Hanson, MA 02341, USA
Owned By: Town of Hanson
Historic sawmill on Indian Head Brook. Building is available to rent for events.
Prior to European contact, the Mattakeeset band of the Massachuseuk (or Massachusett) Native American tribe lived for thousands of years in the North River watershed. Their village included most of today’s Pembroke and Hanson as well as parts of Duxbury. The word “Mattakeeset” means “place of many fish.” Wampatuck Pond, across the street, is named for the Chief Sachem of the Mattakeeset, Josias Wompatuck (also spelled Wampatuck).
According to literature posted on site, there are two different stories about how Col. Nathaniel Thomas and his family came to own the land where this mill stands. One story indicates that in the mid-1600s, Thomas received 250 acres from the colony in exchange for work as a land surveyor, as part of the colony’s very large “Major’s Purchase” from Chief Joseph Wampatuck. The other story states that Thomas purchased the land directly from Wampatuck. There was already a beaver dam at this spot when Thomas surveyed the land.
Col. Thomas completed the work the beavers had begun and constructed a dam here in 1694-1695 — the first dam in Plymouth Colony to power a water wheel. Shortly thereafter Nathaniel’s son Isaac built a sawmill there. By 1712, the mill was known as Colonel’s Old Mill. After it passed into the possession of Isaac’s son, it became known as the Edward Thomas Mill. It remained in the Thomas family for a long time, and in the early 1800s became a gristmill operated by David Beal. The early mills incorporated fish ladders to help herring and other migratory fish swim upstream.
When Benjamin Hobart took over the mill in 1829, he added tack-cutting machinery for the shoe industry. The mill burned down in 1835 and was rebuilt. It continued to produce nails and tacks until 1848. Next, Nathaniel Cushing purchased two-thirds of the building for a trunk factory. The remaining third of the building remained a tack factory.
The next owner was Henry Brigham, who also made tacks (until 1859). After another fire in 1859, E. Phillips & Sons operated a sawmill here until about 1900. Later owners included the Lot Phillips Company, the Wampatuck Cranberry Co., and the United Cape Cod Cranberry Company. The current mill building was constructed by volunteers in 1976, as part of the town’s Bicentennial celebration. It was purchased by the town with Community Preservation funds in 2009. Maintenance is funded by rental fees.
RENTALS: The 26×36 square foot mill building is available for daily rental from April through October. ($25/24-hour period). It has electricity, overhead fans and lights, outside lighting, and a wood stove. It is not winterized. Contact Arlene Quimby-Verity at 781-563-2183.
No trails, however visitors can walk a short distance around the building for various views of the mill facilities and Indian Head Brook.
Habitats and Wildlife
Indian Head Brook, a tributary to the Indian Head River, flows through Wampatuck Pond, through this mill site, and onward to the northeast through Hanson. After passing through the Webster-Billings Conservation Area, it joins the Indian Head River just a short distance upstream of the State Street bridge and the Rocky Run Conservation Area.
Historic Site: Yes
Boat Launch: No
Size: 1.3 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Ample on-site parking on Route 58, across from Wampatuck Pond.
Cost: Free. Daily rentals for $25.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Bench, views of historic mill.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Indian Head Brook (North & South Rivers watershed)