Nestled in the scenic town of New Marlborough, Massachusetts, lies a hidden gem of historical significance—the Lower Carroll Mill. This abandoned mill, with its intriguing past and architectural charm, offers visitors a glimpse into the region’s industrial heritage. In this article, we embark on a journey to explore the Lower Carroll Mill and delve into its rich history, highlighting its importance in shaping the local community.
The village of Mill River in New Marlborough was named after the many saw, grist, and paper mills that were established in the town during the 19th century. These mills took advantage of the strong water flow from the Konkapot River which dropped over 150 feet within the small village. In total, 11 different industries were supported from the mills, including the paper production of the Carroll Mills.
John Carroll, who lived from 1800-1876, constructed his mill upstream in 1837. He began in the straw print paper industry. Carroll would purchase local rye straw from farmers and then turn it into paper. This made him a wealthy man, but Carroll sought to become even more successful.
Carroll believed that he should invest in a wood pulp producing mill because pulpwood paper was more sustainable and efficient. Carroll had a new lower mill constructed and it was equipped with a patented Risdon Impact Water Wheel. This wheel produced 200 horsepower which would power the wood grinder at the mill which would generate an ample supply of wood pulp slurry. The wood pulp slurry would then be transported to the upper mill using a wagon. At the upper mill, the pulpwood paper would be produced from the slurry.
The mill mainly focused on crafting newsprint and manila paper for the New York City market. Eventually, Carroll retired and things started to go downhill for the mill business. The absence of nearby railroad facilities, the loss of the senior Carroll’s skilled management, a severe regional economic downturn, labor problems, lack of sufficient money, and labor disputes all contributed to the company’s financial precipice in 1876.
In 1878, the company restarted production of straw paper and built a boiler house so that the equipment could be powered by steam. The Fourdrinier papermaking equipment, which at the time was the industry standard, was purchased by the proprietors. Ultimately though, demand and profits were not very high. In December 1883, the lower mill underwent one more conversion to create book paper, but the operation was discontinued at the end of the following year. After operations stopped in the mid-1880s, the buildings began to fall into disrepair. Today, visitors can view the foundation of the lower mill along with some dams and bridges along the way. There is a plaque at the Lower Carroll Mill which outlines how the operations worked.
- Trail Length: 0.76 miles
- Trail Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 76 feet
- Route Type: Out-and-back
- Dog Policy: Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash.
The trail to the Lower Carroll Mill is a great way to get out in nature and enjoy some cool sights. Parking can be found uniquely at the back of the Mill River Cemetery. The trailhead is right at the parking area and from here, the mill ruins are just about 0.4 mile away. Much of the hike down to the stone mill is downhill with the return mainly uphill. The hiking route is an out-and-back trail that totals just under 0.80 miles.
- Year Established: 1837
- Year Abandoned: Mid-1880s
- Original Function: Paper mill