Middlefield CT: The Industrial Revolution

Beseck Dam Built:

Map of Baileyville

For 60 years Wildcat Swamp fueled industrial development in the southern section of Middlefield, but there was a problem. Its flow was seasonal and inconsistent. In 1848 Alfred Bailey changed that. On October 18, 1848 twelve men formed an association: the Reservoir Company. It included A.M. Bailey (16 shares), Andrew Coe; treasurer of the Reservoir Company; (21 shares), Falls Manufacturing Company (16 shares), Henry Aston (16 shares), D.C. Rand (16 shares) and others. The number of shares purchased was based on the amount of water used by a mill. Edward Savage, Austin Baldwin, Henry Aston, and Andrew Coe were the first board of directors. Henry G. Hubbard was the first president. Having no mills Hubbard's involvement seemed to be two fold: (1) take an opportunity to make money and (2) provide waterpower for the six mills he would later develop along the West River. Their agreement included four provisions:

A.M. Bailey Picture

The dam, built for $2000, was the beginning of Baileyville. A.M. Bailey's revolutionary arch gravity design was the first bowed dam built. The concave dam distributed the water's force evenly around the entire dam surface. The 16-foot wide foundation was laid on solid rock. It had two 8-inch cast iron pipes. The top pipe controlled flow and the bottom pipe emptied the lake. One pipe was 18 feet from the bottom of the dam and the other was placed where the company directed. Both would have gates to prevent the lost of water. The contract requires them to be finished by May 1849 at a cost of $1000. (From an agreement dated November 25, 1848) When it was completed in 1849 the reservoir dam was 27 feet high.

As superintendent A. M. Bailey planned and engineered the project. He supervised the stone quarrying at the Powder Hill Quarries and Fowler and Coe pit. Moving the stones was a difficult, dangerous task. The huge stones were hung from the back of two-wheel oxen carts. This allowed the lifting of great amounts of weight. Carting the stones this way kept them under control. If the carts began to move too quickly the large stone could be dropped to the ground allowing control to be regained. Starting in 1849 and going through 1851 a number of land transfers were consummated which added land to the Reservoir Company.

Person Date of sale Amount purchased Price
William Coe June 13,1849 2 ½ acres $300.00
Albert Skinner June 30,1849 2 ¼ acres $39.60
Joshua Miller July 2, 1849 19 ¾ acres $592.50
Roswell Bailey July 2, 1849 5 acres $141.60
A.M. Bailey July 7, 1851 19 acres $400.00

In 1852 the dam was raised 5 feet and in the fall of 1870 it was raised five more feet. The pond covered 165 acres. A letter front  back from Mr. Bailey shows an actual estimate for the 1870 raising to be $3,375.