In 1940, the Town of Brewster acquired the property encompassing the Herring Run, Gristmill, and the remains of Factory Village on Stony Brook Road. The Millsites Committee oversees the preservation of Brewster's historic Gristmill, and the town-owned land and scenic footpaths along Stony Brook.
The Gristmill (c. 1873) uses the falling water of Stony Brook to power its waterwheel. Inside, the miller grinds corn on the turning millstones. Visitors may purchase fresh cornmeal as a souvenir of their visit. Upstairs, the Museum features artifacts of Cape Cod life in the 1800's, and an antique loom used for weaving demonstrations. Photos and descriptive signs tell the story of Brewster's sea-faring history, the Herring Run and the industrial development of Factory Village.
Gallant Films has a short film that shows the recent renovation of the mill's water wheel and works.
How to Get There:
From Route 6 (Mid-Cape Hwy): Take exit 10 (Brewster/Harwich), and follow Route 124N toward Brewster. Turn left at the first traffic light, and proceed to the intersection with Route 6A. Turn left onto Route 6A and proceed approximately 1 mile to the blinking yellow light. Bear left at the blinking light onto Stony Brook Road. Parking for the Gristmill and Herring Run will be about 3/4ths of a mile on your right.
|1661||Thomas Prence, “governor of the jurisdiction of New Plymouth,” asks permission of the General Court to purchase Saquatucket lands (Stony Brook and surrounding area) from the Native Americans living there.|
|1663||Prence has water-powered GRISTMILL built on brook (probably built by millwright Thomas Paine.) The availability of a corn-grinding mill would attract homesteaders into this sparsely settled area. For cornbread was then the staff of life. And it required expert milling services to grind the rock-hard kernels of dried corn into meal or flour suitable for bread-making.|
|1665||Enough people have settled the area to create a demand for a FULLING MILL, which is built across the road from the gristmill, sharing the brook’s waterpower. Settlers bring home-made woolen cloth to be cleaned and “pre-shrunk” prior to being sewn into garments. So important was this service that, at one time, there were 5 fulling mills on Cape Cod.|
|1738-39||Records say Kenelm Winslow was a “clothier”, meaning he ran a fulling mill where cloth was “dressed”. At this time, his mill is called the “NEW FULLING MILL”, suggesting a rebuilding or modernizing of the 1665 facility.|
Winslow’s NEW FULLING MILL burns, along with cloth valued at 1000 British pounds. Translated, that would be worth $5,000 to $6,000!
1814 New WOOLEN MILL built on burned out fulling mill foundation. It operates power-drive looms, some of the first in the country.
|1830||TANNERY is built next to the old gristmill. Glauber salts, produced at Brewster’s saltworks, would be used in the tanning process. Local residents must have been providing an abundance of hides from pigs, sheep, cows, and aged horses to make tanning commercially feasible.|
|1847||Woolen mill proves unsuccessful, converted to COTTON WEAVING MILL. It would also become a CARDING MILL where sheared wool was carded, or combed, into curls ready for the spinster to spin them into yarn and thread.|
|1855||A PAPER MILL now occupies the former carding mill.|
|1871||Roaring fire burns gristmill and tannery to the ground. Cause: the miller was smoking herring in wooden barrels inside the mill!|
|1873||Present Stony Brook Gristmill built on original fulling mill foundation, using recycled lumber from dismantled salt works. (Salt-making by solar evaporation thrived along Brewster shores from 1800 to the 1850’s. When cheaper sources of salt were discovered, the industry died.)|
|1880’s||Wooden waterwheel replaced with METAL TURBINE, then state-of-the-art for powering machinery. Turbine helped run an overall factory, and a variety of other manufacturing enterprises. . . including the cranking power to make ice cream. But the bustle and glory days of a unique area, called FACTORY VILLAGE on old Brewster maps were over. The once busy building becomes a home.|
Brewster Town Meeting votes $1000 to acquire abandoned mill building and surrounding lands. An additional $1200 comes from private donations. The Millsites Committee is established.
Subsequently, the great waterwheel has been rebuilt, the gristmill restored, and corn is again ground into golden meal - for the pleasure of visitors and Townspeople.