Neponset River Mills

No. 21865 Neponset River mills selected locations. Map from Papermaking on the Neponset by Howard Wallingford. (Boston, 1951), with numbers added to indicate mill locations in addition to papermaking.

1.  Milton, next to Neponset on lower side of bridge at Lower Mills

                1728                       paper                                    Henchman, Phillips, Faneuil, Hancock, Deering

                1788 or 91?         chocolate                            James Baker & Edmund Baker

                1817                       new paper mill                  Isaac Sanderson put in a wrought-iron tub wheel was

                                                                                the first iron water wheel in this vicinity

                1827                       machine to make             Isaac Sanderson  paper introduced

                1830                       beach grass used as a raw material for paper       Isaac Sanderson

                 1839                       new mill                               Dr. Jonathan Ware

                                sawing & turning for a short time

                                grist mill & chocolate      run by Josiah Webb & Josiah Trombly until 1850

2. Milton, next to Neponset on lower side of bridge at Upper Falls south of the trench

                1710                       slitting mill                           Jonathan Jackson – first of its kind in the province?

                1765                       paper mill                            James Boies & Richard Clark

                1828                       acquired by                        Tileston & Hollingsworth

3. Milton, next to Neponset on lower side of bridge at Upper Falls north of the trench

                1771                       paper mill                            James Boies & Hugh McLean

                1809                       acquired by                        Tileston & Hollingworth

4.  Dorchester, next to Neponset about a mile west of Upper Falls

                1773                       paper mill                            George Clark

                1787 or 9              chocolate mill                    William Sumner and George Clark; leased by James


                1799                       corn mill                               William Summer

                1827                       paper making                    Col Nathaniel Crane

                                                machine installed

                1832                       cotton mill                           Frederick O. Taft

                1836                       purchased —                      Tileston & Hollingsworth

                1837                       new mill on site                                Tileston & Hollingsworth

                                                4 engines and a Foudrinier machine

5. Dorchester, next to Neponset on upper side of bridge at Lower Mills

                1634                       corn mill                               Israel Stoughton

                1717 ca.                fulling mill                            Joseph Belcher

                1761                       snuff mill                             Andrew McKenzie

                1790                       paper mill                            James Babcock

                1806                       chocolate mill                    Edmund Baker   installed first tub wheel in this vicinity

                1813                       new stone building         Edmund Baker; Walter Baker manufactured

                                                                                                Broadcloths and satinets for a short time.

6. Dorchester, next to Neponset between Upper & Lower Falls

                1794                       paper, corn, chocolate   Jeremiah Smith Boies; Mark Hollingsworth was foreman

                                                                                                of the paper mill

                1811                       cotton mill                           Dorchester Cotton and Iron Company

                1829                       starch mill                            Stephen Liversidge

7. Dorchester, next to Neponset and across from end of Cedar Street

                1815                       cotton mill                           Dorchester Cotton and Iron Company

                1854                       large addition but all destroyed by fire in 1855                   

                1863                       paper mill                            Tileston & Hollingsworth Eagle Mills

8. Dorchester, next to Neponset on lower side of bridge at Upper Falls

                1709                       fulling mill                            David Colsen

                1709                       corn mill                               Ezra Clapp

                1772                       snuff mill                             Andrew Gillespie

                1782                       chocolate mill                    James Boies

                1809                       paper mill                           

9. Milton, next to Neponset on upper side of bridge at Lower Mills

                1675                    powder mill                           Oxenbridge, Allen, Sanderson, Hull, Bendall, Davie,


                1765                       chocolate & saw mill       Wentworth & Stone

                1817                       drugs, medicines,            Francis Brinley


                1817                       sawing & veneers            First veneers in America made by power than by hand

                1850                       new mill for chocolate   Dorchester Cotton and Iron Company run by Webb & and grist mill                          Trombly

                1855                       purchased —                      Webb & Trombly

                                For chocolate, grain and India-rubber goods

10. Dorchester, next to Neponset on lower side of bridge at Lower Mills

                1675                       stone watch-house         Oxenbridge, etc.

                1757                       clothing mill                        Edward Preston

                1770                       chocolate                            Edward Preston

                1812                       corn mill                               Edward Preston

11.  Milton, opposite Sumner mill at no. 4

1780s                     saw mill                                Col  Josiah Hayden


At each of these locations there were numerous owners of the real estate and numerous owners of the businesses conducted within the mills.  The list above simply records the first mill of each type at each location and does not attempt to mention later owners employed in the same line of work.

Location no. 1- It is noted in the 1859 History of Dorchester p. 612 that Henchman, Phillips, Faneuil, Hancock and Deering took a lease of the mill built by Mr. Belcher and owned by his heirs.  The only mill mentioned as having been erected by Belcher was a ca. 1717 fulling mill on the Dorchester side of the Neponset; therefore this statement seems to be incorrect.

Location no. 1 – The 1859 History says that James Baker leased the Vose Mill (the original paper mill at location no. 1 in 1788 (p. 614) or 1791 (p. 637)

Location no. 1 – The 1859 History mentions beach grass on p. 616.  Thoreau in his book Cape Cod mentions beach grass being used to make paper: The beach-grass is “two to four feet high, of a se-green color, “ and it is said to be widely diffused over the world.  In the Hebrides it is used for mats, pack-saddles, bags, hats, ect.; paper has been made of it at Dorchester in this State, and cattle eat it when tender …   (New Riverside Edition, 1894; originally published 1865)

Locations 2 & 3 – Boies erected a paper-mill in 1765 and sold ½ to Richard Clark.  Boies erected a slitting-mill in 1769 on the site of the one erected by Mr. Jackson, but not proving profitable, he erected a second paper-mill on the land he had not sold Clark and conveyed ½ to Hugh McLean in 1771.  Richard Clark died and sold his ½ to McLean, so Boies and McLean were equal.  The mill on the south side of the trench along with a small chocolate mill was consumed by fire in 1782.  The paper mill was soon rebuilt a few feet below where the one was destroyed, and a new chocolate mill was erected on the Dorchester side of the river.  When Boies & McLean split in 1790, McLean took his mill on the north side of the trench.  The mill on the south side of the trench went to Jeremiah Smith Boies.

Location no. 4 – The 1859 History of Dorchester says that James Baker leased the Sumner Mill in 1787 (p. 629) or 1789 (p. 637)


the following is from


The gunpowder mill built in Dorchester in 1674 was the first in New England and quite possibly the first in America. Two years later an English royal agent named Edward Randolf reported on the mill, claiming the gunpowder produced in Dorchester was “as good and strong as the best English powder.” There was a constant need for gunpowder in European settlements along the Neponset for hunting and occasional skirmishes with Native Americans. A local supply became even more desirable at the outbreak of local wars, including King Phillip’s War in 1675-1676 and the pivotal Revolutionary War beginning in 1775.

The manufacturing process was simple. Ingredients consisting of charcoal, sulphur, and saltpeter were ground and mixed together while wet, then left to dry into cakes. These were then broken, sifted, and sorted in different sizes. The coarsest gunpowder was used for cannons and the finest was used for muzzle-loaded flintlock guns. Powder mills were quite dangerous operations and inevitably, in 1744, the Neponset powder mill blew up, taking a neighboring fulling mill with it.



When woolen cloth came off the loom it was similar to burlap in texture, with separating threads and little bulk. The process of fulling shrinks and compacts the cloth to make it denser. Instead of the labor-intensive method of treading on the cloth in water with bare feet, Dorchester’s first fulling mill, built in 1688, powered wooden mallets to pound the cloth in large tubs filled with soapy water that removed dirt and oil. This agitation shrinks the wool, tightening up the fibers to make a smoother material. Raw cloth might be fulled for several days, resulting in the cloth shrinking to almost half its original size. After the fulling, the cloth was stretched and dried on frames.

The operator of a fulling mill, often called a clothier, would usually dye and finish the cloth beyond the basic fulling operation. After drying and dying the wool, the clothier would raise the nap on the cloth with a brush and trim the excess fibers with long scissors. This process resulted in a smooth, finished fabric ready for use in making garments.


Posted on

May 12, 2020