Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Great Woolen Factory Fire, 1834

Image from  The Fireman’s Own Book: containing accounts of fires throughout the United States, by George P. Little, Boston: Dillingham and Bragg, page 83. 

American Railroad Journal and Advocate of Internal Improvements, Saturday, August 16, 1834, Volume III, No. 32,  Page 509

click to enlarge

Eastern Argus, newspaper, Maine, August 11, 1834, page 3
[also found reprinted in the Spectator, New York, August 14, 1834, and in the Connecticut Herald, August 19, 1834]

Extract from a letter from a gentleman in South
Berwick to a gentleman in this town dated

We are all in confusion in this neighborhood, in con-
sequence of the fire which yesterday afternoon con-
summed Salmon Falls Factory.  Nearly the whole
establishment lays in ruins.  The loss is from 3 to
$400, 000. Hundreds are thrown out of employment.
The fire took In the picking room from the wool. Two
Or three girls are missing- we expect they were con-
summed in the flames – four jumped from the windows
of the 4th story and were much injured – but it is hoped
they will recover.  We shall all seriously feel the
                The Portsmouth Journal adds – The building where
the fire originated in consumed leaving nothing but the
walls.  A part of the offices in front, and a house and
store on the opposite side of the street were also
                Col. Peirce, the agent, was in Boston when the fire
took place.
                The raw materials, and the finished goods were
saved.  Loss estimated at $180,000, a part of which
is insured.
                Gentlemen from Salmon-Falls, last evening, furnish
us with the following list of killed and wounded:-
                Mary Nowell, of York, killed by a fall.
                Lydia Varney, of Elliot, burned to death.
                Harriet Hastings of Wells, do
                --------- Thomson, leg broken.
                Sarah Nowell, of Portsmouth; Mary Jane Leavitt,
 of Acton, Me; and Mehitable Wilkinson, more or less
                One gentleman fell from a house-top but escaped
with slight injury.”


The Mehitable Wilkinson mentioned above is my first cousin 5 generations removed.  Her father James G. Wilkinson (1753 – 1827) was the brother of my 5x great grandfather, James Wilkinson (abt 1730 – abt 1800).   Mehitable was born 18 September 1791 in Alton, New Hampshire, and she died 18 November 1839 in Eaton, New Hampshire, just a few years after the fire.  I don't know the extent of her injuries.  Mehitable never married.   Many of the Wilkinsons lived near Salmon Falls, in both New Hampshire and in South Berwick, Maine.

Salmon Falls is part of Rollinsford, New Hampshire.  It is located on the Salmon River, a tributary of the Piscataqua River which forms the border with Maine.   In 1823 the village was founded when the Salmon Falls Manufacturing Company incorporated a woolen mill using the power of the Salmon River falls.   After the 1834 fire, the company rebuilt a cotton mill in its place.   The cotton mill lasted until 1927.  The mill buildings sat empty for years, and then later in the twentieth century the brick building s became converted studio space for artists, artisans, and small businesses.  My favorite local pottery is produced there at the Salmon Falls Stoneware Company.

Salmon Falls Stoneware Company

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

1 comment:

  1. Great post Heather. I am currently researching several of my female Seavey ancestors were worked from a very early age at the Pondicherry woolen mill in Bridgton.