Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Nilus River Mills

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Nilus River Mills

James Johnson's Grant

On the 19th of April, 1679, "upon the motion of James Johnson, the town gave him liberty to set up a grist and fulling mill upon Nilus River, and to make a convenient dam or dams, provided he shall not draw down water in hay-time to damnifie any man's meadow or hay that lies upon ye meadows upon that river in any place below; upon the penalty of hone hundred pounds; provided also, that if the said mill be not built and finished within two years, then his grant is to be void, and the land to remain as it now is, in the hands of the town."

Tuck's Mills

At a town meeting, September 17, 1686, upon motion of John Tuck, the town voted to give him liberty to set up a grist and fulling mill on Nilus river, on conditions precisely like those imposed on James Johnson, seven years before; whence it seems probable that Johnson did not build. The gristmill was built, and perhaps a fulling-mill; but it was soon found that the water power was not sufficient to run the two mills by the same dam; for, at a town meeting, November 14, 1689, Mr. Tuck was allowed to make a dam where Nilus comes out of Hasica meadow, [Properly, Hassocky meadow:p. 146, note.] and set up his fulling-mill there on nearly the same conditions as his former grant, the mill to be fit to go and to full cloth in two years; and he was not to full cloth, nor draw down water to do damage in hay time. The mill was built a few rods west of the road leading to Little River village, in what is now called the dam-pasture; and was afterwards owned by Lieut. William Stanford. It has been gone many years; but traces of the dam remained in 1867, when it was rebuilt, and a shingle mill erected and put in operation. This has since been taken down.

Nilus river, or brook, did not at all seasons furnish sufficient water to keep the gristmill in operation, and another grant was afterward [December 29, 1709] made to Mr. Tuck, allowing him, so far as the town had a right to do it, to turn the springs near where Thomas Sleeper formerly lived, [On Shaw's Hill.] and also the spring at Alder meadow, [p. 146. note.] into the pond by his gristmill, for the term of twenty years, provided that he should improve every opportunity to grind corn for the inhabitants of the town for the sixteenth part thereof; and further engage to grind three days in a week, when there was sufficient water. On the town's part it was agreed, that, if there should be a further grant of these springs after the expiration of twenty years, Mr. Tuck should have the offer of them on as favorable terms as any other person.

The springs first named are those in the tract of ground known as "Spring-heads," lying between Nook Lane and the Little River road. The natural outlet of these springs is through the Nook run into Dow's river; but by means of a dam, usually called the foot-dam, across this outlet near the springs, the water is easily turned into the mill pond already mentioned.

From Alder meadow there were originally two outlets. Nilus brook, which runs easterly through the meadow, carries off the water from most of the springs; but those in the north part of the meadow had an outlet running northerly into Little river, which is less than half a mile distant from the meadow. By a dam across this outlet, the water from all the springs could be turned into Nilus brook, and made serviceable to any mills farther down that stream. The dam constructed at this place was called the little dam; and, though the dam itself has long been gone, the place where it was built, and the land near it still bear that name.

In 1735 the proprietors of the First Division voted, "that the water of Sleeper's Spring shall half run down the natural way to where carts go over the Nook Run, and the other half run into Tuck's ditch to the pond, forever; and none who hereafter have the lots the springs run through shall ever hinder the same."

Early in the present century, Tuck's gristmill had come into the possession of Reuben Lamprey, who sold it to Moses Leavitt. In 1815 Mr. Leavitt took down the old mill, which had become dilapidated, and built a new one, which he and his sons operated. Subsequently, Mr. Leavitt gave the mill to his eldest son, Jonathan, whose widow controlled it till her death, in 1885. It is now owned by Mr. Joel Jenkins, a summer resident, as a part of his estate, and is not in use.

Dam Pasture Mill

On the 4th of September, 1693, at the same time with the grants for two of the Little River mills, another grant for a sawmill was made, on like conditions, to several persons combined together for the purpose of building and operating a mill on Nilus brook, between Alder meadow and Bear swamp. Their mill was built in the Dam pasture -- then considered as a part of Bear swamp -- and stood a little eastward of the wall between this pasture and the Twelve Shares, a few rods from the place where Nilus issues from Alder meadow. Though no traces of any mill or dam can now be discovered, and nothing to show their exact situation, yet some aged persons, who have died within the last thirty years, well remembered when the paths from the different parts of the woodland around, all tending towards the same spot, plainly indicated the locality of the old mill-yard. Dea. Jeremiah Hobbs, two or three years before his death, at the age of ninety, in 1863, pointed out the site of the mill and dam, as above indicated.
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