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Legacy of Progress
Gone Sour

How a Renewal Project Destroyed Moodus Center

Part 1: The Grand Plan

Part 2: Renewal Flops

Part 3: Might Have Beens

Resorts of Moodus

When Moodus Was Connecticut's Playground

Resort List & Pictures

A Day at Banner Lodge

Old Ads & Flyers

1950s Banner Brochure

1950s Hilton's Brochure

Orchard Mansion Lessons

Mills Along the River

How Moodus Became the "Twine Capital of America"

A Maritime Success

Ed Stolarz Made the Best Nets in East Haddam

Burning the Coops

The Simon Farm Disappears

Memories of Meat

Coming of Age at Bury's

The Last Whaler

E. Haddam's Captain Comer

Old Chimney Stacks

The First Families in Town 

East Haddam History

As Told in 1913

Early Views of Town

How It Looked Back Then

Ode to East Haddam

"It's just the place to live""


Factors That Contributed to
Industrialization in Moodus

Local Yankee Businessmen Built the Mills"

The major factor that contributed to the rise of a mill industry in Moodus during the early 19th century was the presence of local businessmen who embodied a "Yankee blend" of self-reliance, mechanical know-how and inventiveness, business acumen, and practicality. From 1819 to 1865, local manufacturers (would-be and actual') built a total of 15 mills on the Moodus River, averaging one mill constructed every three years. None of these men where rich or well born. Most were not college educated. Most of them learned about the twine industry in their youth when they had worked in other mills and, seeking independence and realizing an opportunity existed in Moodus along the river, borrowed money, incorporated, and built their mills.

The rise of industrialism in Moodus was affected by political action on both the state and national level. The War of 1812, which established a British blockade and an American embargo, resulted in the nation taking the first step to become independent of foreign manufacturers. The Republican Party supported the development of this economic independence with the passage of further protective tariffs in 1816 and 1828. In Connecticut the General Assembly in 1817 exempted cotton and woolen factories from taxation for four years and their workers from the poll tax and militia service.' America was a young country, growing, prospering, testing her frontiers and realizing that the potential for growth and prosperity were without limit. Moodus shared in this enthusiasm for success.

Moodus presented an ideal location for the development of industry because, in addition to the aforementioned human resource, Moodus had the requisite water power (Moodus River), was located on a major waterway (Connecticut River), had the necessary skilled and unskilled labor (both native Yankee and immigrant), and had investment capital and bank credit available.

The Moodus River empties into the Salmon River at the Cove in Johnsonville. Although it certainly is not a big river (it more closely approximates a stream. The word "river" is loosely applied in this case), the river bed declines approximately three hundred feet in three miles, and its power was easily harnessed by dams and waterwheels The land adjoining the river was, at this time, unimproved, and there were many available sites for mill development.

Primary among any manufacturer's concerns is access to a means of easy and rapid transportation. Raw materials must be shipped to the factory, and the finished products must be transported on time to the customers. Nearness to a major avenue of transportation holds down the cost of receiving and shipping. During the years prior to the building of railroads and highways, waterways were the main arteries for commerical traffic. In central Connecticut the Connecticut River was the passageway from local towns to New York City and beyond. Moodus' location as a Connecticut River town meant that raw cotton from New York wharves could be delivered on a regular schedule to Goodspeed Landing, and that the steamboats, on their return voyages, could transport the finished goods from Moodus to selling agents in the City. Twice a day teams of horses and yokes of oxen made the round trip journey from the mills to the Landing .4 All the mills had warehouses for the storage of raw cotton which were located near the mills. The owners always tried to stockpile enough cotton to last them through the winter because, when the river froze, the steamers were unable to make their deliveries. Even after the building of the Valley Railroad, mill owners still found that this practice of stockpiling cotton was more cost effective than transporting by rail during the winter.

The Moodus cotton mills concentrated primarily on manufacturing three different products: yarn, duck, and twine. It was very common for a mill to switch products two or three times. This was no small task, requiring expenditures of time and money to either convert machinery or procure new machines. Frequently, the transfer to a new product was initiated by the sale of the mill to a new owner who was more aware of changing markets and consumer demand.

Four mills manufactured cotton yarn between 1819 and 1881. The Granite Mill made yarn from 1819 until it was destroyed by fire in 1849. The Smith Mill twice manufactured yarn: first, briefly, from 1823 until 1825, and then from 1866 until 1881. The Neptune Mill made yarn from 1832 until 1900, and the Chace Mill from 1848 until 185 1. The Granite and Smith Mills also installed power looms and wove the yarn into cloth and shirtings In 1821 looms were installed in the Granite Mill, and the Smith Mill wove shirtings from 1824 until 1845.5

During the age of the tall ships, cotton duck was in heavy demand for use as sail cloth. The First World War also increased the demand for duck. It was manufactured in Moodus by five mills from 1845 until approximately 1920. The Granite Mill twice produced duck, from 1852 until 1869 and from 1901 until 1920. The Smith Mill made duck from 1845 until 1866. The Chace Mill manufactured duck from 1902 until 1920. The Atlantic Mill was in the business from 1852 until 1894, and the Williams Mill produced duck from 1855 until approximately 1920 .6

Twine, however, was the major product of Moodus involving, at one time or another, all twelve mills. The twine was sold either as cord or made directly into fish nets. Four companies manufactured fish netting; Brownell & Company produced seine twine from 1844 until 1977, the New York Net & Twine Company made fish nets in the Falls Mill from 1865 until 1904, the National Net & Twine Company manufactured fish nets in the Old Williams Mill from about 1920 until 1932, and Harper Boies made seine twine exclusively from 1881 until his death in 1888 in the Old Smith Mill (which was known at this time as the Boies Mill).

The Falls Mill introduced the first mechanical netting machine to Moodus. The machine tied multiple knots and greatly increased the speed of production. The New York Net & Twine Company was extremely proud of this new machine and, in a move considered a violation of Moodus' spirit of neighborly co-operation among millowners, secreted the machine on the fourth floor of the mill in a room which was kept locked at all times.,, Since Moodus manufacturers were not given to industrial spying, this move seems a tad extreme.

Two Moodus mills, the Moodus Net & Twine and National Net & Twine, manufactured gill nets which they sold to fishermen in New England and around the Great Lakes. The system of advertising and marketing their product was quite simple. These mills employed salesmen who brought samples to the docks and wharves and took orders from individual fishermen. At times the salesman representing a company might just happen to be the owner of the mill. Crary Brownell, owner of Brownell & Company, the parent company of Moodus Net & Twine, would frequently travel to Maine, maritime New England, Great Lakes, and Puget Sound visiting customers and carrying samples of his wares in the age-old tradition of the Yankee peddler.

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A Moodus Mill Tour

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Red Mill Dam
Water power for the mills.

Granite-mill.jpg (24804 bytes)
A Tour of the MIlls
Once 12 mills, now only one. 

The fisherman's helper.

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Neptune Twine
1898 Check
Paying for power.

A Mill Sales Tool

The world's best twine.



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SimonPure Productions
P.O. Box 459, Moodus, CT 06469    E-mail us    860.873.3328
Last modified: September 03, 2012