POST # 35 – THE MILLS AT THE RAVINE
The early seat of the Gurley family was four miles northwest of the village that now bears its name in an area known as the Ravine. Samuel Gurley was the first to settle there about 1723 and his descendants remained in the area for over a century.
Here the Cedar Swamp Brook makes its final descent before emptying into the Willimantic River. Within a mile radius of the millpond on Bone Mill Road, there was variety of industrial activity. The swift flowing stream powered gristmills, saw mills, an ironworks and, further downstream, a fulling mill where woolen cloth was washed and sized. Boundary descriptions also mention a brickyard, tannery, saddler’s shop, and still house. Sadly, there are no known images of any of these early industries.
The Gurley family owned many of these enterprises at some point. There were three successive gristmills that operated in the Ravine, the second of which was built by Lazarus Manley about 1734. Capt. Samuel Gurley II and his brother, Jonathan, acquired this mill in 1759 and it remained in the Gurley family for the next 73 years. The adjacent saw mill was also owned by members of the Gurley family from 1799 into the 1840s.
A short distance downstream, Ephraim Gurley, in partnership with his father Jonathan Gurley II and Jesse Williams, built an ironworks in 1788. Unfortunately this modest venture did not survive long after Ephraim departed for the Fenton River valley about 1800. Ephraim established a new iron shop there in which he manufactured screw-augers and steelyards. The village that developed near it became known as Gurleyville.
Today the Gurley burying ground and the remains of dam abutments, mill foundations and cellar holes are the only evidence left of the once thriving community in the Ravine.