Worcester Brothers Mill

Worcester Mill

Water Source


The History of the Worcester Brothers Mill is well told in Where the Past Has Been Preserved and was the subject of an elementary school project with reprints available from the Heritage Commission and the Historical Society.  The site of the mill was given to the Town of Hollis by Martha Bell Rogers and Nancy Bell Bliden, direct descendents through their mother Helen Worcester. 


The history of the Worcester Brothers Mill and the “Beehive” on Main Street, 1875, where the workers lived, the connection of the Worcesters to “the Cranford Inn/The Block” on Main (see Historic District) is related in Hollis Family Album and in materials at the Historical Society. )  This history also relates the contributions of the members of the family to the town, the state and Congress in various ways.   A painting of Franklin Worcester can be seen at the Hollis Library, Samuel T. Worcester wrote a definitive history of the Town. Another Worcester was a founder of the American Board of Foreign Missions (see information at the Hollis Congregational Church). 



From Hollis Times January 1913


The burning of Worcester Brothers mill on Thursday night, January 16, 1913 removes the last of several mills on Rocky Pond Brook.


Nathen Colburn, Grandfather of Deacon E. J. Colburn, built the first about 1775 at a point where the highway from Hollis to Brookline crosses the stream from Rocky Pond. The highway crosses on this old dam and it is said that Mr. Colburn received $300.00 from the town for improving the road at that place. Part of the old flume timbers can still be seen. The equipment consisted of an up‑and‑down saw.


Mr. Colburn lived on the hillside just west of the brook. He sold out to Samuel Merrill who, in turn, sold to Samuel Perkins. In his younger days Kilburn Perkins ran the mill.


Control of the mill passed into the hands of Edward Emerson and it was operated until about 1865 ‑ nearly a century.


About 1850 Mr. Emerson built another dam and mill half way from the first to the pond. A portion of the old stone work can be seen from the highway. This also had an upright saw and, in addition, facilities for making pickets, shingles, laths and staves. The mill was in operation in 1851. James Farley, Jr., Mansfield Center, Ezra Wright and the Pond brothers were among the sawyers working for Mr. Emerson. Business in this section was so brisk that houses were built nearby. One of these houses was later moved to Hollis Village and is now one of the pleasant houses on Main Street. The mill was finally taken down, the lumber turned into dwelling houses.


After Mr. Emerson removed his interest, activities diminished at these sites, only to increase business at the Hale mill which was about one quarter mile downstream.


In 1847 Luke Hale began the dam and completed his mill three years later. At first one up‑and‑down saw was installed. Later on a second saw was added. The two worked alternately both run from the square shaft; so that, when one went up, the other went down. The logs coming into the mill came between the two carriages. Finding that there was plenty of fall below the water wheel, Mr. Hale placed another wheel several feet down stream joining the other two with a chain belt. The chain was forged at the old blacksmith shop which stood nearly opposite Robinson Crusoe's present house. In this mill were also saws for manufacturing clapboards, shingles, and staves and a machine for cutting shingles.


There were at one time fourteen up‑and‑down sawmills in operation in Hollis. Three of them were within a distance of a half mile on this brook.


Wishing to make extensive repairs, Mr. Hale removed the two water wheels, blasted a wheel pit from the solid rock and put in an overshot wheel nearly 20 feet in diameter. He remodeled the mill putting in a large circular saw, which was the first of its kind in Hollis.


Andrew Willoby, Mr. Perkins, Warren Read, E.J. Colburn, Luke Baldwin, Charles Willoby, Henry Smith, and the Worcester brothers have in succession been interested in the property on this site. The mill was burned in June 1890 and rebuilt by the Worcester brothers two years later.


The mill destroyed on January 16 had just been put in excellent condition for the year's work. It could be run by both steam and water power and contained machines for producing a large amount of boards, staves, heading and dressed lumber. The loss was felt very keenly by many operatives who were depending on their work there and by the town, which had received many benefits from the taxes and generosity of the proprietors.


Continuing down the stream through "The Old City" and west of Proctor Hill to the highway from Pepperell to Brookline, one finds the remains of the old dam of the Ephraim Hardy mill. His saw mill of the up­and‑down type, stood on the north side of the road and it is many years since it was in operation. Across the road stood his blacksmith shop with a triphammer run by water power. As late as 1855 the Hollis farmers took their iron work to Ephraim Hardy, as his large hammer furnished extraordinary advantages. He made wrought Iron plowshares and pod augurs and shaves, axes, hatchets, adz and other edged tools. Some of these bore the mark "E. Hardy" and are in use to the present day.


The stream which had its source in Rocky Pond at en elevation of 450 feet drains the slope of Birch Hill and the Perkins hills, flows in a southerly direction and empties into the Nissitisset River in the Southeast corner of Brookline.”