The tide mills, the first of which was built in 1765, when at its raising every person in town was present and all sat about one table at dinner, was the first mill of the town, and was named “Endeavor”. The father and grandfather of the writer were owners in the mills, and has worked in them in boyhood, and has many recollections of them. His earliest is of the time when he was three years of age and accompanied his father to the mills dressed in petticoats, and with his hands clasping his lunch of bread and butter.
The father was engaged in making repairs to “the nigger wheel” 1, and had taken up a plank of the mill flooring the better to get at the work. He had occasion to get some tools in the grist mill near at hand, so he sat his boy down away from the hole in the floor and told him to be sure and sit there till he came back. Hardly had he disappeared from sight before an uncontrollable desire seized the writer to look down through that hole in the floor. So he crawled along until he reached the spot and looking down saw the water beneath, then lost his balance and pitched headlong through the hole into the waters below. He rose to the surface lying upon his back floating lightly and holding his hand up to protect his bread and butter. The tide was ebbing, carrying him slowly seaward, but he was unconcerned and examined the floor timbers of the mill and thought them strange appearing.
Just then his father returned and missed his boy, but on looking down through the hole made by removal of the plank in the floor the eyes of father and son met, but not a word was spoken. In order to reach the boy the father went out of the mill to the log wharf where lumber was piled, and climbed down the logs by hand and feet to the water’s edge, but when he got there the child was beyond his reach. He climbed back, got a stick of some sort and climbed down again to the water’s edge, reached out the stick, gently drew the child to him, dropped the stick, seized the child by his clothing and safely put him upon the wharf above his head and clambered up himself.
All the time not a word had been spoken, but when the child was safe and he stood beside him, his pent-up feelings found vent and he said: “You young rascal, you! Didn’t I tell you to sit still and not move?’ The writer replied: “I wanted to see what was down there.” “Well,” said he, “you have seen, haven’t you? Now come along home to your mother and have your clothes changed.” And the child trudged along home in his wet clothes holding by one hand his father’s and in the other his bread and butter he had not let go of, and thus what might have proved a serious matter ended.
At another time the writer and his brother Samuel were at work in the old saw mill at evening, and their father was at work in the grist mill. A log had been sawed into boards and taken from the carriage ready to put on another log. A neighbor’s son was present. The mill was poorly lighted by two oil lamps, and when ready to roll on the log, Samuel refused to help, and it was too heavy for one to manage. Finding that argument did not prevail, the writer went into the grist mill and entered his bill of complaint, which the father came into the saw mill to set right.
Samuel in the meantime had reconsidered his action, and was bending over the log straining every nerve to roll it into place. The father in the dim light saw the neighbor’s son standing idle, and thinking it was his own son, said to him: “Take hold there and help roll on that log!” That having no effect, he walked up and “boxed” the boy’s ears, thinking him to be his son Samuel, and repeated his order: “Take hold, sir, and help roll that log on!” The boy “took hold”, and on went the log, while the writer and his brother nearly split their sides with suppressed laughter at their father’s blunder.
The boy who had his ears “boxed” began crying when Mr. Candage discovered his mistake and made an apology, saying: “I ask your pardon; it was all a mistake and I take it all back!” The boy’s ears were still smarting under the blow they had received, and he replied: “I don’t see how you can take it back now!” Neither did the writer nor his brother. But this ended the incident, though the memory of it still clings to the writer with a freshness as of an occurrence of yesterday.
The mill pond was a favorite place for the boys to swim in. Sometimes a seal would pass into it through the flood gates, and when the gates shut, he would be impounded, to become the target of the sportsmen of the neighborhood, and finally their prey.
In the spring of the year, the flounders, that had wintered in the pond rose from their beds and sought larger liberty outside by passing through the flood gates at near slack water, where many were speared and served up fried at table as a dainty bit of food.
All this is of the past the mills are gone and all those that had to do with them in those days, the writer, probably, alone excepted. Of late years the pond has been a preserve for lobsters, but even that use has been given up, and although the tide ebbs and flows as of yore, no use is being made of this once valuable water power.
Near the mills was the shipyard of this part of the town, where many vessels were built in former time, and many others were rebuilt or repaired. But that industry, like the sawing of lumber and grinding of grain at the tide mills, has gone, evidently never more to return.
The vessels built in this yard were the Schooner Conquest of 100 tons in 1820 by the Sinclairs; the brig Mentus of 176 tons in 1825 by the Sinclairs; the Schooner Kleber of 119 tons by Samuel R. Candage, bark Virginia of 284 tons by the Sinclairs; ship Tahmaroo of 372 tons in 1844 by the Sinclairs; bark Sarah Jackson 198 tons, 1846, by John Cheever; brig Delhi of 175 tons, 1848, by John Cheever; brig Equator of 156 tons, 1850, by John Cheever, and others whose data are not at hand.
The bark Virginia, launched July 4, 1833, was the first vessel the writer remembers to have seen glide from her building blocks into the element for which she was intended to do duty in the world’s carrying trade. It being a holiday, people in large numbers from far and near gathered to see the launching, among whom were women and children who seated themselves upon the shores near the tide line and received a wetting from the wave that the launching caused. The writer remembers hearing their screams of fright and alarm on the occasion as the wave rose and deluged their clothing but doing no other damage.
The Virginia was moored in the cove, there then being no wharf to place her beside, to receive her spars, be rigged and completed for sea, and a floating bridge was constructed and placed between her and the shore for the workmen’s convenience in passing to and from her.
Capt. William Sinclair was fond of shooting, and had built a gunning float, scow form with a board nailed across each e:d in which he went for wild ducks with his boat dressed in seaweed so as to not frighten the birds. One day the writer and his brother Robert were in the boat, which was anchored with a stone tied to a rope, near the vessel, fishing for flounders, tomcods and harbor pollock.
When tired of fishing the writer, by order of his brother tried, to pull up the anchor while standing upon the cross board at the bow with the rope on one side. The stone was heavy for his youthful strength, and while straining and doing his best to pull it up, and it had about reached the surface, the stone slipped from the rope and the writer, relieved from its weight, tumbled backwards head down into the water.
Down he went what seemed to be fathoms, but were only feet; he heard the waters gurgling about his ears, drank a swallow or two of the water, had come to the conclusion he was to be drowned, but even that gave him little concern. He had pretty nearly lost consciousness when he rose to the surface and his brother reached forth his hand and rescued the half-drowned lad.
On another occasion when learning to swim on the shore of the mill pond, he swam across the creek and turned to swim back, when the thought came to him that the water was beyond his depth, when with fright he sank like a stone. The same true brother was at hand to be his rescuer, so that twice in boyhood that brother saved the life of the writer. Strange to say that from the date of the last occurrence mentioned, the writer never had a recurrence of that fright, but could handle himself in water of any depth without fear and as though he were amphibious.
The father of the writer had a boat built which was named Hoosier, and which was rigged with two masts, bowsprit, foresail, mainsail, jib, flying jib and two gaff topsails, although only fourteen feet in length. She was a fast sailor, the pride of the family, and envy of others who had no boat. The writer, and his brother Robert made a trip in her to the village in the month of March, and were returning when she ran upon a small rock and capsized instantly.
The boys jumped upon the crown of the rock just large enough to stand on, took hold of the boat, righted and bailed her out with their shoes, and then proceeded homeward. The water was like ice and chilled them to the bone and they would have been drowned but for their fore-thought and activity. That experience they kept secret for a long time, that it might not worry their parents and stop their use of the boat.
- Editor’s note: haul-up-wheel