Here we have a pristine view of the Beaman Mill, later known as the Clarendon Mill, from the opposite side of the Mill Pond. Town founder Ezra Beaman founded the mill in the late 1700s with advice from Samuel Slater, the textile factory tycoon who is known as the “Father of the Industrial Revolution” for his establishment of factories across New England. The Clarendon Mills stood until the reservoir came. Parts of its foundation were not ripped up and are likely still visible beneath the water.
The serenity of this picture echoes the serenity of the reservoir today, as one might enjoy the views from the Old Stone Church of the trees across the water.
Below are some of West Boylston's old mills. The first picture depicts Cowee's Mill perched on a small dam waterfall. The large, white building dotted with windows (featured in the second and third photos, both times on the right) is Rice's Mill. The final mill in these photographs, not shown clearly, is Eli Holbrook's mill and the houses for his workers. Cowee's, Rice's, and Holbrook's were just three of the numerous mills in West Boylston. These three mills were grouped closely together along the Nashua River and had easy access to the town center and railroad.
West Boylston was a mill town in the 19th century. Several mills lined the Quinapoxet River: Cowee's Mill, Clarendon Mills, and Rice's Mill, to name a few. The mills, of course, no longer stand, and their foundations rest at the bottom of the Wachusett Reservoir. Below are photographs of some mill workers. Both photographs depict the workers and families at different mills. The smaller group represents workers from Rice's Mill, while the other photograph unfortunately came without information of specific mill. We must remember the people whose jobs--and lives--were displaced as a result of the incoming reservoir and the collapse of the town's industry.
In spring 1900, there was a flood which damaged property and, as depicted in the picture, the roads. The stone bridge was built in 1846 and wasset to be demolished as the reservoir came in. Nature had a different plan and destroyed the bridge in 1900, months or even years before the State planned to dismantle it. Because it wasn’t worth it to construct a new permanent bridge, a temporary, flimsy wooden bridge crossed the river for the remainder of this road’s history.
These photos remind us that water, though critical to our existence, is one of the most destructive forces we have ever faced. Much like the reservoir which washed away the town, water washed away this bridge and changed the landscape forever.