is a village in the town of East Haddam, Connecticut, called Moodus,
where for a century and a half the people manufactured cotton twine.
Only a few of the twelve cotton mills that were built along the banks of
the narrow Moodus River during the first half of the last century
remain. Nine are gone now, victims of fire and abandonment. Of the
surviving three, two are owned by the Brownell Company, the sole
remaining mill in town, and the third has been vacant for at least
twenty years, its last inglorious use being as a chicken coop.
Newcomers to the village today would not realize the
enormous changes which have reshaped the physical character and collective identity of
Moodus during the last 50 years. The town does not look the same: the bells in the mill
towers no longer summon their neighbors to work, the mill ponds no longer attract young
swimmers or skaters, the bales of raw cotton no longer serve to connect New England
millhands with the agricultural fields of the South or the great maritime fleets of
Massachusetts or the Great Lakes. However, there are people still living in town who
remember the mills, and who understand their significance to the history of Moodus.
The mills are not the only buildings absent from this village landscape,
the very town itself was razed by the bulldozers of urban redevelopment during the late
1960's and early 1970's and a new "shoppping center" built a quarter mile up the
street. Redevelopment only served, however, to destroy one of the last tangible links the
townspeople had with their mill past, for in the process of destroying the stores the
wrecker's ball also demolished a 120 year old mill built of solid granite, and several
nineteenth century houses which had been the homes of Moodus mill owners. The natural
course of the Moodus River, the motive force which powered the cotton mills, was altered
so as to conform to new road patterns, and the old mill dams, built by hand of stone and
timber, were carelessly broken by the machines of the construction company which then
filled in the ponds with dirt.
The Moodus of the 1980's is a growing, changing community. New families
are moving into the town. But to some it is a slow and sad transition as the sons and
daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of the immigrants who came to work in the mills
pass on, that community which knew the hustle and bustle of the Moodus mills is replaced
by out-of-towners who have limited knowledge of the town's past and accept the town for
the bedroom community it is today.
What follows is the story of the men and women of Moodus who built the
mills, invented the machines, emigrated to America to work in the mills, and prospered
together as they built a community upon the promise of this land.