Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Taftville Dam That's Big!

In my last Looking at the Sky on Friday post, I featured this picture that I had taken along the banks of the Shetucket River with the old Ponemah Mill in Taftville in the background. Mimi, our beloved Queen of Memes, left the following comment that sort of made me laugh a little "... I love this shot! The water looks so peaceful and calm."

Certainly not a humorous remark so you're probably asking yourself why that would have made me laugh, right? Well, the reason is simple as what you can't see in the above picture, due to the fact that it's hidden by the tree branches, is this ...

Which then leads to ...

... the Taftville Dam! As any old New Englander will tell you, any old mill here in New England worth its salt has got a dam (or former dam) nearby as - back in the day - water was the primary power source used to generate the electricity for the mills. I'm pretty sure that most dams weren't this big but the Taftville Dam needed to be large due to the size of the mill it provided power for.

While doing some research yesterday, I came across some rather interesting information about Ponemah Mill that I thought I'd share with you if you're so inclined to read on:
"The Ponemah Mill has more employees than many of the towns in the state have inhabitants; and the yards of cloth it annually manufactures, if spread out, would reach a distance of 11,364 miles, or nearly half round the world. This mammoth establishment is said to be the second largest cotton factory in the United States, if not in the world. It is situated on the Shetucket river, in the village of Taftville — a suburb of Norwich about 3^ miles from the centre of the city. The building of the dam and the mill was commenced in 1867, and the company commenced running the machinery in 1870. At that time there was not a house in sight of the privileges; and where now stands a small city in appearance, with streets lined with handsome houses spreading out in various directions, there was but rocky, half-cultivated and neglected farming lands. The entire length of the mill, including a hundred-foot machine shop, is 1,576 feet. Some idea of its vast size can be arrived at by stating that this number of feet makes the mill but a trifle less than a third of a mile long. It manufactures a fine quality of cotton goods, which find a ready market all over the country. The company owns 190 tenement houses, besides stores, store-houses, and various buildings connected with their manufactory."
This information was part of a report titled, "NORWICH,CONNECTICUT: Its Importance as a Business and Manufacturing Centre and as a Place of Residence; A Brief/Review of Its Past and Present issued by THE NORWICH BOARD OF TRADE, January, 1888". The report listed not only the Ponemah Mill but many of the other mills that made up an important part of Norwich. It's really quite fascinating reading - or at least it is to me! - but that's probably because I love learning about the history of an area plus it's amazing to me that our forefathers were able to accomplish so much with nowhere near the technology that we take for granted today.

It seems a shame to me that once upon a time man was able to harness the power of nature to create all of the power he needed and now some balk at even putting up windmills that provide a clean, natural energy alternative. Maybe it's time we took a look back and used some of the good ideas that others before us had (granted, not all of them were good!). In the meantime, though, I'll keep finding interesting spots that provide a glimpse into the past and maybe, if I'm lucky, even have a story to tell.


  1. Where the first picture looked the epitome of calm, these are exciting! Great shots Linda and thanks for the information too. :)

  2. I love water and dams and history...thanks for providing all three! Excellent commentary on our forefathers and using natural energy alternatives today...

  3. I love the history posts...please keep it up!

  4. Dam, that was another interesting local history post.

    I too love local history and we are fortunate to have two active historical societies in the Valley that offer all kinds of programs.

    You've inspired me to write another one. We certainly have plenty of old stuff around here to get me going.

    I'm with Last Minute Lyn ... keep the history posts coming, Duchess Linda. ;-)

  5. You always have such interesting history posts, Linda. You really should have been a history teacher!

    I love the last shot! You can feel the movement of the rushing water.

  6. great point about the energy! and so true too! i always said we should be able to use the tides somehow for energy...

    smiles, bee

  7. the calm before the falls :)

    great photos Linda

  8. You East Coasters have such dam fine history to share! Thanks for the great photos!

  9. Oh, that certainly does not look peaceful! Funny. You're going along in life all peaceful and calm and then wham! you turn a corner hidden by tree branches and nearly fall off a cliff.

    I really need to look where I'm going.

  10. I love the photos miss linda

  11. Your pictures are fabulous. Thank you a lot for your excellent website.

  12. Anonymous2:34 PM EDT

    *sniffin around*
    I wonder if there are any trouts in there? Tee hee!

  13. Hi linda, Nice photo and I love it

  14. HA! A picture not only can be worth 1000 words, it can also be deceiving!

  15. nice pics and great post...hopefully i can get some shots of Hoover dam if I make it that way..

  16. I like the falls side better than the prefall side.

    but that's just me. I've always prefered running water on a singing stream

  17. Funny! It's kind of how I feel about myself: Quiet and calm on the outside and churning away like mad on the inside!
    I always enjoy your history posts. I agree - you would have made an excellent teacher!

  18. Beautiful! I would have soooo much fun with those falls and a slow shutter speed! Gorgeous captures, as always.

  19. I had no idea that there were cotton factories up north. And this one was a big one, too.
    Have a great week, Lin :o)


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