A walk through Hughesdale's industrial past

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Dan Brown and I ended our wandering around town on Jan. 12, 2008, by visiting Hughesdale.

We were hoping to view the wonderful industrial artifacts that are located here on the Goss property. We knocked on the door of the Goss house, and as luck would have it, Doug Goss was home and graciously gave his permission to explore his property.

I had visited the property a few times before, when Jim Goss, Doug’s grandfather, was still alive. I had not been back in a number of years, though, and it was a first time visit for Dan. After talking to Doug for a few minutes, we excitedly set off to view the mill locations. We crossed a small, modern wooden bridge that spans Dry Brook, which supplied water to the three mill sites that were active here within a few hundred years of each other. Almost immediately we saw one of the stone vats that were used in the chemical works (Hughesdale Dye and Chemical Company and the Glendale Chemical Company) that were located here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The vats may even date to the earlier New England Print Works that operated here in the mid-19th century. There are seven of these granite vats in total. All but one of them (the odd one is square with a bowl-shaped depression) are rectangular, ranging in size from 6 feet long to 9½ feet long. The walls of the vat, which resemble old-time watering troughs, are quite thick, up to about eight or 10 inches, and the interior height of the vats is 2 feet or so. As near as I can tell, these structures were used for dying cloth, mixing chemicals, or both. They are fantastic artifacts, and to find them in their original location is, I am sure, a very rare occurrence.

At this lower mill site is an earth and stone dam which forms a reservoir behind it. Water from the reservoir both powered the mill and provided water that was needed in the industrial process. The dam seems to be in good shape, and helps to frame part of what is a very picturesque location.

We left the lower dam and walked west 200 or 300 yards until we came to the area of the middle mill site, which was destroyed in a spring freshet that roared down Dry Brook in 1868. The flood destroyed all three dams in Hughesdale. The lower and upper dams were rebuilt, but this middle dam never was. Dan and I saw remnants of the dam as well as a beautifully constructed stone spillway at the end of the raceway which was built to bypass the arm and provide power to the textile mill that operated here until 1868.

Thomas Hughes, whose house still stands nearby on Central Avenue, owned all the property which included these three mille sites. At the time of 1868 flood, Hughes rented the middle site to Thomas Prey who produced textiles there.

Thomas’s son, Theodore, who succeeded him in ownership of the business in 1884, ran the chemical works until it burned in 1914. Only an ice house at the upper dam remained after the fire. The outline of the ice house can still be seen.

We never made it to the upper mill site, which today includes the dam, the reservoir, and some stone ruins. Our time in Hughesdale was fun, linking us briefly to our town’s industrial history. We look forward to our next visit.

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