This Place in History: Ben’s Mill

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BARNET, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in Barnet with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“It’s Ben’s Mill and it’s a place I’ve been meaning to get to for years. There’s been a group of folks restoring this mill. To tell the story of what a mill is and how it works within the community, we’re going to go talk with Hiram Allen. He’s been a mover and shaker of making this site so dynamic,” began Perkins.

“Back in 1848 or so, they had a sawmill here and that was the start of the water power. Then, the mill sat idle until about 1872. Then, this section and the one at the other end was built to dye wool. It was sold to Judkins who made it into a woodworking saw, making wagon wheels and sleds and all that for the farmers. He added a blacksmith shop in 1895. Back then, they made everything on site. It was a shop they used to repair everything they needed or build what they needed,” explained Allen.

“Ben Thresher was born in Peacham. He was a teamster. He went out West and drove horses. He went to work for Judkins in 1941 and then he bought the mill in 1947.”

“I came here in about ’78. Rockefeller had purchased it and he was going to move it to Billings Farm in Woodstock and it never got moved. Then, things changed. I retired in 1978 and a friend of mine called and said that Ben’s Mill was for sale. We purchased it. So we got a $50,000 grant from Preservation Trust and some good people donated money with the 501(c)(3),” said Allen.

“My wife said not to leave her with Ben’s Mill. So, we decided to donate it to the Trust. Hopefully will continue on when I’m done continuing, so-to-speak,” joked Allen.

“When I think of my home workshop, every machine I have has its own engine attached. That’s not the case here. How does that work?” asked Perkins. “There’s one mode of power downstairs. It’s a gas engine now, but it used to be water. Then what happens? How does that power all of these machines?”

“You’ve got power on the main shaft, which is controlled by if you had water, that steering wheel. Now, over here, you see this is two shafts here and the belt is on this one. This will slide over and the belt will move onto the power. When you’re done with the machine, you pull it back and the belt comes back over here which is continually running,” demonstrated Allen.

We’re open weekends from 11 AM to 3 PM. Anybody can stop in. We don’t charge admission. It’s just a donation,” concluded Allen.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historical markers, click here.

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