Slater's Mark: Samuel Slater and the Founding of Webster  


Slater's Arrival in the Oxford South Gore

After the first mill was built, Slater continued to expand. In 1798, he jointly founded a new business, Samuel Slater & Company, in association with his father-in-law, Oziel Wilkinson; Timothy Green; and William Wilkinson. He built factories in Providence, Slatersville, and Smithfield, Rhode Island as well as in Oxford and Wilkinsonville, Massachusetts. However, he was not yet finished with his expansion.

Through the course of his business dealings, Slater became acquainted with James Tiffany of South Brimfield, Massachusetts. Tiffany had two sons, and after some discussion, Slater agreed to hire one of the Tiffany sons: Lyman. Lyman worked out well, causing Slater to also hire his brother Bela. In their travels to the Slater mills in Pawtucket, the Tiffany brothers passed through the Oxford South Gore, a location Bela described as “4 miles from Oxford, 3 from Dudley, and 6-½ from Thompson.” When told of this area, Slater sent Bela out to explore the Gore for possible expansion. Bela did as instructed and, after surveying the area, wrote back to Slater describing what he found:

Buildings—Large two-story house unfinished inside, built for two families; grist-mill with two run of stones, tolerably good; a very good saw-mill; and a trip-hammer shop, in good repair, with about 13 or 14 acres of land, one half of which is swamp of very little value, and the rest not very good. With regard to water and fall, there is no doubt enough to answer any purpose we should want, and so situated that a mill may be erected with as little expense as in any place I have seen; it is convenient to the road, and I believe quite secure from inundation.4

Satisfied with Tiffany’s judgment, Slater instructed him to begin purchasing land and water rights in the area. From Elijah Pratt, owner of the two mills and trip-hammer shop, Tiffany bought two parcels totaling nine and a half acres situated in Oxford and Dudley. Tiffany bought another 203 acres from Asa and Samuel Robinson. These two purchases took place in January 1812; in May, Tiffany purchased fifty-six acres from Josiah Kingsbury, which contained a house and a clothing mill. All told, Tiffany purchased 268 ½ acres at a cost of $9,000, as well as full control of all the water power rights connected to Webster Lake. Tiffany then sold five-sixths of the property to Slater, at the cost of $7,500, and retained one-sixth for himself and forming a partnership with Slater called Slater & Tiffany.

The Green Mill, c. 1812Shortly thereafter, Slater and Tiffany began construction of the Green Mill to spin cotton into yarn, which it did for the first time in January 1813. By the end of 1813, they had also built a dyeworks at the same site, and Slater was sending yarn up from Pawtucket to be dyed at the Green Mill complex. The following year brought Slater into the woolen manufacturing business. Slater would continue to buy property in Webster and expand his business holdings through the end of his life.

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