Greeley’s Mill


By Herbert Ogden, 2017

As shown on F. W. Beers’ Atlas of Rutland County, Vermont (Beers, Ellis & Soule. N. Y., 1869), Greeley’s Mill stood close to the north side of Big Branch, about 220 feet west of a tributary that entered Big Branch from the northeast. The mill stood on the north side of a road that branched from the original Mt. Tabor to Weston highway built in 1814 or 1815, immediately crossed Black Branch, and reached the mill after going east along the north side of Big Branch about a mile.[1] This old valley road ran past the mill and was joined about 200 feet farther east by a road that left the highway to Weston about 0.9 mile east of its bridge over Big Black Branch and descended southeasterly to Big Branch. At the junction, the Long Trail leaves the old valley road and crosses to the south side of Big Branch on a suspension bridge. Just a few feet east of the junction, the old road crosses the tributary of Big Branch on a one lane cement bridge. The old valley road shortly crossed to the south side of Big Branch on a big bridge, of which the south abutment still stands. Near the abutment, the Long Trail rejoins the old east-west road. After the Long Trail forks south toward Baker Peak, the Old Job Trail follows the old road east to Mill Glen, which later became the village of Griffith. The 1869 atlas shows the old valley road dead ending there.

A large stone foundation remains from the mill. Roughly the western half appears to have contained most of the machinery and the saw or saws. The eastern half is much deeper. This is doubtless the wheelpit in which a waterwheel turned on a north-south axle. Given the depth of the wheelpit, the wheel probably was an overshot. This means the water entered the wheel’s buckets slightly beyond the top of the wheel, so the wheel turned in the same direction as the water that flowed onto it. This is the most efficient form of waterwheel. Just possibly, however, the wheel was a breast wheel. Water hits a breast wheel about half way between its top and bottom and then travels only about a quarter rotation before being dumped at the bottom. Measurements might show whether the wheelpit was long enough to accommodate a big diameter breast wheel that used the full depth of the wheelpit. A small diameter breast wheel would not have hung deep enough to need a pit as deep as this wheelpit is, and it is unlikely that the wheelpit was dug much deeper than necessary, so any breast wheel would have had a large diameter. Water left the wheelpit’s southeast corner by a short tailrace that ran under the old road and emptied into Big Branch. A rockslide appears to have hidden the exit into Big Branch.

The water for the wheel came from a penstock. A penstock is a big tube that brings water from a source to a waterwheel or a turbine. This penstock was about 28 inches in diameter. As reported in Victor Rolando, 200 Years of Soot and Sweat (1992), p. 183, “Upstream of the foundation are dozens of partially buried iron hoops, all nearly in a straight line and about 6 to 12 inches apart. One iron hoop measured about 8 feet around the outside, which calculates to a 27- to 28-inch-diameter pipe, depending on the thickness of the pipe wall.” In September 2017, no hoops were obvious east of the road down from the Weston highway, although some other metal was. East of the road there is, however, a trough that extends northeast to the remains of what the 1869 atlas shows as a little mill pond, where a line of stones probably is the remains of the mill dam. If there are indedd no hoops east of this road, the trough probably was a millrace (a power canal) that emptied into the penstock. If so, probably a bridge carried the road over the southwest end of the millrace. If, on the other hand, the penstock ran all the way from the millpond to the mill, it must have blocked the road.

Where did the water for the millpond come from, however? The abovementioned tributary was a small, sluggish stream in September 2017 although there had been plenty of rain that summer. To produce significant power, the waterwheel would have needed a heavier flow of water than is present in the tributary, so running the mill would have drained the millpond fairly fast. Apparently to assure enough water, a millrace was dug from Big Branch upstream of the tributary, emptying into the millpond. As of September 2017, its bottom was perhaps a foot higher than Big Branch, so water flows in the millrace now only when Big Branch is high. Possibly, however, the millrace used to be deeper, or possibly a dam diverted water into it from Big Branch.

Primarlily, at least, Greeley’s Mill sawed lumber. Walton’s Vermont Register, No. 38 (1855), in its first issue that included manufacturers, says Mt. Tabor manufacturers included “O. Greeley” for “lumber” and Alexander Greeley, who made cabinets. Walton’s Vermont Register shows either Orin, Alexander or Orin and Alexander as lumber manufacturers from 1856-59, 1861-62, 1864-65, 1869[2], and 1871-74. In 1863-66, it also shows Alexander as manufacturing butter tubs. In 1867-70, it shows Orin and Alexander manufacturing butter tubs and sap buckets. Apparently Alexander left or died by the 1870 census, because it lists only one Greeley: Orin, age 53, married, white.[3]

Greeley’s Mill was built by 1849, judging from the town records described below. According to the histories described below, it was built as early as 1840. It appears on the the earliest map of Mt. Tabor that show buildings, namely J. Chace, Jr., Scott’s Map of Rutland County, Vermont (E. Herrlein Lith., Philadelphia, 1854). The 1854 map shows it as a sawmill reached only by the road leading southeasterly down from the highway to Weston. This map does not show the abovementioned valley road leading east along Big Branch from the highway to Weston. The second earliest map, H. F. Walling, Map of the State of Vermont (H. F. Walling, N.Y, 1860), shows neither the mill nor any road leading to it, but this proves nothing because it shows no buildings at all in Mt. Tabor. Beers’ Atlas, the third oldest map, shows the most detail. The U. S. Geological Survey 15 minute Wallingford quadrangle (1893) does not show the mill but does show the former Greeley home and two other houses[4] about 0.15 mile east of it on the south side of Big Branch, east of the bridge where the valley road to Mill Glen (later Griffith) crossed Big Branch. The earliest State Highway Department map I can find, from 1941, shows only U. S. Forest Service Road 10, which generally follows the original 1814-15 route. There is no indication of any Greeley buildings or any road leading to them. Presumably the roads had been abandoned and all the buildings had vanished by 1941.

The first Greeley to own real estate in Mt. Tabor was Joseph Greeley. He probably never lived in Mt. Tabor.[5]He bought and sold many lots.[6] Around 1843, he bought 1,948 acres, which was then wild land.[7] By 1847, he owned 2042 acres, still all wild.[8] By 1849, he owned 2,103 acres, of which 156 were no longer wild.[9] Joseph Greeley lived in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, as late as 1856.[10] There is no indication that he built, owned, or operated any business in Mt. Tabor. He died by 1874 with an estate of 100 acres in School District 2, which the Beers Atlas shows as being roughly the southeast quarter of Mt. Tabor, far from the mill.

The first Greeley to be associated with Greeley’s Mill was Orin[11] Greeley. It is not clear whether Orin built the mill or when he acquired it. Town records show Orin owned a sawmill by 1849. He may have owned or run it as early as 1840, however. According to H. P. Smith & W. C. Rann, History of Rutland County, Vermont (1886), p. 696, Greeley’s Mill was built in 1840 and was not running in 1886. According to Victor Rolando, 200 Years of Soot and Sweat (1992), p. 180, the mill began running around 1840 and was not operating when sold to Silas Griffith (in 1873[12]). According to Hamilton Child, Gazeteer & Business Directory of Rutland County, Vermont (1881-82), p. 165, “Griffith’s saw-mill, known as the ‘Greeley Mill,’ located on Roaring [sic] Branch, was built in 1840. It has facilities for cutting 6,000 feet of lumber per day.” (The same source says Silas Griffith’s steam sawmill, upstream, could cut 20,000 feet per day.) Child’s Gazeteer does not say when the mill stopped running.

Orin Greeley lived in Mt. Tabor by 1847.[13] In 1848, Orin bought 3⁄4 of the west half of Lot 10 in Range 9, consisting of 75 acres, from Asa B. Foster, of Weston.[14] This lot lay north of what had become the mill lot and Orin’s homestead lot. Orin sold it to David Arnold in 1855 and took back a mortgage on it.[15] Judging from L. F. Croft’s lotting plan (1905), the lot Orin sold in 1855 extended south almost to where the Greeley house stood but may not have extended west to the mill site. By 1849, Orin had increased his holdings to 190 acres and, for the first time, the Grand List shows him owning a sawmill.[16] In 1856, he bought 190 acres (the whole of Lot 10 in Range 8, 1st Division) from Joseph Greeley.[17] Judging from Croft’s plan, this lot lay east of the mill, mostly on the south side of Big Branch. By 1870, Orin owned 200 acres and a sawmill.[18] In 1873, he sold to Silas Griffith the lot he had bought from Joseph, but he reserved a graveyard of up to half an acre and access to it.[19] This is doubtless the plot with the gravestones of Hiram Greeley[20] (died in 1856, age 66), his wife Betsy (died 1858, age 64), and James Madison Sawtell (died 1864, age 11⁄2). The graveyard lies a few feet south of a long southeast-northwest stone wall about 250 feet east of the old road down from the Weston highway, about 270 feet northwest of the Greeley homestead cellarhole, and about 500 feet north of the mill site.

Greeleys served in various town offices. Alexander was a Trustee in 1852, Lister in 1856, and Clerk in 1851, 1853, 1859-63, and 1865-66. Orin was a Trustee in 1853 and Selectman in 1858 (along with Sylvester Greeley, who was also Selectman in 1860) and 1859.[21]

[1] The 1869 atlas also shows the Weston highway crossing to the east side of Big Branch and then re-crossing to the west or north side downstream from its junction with the side road to Mill Glen. The upper part of this his resembles the route of the Weston highway before the 1927 flood, as shown by the U. S. Geological Survey 15 minute Wallingford quadrangle (1893). Earlier atlases, J. Chace, Jr., Scott’s Map of Rutland County, Vermont (E. Herrlein Lith., Philadelphia, 1854) and H. F. Walling, Map of the State of Vermont (H. F. Walling, N.Y, 1860), show the Weston highway in more or less its present location, crossing Big Branch about 1⁄4 mile east of Brooklyn villlage and never recrossing it. The highway to Weston was laid out around 1814-15. Several families then located in east Mt. Tabor; the first settler there was Samuel Foster. H. P. Smith & W. C. Rann, History of Rutland County, Vermont (1886), p. 693.

[2] Beers’ Atlas (1869) also shows O. and A. Greeley as lumber manufacturers and dealers.

[3] Roll 1624, p. 499. The census may not be entirely reliable, however. The 1860 census shows “Ona” as the only Greeley in Mt. Tabor. Rutland p. 208. The 1850 census shows no Greeleys. Rutland p. 217.

[4] These two houses may be near the “Four Kilns” described in Victor Rolando, 200 Years of Soot and Sweat (1992), p. 179.

[5] Mt. Tabor Grand Lists from 1843, 1847, 1848 and 1849 show Joseph Greeley paying no poll tax, and he does not appear in the census for Vermont in 1840, 1850, 1860, or 1870.

[6] Mt. Tabor Land Records (“Land Records”) Book 2, p. 172 and later.

[7] Mt. Tabor Grand List (1843). Grand Lists from 1842 and 1829 show no Greeley properties.

[8] Mt. Tabor Grand List (1847).

[9] Mt. Tabor Grand List (1849) shows Joseph Greeley owning 156 improved acres and 1947 unimproved..

[10] Id. Book 7, p. 430.

[11] Variously spelled Orin, Oren, Orrin and Orren.

[12] Land Records Book 9, p. 386. The sale came one year after Silas Griffith began making charcoal in 1872. Victor Rolando, 200 Years of Soot and Sweat (1992), p. 178.

[13] Mt. Tabor Grand List (1847) shows one poll tax each for Orin and Hiram.

[14] Land Records Book 5, p. 467.

[15] Land Records Book 7, pp. 179 & 181.

[16] The 190 acres must have been improved, for they were assessed at $380, or $2 per acre. In the same year, Joseph Greeley’s 1,947 acres of wild land was assessed at $1,219, or about 63 cents per acre. Orin’s mill was assessed at $500.

[17] Land Records Book 7, p. 430.

[18] Mt. Tabor Grand List (1870)

[19] Land Records Book 9, p. 386. Curiously, the deed is for only 175 acres and refers to a deed in Book 7, p. 303.

[20] This must be a senior Hiram Greelay. A Hiram Greeley lived in Baltimore, Vermont, according to the 1840 census, Windsor p. 223. Orin Greeley does not appear in the 1840 Vermont census. Civil War volunteers who re-enlisted included Hiram. H. P. Smith & W. C. Rann, History of Rutland County, Vermont (1886), p. 695. This must b a a junior Hiram, because the gravestone in Mt. Tabor says Hiram died in 1856. Apparently neither Hiram ever owned property or voted in Mt. Tabor, for no Hiram Greeley appears in the Grand List (which then included poll taxes).

[21] Walton’s Vermont Register.