Ashfield — Industrial Pursuits

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      As has been already remarked, the leading industrial interest of the town is that of agriculture. The want of ample water-power has prevented capital of much amount from being invested in manufacturing enterprises. Saw-mills are erected on the streams, and considerable timber is sawed during the season of high water and carried to other places for sale. Grist-mills have also always existed in the town. The first was built in 1743, to supply the first settlers of the town with meal, and stood about one hundred rods northeasterly of the site of the present Episcopal Church, and was in use until about the year 1830. In 1753 a saw-mill stood upon Bear River, one-fourth of a mile east of the dwelling-house of Solomon H. Deming. At the present time A. D. Flower has a grist-mill at South Ashfield; L. & J. S. Gardner a saw-mill at South Ashfield; Nelson Gardner a saw-mill at Spruce Corner; William E. Ford a saw-mill in the west part of the town, and Jonathan Howes one near the Buckland line. Besides these, different varieties of wooden-ware are manufactured in the town by Nelson Gardner, Marcus T. Parker, Walter Guilford, and Charles H. Day.
      Many considerable fortunes were made in former portions of the present century in the traffic of various essences and oils. There were several distilleries where all kinds of herbs and plants that could find a market were made to contribute of their peculiarities. Ashfield essence-peddlers could be found all over this and neighboring States, and many even sought the West and South.*

* About the year 1814, Samuel Ranney introduced here, upon his farm, the culture and distillation of the peppermint herb, which was found to be for many years quite a profitable pursuit. For a number of years the price of oil of peppermint was from $6 to $16 per pound. Its production was continued to a considerable extent until about the year 1833, many acres being raised each year. At that time and before, its cultivation had been commenced in Phelps, N. Y., where the soil and the climate were better suited to its growth, and where it was produced at much less expense. Of late years the crop is largely raised in St. Josephs Co., Mich.

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29 Jun 2005