
Daniels, Batts and Wick Company
The two old buildings, on the west side of the roadway leading into the manufacturing complex, now barely standing with holes in their roofs and siding are the former plant offices. They were the mill owner's, the mill superintendent and agent's houses and date to before 1830 at this site.
The buiding nearest the road was owned by Mr. Daniels when the early, small factory was operated as Daniels, Batts and Wick Company and the surrounding area of North Wrentham was known as Abbyville. The owner's house, the low building closest to Lawrence Street was a store during the Abbyville days and much of the mills life.
The Elliot Felting Mills
In 1870 when North Wrentham was set off from Wrentham as the separate town of Norfolk, the factory complex was known as The Elliot Felting Mills of Boston. According to the tax records the site contained an old factory, 9 houses, 2 barns, a block house, a storehouse, and a store. They made various felt products including felt piano and table covers. Felt was made from rags ground up; the fiber was then carded and mixed to separate the good fibers from the bad. It was then formed and pressed to the thickness needed, depending on what it was to be used for. It was then dried measured, rolled or folded in the finishing room. Due to the combustible substances which were used, i.e. wadding felt and fillers, many felt mills burned and were rebuilt several times.
In 1875 there were an old factory, 17 houses, 3 barns, a new block house and 2 shops.
New England Felting Mills
An advertisement dated 15 June 1877 refers to the factory complex as the New England Felting Mills of Franklin City, MA with Bennett & Smith, Proprietors.
"Manufacturers of the celebrated brand of the Brooklyn City Felt Skirts".
Mr. Enoch Waite of Franklin began work at the Elliot Mills prior to 1870 and eventually worked his way up to the head of the firm. He took a partner, Mr. A. H. Morse and they worked together until 1881 when the partnership dissolved and Mr. Waite started at City Mills.
Green, Morse and Thayer
In 1880 the mill was under the firm name of Green, Morse and Thayer. The firm was taxed for 9 houses, a stable, a new block house and a stock house but Enoch Waite was taxed for the machinery and the shoddy mill.
Enoch Waite of Franklin
In 1885 the mill was under the name of Mr. Waite alone and in addition to the shoddy mill on site there was also the addition of a paper mill in operation. There were 5 houses, a stable, a stock house and a chimney. The land acerage remained even though the number of houses was reduced to five.
In 1890 the mill was still under the name of Mr. Waite. There was the shoddy mill, the paper mill, 5 houses, a stable, a stock house and a chimney - the same as in 1885.
In 1895 the mill was still under the name of Mr. Waite - the shoddy mill, the paper mill, 5 houses, a stable, 2 stock houses and a chimney.
In 1900 still under the name of Enoch Waite - both the shoddy and the paper mill were in operation. There were 4 houses, a stable, 2 stock houses, a chimney, a boiler and a small barn.
Enoch Waite of Franklin - The Felt King
Some information from the Town of City Millis and Bertha Fales publications...
Enoch Waite was born in England on 26 June 1834. His father was a manufacturer of felt for the King in England. After a brief term of schooling, Enoch at the age of 8 began working in the felt trade. He came to America with his family when he was 15 years old, and began work in the Old Bay State Mill in Lawrence, MA. In 1850 he went to Johnson, RI and started a mill for Judge Pittman's son for the manufacture of felt carpet. After 2 years he went to the Middlesex Mill in Lowell, MA.
In 1861 he went to Winchester to work with Mr. S.W. Allen in the manufacture of a cloth from tow, called Fibrilla, to use in place of cotton. The mill was closed when peace was established following the Civil War as there was no longer a use for Fibrilla. Enoch next made felt carpets and glove linings.
Enoch began work at the Elliot Mills prior to 1870 and eventually worked his way up to the head of the firm. He took a partner, Mr. A. H. Morse and they worked together until 1881 when the partnership dissolved and Mr. Waite started at City Mills and managed that for 3 years. Next Enoch started a felt mill for Mr. F. B. Ray called the Union Mill and also went into business in Lawrence. Enoch founded a felt mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, "The Lawrence Felting Company" and began to produce on a larger scale than his predecessors.
In 1875 Mr. Waite sold out to his partner and went into business exclusively for himself on a privilege he bought from Mr. Richardson of Rockville, a part of Millis, MA. When "The Rockville Mills" in 1878 went to Amanda Waite for her husband Enoch, who extended the institution still further by adding the manufacture of beaver, a textile of the times. The Waite Felt Mill manufactured felt for different purposes, a lightweight felt used for shoulder pads in suits, a heavy felt for saddle pads and Spaulding Morse bought felt for use in athletic equipment.
The felt was made from rags ground up; the fiber was then carded and mixed to separate the good fibers from the bad. It was then formed and pressed to the thickness needed, depending on what it was to be used for. It was then dried measured, rolled or folded in the finishing room. Due to the combustible substance with which he was working, i.e. wadding felt and fillers, the Rockville Mill burned and was rebuilt several times. Enoch Emmons Waite, son of Enoch and Amanda served as manager.
On February 1, 1899, the American Felt interests leased the mill but it closed down in 1911. The American Felt Co. of Boston purchased the entire operation from the Waite family in March of 1912, making felt for all conceivable purposes and finally experimenting with substitute felt leather until changing times and industrial conditions caused them to dispose of the buildings, land and water privileges to the town of Millis in 1920. Today the Rockville Fire Station and Waite Mill Park are located on this property.
The City Mills which was originally a cotton mill dates back to 1825. It was ruined fifty years later when a dam collapsed. It was rebuilt and operated for a time by Enoch Waite as a felt mill.
Enoch had one son Arthur born November 15, 1855. Arthur came to Rockville when he was about 16 years old and worked in the felt mill for several years.
Enoch died February 13, 1912; he was buried in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Arthur died December 21, 1912 and Enoch Emmons died May 3, 1942.
Norfolk Paper Company
In 1905 the mill was listed as the Norfolk Paper Company with the shoddy and the paper mill, 5 houses and sheds, a stable, 4 stock houses, a chimney, a boiler and a barn.
City Mills Woolen Co.
In 1910 and 1915 the mill was listed as the City Millsl Woolen Co. a picking house, a card house, a boiler house, a chimney, a barn, 3 dwelling houses and sheds, a small dwelling and 2 stock houses.
Buckley & Mann Inc.
The sign at the entrance currently reads Buckley & Mann Inc. - 1901, so it is assumed they came into ownership some time in the early 1900s.
There were literally scores of mills built over the years at City Mills and with the number of mills and the surrounding housing built for the owners and workers in the mills it was truly, a city of mills.
The City Mills section of Norfolk, formally known as Franklin City, encompasses an area that was first called Jack's Pasture. In the late 1660s Cornelius Fisher and Joseph Kingsbury settled in the area, perhaps near the current location of the Holme's property at Myrtle and Hanover Streets. According to historical records at least 4-5 homesteads were located in this area as early as the 1680s, built on the Indian trail from Medfield to Wrentham, including that of John Boyde who built a house at River End in 1681 which was later to become the residence of our famous Dr. Nathaniel Miller.
In 1694 Henry Adams built a corn mill in the area that was referenced in the will of Ebenezer Ware of Jan. 22, 1720. The will mentioned a "way" laid out from James Blake Esq.'s property on today's Seekonk Street to "Adam's Mills". This would most likely be the general path of today's Main Street. The mill is later also mentioned in the laying out of a surveyor's district on May 29, 1736 as "Adam's corn mill.
City Mills & American Felt Company
Major Eli Richardson was born in the vicinity of City Mills, during the later half of the 18th century per the chronicles of North Franklin. He wanted to build a cotton mill at the second privilege on the Charles River. In order to own land in that area he exchanged farms with Elisha Richardson and established himself at this loacation in early 1800 - although according to Blake he sold half his farm to his brother Elisha and then bought land in the present City Mills area.
In 1810 Asa and David Thayer opened a store at City Mills, selling their straw braid that they received from customers in exchange for goods and provisions to the Fischer, Day & Co. In 1812 they moved their store to Franklin center. Theirs was only the second straw goods firm in the country.
In 1811 Eli Richardson Jr. (born in 1781) established the first Post Office in the area, a full year before one was established in the center of Franklin. He was the first postmaster in town, built the "city factory" and was a prominent citizen in the community.
In 1819 Major Richardson, now the owner of a cotton factory on the pond, built an impressive home on the hill next to the factory. He also built a stone store there as well. The store later became the first Franklin (Franklin City) Post Office and on the second floor of the store you could often hear the musical sounds of the Norfolk brass band and the City Mills Fife and Drum Corps who used the hall for practice rehearsals. By the mid 1800s a complex of mills had sprung up in the area below the damn. In the spring of 1875, the dam above City Mills, at Whiting's Pond - known today as Lake Pearl - burst and nearly drowned Edwin Alonzo Morse as he was swept away in a mass of mud, railroad ties and rails before being rescued by Owen Shields a railroad trackman. The flood is also said to have destroyed the original felt mill on the City Mills pond but the factories were rebuilt and even as late as 1895 The American Felt Mill was operating a thriving business there.
The stone store was taken down in 1914 by William Swett, the then owner of Major Richardson's magnificent house, because he wanted to extend his front yard further down to the edge of the roadway. As late as 1930 Norfolk Day celebrations were held on Swett's expansive front lawn as residents pitched food tents and celebrated with picnicking and fun activities. The big red barn from the Richardson estate, which had housed Swett's impressive collection of automobiles, still remains on property at the curve in the road, on the right hand side as you head towards present day Franklin - although his impressive house no longer is on the site - as Swett, in a dispute with the town of Norfolk, had it torn down board by board in 1935 and left the country shortly thereafter. He died a few years later in Italy, reportedly in a bathtub. Some say that the Major's house was was not destroyed but later reconstructed in neighboring Wrentham and is now hiding underneath the vinyl siding that covers the present day Pond House on Rt 140.
The work in the mill helped many young people gain the necessary money to get off to a good start in farm life and although most used their earnings to establish local farms, others took to work at the mill and stayed on for years - consider William R. Supple of County Cork, Ireland who in 1874 began a 25 year tenure in charge of the dyeing department at the City Mills Felt Co. The tax records indicate how the mills prospered, expanded and changed ownership over the years.
- 1860 – Adams Daniels owned the mill and the privilage. On the property were 6 houses, barns and stock houses for which he was taxed.
- 1870 – S. M. Aldrich of Woonsocket, RI was taxed for $5000 worth of machinery, 1 store, 10 houses and a barn.
- 1875 – Stephen M. Weld was taxed for $6800 worth of machinery, a factory, a store, 11 houses and 35 acres of land beside woodland and pasture.
- 1880 – The City Mills Company of Franklin was taxed for $10,000 worth of machinery, $7500 for a factory and an engine, house $800, for a store, 10 houses, 2 barns, privilage and 62.5 acres of land, divided into pastures, tillage and unimproved land.
- 1885 – The City Mills Company was taxed for a steam boiler and engine, more machinery, a boiler house and a chimney, a stock house besides the smaller house for tenants and the usual amount of land.
- 1890 – The City Mills Company of Franklin was taxed $22,000 for machinery, a new mill, 2 stock houses, 6 new houses and the Comey house and stable beside the old plant.
- 1895 – A dye house and water tower appear on the tax roles along with 2 stables and a barn.
- 1900 – The American Felt Company of Boston, MA was taxed $30,000 for machinery, houses - consisting of 17 tenements, tree barns and 10 stock houses besides the store.
- 1910 – The American Felt Company was taxed $42,000 for machinery. The old mill and machinery was taxed for $21,300, the new mill and machinery for $17,200.
- 1915 – The American Felt Company was taxed $67,000 for machinery. The old mill was taxed for $48,000, the new mill for $70,000 besides the former buildings. The dam was estimated at $10,000 and the mill site and water rights for $72,000.
- 1920 – The American Felt Company was taxed $312,400 for the plant.
- 1925–1930 – The felt factories were still running but most of their manufacturing operations would remain for only a few years more.
- 1970 – The Lord and Jealous Co. were operating at City Mills.
- 1976 – Today Camgar Shemicals operates in the mill area, producing paint and varnishes. It is one of only a few manufacturing enterprises still remaining in the Town of Norfolk. Camger Chemicals has been located on the property at 364 Main Street since 1976 consisting of approximately 1.96 acres and 0.92 acres parcels. The property is bordered by residential property to the northeast, by Main Street and City Mills Pond to the southeast, by undeveloped land to the southwest, and by Mills River to the northwest.
Environmental Problems With Old Mill Sites
From 1900 to approximately the 1970s, the Camger property was occupied by various textile mills. The disposal practices of the textile mills are unknown. Camger Chemicals manufactures solvent-based enamel paints, lacquers, varnishes, thinners, rubber cements, water-based latex paints, and customized color blends for industrial and commercial clients. Production materials include ketones, alcohols, and acetone for lacquers; and mineral spirits (i.e., stoddard solvent) and xylenes for oil-based paints. On-site processes generally use butyl acetate, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, xylenes, ethyl benzene, isopropyl acetate, hexane, methanol, isobutyl acetate, methylene chloride, and methyl isobutyl ketone. Wastes generated by Camger Chemicals during cleaning include solvent rinse water containing xylenes for enamel; water for latex; and acetone for lacquers. The remaining wastestream includes acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, mineral spirits, xylenes, and pigments.
In May 1980, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepared a Potential Hazardous Waste Site Identification report of the Camger Chemicals property based on information received from a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) facility inspection report. The report documented on-site storage practices regarding drums marked for reclamation. Based on observations made by MA DEP, Camger Chemicals was required to improve their housekeeping practices and properly dispose of old drums containing dried, non-toxic paints in a sanitary landfill.
In 1991, a Screening Site Inspection (SSI) of the property was conducted. Seven surface soil samples were collected from the property as part of the SSI. Four volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (methylene chloride, chloroform, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and xylene), 19 semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) Aroclor-1254, two pesticide compounds, and 15 inorganic elements were detected in soil samples.
In October 1994, groundwater (drinking water) and sediment samples were collected as part of a Site Inspection Prioritization (SIP). On-site drinking water samples contained five VOCs. Off-site drinking water samples contained one VOC. Sediment samples collected from City Mills Pond and Mill River contained three VOCs and two pesticides at elevated concentrations.
In 1995, a Phase I investigation was conducted and additional groundwater and surface and subsurface soil samples were collected. Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons were detected in the surface soil. VOCs were detected in groundwater; however, only methylene chloride was detected at concentrations exceeding MA DEP GW-1 groundwater standards.
In 1996, a Phase II investigation was conducted and additional soil and groundwater samples were collected. Analytical results did not indicate any compounds exceeded GW-1 or soil standards, with the exception of one detection of total petroleum hydrocarbons in a sample collected from a monitoring well located in the parking lot. A Class B-1 Response Action Outcome (RAO) Statement specifying that no further actions were necessary at the property was submitted as a result of this investigation.
Depth to groundwater ranges from approximately 8 to 25 feet below ground surface. Groundwater flows to the northwest. There are 20 municipal groundwater wells located within 4 miles of the property which serve approximately 52,449 people. There is a private well located at a residential property across Mill Street south of the property. No known public groundwater wells used to supply drinking water have been impacted by contaminants from the property.
The property is located adjacent to and downstream of City Mills Pond, which discharges through a spillway and culvert under Main Street to Mill River. The two parcels of land owned by Camger Chemicals are bisected by Mill River, which flows northwesterly. Surface water flow continues along Mill River approximately 2 miles downstream to the Charles River, which comprises the remainder of the 15-mile downstream surface water pathway. Copper and selenium, which were detected in two sediment samples collected during the 1994 SIP, may have been used as pigment in paints which were manufactured on site.
The nearest residential property is located approximately 50 feet northeast of on-site source areas. Access to the Camger Chemicals property is restricted by fencing around the building and parking areas. Migration of identified contaminants to nearby residential populations via soil exposure or air is not considered likely.
No further actions have taken place at the Camger Chemicals property since the Class B-1 RAO statement was submitted to MA DEP subsequent to the 1996 Phase II Investigation.
For the earliest days of settlement the Highland Lake area, once known as "Island Lake" and later as "Highland Lake Grove", with its copious supply of water power, was always a center of activity and host to a large variety of business operations from saw and corn mills to iron smelters with trip hammers, that processed the ore brought in from Walpole, to paper mills. There was even a 200 yard long covered rifle range, built by Dr. Frank Mann, who had survived imprisonment in the notorious Andersonville Prison during the Civil War, to test special rifle sighting devices.
The natural beauty of the area was also well known and did not go unnoticed. The New York and New England Railway began acquiring property in the area about Highland Lake in the late 1800s. On August 14, 1875 Thomas Watson sold 20 acres of his farm on the south side of the railroad tracks to the railway for $1000. Following shortly thereafter on September 1, 1875 Levi Mann sold 2/3 of an acre to the railroad for $100 and finally on March 7 of the following year 1876, George Campbell sold a little less than 9 1/2 acres for $1000 and thus the seeds were sown for the beginnings of "Highland Lake Grove" and its connection with the New York and New England Railroad. The first railroad station established at the Highland Lake area was called Campbells. It was a very small building covered by yellow stucco and built in the vicinity of the great Arch Bridge on the lake.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Highland Lake area, promoted by the Railroad, became a favorite picnicking spot for thousands of city dwellers who, looking to escape the heat and congestion of the city in summer, began to flock to the more healthful environs of this country retreat. On summer weekends the New York and New England Railroad brought car loads of picnickers out to the lake for the day. Many Sunday School picnics were held there as well. As people, in ever increasing numbers began to flock to the grounds for picnics and entertainment a new station was deemed necessary and so built (in later years after the popularity of the grove diminished it was moved to the Seekonk Street crossing area). The Railroad maintained the area as a park with canoes and boats available for all and holding many band concerts at the lake's pavilion.
Mike Deveney ran a training center near the lake, known in later years as the Columbus Outing Club. Many well-known sports figures, mostly boxers and prize fighters trained at the camp. The great John L. Sullivan visited the camp. During the summer months, at Mr. Deveney's expense, or as he preferred to put it, " at my pleasure ", large groups of children from the "slum districts" of Boston were brought out to the lake for a day of games, good food and ice cream.
In 1880 the tax records of show NY&NERR Co. had on site a restaurant, dance hall, 2 auditoriums, a bowling alley, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, a headquarters building, an ice house, stables, bridges and 41 acres of land.
In 1885 there was a restaurant, dance hall, 2 auditoriums, a bowling alley, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, a headquarters building, an ice house, a skating rink, stables, bridges and 41 acres of land.
In 1890 there was a restaurant, dance hall, 2 auditoriums, a bowling alley, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, a headquarters building, an ice house and stables.
In 1895 the location is referred to as "Highland Lake Grove" in the tax records and there was a restaurant, dance hall, 2 auditoriums, a bowling alley, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, a headquarters building, an ice house and stables.
In 1905 there was a restaurant, an auditoriums, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, stables, , a tool house, a lock up, a judges stand, a summer house, a bath houseand a shooting gallery, bridges and 52 acres of land.
The Highland Lake Grove was a site to behold with a long covered wooden bridge spanning an arm of the lake, topped with a cupola flying the stars and stripes and with HIGHLAND LAKE GROVE. painted in large, bold letters from one end of the covered roof to the other. In its heyday at the turn of the century Highland Lake Grove boasted not only the long bridge but also the likes of a bowling alley, check room, dance hall, skating rink, restaurant, 16 lap track, boat wharf, 1/4 mile track, baseball diamond, pavilion, summer houses, and separate swimming holes and spring activity areas, in addition to the picnic grounds. There was a merry-go-round and quite a few amusements and even a saloon "Hovey's at Highland Lake". This was no small operation predating Disneyland by over half a century and even Paragon Park, Revere Beach and Norumbega Park by a few years. Little does one realize in passing the area today that thousands of people once viewed this area as their great escape - an idyllic lakeside retreat where they could enjoy recreational activities or just relax and be entertained.
Even the President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, stopped at Highland Lake Grove to feast on a gourmet breakfast on his way to Boston on June 26, 1877 - his train stopped there at 8:36 AM at he was greated with loud cheers. His entourage feasted on a breakfast of fish, steak, chicken and lamb before the left for the city at 9:45 AM.
Does the historical commission have any info on Mirror Lake? There have been some old timers down here telling stories that got us all interested. One was that there was an arch at the top of Mirror Lake Ave. and that the pillar on the right that is still there was part of it.
This lake of many names is located near the southern border of town and is divided by the town lines of both Norfolk and Wrentham. The Mirror Lake area in colonial times was meadow and marsh land - very valuable because the farmers could cut hay in meadows in the dry part of the late summer and put it up in their barns for winter feed. The area appears on an 1856 map as Stoney Brook Reservoir and the stream flowing north as Stony Brook. It is later designated as as Marsh Pond on a map dated 1888 and a dam is shown at the head of the brook on the north side along with the sawmill of T. Allen. Next it was labled as Reservoir Marsh Pond on the USGS map of 1893. In approx. 1921 two boys lost their lives in the thick mud while bathing - their bodies were not found for several weeks. A 1924 newspaper clipping refers to it as Marsh Pond Reservoir and notes that Marsh Pond encompassed 65 acres. The pond is described as "not a particularly attractive sheet of water but contains bushes of every description and in some places the mud is of unknown depth. In the Spring the pickeral fishing is the best in this section." "Eels and pout are very abundant" in some parts of the pond. During the 1930s the area was dredged, renamed Mirror Lake and started to be promoted as a summer resort area - a getaway from the city. What a difference 10 years can make.
Ken Cooper who lives at the corner of Mirror Lake Ave. and who worked for the Norfolk Highway Dept. for a number of years notes that the stone pillar proudly stands near his driveway - at one time it had a steel pipe connecting it, in the form of an arch, to a companion pillar that is no longer standing and that archway defined the entrance to Mirror Lake. A small remnant of the pipe can still be seen at the top of the conical point on the pillar. There also was a wooden sign which hung from the arch saying "Welcome to Mirror Lake". The arch was apprently still present at least up until the early 1940s. Note the interesting use and placement of the fieldstone in this pillar the next time you pass by and it will conjure up additional memories of an earlier time when sign posts weren't mass produced and you'll swear you can still see the rope swing that many Norfolkers used to use to launch themselves far out into the lake to plunge into its cool waters on a hot summers day. The roadway for Mirror Lake Ave. was graded very differently in those days as well. It consisted of two lanes for traffic, one coming, one going, with a grassy strip several feet in breadth running between the two. Of additional note, just a bit further down the avenue, was a fire station - Norfolk #2, a mom and pop style grocery store and a dance hall. The store at Mirror Lake was still operating in the 1940s and was owned by Mr. Mariani. A house was later added onto to fire station and up until a few years ago the station still housed a small fire truck. This truuck was later moved to the downtown location of the Norfolk Fire Dept. We'll be posting photos of the current homes in these locations soon. We also may have a lead on some old photos which depict the archway, as well.
Nellie (Nels) Carlson also knew the location of most of the stills that operated in Norfolk and took Ken around with him at one time pointing out these areas and other items of historic interest - so hopefully we'll be getting into a few Norfolk rum running stories as well. In the meantime here's some information from others regarding the history of Mirror Lake.
Greg Stahl, of the Wrentham Historical Commission, recalls that in his youth there were trails that you could easily drive a Jeep over that went from Mirror Lake over to Park St. (where Warren Drive is now - the Burns Poultry Farm) and also from KIng St. through to where present day Longmeadow and Ridgefield are located. This latter trail was called "Fox Trail" and also had a footbridge over the stream that led to get back to Mirror Lake. Greg's wife Irene grew up on Mirror Lake on the Wrentham, Norfolk town line and she still owns her parents house there. Her grandfather had acquired property there in the 1920's. She notes that Mirror Lake was quite a resort in the 40's & early 50's with fishing, cabins and boat rentals. Her Uncle even spent his honeymoon there - still in his uniform, fresh from the war. She also recalls that at the Norfolk end of the lake there was a fire department, a small general store and a dance hall - all within the same block. The fire department and general store are now private homes and the buildings exteriors remain quite similar to their look at that time but the dance hall has been gone for many years. Her understanding is that Mirror Lake was once a field with many springs that were later dammed up to form the small lake that it is today. There are still the original stone walls in two locations that she is aware of. The waters froom the springs were controlled and still are, by a small dam. The stream continued to roll on down to Stony Brook where it helped power the mills. Irene has an original watercolor painting of the Norfolk end of the lake done from a very early photograph, some plot maps and stories from old timers that she will share with us and we'll try to include them here on the web site.
Jackie Rogers of Leesburg, FL was born in North Attleboro, MA but moved to 17 Birch Road in Norfolk when she was five years old. Her Grandfather was Howard Beckwith Piper, whose mother was Carrie Belle Bruce Fairbanks of the Fairbanks House in Dedham. She's an eleventh generation Fairbanks. She is currently compiling information on Mirror Lake and confirms that in the thirties there was a big land promotion in the Mirror Lake area. One man headed up this promotion up and it was heavily advertised in the Boston papers and in those days it was considered a pretty big deal. Jackie hopes to contribute additional information regarding Mirror Lake in the future.
We had some reports that the brook that runs out of Mirror Lake was first named Pine Plain Brook, and the bridge on Union St. was called Hall's Bridge. named after Benjamin Hall who lived in the vicinity of Emerald Street in today's Wrentham. More likely however Pine Plain probably referred to the Wrentham State School grounds, as "plain" in those days was meant to describe open, rerasonably flat, well-drained soil that could be tilled or pastured fairly easily and quickly. Pine Plain Brook instead may be the stream at the foot of the hill on Shears Street below the intersection of Shears and May Streets. It flows out of Lake Archer - once known as Blake's Pond. Hall's Bridge may have been located at Shears Street or Franklin Street spanning the Pine Plain Brook.
A section of Norfolk was once called of all things - Toadville?
Although we don't have a lot of information on Toadville it appears to be a reference to the Mirror Lake area - perhaps hoards of toads enjoyed the marshy, muddy wetlands in the area as described in the 1924 newspaper article quoted above in the Mirror Lake section. If anyone has any additional information re: Toadville please let the NHC know as we're fascinated by the term.
Here's the references we have gleaned from old deeds and such:
- 1899 – Road from Toadville mill (the sawmill at the north end of Marsh Pond) and Stoney Brook Mill
- 1915 – The City Mills Woolen Co. operating at the Bush Pond site was taxed for owning some Toadville dwellings
- 1931 – Road to Toadville
- 1931 – Toadville (Route) Glenwood to Toadville to Dr. Treibles (Farrington/Packard/Hazlett property)
- 1931 – Toadville - Mirror Lake, Norfolk
We have limited information on this locale but it appears to be in the King Street area.
There was a reference to Mosquito Brook in a deed from 1847.
1847 - Road from Lewis Farrington (Union Street-Packard/Hazlett) to John Ware (owned King Street both sides up to Musquito Brook (Note - his house was in the vicinity of the west driveway of K.P. North).
Pondville, Downtown, Abbeyville, Vinegar Hill and Tuckertown still to come...
To be continued...
We are always interested in any information, documents, photos or other items relating to the history of Norfolk and our surrounding areas. If you have information or items regarding the history of your house or any other aspects of life in Norfolk and would like to see them included in these pages - just let us know.