Passumpsic Mills History

Kay Kandra drawing of first Passumpsic Mill (1963).

In the valley of the Passumpsic, lying partly in Barnet, Waterford and St. Johnsbury, is a region which was mainly settled by families from Bristol County, Mass., and adjoining portions of Rhode Island. They established manufactures of various kinds and were eminent factors in the early prosperity of this part of the state. It was from this stock that the Paddock, Armington, Ide, Fairbanks and other families came, who have been so useful in the industrial development of Caledonia County. Mr. Ide says that the immigration of so many families from the vicinity of Providence. R. I., near the end of the eighteenth century, was largely due to the inducements, and advertising of Dr. Jonathan Arnold, who began settlement at St. Johnsbury in 1787. Passumpsic Village is built on part of the original grant of Joseph Stevens. In 1789 he sold Lot No. 157, and sixty acres of No. 168 on which a saw-mill had been built, to John Stevens, and the place was called Stevens' Falls, and is so mentioned in early deeds. About that time a grist-mill, a primitive affair, was built. William Kendall bought these mills and the place was called Kendall's Mills for a long time. Mr. Kendall and his sons William and Jacob Kendall went into business there, supplying the wants of those early days. This water power and the land adjoining were sold to William Kendall and son.

Providence Gazette 1789

The Ide family has been identified with Passumpsic for more than a century. Timothy Ide came from Rehoboth, Mass., in 1792, and was one of several brothers who settled in this vicinity. He bought on the 23rd of December, 1813, of John Woods, the grist-mill and other real estate. This mill was only a primitive affair. built about 1789. All the machinery in this mill was made of wood. The stones were split from a granite boulder in Esq. Harvey's pasture by Isaac Chamberlin. The mill had no elevators. The mill and water power cost $1,200. One-sixteenth, or two quarts in each bushel were taken for toll. Mr. Ide controlled this mill until his death in 1839 and was succeeded by his son Jacob, who put in the first elevator and the first burr stones in this section.

In 1861. the mill was rebuilt and new machinery put in. In January, 1866, the firm of E. T. & H. K. Ide was formed by Jacob Ide's Sons. Large quantities of California white wheat were ground in this mill. In 1869, a branch was established at St. Johnsbury, and conducted by H. K. Ide. In 1879, E T. Ide moved to St. Johnsbury, leaving the mill in charge of Frank W. Mason, who had charge of it many years. In 1882 the pulp mill adjoining the Ide mill burned and the Ide mill with it. New mills were built in the next year. In 1897 the firm of E T. & H. K. Ide was incorporated. The mill was burned again in 1904 and the water power sold to the St. Johnsbury Electric Co., which furnishes power for the mill and elevators at St. Johnsbury. The firm now consists of E. T. Ide, president ; W. A. Ide, vice-president ; Geo. M. Gray, secretary. The latter has been with the firm about thirty years.

In early days about one-half of the business of the mill came from Waterford. Before the railroad was built, Portland was the market, and many farmers made the trip through Crawford Notch several times each winter. The village was greatly assisted by the Passumpsic Turnpike, over which there was a vast amount of teaming. There were three taverns at that place, all well patronized, for teamsters who came down from the towns above usually stopped over night there before beginning their journey on the "pike." Those who came up the river, or from Portland way, found it very convenient to pass the night at one of these inns. There was a tavern on the corner of Main and River Streets. This tavern was quite a popular resort during many years, serving refreshment for man and beast, sometimes transforming the man into a beast, to the great edification of the small boys. There was another tavern across 'the street, built perhaps, by Jacob Kendall, which was burned about 1847 or 1850. Adjoining was the large stage barn where the horses were kept for the relay. Hon. E. T. Ide, who has furnished most of the information for this account of Passumpsic, says that the run was probably from Wells River or Haverhill. "It was a great event in my boyhood days to see this huge Concord coach with its six or eight horses, swing tip and stop in front of the tavern and see the hostlers rush out, unhitch the tired horses and hitch up the fresh ones, already harnessed. "Meanwhile the great leather mail pouch was carried by two men into the same room where the Post Office is now, and Levi P. Parks, the postmaster, and his clerk, emptied the contents of the bag upon a table, sorting out the letters and other matter belonging there. The balance of the mail was then returned to the pouch and sent along as soon as the fresh horses were ready.

History of Barnet, Vermont: From the Outbreak of the French and Indian War (edited)