POST # 36 – THE EAGLEVILLE MILL
In 1815, the Willlimantic Cotton Manufacturing Company purchased 290 acres of land in Mansfield and built the first mill on this site. Within nine years the company was in financial trouble. The mill property was sold to creditors and much of the land was sold off. Then followed a series of equally unsuccessful owners.
Finally, in 1831, the Eagle Manufacturing Company purchased the mill property. It was during their ownership that the surrounding area became known as Eagleville. The arrival of the railroad in 1848 brought success to their cotton manufacturing business, enabling them to easily bring in bales of cotton and ship their finished products to customers. Unfortunately, the mill was destroyed in the late 1850s, likely by a terrible flood in February 1857 that carried with it thick pieces of ice.
The American Wool Company of New York City purchased the property in 1863 and rebuilt the mill. Just eighteen months later, in 1865, the new mill was sold to the Phoenix Manufacturing Company. They only held it for seven months before selling it to John L. Ross of Providence, Rhode Island, another cotton manufacturer.
Although the mill site was located in Mansfield, Ross organized the Eagleville Company under the laws of the State of Rhode Island where he continued to reside. The mill was operated under the watchful eye of his supervisor. Under Ross’s ownership, the cotton manufacturing business prospered. The mill was enlarged and fourteen tenements were built to house the mill workers. Members of the Ross family remained involved in the mill up until the stock market crash in 1929. Subsequently, the company went bankrupt and the mill property was auctioned off on October 29, 1931. It was sold for $3,000 to local realtor William L. Clark, who, for an additional $1,000, also purchased the superintendent’s house and three other parcels with buildings.
The Sterling Shoe Fiber Company purchased the mill in 1932 and operated there into the early 1950s when they relocated to New Hampshire. They manufactured a thick form of cardboard that was used to make shoe counters, a stiffener sewn into the back of shoes to hold the foot firmly in place.
Following Sterling’s departure, the old mill sat empty and in deteriorating condition. It was deemed unsafe and a decision was made to burn it. On July 22, 1956, the Eagleville Fire Department, in conjunction with the State Office of Civil Defense, organized a large mutual aid fire drill. Over 500 firefighters from fire departments throughout eastern Connecticut participated in the burning of the mill.