The Mills At The Ravine

Lost Mansfield > 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.

Remnants of mill foundation
This photograph shows the remains of one of the mills in the ravine, although which one has not been determined. There are several other remnants of foundations and dam abutments found throughout this area and above the mill pond.

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.

Cedar Swamp Brook
This photograph was taken just below the bridge on Bone Mill Road. Here Cedar Swamp Brook begins its final descent through the ravine to the Willimantic River below. The swift flowing waters enabled the development of several water-powered mills along its course.

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.

Jonathan Gurley House
This house was located on Bone Mill Road near its intersection with North Eagleville Road. Although known as the Artemus Gurley house, it was actually built by Artemus’ grandfather, Jonathan Gurley I (1715-1778). Note the brick foundation. The bricks came from a brickyard located just north of the burying ground. The 18th century house was torn down by the University in the 1940s.
The Gurley Burying Ground
The Gurley burying ground was established sometime prior to 1744 and is the second oldest cemetery in Mansfield. It’s also known as the “Pink Ravine Cemetery,” so named for its location and the creeping pink phlox that carpets it each spring. This photograph was taken from the rear of the cemetery, looking down on the mill pond and the University’s defunct hydro-electric plant on Bone Mill Road. The hydro-plant was built on the site of an early gristmill. In 1876, George H. Harris purchased the old gristmill and established a bone mill there – hence the name of the road. Bone mills process the bones of slaughtered animals to produce bone meal – an excellent fertilizer with a high phosphorus content.

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