Grace Greylock Niles.

The Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history online

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several hundred men the year round at mills, on boats, and
Fish Creek weirs. Myriads of herring swarmed up to Lake
Saratoga in the spring, and shad and sturgeon were abundant
in the Hudson. The Hoosac farmers made annual excur-
sions to Fish Creek and with the aid of scoop-nets literally
loaded their wagons with enough herring to salt down a
year's supply.

Every farmer up to the opening of the War of 18 12 also
sowed a small flax-field a few rods square and produced his
household linen. The flax was allowed to rot slightly in the
field, after which it was prepared by a hand-break, or swingle-
knife, for the hetchel. This rough machine separated the
tow from the fine flax, the latter being wound on a distaff
and spun into threads on the little wheel, and the former was
spun into warp and tow on the large wheel used for men's
clothing and sacking for grain.

Philip Schuyler engaged several Scotch-Irish artisans from
Glasgow, Londonderry, and Dublin in his famous linen-mill
at Schuylerville, and described the mechanical arts of the
machinery employed, in a paper read before the Society for
the Promotion of Arts in America. According to Lossing's
Life of Philip Schuyler, he was awarded a medal and a vote
of thanks for executing so useful a design in the Province.
After the Declaration of Independence of the United States,
July 4, 1776, premiums were offered for the best woollen
cloth manufactured in this country. The first prize of $40
was won by Scott Woodward of Old Cambridge, N. Y. ;



Industries during Stage-Coach Days 437

and the second prize of $35 was awarded to Adam Cleveland
of Salem, N. Y.

After the close of the Revolution in 1783, five mill-centres
rose about the sites of the old forts in Hoosac Valley: at
Hart's Falls in Schaghticoke ; at Pumpkin Hook in Cam-
bridge; at Falls Quequick, now Hoosac Falls, N. Y.; at
Bennington on the upper Walloomsac in Vermont ; at North
Adams and Adams on the upper Hoosac in Massachusetts.

Several proprietors of the upper Hoosac and Walloomsac
towns pushed down the Valley to Hoosac, Cambridge,
Schaghticoke, Mechanicsville, Lansingburgh, and Cohoes
mill-centres. Jethro Wood, son of the New Bedford Quaker,
Isaac Wood of White Creek, patented the first iron mould-
board plough in this country, which was later manufactured
by his kinsman, Walter Abbott Wood, at Hoosac Falls, The
McNamaras' shop, known as March's factory on the Upper
Falls of the Walloomsac, turned out scythes and grain-cradles,
until the time when Walter Abbott Wood manufactured
mowing and reaping machines, after which the scythe mill
was converted into Orr's wall-paper mill.

In Old Cambridge, at an early day, John Rhodes opened
the first clothing-mill; Stephen Kellogg ran a fiax-mill;
Leonard Darby, a gun-shop; Glass, a clock and comb fac-
tory; John Allen, a hat factory; Sylvanus Tabor, a mitten
factory; Paul Cornell, George Mann, Noah and Robert
Wilcox all operated trip-hammers and turned out scythes
and agricultural implements; Edward Hurd manufactured
axes; Aaron Vail ran a rope factory; Garner Wilkinson
turned out scythe-snaths and handles; and Edward Aiken
later opened a wagon and coach factory.

At the opening of 1800 an extensive wheat and flax
industry was carried on in Cambridge by Frank Crocker.
He also opened a distillery for the manufacture of brandy
at Pumpkin Hook, and Jacob and Benjamin Merritt became



438 The Hoosac Valley

the leading merchants near the Forks of White Creek Road.
Their annual trade in wheat, hauled to Troy warehouses,
netted them $50,000. Palmer and Shrive ran a flax-mill
near St. Croix Bridge, and other mills were built in Nepimore
and Mapleton hamlets, and in the Hoosac and Little Hoosac
passes of Pownal, Petersburgh, and Berlin.

The Tomhannac and Owl Kill intervales of Pittstown and
Cambridge, owing to the olive shale soil, produced a rich
yield of flax, rye, and flower seeds. In an analysis of the
Pittstown clay soil is found an excess of potash mica. Rye
and flax straw contains about 22y-oV % potash. The
natural affinity of the soil provided flax enough to keep
seventeen flax-mills busy until the introduction of the cotton
industry in 1810, and the region is famous for its rye flelds,
flower seed, and gladiolus bulb culture to-day. The flne
grade of red, brown, yellow, and purple ochres of the olive
shale region of Hoosac Lake District, led to the founding of
the Grafton paint and putty mills about half a century ago.

The vegetable and flower-seed culture of Old Cambridge
N. Y., was founded between 1816 and 1836 by Simeon
Crosby and Sons, who in 1844 sold their interest to R. Niles
Rice and Son, now one of the largest business enterprises
in the Owl Kill Valley. The famous gladiolus fields of
Meadowvale Farm in Berlin, N. Y., on the upper Little
Hoosac were established by Arthur Cowee about fifteen
years ago. To-day over 15,000 varieties of this twentieth-
century flower are displayed in Cowee 's hundred-acre fields,
which are considered the finest in the world.

The Hart's Falls mill-centre in Schaghticoke, N. Y., was
founded before the opening of 1800 by the miller. Hart, near
the "Big-Eddy." The Boston capitalists, Benjamin and
Charles Joy, opened a linen-duck mill, wool-carding and
clothing manufactory on the north bank of the "Big-Eddy"
of the Hoosac in 1800. Four years later, they advertised




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Online LibraryGrace Greylock NilesThe Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history → online text (page 30 of 41)