Yes, I know, it’s been some time since my last post. I’m in the process of moving to a new apartment. I’ve been working on genealogy projects pretty steady but not on my own family much. I’ve had some clients from my genealogical research business ( www.FamilyHistoryDetectives.net ) and also been helping my friend Jim on his family tree. It’s funny when you trace the family tree of one of your oldest friends and find out your 13th cousins! Especially when I grew up in New York and he grew up in Kentucky, we both now live in Orlando and our common ancestry lived in England.
It would be untrue to say that I haven’t been working on my family history at all. I’ve been working on the German side of the family. Filling in the blanks of the family in Bavaria.
Today when I logged into my blog, I had a post from someone in response to a post I did back at the end of 2010 about the Wells family and the Bethel Mill. Kris from Ashaway had some nice details to add to my entry. Thanks Kris for the great information. I love to get comments on my blog. Lets me know someone out there is really reading all this stuff I write! Here is what Kris had to say:
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, Ashaway RI