Fulling Mill

FULLING MILL

Marstons Mills got its name from the Marston fulling mill and its neighboring mills.

A fulling mill was lik a giant washing machine that scrubbed the oil and dirt out of the raw wool, and pounded the loose fibers into a solid mat.

A water wheel turned a horizontal shaft that rotated tippet arms to push twin beams attached to mallets that were as big as a man.

These huge mallets alternately pounded on the wool in a two foot high stock or tub. The racket caused by the pounding hammers was notorious as we know from the fictional tale of Don Quixote who mistook the hideous sound to be tromping of bearded giants.

The solvent added to water in the tub was fuller’s earth, a clay found in abundance at Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard. The Wampanoags used it to launder their blankets and clothes.

After the mill had cleaned the wool and pounded it to an even thickness, the wet cloth was stretched between two horizontal cedar poles, fastened at top and bottom by iron tenterhooks (hence the saying “being on tenterhooks”) We can imagine long fencelike tenteryards on the field and hillside below the mill.

Close by the fulling mill was the carding mill, propelled by the same wheel, where the nap was raised, or teased by teasels, a thistle-like plant pod, and later by metal hooks. Next the cloth was smoothed on a table with razor sharp shears. Then came dye vats, located perhaps where the present pond is.

Marstons Mills fulling mill, authorized in 1687, is one of the earliest in America. It was the second on Cape Cod and in southern Massachusetts, following the Nye mill in Sandwich in 1676.

The first American fulling mill had been started in Rowley in 1643, followed by Watertown 1662, Andover 1673, Ipswich and Salem 1675, and Dedham 1681.

Barnstable town meeting of February 11, 1686/7 gave John Andreas eight or ten acres of upland next to John Goodspeed’s property on the river “to full Cloth provided he set up and keep a fulling mill and full and Dress ye Towns Cloth Upon Reasonable Terms or Prices.”

The property was located on the east side of the Herring River (then called Goodspeed’s), well above today’s Fulling Mill Lane. The river was dammed about where the public footbridge crosses the river to Willow Dell, forming a pond that extended up to where River Road crosses the stream.

A sluiceway fed a mill race below the former Loring Jones house (# 145 River Road) to the mill below the Pierce house (# 105 River Road).

The first miller, John Andreas. may have been a skilled operator from the North Shore, but construction required capital. In 1688. the town gave 8 to 10 acres to ten proprietors of Barnstable, all of them from the north side except for Joseph Crocker of Santuit, and millsite neighbor John Goodspeed. They had to build the mill and maintain it for 20 years, providing the service to any townsperson who brought his raw wool to the site.

The early history of this mill was told by our local historian Vivian Cushing in the bicentennial history, The Seven Villages. By March 1691 the mill was working under Thomas Massey (or Marcy, Macy?), to whom the town gave 5 ½ acres near the mill.

The resident owner of the mill, John Goodspeed’s niece Lydia, married in 1716 Benjamin Marston. He was a third generation carpenter from Salem, who may have rebuilt the fulling mill on the model of those already operating on the North Shore. Before his death in 1769 he had added spinning and weaving machines in buildings below the mill.

Marstons Mills was thus a major industrial village before the American Revolution.

Benjamin Marston, the first Marston in Marstons Mills, left the clothing business and tools to his son Prince Marston, born 1735, who managed the factory until his death in 1775, at the early age of 40. Prince’s son Isaiah was only 18, but he took over the wool manufacturing until 1801 when he moved to Waterville, Maine.where he built a mill.

The operation and ownership of the mill in the early nineteenth century is confused and fragmented. The actual owner operator from 1792 to after 1818 was the clothier John Gallison of Yarmouth. Then, from 1818 to 1829 it was the dyer Robert Francis. At the same time the Marstons were active clothiers, that is, wool manufacturers.

In 1829 the last owner-operator bought a share in the mills. This was Nathaniel Hinckley, the first postmaster of Marstons Mills and store keeper, owner of three grist mills in the area, sheriff and register of probate, ten times representative on Beacon Hill, and wealthy land owner.

The Marstons sold him their share in 1832 , ending more than 115 years of profitable involvement. Hinckley expanded the mill, installing some of the newly invented textile machinery. In 1852 he took on as partner Rufus Churchill who produced cotton batting. The death of Churchill’s son in 1855 ended the operation.

The abandoned factory buildings were probably reused. Derelict remains were washed away in the periodic floods of the river. Today all we see is the marker put by the tercentenary committee at the lower pond, which is today’s Mill Pond at the intersection of Routes 149 and 28, a quarter of a mile downstream from the old fulling mill.

FULLING MILL

Marstons Mills got its name from the Marston fulling mill and its neighboring mills.

A fulling mill was lik a giant washing machine that scrubbed the oil and dirt out of the raw wool, and pounded the loose fibers into a solid mat.

A water wheel turned a horizontal shaft that rotated tippet arms to push twin beams attached to mallets that were as big as a man.

These huge mallets alternately pounded on the wool in a two foot high stock or tub. The racket caused by the pounding hammers was notorious as we know from the fictional tale of Don Quixote who mistook the hideous sound to be tromping of bearded giants.

The solvent added to water in the tub was fuller’s earth, a clay found in abundance at Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard. The Wampanoags used it to launder their blankets and clothes.

After the mill had cleaned the wool and pounded it to an even thickness, the wet cloth was stretched between two horizontal cedar poles, fastened at top and bottom by iron tenterhooks (hence the saying “being on tenterhooks”) We can imagine long fencelike tenteryards on the field and hillside below the mill.

Close by the fulling mill was the carding mill, propelled by the same wheel, where the nap was raised, or teased by teasels, a thistle-like plant pod, and later by metal hooks. Next the cloth was smoothed on a table with razor sharp shears. Then came dye vats, located perhaps where the present pond is.

Marstons Mills fulling mill, authorized in 1687, is one of the earliest in America. It was the second on Cape Cod and in southern Massachusetts, following the Nye mill in Sandwich in 1676.

The first American fulling mill had been started in Rowley in 1643, followed by Watertown 1662, Andover 1673, Ipswich and Salem 1675, and Dedham 1681.

Barnstable town meeting of February 11, 1686/7 gave John Andreas eight or ten acres of upland next to John Goodspeed’s property on the river “to full Cloth provided he set up and keep a fulling mill and full and Dress ye Towns Cloth Upon Reasonable Terms or Prices.”

The property was located on the east side of the Herring River (then called Goodspeed’s), well above today’s Fulling Mill Lane. The river was dammed about where the public footbridge crosses the river to Willow Dell, forming a pond that extended up to where River Road crosses the stream.

A sluiceway fed a mill race below the former Loring Jones house (# 145 River Road) to the mill below the Pierce house (# 105 River Road).

The first miller, John Andreas. may have been a skilled operator from the North Shore, but construction required capital. In 1688. the town gave 8 to 10 acres to ten proprietors of Barnstable, all of them from the north side except for Joseph Crocker of Santuit, and millsite neighbor John Goodspeed. They had to build the mill and maintain it for 20 years, providing the service to any townsperson who brought his raw wool to the site.

The early history of this mill was told by our local historian Vivian Cushing in the bicentennial history, The Seven Villages. By March 1691 the mill was working under Thomas Massey (or Marcy, Macy?), to whom the town gave 5 ½ acres near the mill.

The resident owner of the mill, John Goodspeed’s niece Lydia, married in 1716 Benjamin Marston. He was a third generation carpenter from Salem, who may have rebuilt the fulling mill on the model of those already operating on the North Shore. Before his death in 1769 he had added spinning and weaving machines in buildings below the mill.

Marstons Mills was thus a major industrial village before the American Revolution.

Benjamin Marston, the first Marston in Marstons Mills, left the clothing business and tools to his son Prince Marston, born 1735, who managed the factory until his death in 1775, at the early age of 40. Prince’s son Isaiah was only 18, but he took over the wool manufacturing until 1801 when he moved to Waterville, Maine.where he built a mill.

The operation and ownership of the mill in the early nineteenth century is confused and fragmented. The actual owner operator from 1792 to after 1818 was the clothier John Gallison of Yarmouth. Then, from 1818 to 1829 it was the dyer Robert Francis. At the same time the Marstons were active clothiers, that is, wool manufacturers.

In 1829 the last owner-operator bought a share in the mills. This was Nathaniel Hinckley, the first postmaster of Marstons Mills and store keeper, owner of three grist mills in the area, sheriff and register of probate, ten times representative on Beacon Hill, and wealthy land owner.

The Marstons sold him their share in 1832 , ending more than 115 years of profitable involvement. Hinckley expanded the mill, installing some of the newly invented textile machinery. In 1852 he took on as partner Rufus Churchill who produced cotton batting. The death of Churchill’s son in 1855 ended the operation.

The abandoned factory buildings were probably reused. Derelict remains were washed away in the periodic floods of the river. Today all we see is the marker put by the tercentenary committee at the lower pond, which is today’s Mill Pond at the intersection of Routes 149 and 28, a quarter of a mile downstream from the old fulling mill.

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One Response to “Fulling Mill”

  1. Jeffrey Johnson Says:

    Hi Jim,
    I have really enjoyed reading these entries, as we live in Marstons Mills and find the history fascinating. I had a question about if there are still any structures or remnants of structures of any of the grist mills around Mill Pond? My daughter has a scavenger hunt and we searched as best we could, but could only find the marker for the fulling mill near the herring run, but her teacher told her to find the grist mill and what date is was build there. Thanks for any help on this.

    Jeffrey Johnson

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