History of Factory Village and Stony Brook Grist Mill

The Stony Brook Grist Mill and Museum is a water-powered grist mill on the site of the original fulling mill in Brewster’s Factory Village. The history of Factory Village begins with Plymouth Colony Governor Thomas Prence purchasing Stony Brook (then called Saquatucket) and surrounding lands from local Native Americans. The brook is supplied by the outflow of seven interconnected ponds and drops twenty-six vertical feet in its two-mile rush to Cape Cod Bay. By 1663, a water powered grist mill began grinding local grown grain into meal and flour for home use.

In 1665 a fulling mill shared the water power. Here homespun woolen cloth was brought to be cleaned and “pre-shrunk” before being home sewn into family clothing.

In 1760, the fulling mill and thousands of dollars’ worth of homespun woolen material burned.
Fifty four years later (1814) the Winslow family built a woolen mill on the fulling mill foundation to produce the first factory-made woolen cloth in America.

Thus in the early 1800’s began a thriving commercial community shown on maps as Factory Village. There was a tannery, a cobbler’s shop (forerunner of today’s United Shoe Machinery Co.), carding and cotton mills. In fact, everything from overalls to mittens, paper and ice cream were manufactured in Factory Village.

Today’s Stony Brook Grist Mill is the sole remaining structure from Factory Village. Built in 1873 from dismantled saltworks boards, it sits on the foundation of the original fulling mill. In 1940, the Town of Brewster purchased the abandoned mill and surrounding property for $1,000 and established the Millsites Committee to oversee this important historical site.

For many years, the town miller ground corn using a small “farmer’s mill.” In 2009, a new larger water-wheel and millworks were built using Community Preservation Act funds. The completed restoration is a working representation of a 19th Century Grist Mill. Visitors can see the mill in action and purchase fresh ground cornmeal. The upstairs Museum features photos of Factory Village, a large collection of Native American stone tools, an antique barn loom, and many artifacts from 19th Century Brewster life.

This area is also the site of Brewster’s Herring Run – where every spring countless alewives (herring) make their way up Stony Brook to return to the freshwater ponds where they were born in order to spawn.