Haywardville "Red Mill" and Other Foundations - Stoneham, MA
Posted by: NorStar
N 42° 27.360 W 071° 05.021
19T E 328668 N 4702510
Quick Description: There are several foundations along Spot Brook in Virginia Wood that include a remains of a sawmill-bronze mill at Middle Pond and an intact foundation and other foundations for the Red mill, a dye mill, that was later a rubber mill run by Hayward.
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Date Posted: 11/6/2011 7:24:48 PM
Waymark Code: WMD1PD
In Stoneham, within the Middlesex Fells Reservation, is a trail loop that passes by several mill sites along Spot Pond Brook. Two of these are by old mill ponds with little evidence left of the mills themselves. However, near the corner of Pond Street and Fellsway East, where Spot Pond Brook enters a culvert and passes under Pond Street, is a rectangular stone foundation. This foundation was most recently a rubber factory run by Nathaniel Haywood, but it was also the rubber plant the Converse family, and before that, it was a dye factory.
There are several parking spots available. One on Pond Street is perhaps the best access point. It is approximately halfway between the Fellsway East and Woodland Road and has a sign to Virginia Wood. You might also park your car at a parking lot by Jerry Jingle Park along the Fellsway and walk to the intersection, then through the woods to the location. There is a map of the Middlesex Fells that can be purchased, and there is a booklet that was published by the Friends of the Middlesex Fells that still might be purchased via the park headquarters that might help in traversing the area.
According to a WickedLocal.com article, there was a lot of activity at this particular site. There is a site that had a gristmill as early as the 1660s. There is nothing left of this mill, and pond has been mostly filled in with sediment and growth. The next site downstream is the middle pond. The article was less clear about this site. It starts by stating that the middle pond was owned by the Buckman family in 1795 where they operated a sawmill. The Grundy Brothers operated a bronze mill next to the sawmill. The article states that the field stone foundations are still visible. I do see the foundations, but I'm not sure if this is in reference to the sawmill, the bronze mill, or both. In the 1930s, the Conservation Corps rebuilt the pond area, enhancing the spillway, and building a bridge, so the area is disturbed. It is pretty clear that these features were not part of the original mill.
If you follow the paths (not always easy to discern in the woods) down the stream, you will come to a place where there is a large rectangular field stone foundation. The article then stated, "The Buckman family sold the property to a man named Barrett in 1813. Barrett was a dyer of silks and a manufacturer of medicines. His process caused the mill to become covered in red. This is why the building became known as the Red Mill. This site was located at the corner of Pond Street and Wyoming Avenue."
Barrett died in 1840, then James and Elisha Converse obtained the property and operated a rubber factory. The article states that this was the start of the Converse Rubber Company, which became the makers of the famous Converse sneakers. I think that the story is a bit more complicated than that. James and Elisha did go into the rubber shoe business, founding Boston Rubber Shoe, making dress-type shoes. The Converse web site states that Marquis Mills Converse started the company that would make sneakers, also in this area. Tracing the exact corporate lineage is beyond this article. In 1858 Nathaniel Hayward bought 20 acres of the property and operated a rubber mill, where he tried to improve production. Hayward teamed up with Charles Goodyear, both were likely contributors to discovering the modern process of vulcanization, where sulfur is mixed in and heat is applied to cause the rubber to bind together into a permanent form. Up to 10 buildings were located here. In 1863, Hayward sold the mill complex and moved back to Connecticut, where he died in 1865.
Due to a combination of less activity at the site and making Spot Pond a reservoir for drinking water, operations ceased and the site was broken up. The article states that portions of the buildings were made into duplex housing on Ravine Terrace (did not visit). The Buckman House is somewhere on Wyoming Avenue. At the site itself, there are several stone walls that were part of the building foundations, though at places these are hard to trace in the woods. The red mill foundation close to the brook is the most complete.
Allow yourself at least a couple hours to complete the path circuit.
A walk through historical Haywardville - Medford, Massachusetts - Medford Transcript (visit link
Wikipedia (Converse (shoe company):