A SPECIAL APPEAL FOR RESTORATION:
THE GRANGE MILL
Dear Members and Friends,
I wish to tell you about an exciting restoration project of the Nye Family Association, and see if I can interest you in helping. We’ve begun repairing the 1858 Grange Mill, which sits on the foundation of Benjamin Nye’s 1669 water powered gristmill, the second mill built in Sandwich. This ancient mill was taken down in 1867, but the current building was moved to the site in 1889 by the newly-formed East Sandwich Grange #139, a branch of the national farm family fraternity. The effort was led by Samuel H. Nye, who grew up at the Nye Homestead. The Grange also built a meeting hall between the Homestead and the mill, and these three buildings “have been friends” through the years, at the core of our historic village.
We nearly lost the mill, however.
The Grange Mill has a colorful history, thoroughly interwoven with the Nyes of East Sandwich. It was built in 1858 in Centerville, 8 miles away, by Oliver Jones. It was set up to grind locally grown flint corn and rye, but also functioned as a saw mill and even had a wood-turning lathe. When miller Jones died in 1881, the mill fell into disuse. In 1889, the enthusiastic Grangers desired a local gristmill, as there was no other in Sandwich. It was run as such for a few years, but was unfortunately troubled by repairs and dwindling business.
In 1897 the mill was sold to John A. Armstrong, a local man who had worked for years in the jewelry mills of Attleboro, MA. He transformed the mill into a small jewelry and electroplating factory, with several employees. This business was discontinued when Mr. Armstrong became interested in raising trout, using the cold spring water flowing from Nye Pond. He and his partner John Carleton were successful, but they did sell the business, which ended up in the hands of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Division of Fish & Game. The state ran this hatchery to re-stock ponds from 1912 to 1990, with the mill serving as a workshop.
Meanwhile, the white pine timber frame of the building suffered serious deterioration. In 2002 our Association was able to engage in a formal Management Agreement with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. This enabled us to clear the jungle that had formed around the Homestead, hall and mill. We were also allowed to clean out the mill and place timbers and columns to keep the sagging building from collapsing.
In 2009 after a four year effort, our Association acquired the mill and 1.39 acres of land from the Commonwealth. Finally, the Benjamin Nye mill site was ours and we could contemplate what to do with the decayed but historically important mill building. In 2010 we conducted a fundraiser that allowed us to do some preliminary work, including archaeology. One year ago, having completed important restoration projects in the Homestead & Museum, we hired two superb timber frame restoration carpenters – Pret Woodburn and David Wheelock, to begin timber replacement. The building is now stabilized, but much more work is needed.
Plans are not finalized, but we envision the mill as a useful, attractive extension of our museum. Past landscape changes dictate that it can never be an actual, water-powered mill with the machinery it once had. It will be a perfect place to interpret the mill site itself and other local businesses and trades. The mill could be used for craft demonstrations and small meetings. To make this all possible, we are asking for your financial assistance.
An important point is that this effort does much more than preserve a single building - it helps preserve the look and feel of the tiny, industrial/agricultural village which developed here around the Nye mill site, and it greatly enhances the Homestead & Museum. In 1830, within a ¼ mile radius of the Nye Homestead there was the gristmill, a carding mill, blacksmith shop, shoemaker’s shop, a small tannery, a boat builder, a tavern/stage stop with a store and post office, and a one-room school. Part of our job at the Homestead & Museum is to interpret this village context of our Nye buildings, and bring historic and present-day life to the neighborhood.
It is difficult to predict the cost of the project, or how long it will take. The important point is that our board has made a commitment to restoration, and with the $25,000+ so far spent, excellent progress has been made and the structure stabilized. We are very excited about the potential usefulness of this historic building. If this project excites you as well, please click on the 'Donate' button below for your appeal response. If you have questions about the project, email the Association or call me directly at (508) 888-7629.
Thank you very much for your interest, and hopefully your support of the Grange Mill and of old “Cedarville Village”, as it was once called.
John Nye Cullity