Mark Worthen remarks in his book “Hometown Jamaica” that mills began working here in the town of Jamaica as early as 1782 and that in the 19th century there were 11 dams here with one mill for each dam and sometimes two. These mills ground corn, functioned as tanneries, produced boards from vertical saws, milled parts for furniture, produced shingles and more. These mills that were the industry of Jamaica disappeared one by one having suffered the ravages of time, hurricane and floods.
All but one!
Luckily we have the last surviving mill building still standing in the town of Jamaica once owned and operated by Arthur B. Cheney (Born 1888 died 1968),who raised his family at 142 CastleHill across the road from the mill site.
In later years this mill building briefly served as a town garage and still stands on the town garage property. The weathered wood structure with it’s tin roof, having previously lost it’s additions and out buildings, can be seen to the left on your way to the transfer station while driving south on Castle Hill Road.
As depicted in the photo to the right, the mill was larger with
additions and was noted for producing furniture parts.
A child size bed produced at the mill is shown below.
Pictured above is Arthur B. Cheney, his wife Nellie and children. Above Arthur's brother Leon.
The following is a letter from Arthur B. Cheney’s daughter Mary Scott to the Jamaica Historical Foundation.
Here are a few of my old memories, so many of them, but I have also found an article written by my sister and I'm sure she had many more memories than I have! It's rather long so, if you're interested, I'll mail it to you, plus a couple more pictures. Let me know.
So many memories of my Dad's mill! When I was still very young he would take me through the mill, explaining how it worked, beginning with when the logs came in, went through the drag saw and into various other saws. Saw the whole process until they became chair stock. I remember some of the men who worked there, including my Uncle Leon, Leon Bemis, Tyler Waite and others. Also recall Mark McLean coming in with his big orange truck and taking loads of chair stock to various destinations, mostly in Massachusetts.
I think my most vivid memory is of the 1938 flood. Dad and Uncle Leon worked hard to secure Dad's mill as water was coming up all around it. Uncle Leon's mill was on the other side of the brook so they both started through the village to try and save it. As they were crossing the bridge (the old red bridge) they saw Uncle Leon's mill coming down the brook. It crashed into the bridge and my Dad said it broke up like an eggshell! Bridge survived but it was a narrow escape for both.
I was happy to see the photo of the old sluiceway which went to the mill back when it was steam powered. The mill was powered later by an engine I also recall... a big Allis-Chalmers The mill was extremely noisy, probably why Dad developed hearing problems later. In spite of the noise I always liked to watch all the activity and I'm so glad to still retain so many memories of it.
One item in the Brattleboro Reformer I still have and vaguely remember: