While searching genealogybank.com for records on Williams Rogers Wells (my great-grandfather) I came across this interesting newspaper article that had a history of the Bethel Mill where Williams worked. I’ve become interested in the mills of the area as it seems that Williams and his father Jonathan were very involved in the Mill businesses of the area.
Here is the article and a transcription of it below: Pawtucket Times 1899-11-03 WM R Wells and Mill
The Pawtucket Times, November 3, 1899
The woolen mill at Bethel, a small hamlet about a half-mile north of Ashaway, has changed hands and will soon be in operation.
Since 1816, when William Arnold built a small building on the site now occupied by the present structure, where he manufactured scythes there has been a manufacturing plant located on that spot. Mr. Arnold continued to operate the plant until Zebulon Stillman purchased the property and proceeded to manufacture and repair wagons.
In 1829 the property again changed hands, J.D. Babcock becoming the owner, and the building was enlarged and the manufacture of carding machines engaged in. A few years later the property was leased by Rowse Babcock and John Knowles, who manufactured yarn and sent it out in the surrounding country to farmers’ wives to be woven by them into cloth as was the custom of the smaller mills of that time. Babcock & Knowles continued to run the mill until 1848, when it was destroyed by fire.
Immediately after the destruction of the mill, J.D. Babcock erected a building 32×79 feet with a basement, two stories and an attic, which was leased by Asher Babcock and Welcome Stillman, who equipped it with machinery, and for a long period manufactured woolen goods. This firm was succeeded by T.R. Wells & Co, who were later succeeded by W.R. Wells, who made extensive alterations and improvements, putting in an electric light plant and erecting a commodious office building.
Seeing a chance to dispose of a larger output a large weave shop was erected, but at the time it was completed the firm was forced to the wall and the property passed into the hands of the mortgagees, the Pawcatuck Savings Bank holding the mortgage on the real estate and P.S. Barber the mortgage on the machinery.
Early in the present year (1899) New York parties made arrangements to purchase the property, but backed out before the deal was effected and in August the Ashaway Woolen Company bought the plant and are making preparations to put the machinery in operation some time in December.
A large force of men are engaged in putting in a new dam, while a new flume and water wheel are already in position. The property is about five miles from the railroad, but the roads are excellent. The concern will expend about $12,000 in repairing and equipping the mil land will manufacturer worsteds.
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