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“ A few short years, or days may be,
And thou wilt miss me from thy shore;
As e'er it was in days of yore.
Of that pure river of my God,
And no polluting foot hath trod.”
There is one other stream worthy of note, which is called Mulpus Brook. Tradition saith that it derived its name from a Frenchman, by the name of Mulipus, who lived in Lunenburg, near its source. It pursues a winding course through the marshes and low lands of the valley, in the northern section of the town, until it reaches the Nashua which receives its waters. This stream has a few improved water-privileges which will be noticed in their places.
Where there are rivers there must be bridges. These form a large item of expense to the inhabitants of Shirley. The wants of the people demand three bridges for Mulpus Brook; seven for the Catacunemaug and its branches; one for Squannacook, and two for the Nashua, besides many others for smaller streams. The bridge over Squannacook river is partially supported by Groton, and the two. over Nashua river are sustained jointly by Shirley and Ayer.
The most expensive bridge that has devolved upon Shirley to sustain is that which spans the Nashua near Mitchell's woolen manufactory, formerly Page's mills. This bridge was originally located several rods up the river, and was erected and supported at the joint expense of Shirley and Harvard. Sometime previous to the year 1798, Mr. Joshua Longley had erected mills on the site of the present woolen manufactory just named, and he proposed to the town, about to build a new bridge, that, if that bridge could be located down near his mills, he would be at the entire expense of its erection beyond the sum of $250, which he asked the town to appropriate.
Whereupon the town, by the following action, accepted the
proposal of Mr. Longley: "Voted to give Joshua Longley $250, towards building a bridge across Nashua River, near where the said Longley has lately built mills, and he, the said Longley, is to build a bridge across said river.” Mr. Longley built the bridge, but a very few rods below the Harvard line, and thus imposed upon his town the entire expense of its support for the space of eightytwo years. It seems that Mr. Longley thought only of his own accommodation, and the town thought only of a present saving of expense; while the town of Harvard could laugh over, and profit by, the folly of both parties. Since Mr. Longley's bridge—which did not last longwent to decay, three others have been erected in its place, and two of them at the entire cost of Shirley. Had it been situated six rods higher up the river, the public would have been equally as well accommodated, and Harvard would always have shared in the expense of its support.
By the town records it appears that the bridge erected by Mr. Longley, was so imperfectly constructed that it needed repairs within three years after its erection. The following is the action of the town on the subject. "Voted to choose a committee to see to repairing the bridge or butment, on Nashua River, near Joshua Longley's new mills. Capt. John Edgarton, Nath! Day and Capt. Samuel Hazen jr. were chosen for said committee.”
In 1842 a new truss bridge was thrown across the river at this place, which was roofed over for protection; the cost of this structure amounted to $750 above the abutments. It was supposed that this bridge would accommodate the travelling public, with seasonable repairs by the town, for at least fifty years; but such was its great length and its exposure to the strong winds of the river valley, that it was soon twisted from its designed position and became a subject of repair within two years. Though it lasted for the space of thirty years, it was never considered sufficiently substantial for its exposed situation.
In 1871 the town of Ayer was incorporated, taking from Shirley all its territory on the east side of the Nashua
river. At that time the bridge that united the two towns must be rebuilt, and after much unnecessary and expensive delay the work was entered upon late in the autumn, and was not completed till the close of the year. The cost of the structure was mutually borne by Shirley and Ayer, and it amounted to over $2000. Mr. B. F. Hartwell of Townsend contracted for the work above the abutments, which he executed to the satisfaction of his employers, and has given them a bridge that will probably far outlast the present century.
Mills, Manufactories and Manufactures.
The same wants that are common to humanity manifest themselves to wilderness settlers no less than to others, and the great trial of these settlers is, that they are without the facilities for supplying these wants. Art must supplement nature in providing the necessities of animal existence. Though the earth may produce the material out of which food and clothing are wrought, the preparation of this material for its destined use is a work of human effort. When this work is divided into its appropriate parts, and each part has its appropriate workers, the production of man's physical requirements is reduced to a system easy of operation ; but the new settler is without this system, and hence the trial of his position. He might bring along with him his farming implements, as he did, and cultivate his soil, after it was cleared for the purpose,but he could not easily convert his grain products into meal, without the aid of a mill; and there was none within the limits of the Groton territory during the first seventeen
years of its settlement.
It is probable that the necessities of the condition required the use of hand-mills, and even samp-mortars, but there is no written or traditional account of any such use that has come to the knowledge of the compiler of this history. The probability is founded on the exigency of the case. A candid writer has said that " the man who had the ability and the disposition to set up those two engines, so useful in a new settlement—the sawmill and the grist-mill—did enough to immortalize his name.” When one considers the difficulties that attend such an enterprise, under such circumstances, he must regard the undertaker as entitled to the lasting gratitude of those his labors immediately benefit, and to the honored remembrance of succeeding generations.
Mr. Butler says, in his History of Groton, that the first corn-mill erected within the territory of Groton, was by John Prescott, then living in Lancaster, in company with his son Jonas Prescott, who afterward distinguished himself as an inhabitant of Groton. This mill stood on a small stream of water in what was then the southern boundary of the territory, but in what is now the northerly section of Harvard; and there it stands yet, and is devoted to its original purpose. The school-district and section of the town where it is located, bear the name of " Old Mill."
A few years after the erection of this mill, a large part of Harvard was destroyed by the Indians, but this humble edifice, so useful to the people, was passed over by the depredators without injury, and continues, as just stated, to do its original work, after a lapse of over two hundred years, it having been first erected in 1673.
This mill was for eight years the only place for grinding grain within the limits of the territory. It was, therefore, constantly engaged. Indeed, so great was its press of work, that the inhabitants of the town felt compelled to enact a law requiring the proprietor of the mill to set apart the second and sixth days of each week, on which he could grind only for the Grotonians.
In 1681, after the close of King Philip's war and the resettlement of the town, James Prescott, through whose
enterprise the first mill had been erected on the extreme south side of the territory, saw the pressing inconvenience under which a large portion of the people labored in being situated so far from their mill, and set about erecting another mill, which he located on the easterly boundary of the territory, on what is known as Stony Brook, near its issue from what is called Forge Pond; and it came within the present limits of Westford. This second effort of the generous proprietor of mill property added greatly to the convenience of the settlers, and to their appreciation of the author of their enlarged opportunities.
I have supposed that part of the territory now known as Shirley began to be settled as early as 1720, and that within a few years a large portion in the northerly section of the town had been taken up and appropriated as farms; but from the time these settlements began until the erection of the first mill within the town, all grain had to be conveyed to the "Old Mill,” now in Harvard, or to the Forge-Pond mill, now in Westford, for grinding. This was a heavier burden than can be practically comprehended in modern times. Light carriages did not exist, and those who had horses could lay their bags upon the backs of their animals, which proved the most felicitous mode of transport. But this method was denied to all but the favored few who were able to own and keep horses. A large majority of the people were forced to pursue a different course.
In winter ox-sleds and hand-sleds were used to some extent, and in summer farm-carts and wheelbarrows were brought into requisition. Many a load was thus borne over the half-formed roads, for a distance of from two to ten miles,—while many another load was borne upon the stalwart shoulders of the hardy yeomanry, at all seasons of the year. Through storms of rain and snow, over roads of mud and slush, the burdens were thus carried for journeys of miles in length, consuming all the hours of daylight and frequently a portion of the night. What greatly prolonged and increased this irksome task was the amount of service required of one or two small