Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

Jan. 6, 2010 – 100th Post!! Ashaway Mills January 6, 2011

So according to my blog dashboard, this is my 100th post on my blog.  Congratulations to me!   I wasn’t really sure how this was going to work out when I started but I’ve enjoyed getting comments from other folks researching my different family branches.  So on to today’s post….

While home at my folks place last fall, I came across this photograph of a mill.  It was together with the photo of Williams Rogers Wells and the workers at the mill he was owner and or superintendent of.  I noticed that the building in the back fo the photo of the men was the same building at the side of the mill.  They are mounted identically on heavy card stock like cardboard/paper and I’m going to hazard to guess they were taken at the same time.     I also realized that I’d seen this mill before and went digging in my postcard collection and came across the postcard of the Wolff Worsted Mill.  I’ve been doing some detailed research on Williams R Wells as of late and have come across the names of many mills that he was identified with but never the Wolff Worsted Mill so I’m guessing that the mill changed names after the time that Williams was there.  The postcard looks to be much newer than the photo so that seems plausible. 

Here I’m going to refer back to the article I talked about in my block on DECEMBER 30, 2010 detailing the history of the Bethel Mill of Ashaway, RI.  The article was from the newspaper “The Pawtucket Times” and was dated Nov. 3rd, 1899.  I’m not going to repost the whole article.  If you want to read it, go look at the 12-10-2010 post for that.  What I’m interested in here is this excerpt:

“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.”

Is this “commodious office building” the building that they are standing in front of in the picture, the one next to the mill????  If so, that would make this the Bethel Mill.

This is where I reach out to you.  Do you have any pictures of the Bethel Mill? or do you know what mill is pictured below?  If so, please leave a comment and let me know. 

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2 Responses to “Jan. 6, 2010 – 100th Post!! Ashaway Mills”

  1. Kris VanDenBossche Says:

    Hi Jennifer!

    Your photographs show the factory property known long ago as Bethel (64 High St., Ashaway) around 1905. The property, most recently the factory of the Thames River Tube Co., sold at auction this past year for a little over $170,000. In your photos, the portion of the building to the left of the main factory was built about 1849 and was taken down sometime in the 1910s. The main factory building in the views is still there, though substantially altered, but the little office is long gone.

    The newspaper article in your 12/30/10 posting includes the basic facts of the Bethel factory. Here are a few more details it. The property belonged to Thompson Wells in the late 18th century and was part of a larger farm that extended into the present day town of North Stonington. The tract included a dwelling house built by the Wells family that still stands on Anthony Road in North Stonington. William Arnold of Cumberland and Westerly RI acquired a small portion of this tract (6 1/2 acres) and established a blacksmith shop along the Ashaway River in 1816. He may have raised a dam at the site about 1816. (The previous owner of the parcel, Joseph Dodge Jr., may have made some of these improvements even before that date., but they aren’t mentioned in the land evidence records.) William Arnold briefly manufactured scythes and perhaps other agricultural tools there but sold out to Zebulon Stillman in 1822. Stillman may have occupied the property even before 1820. He likely continued operating the blacksmith shop there and probably also manufactured wagons on the site (he produced 12 wagons in 1820). He sold the property to Jacob D. Babcock in 1829. Babcock raised up a new dam at this site (perhaps the first dam) in 1836 and apparently also built a small factory there, at which time the locale acquired the name of Bethel. Since he was already operating a machine shop and factory across from his house in Temperance Valley (the present day Ashaway mill seat), Babcock leased the property to other manufacturers in the 1840s (including Rowse Babcock III and John T. Knowles). The factory burned in 1848, and Jacob D. Babcock built a new factory there before 1850. By that date, the property included also two tenement houses, a dye house, a cloth shop, and a blacksmith shop. He leased the property in 1850 to the firm of Babcock & Stillman (Asher M. Babcock and Welcome Stillman). They operated a woolen factory at Bethel for the better part of the next two decades (Welcome Stillman alone in later years).

    You already know about the Wells’ involvement in the factory in the years following the Civil War. As I mentioned above, the portion of the building at left in your photos (with the clerestory monitor roof) is the 1849 factory. The larger building at right was likely built at the turn of the 20th century, when the Ashaway Manufacturing Co. acquired the plant. In the early and mid 20th century, the Bethel factory was operated by the Wolff Worsted Co. and the Stillwater Manufacturing Co. I have similar photos of the factory as you do but none pre-dating 1900.

    –Kris VanDenBossche, Ashaway RI

  2. […] Located at approximately 58 High Street in Ashaway, I discovered the location of Williams Rogers Wells’ mill.   I did a post about it a while back.  Here is the link to it: https://wellsgenealogy.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/jan-6-2010/ […]


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