Middlefield CT: The Industrial Revolution

Below Button Factory:

Below the first privilege in about 1775 William Miller started a sawmill. Little is know about it other than on November 2, 1795, Mr. Miller was found dead next to the waterwheel. His wife believed he had gone to visit his sick father and stopped to check the dam before completing his journey.

At the same location in about 1820 the brothers Ira and Captain Alfred Bailey built a distillery. Captain Bailey, A.M. Bailey's father, ran the distillery about 10 years making rum, cider, brandy, and a little whiskey when possible. The high cost of rye prevented the extensive manufacture of whiskey. The townspeople called it "the curse" of the parish and all the troubles that occurred were traced to the "fountain of blackness".

In 1822 Captain Bailey made an addition to the building and added wool carding. The loss of the West Indies mule trade caused Middlefield's farmers to look for another way to use their top land. The bottomland was used to raise crops. They found their salvation in raising imported Middle East sheep. From 1820 until 1840 the mill was kept busy, as Middlefield became the largest producer of sheep in the country. By 1840 over production and the advent of large western sheep farms caused the bubble to burst. During the 1840's wood sawing and turning was done at the site.

To the delight of the parish in 1848, A.M. Bailey had the building removed. A.M. had become a non-drinker after an early experience with whiskey. As a youth he lived near a distillery and one day managed to get himself quite drunk. He climbed onto a roof where carpenters were working. As he put it, all at once the ground flew up and hit me. From that time on no liquor passed his lips. In 1849 he build a three story (30 by 40 feet) building. Captain Bailey used the building as a gristmill. In 1851 Mark Mildrum & Co. did machine repair and made coal shovels at the site. Arnold Watson made percussion caps at the location. An explosion in an adjacent building killed him. At the same time Britannia ware (a form of pewter) was made by Hall & Cotton. William W. Bailey did wood turning at the site making match safes (boxes for the storage of matches). Also at this time John O. Couch was making patient iron candlesticks and a special gun for the protection of one's property. The gun was attached to a door and wou ld fire when the door was opened.