A little history of this land –
Descriptive Catalogue of Farms in Massachusetts
by William Robert Sessions (1891)
"Farm of 120 acres mowing 30 pasture 50 woodland 40 suitable for cultivation 50 Grass can be cut with a machine No house Barn 36×40 in poor repair Mostly fenced with stone wall in fair condition Good water supply Two hundred and twenty five apple trees 14 pear 3 quince 6 cherry and 20 peach trees besides 6 young grape vines and a quantity of raspberry and blackberry bushes Railroad station Whitman’s Station J mile post office Rock Bottom 1 mile Price $4,000 cash at sale $2,500 interest on balance 5 per cent Address Jerome Barton Rock Bottom Mass "
REV. AND MRS. PRESTON R. CROWELL (1933)
"The village of Gleasondale is of no small importance to the town, not only in its early historical interest, but in its later industrial and business development and connection with the cherished names of its patriotic and enterprising citizens, indicated in the village names, "Randall Mills" (1776-1815); "Rock Bottom" (1815-1898); "Gleasondale" (1898-1933).
The first certain record of the establishment of mills of any kind is in the deed of February 19, 1770 by which John Gordon and his wife Mercy conveyed to Timothy Gibson for $300, land with a grist and saw mill, previously the property of their father, Ebenezer Graves–land purchased by him September 17, 1716 from Zachariah Whitman. The dam and mills were built by Mr. Graves before 1750.
Timothy Gibson sold this property (sixty acres with corn and saw mill) to Abraham Randall for $462; from whom it received its name, by which it was known for more than half a century. These mills were located on the east side of the Assabet river; the dam
being some five or six rods below the present dam of B. W. Gleason & Sons. On the death of Mr. Randall early in 1815 these mills became the property of his two sons Abram and Paul, who deeded them; one, August 20, 1819 for $471.50, and the other February 12, 1822 for $1200 to Joel Cranston, Silas Felton and Elijah Hale, enterprising merchants of that part of Marlboro, now the town of Hudson. These gentlemen together with Silas Jewell, an old resident of the vicinity, are chiefly responsible for the early development of the cotton manufacturing enterprise, which was finally conducted under the name of the Rock Bottom Cotton & Woolen Company. The first record of the name of "Rock Bottom" is in connection with this factory. According to tradition, the name had its origin with the remark of Joel Cranston who, when his men were digging the foundation of the factory and came to solid rock, said to them, "you’ve reached rock bottom." At first this was a by-word, but soon this chance remark became the permanent designation of the locality.
After being conducted with varying success and passing through the hands of different operators, the manufacturing interests of the village were absorbed February 14, 1849 by B. W. Gleason & Co.; the firm included Benjamin Gleason of Andover, Mass. and Samuel Dale of Ware, Mass. Both were fitted by experience and executive ability to handle an enterprise of the kind and under these new auspices, the business soon assumed a new aspect of vigor and energy. In the next year an addition and improvements were made. A serious interruption was caused by a fire May 9, 1852 which entirely destroyed the mill. Out of the ashes however, arose a new brick mill, 125 feet long, 50 feet wide and 5 stories high, ready for operation in 1854.
On the death of Mr. Dale, March 1, 1853, his brother Ebenezer Dale became a partner with Mr. Gleason; the name of the firm remaining as before. Thereon J. Dale, youngest brother of Ebenezer Dale, became a partner in 1850. In 1860 the firm name
was changed to Dale Bros. & Co. On the death of Ebenezer December 3, 1871, Mr. Gleason purchased from his heirs their interest and on June 1, 1872, received into partnership his three sons, Charles Whitney, born April 9, 1841, Stilman Augustus, born
August 12, 1843, Alfred Dwight, born February 7, 1845; all of them in North Andover,Mass. The business was continued under the name, B. W. Gleason & Sons. After the death of Benjamin W. Gleason, the firm was known as B. W. Gleason’s Sons; later, C. W. & A. D. Gleason; then Gleasondale Mills and the prestige and substantial prosperity of the concern has been continued to be maintained throughout.
The Humphrey Brigham Shoe factory, located near the Fitchburg Railroad Station, carried on a large business for many years. This four story building, with cupola, was burned to the ground in 1878.
From 1875-1878, we find "Reed Bros.," cabinet-makers, manufacturing chairs, frames and doing all kinds of upholstering work, in this section of Gleasondale.
In the early days there was no railroad, and wool and all supplies for the mills and stores were brought from Boston by teams of horses. Gilman Hapgood of Feltonville was a familiar sight to the villagers as he drove in with his large four-horse team loaded down with wool, and later on loaded up with bales of flannels as he started off over the hills for Boston. Another familiar sight was Amos Sawyer of Berlin as he drove his four horse mail coach over the road from Berlin to South Acton, in the early morning, returning at nightfall, always stopping at the store to take and leave the mail bag. Daily papers were scarce in those days and Sunday papers unheard of.
To protect the fish, laws were passed obliging all mill owners to provide fish ways. By this means a direct communication was made from the ocean to Boon’s pond by way of the Merrimac, Concord and Assabet rivers. Capt. Thomas Whitman, being at "Ram’s Horn Brook," so-called from its crookedness, saw a large quantity of fish. He came home, took his team of four oxen, and with his boys, dipped up over sixty bushels, making the largest amount of fish ever caught in one day in town.
In the more prosperous days of the town, we find a physician living in Gleasondale, named Dr. John Whitman. He had a very fine house, said to be three stories high. This house was burned and the ruins were in what is now Herbert Underwood’s door-yard.
In 1830, there was a store in Rock Bottom, kept by Col. Elijah Hale. He was succeeded by his nephews for a time.
Opposite the place now owned and occupied by Clifford Martin, is the "Sibley Place." At one time there was a saw-mill on this place.
Just below the home of F. Keeler Rice, opposite Mrs. Charlotte Hearsey’s house, was a brick-yard owned by Abijah Parks, great-grandfather of Miss Clara Houghton, of Hudson. He lived in a house on the site of the Whitney Ferguson homestead. Abraham Priest 2nd began working there when 16 years old. Quite a lively business was carried on there about 1830-40.
On the Hallock farm, formerly the Wolcott farm, stood a building which was started for a hotel thinking the main road to Boston was going past the place. As the road went in another direction, this building was never finished and was later used for a cider-mill. Ox-teams carted cider from this mill to Boston, over the old road that goes past the Lake Boon monument. On more than one occasion the oxen were so tired on the return trip,
that they were unyoked, so they could climb the hill.
In colonial days ox-teams were used for all trucking and carting. The oxen were also used for ploughing and other farm work.
About 1880, horses began to be used on the farms; they were quicker in motion and because of this were considered to be more advantageous, as more could be accomplished in one day. But many of the farmers reluctantly changed to this new method, as the steady pull of the oxen and their ability to haul greater loads, could not be replaced by horses. The "gee" and "haw" of the farmer is no longer heard and we find no yoke of oxen in town today.
About 1920, tractors were seen ploughing and hauling out the big rocks and boulders in parts of the town. Today, tractors are in common use."
"From the " Haletonian, 1889"-"The highways are in good condition, the distances on the street from Rock Bottom to Stow center were marked by Elm trees, the space from tree to tree being one-half of a mile. The first from Rock Bottom, being the one in front of "Minister" Randall’s, now owned and occupied by Joseph Hale. The second, a little to the west of Grove School, on the site of the old school-house. The third, at Mark Whitcomb’s. The fourth, at A. J. Smith’s. The fifth, at Robert Carr’s, and the distance from there to the store being one-half of a mile. "
3. Orchard Hill
Orchard Hill lies directly behind (to the west) of the mill buildings at the Route 62 (Gleasondale Road) crossing over the Assabet River in Gleasondale. The hill has played a fascinating role in the overall topographical scheme of the SuAsCo rivers system. Ron McAdow described this role in his book, The Concord Sudbury And Assabet Rivers, as follows:
New England bedrock lies beneath a thin layer of broken and powdered rock left when the ice sheet melted. A little fresh soil has been produced in the short time since glaciation, from decomposing stone and decaying vegetation. Soil is thinnest on ridges and hillsides, where it varies from inches to a few feet in depth. It becomes deeper along the bases of hills and in the valleys.
In some places glacial debris is piled high. Oval hills called drumlins are scattered throughout the Concord Basin. Orchard Hill (AS mile 17.0), at the Stow-Hudson boundary, is an example. The gentle form of this drumlin is all the more observable because it has been kept in grass. At the top of Orchard Hill, not visible from the river, is a "meltwater channel" washed out when ice melted from the glacier that once lay overhead.
Today the Assabet winds around the north of Orchard Hill. It is thought that prior to the Ice Age the Assabet ran to the south of the hill, through the current locations of Lake Boon and White’s Pond, to merge with the Sudbury near Heard Pond (SU mile 18.1). This change of course was caused by the sudden drainage of a glacial lake.
Topographical maps of the area serve to underscore Ron’s point. The maps indicate that the high ground or "continental divide" between the Sudbury and Assabet basins lies along Hudson and Sudbury Roads, suggesting that the Assabet River could well have flowed towards Sudbury and Wayland if the river had gone south of Orchard Hill.
4. Gleasondale (a.k.a. Randall’s Mill and Rock Bottom)
Gleasondale has a long and illustrious history as a major milling center in New England. The first mill and dam – for grist and lumber – in what is now Gleasondale was built by Ebenezer Graves prior to 1750. The dam was located 80 to 100 feet downstream from the current dam. In 1769 the town built the first bridge over the Assabet (then known as the Elizabeth River) so that Abraham Randall, a respected citizen and scion of one of the first settlers, could get to his Methodist Church on Gospel Hill without getting his feet wet. In honor of the Randall family, the area in the vicinity of the dam and crossing was known at the time as Randall’s Mills. (One local historian speculates that this first bridge was located just above the current dam behind the double white house at 457/459 Gleasondale Road where a number of large rocks along the bank may have served as bridge abutments.)
In 1813, the Rock Bottom Cotton & Woolen Company built a wood-framed textile mill at Randall’s Mills and the emerging village and new post office became known as Rock Bottom. The current five-story brick mill building was built in 1854 after the original wooden building burned. A second building was added in 1919. Upwards of a hundred people, most living locally, were employed in the mill during this period. Textile milling continued until after World War II when operations were shut down and the building subsequently sold and converted into the Gleasondale Industrial Park.
A variety of other businesses came and went in Rock Bottom during the village’s heyday in the bustling 1800’s. These ranged from small artisan-type operations in woodworking, leather, farm implements, wicks, furniture, toys, and the like to the large Humphrey Brigham Shoe Factory at Railroad Avenue and Marlborough Road which employed over 100 people until it burned down in 1875.
As if in a final remembrance to a remarkable century, the name of the village and new post office was changed in 1898 from Rock Bottom to Gleasondale in honor of Benjamin Gleason and Samuel Dale who had been partners in the mill which spawned and nurtured this bustling community on the Assabet.
5. Historic Gleasondale Homes
Various of the older homes in Gleasondale reflect the golden era of New England textile milling. Unlike most of the rest of Stow the architecture in Gleasondale center is Victorian. Ethel B. Childs in her 1983 book, History of Stow, described it very eloquently (pp. 74-75) as follows:
The architecture reflected the prosperity of Rock Bottom. There was an elegance, Victorian in all its glory, quite different from the quiet conservatism in the center of [Stow]. The Gleason houses in particular are notable. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Perkins – nee Emily Gleason – have a house that has been greatly altered from its earlier style with four white columns on the front. No expense was spared; a mansard roof, a tower, and a verandah were added; the back extends from the kitchen some distance to connect with a carriage house and stables beyond.
Howard Gleason’s house, built for his parents by their parents, is less ornate and more compact. A gable is arte neuveau, done in carved wood applique. Its interior is comfortable and handsome in its detail, and its fence deserves more than a passing glance. Flowers grow profusely, and lawns bounded by stone walls slope down to the Assabet River that curves around the side of a very fine drumlin on which there is a substantial farm. Still pasture for cows, one is reminded that after all, without the farmer, none of the rest could be.
The yellow Perkins house is at 449 Gleasondale Road. The original house was built in 1836. Next door at 451 Gleasondale Road is the wedding gift house of Howard Gleason and across the road at 452 Gleasondale is the Dale house which was built in 1803. A trolley line from Stow Center to Gleasondale ran across the front lawn of the Dale house in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Posted by Deb Ebbeling on 2014-05-25 18:41:08
Tagged: , Rockbottom , Rockbottom Farm , Stow , Massachusetts , 2014 , April , Deb Ebbeling , Gleasondale , Rock , Bottom , farm , Belgian , horse , theseareafewofmyfavoritethings , respect the copyright