The other day Holly & I went to explore Cole Mill in Carver. It is located right near her home, a wonderful old farmhouse, and set back in the woods. We picked up a copy of the Carver, MA Images of America book, because I was interested in comparing photographs of how the mill formerly looked like versus how it appeared today.
But first some history (and of course a bit of genealogy!):
The first colonial settlement in Carver, MA was in North Carver, along the North Carver Green, known today as the Lakenham Green and district. Carver was originally the South Precinct of Plympton, which had branched out from Plymouth. One of the key features of this early settlement was Cole’s Mill, which was built in 1706. John Cole built a grist mill in 1706 and added a lumber saw mill in 1723 in the same area. He dammed the pond, now known as Cole Pond, off the Winnetuxet River, to use water power for his mills.
Here is the dam:
“As the mill expanded in the 19th century, it provided the industrial focus for the Lakenham region. The grist mill provided a place for farmers to have their grain milled, and the saw mill provided lumber for houses in the village center. The family-run business made shoe shipping boxes in the 1850s, supporting a local cottage industry, and began making cranberry shipping barrels in the 1890s to support the burgeoning cranberry business in the town.”
Cole Mill operated continuously from 1706 until 1947, producing lumber, barrels, boxes, and tacks. Over the years Cole Mill represented a number of buildings and several different types of mills, but they were all located on the land along the pond, and therefore simply referred to as a single entity.
John Cole Jr. built a home on High Street in the early 1700s at the head of the dirt road that led to the mill and pond. It has served as the Cole homestead for almost 300 years.
I have not been able to find the succession of ownership through the mid-1700s, but it was passed at some point to Hezekiah Cole (born 27 JUL 1777 – 17 FEB 1843), who ran the mill, followed by his son, Harrison Gray Cole (born 1818) ran the mill throughout much of the 19th century. Harrison’s son Theron Cole (born 1843) became the owner at the turn of the century, and the business was passed down to his son Frank, and later Frank’s son Larry Cole.
Cole Mill is a beautiful historical site. Although almost nothing remains of the man-built buildings and mill structures, hints of what it once was are left behind: bits of iron tools in the dirt, overgrown foundations spread around the pond and river, even broken old cranberry boxes that were more recently produced there. Time has brought great changes to the place – now just a few yards away from where the mill was, the new section of Route 44 cuts through. John Cole would scarcely recognize the place. Yet it is incredible to consider how long the mill served as a cornerstone to the community, changing its products to fit the needs of its consumers, from the colonial period to modern day. Cole Mill is remarkable piece of local history.