Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Taylor's River Mills

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Taylor's River Mills

The first Sawmill

Nothing is found in the town records or elsewhere, so are as we know, to show that any sawmill was built here till bout twenty years after the settlement of the town. While the houses were built of logs, sawed lumber was used only to a very limited extent. What was indispensable could be cut with a whip-saw, though not without much labor. When the log house gave place to a framed building, sawmills became a necessity.

The first sawmill in the town, of which we have any account, was undertaken by Robert Page. The town granted him liberty to set up his mill at a convenient place on Taylor's river, and for his encouragement, gave him a clump of pines on the North side of Mr. DAlton's farm, and also allowed him to take timber from the commons, to saw at his mill, for his own benefit. Page, in consideration of the favor granted, gave the town a bond, in the sum of one hundred pounds, that he or his assigns would build the mill, and have it in readiness for sawing lumber "by Michaelmas come twelvemonth" (September 29, 1658); and that he would then furnish boards for three shillings per hundred, as fast as he could, taking in payment any merchantable articles at price current; provided, however, that no man should receive more than one thousand feet at a time, "till every man that stands in need shall have the like successively, one after another." This arrangement was confirmed by vote, at a town meeting, held February 26, 1657, and accepted by Robert Page. Not long after, the town by vote, extended the time for the completion of the mill, one yer, on condition that the contractor would give up William Marston, the carpenter he had employed, so that the town might have his services in fitting up a house for Rev. Timothy Dalton, he having sold his homestead to the church and town, for a parsonage. [p. 362.]

This mill was probably on the site occupied, in later years, by Coffin's gristmill, which was burned in 1876.

Removal of Sawmill

On the 16th of December, 1680, the town voted that the owners of the old sawmill "have liberty to remove said mill, or rebuild it, at a convenient place, further up Taylor's river, but below the mouth of the Great Swamp run (Bride Hill mill stream), provided that the said owners subscribe to such articles as shall be drawn up by the committee now chosen by the town, to wit: Henry Robie, Henry Dow, and Sergt Joseph Dow." The new site was probably about one-fourth miles higher up the river, at a place now known as the upper dam.

Garland's Mill

At a meeting of the freeholders, NOvember 18, 1700, liberty was given to John Garland to build "a corn gristmill" upon Taylor's river, where the first sawmill was built; on condition of his grinding corn for one-sixteenth part thereof; and that he build no dam to do damage to the sawmill first above.

Sawmill moved back

In 1708 John Garland had become one of the ten owners of the sawmill, which they now wished to move back to the old spot, "or near thereabout." They built over the dam, the partners agreeing to share equally in the work and expense, and to use the privilege of the mill by turns, Garland and his heirs not to draw any water for the corn-mill except upon the last third part of every man's turn; "and then, if they don't come to saw, he may draw water for to grind the corn as it comes to mill, if he can." The mill gate was to be kept up through June, July and August, every year. Articles of agreement were signed, January 24, 1709.

Mr. Jacob T. Brown says: " The apparent reason for the removal up stream was that a permanent dam could be built and maintained there very much cheaper than at the lower mill, for the reason that the river at this (the upper) place was narrow and the banks bold and strong. The 'mill privilege,' however, not being nearly as good at the upper dam as at the lower, the latter was rebuilt and the upper site abandoned." After the removal, the two mills stood at the same dam -- the sawmill, on the Falls side of the river, where Brown's sawmill now is, and the gristmill, on the town side.

In 1722 Garland had a gristmill at Winnicut, as appears from the return of a committee, appointed to lay out land to men who had lost their lots in the First North Division, the report being made July 9th, of that year. Five acres of land were laid out to Lieut. John Sherburne, "near ye Mill Pond about seven rod from ye Grist Mill and so bounding on said Pond" &c.

In 1701 there was a sawmill on Winnicut river.

Coffin's Mills

In 1825 Stephen Coffin bought, with other property, the gristmill which, we have seen, was established at the same dam with the old sawmill on Taylor's river. In the intervening time, the two mills probably passed their useful existence, like other mills of the olden days. In 1827 Mr. Coffin deeded the gristmill to his son, Aaron. It was carried away by a spring freshet in 1841, and rebuilt the next fall. It descended to Aiken S. Coffin, son of the last owner, and was by him conveyed to his brother, Sylvanus B. Coffin. In 1865 he enlarged the mill and put in additional machinery for planing and shingle sawing. Later, he erected a large building for a box-factory, with clapboard saw and lath saw. These buildings were sold in 1875, to Arthur T. Wilbur, a box manufacturer, from Massachusetts, who put in steam power. On the 6th of June, 1876, they were burned to the ground, and have never been rebuilt.

Brown's Mill

The "old sawmill" share were bought by Aiken S. Coffin at different times, as he could secure them, till bout the year 1850, he owned the whole property on the Hampton Falls side of the river. This he sold to Mr. Wilbur, at the same time that his brother, Sylvanus B., sold his, on the Hampton side. Up to this time, it was an old-fashioned mill, with an up-and-down saw, run by a flutter wheel, and all the work done in a hard way. Mr. Wilbur put in a circular saw and other modern improvements. After his other mills were burned, he sold his whole property on both side of the river to Jacob T. Brown, of Hampton, taking in exchange a portable steam sawmill, which he removed to Greenland.

Mr. Brown, with whom has become associated his son, under the firm name of J.T. & F.B. Brown, built in place of the old sawmill a new one, eighty-four by twenty-four feet in size, fitted with a Chase turbine wheel, a fifty-four inch inserted chisel-tooth saw, a double-surface planer and matcher, bench saws and all modern appliances of a first class sawmill, which is capable of sawing from eight to ten thousand feet of lumber per day. Mr. Brown says:l "Of old, the mill was sixty feet or more from the bank, and logs, held up by framework, were laid from the bank to the mill. Logs were rolled over these 'stringers,' and lumber carried out by hand over them. The bank, at different times was built out and the stringers shorted, till we, at last, filled in to the mill."

Batchelder's Sawmill

The complete history of this mill privilege is lost. It is probable, however, that it dates back of the separation of the towns, and may justly claim notice among Hampton mills. It is situated on Grapevine Run, which flows into Taylor's river nearly a mile, by a straight line, below Browns' mill; and it is now owned by John Thayer Batchelder, of Hampton Falls, whose father, Moses, built the pre;sent mill, which takes the place of a former mill, built by Moses' father, Dea. David Batchelder. Back of this, we can only learn that it was then an old mill site, which had been owned in the Batchelder family for many years.
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