~ The Orswell Mills ~
245 River Street
Organization certified May 8, 1886.
Incorporated May 8, 1888.
Last updated: January 1, 2012.
( A small history on the Star Worsted Company may be found at the base of this page )
Credit for this Sentinel newspaper article below, goes to - Mr. Edward McManus of Fitchburg.
The article below comes from The Fitchburg Sentinel Rotogravure, March 23, 1912.
and featured a half page on the Orswell Mills on page 65 of that edition.
Note - the above image is not from the article, but shows the Orswell Mills in the period betweem 1905 - 1910.
From the Sentinel - the article starts:-
They made yarn from the cotton plants of New England and cotton plants of Egypt and Sea Island
"that evidenced the highest standard of excellence."
"The person who takes pleasure in his tasks is the one who performs them most creditably and satisfactorily.
Thus the employer or corporation that provides wholesome conditions, modern facilities and surroundings conducive
to contentment and development, has equipped himself with one of the best assets for a successful business.
In the organization of the Orswell Mills, this asset was most soundly incorporated, and in the years that have
succeeded the wisdom of the plan has been demonstrated. The mills have been operated almost without interruption.
There has been no friction between employers and employees, and the harmony of relations, combined with the facilities
and equipment at their disposal, has resulted in expanding operations, and an increased production, which in quantity
and quality gives the mills a high and sound reputation in textile circles." The mills employed 350 people working at
40,000 spindles. Air and light were plentiful. " The mills are of brick construction, four stories high, with a length of 517 feet
and depth of 78 feet (providing) an area of 161,304 square feet beside the engine and boiler house and a commodious
storehouse in the rear." "The plant is operated wholly by steam and a fifteen hundred horsepower engine is used."
"The mills were erected in 1886...The founders (were) W.M. Orswell, president, and W.F. Stiles, treasurer. The late
C.T. Crocker was president at the time of his death." "The Orswell Mills is one of Fitchburg's soundest and strongest
industrial enterprises, and the fairness and justice with which it is conducted gives its operative a sense of loyalty and
straightforwardness that is not only effective for the company, but also to make them better citizens generally and most
desirable residents of this municipality."
(End of article )
Warren M. Orswell was born at Providence, RI., his first experience in a cotton mill was at Blackstone, and when only
eighteen years of age he became an overseer in the mills at Valley Falls, RI - from there he went to the Wamsutta Mills
at New Bedford as overseer, later to go to the Albion Mills, RI where he became superintendent for a period of seven years.
The Nockege Mill was started in February, 1893, Warren M. Orswell being the president of the organization until his death on
July 5, 1897 at which time he was treasurer of the Lancaster Mills of Lancaster, MA. Little is known of the years that followed
up until 1904 when James C. Eteson became superintendent of the Orswell Mills. In 1906 the textile workers throughout New
England excepted a much welcomed wage increase, but in the years to follow the total Industry was showing signs of decline
eventually leading up to a massive strike in 1928 which had a devastating effect on both small and large Mills and their operatives.
Many smaller mills closed their doors forever unable to meet orders, plus the ever growing costs of having machinery laying idle.
The Great Depression starting in October, 1929 would be the final blow to the Industry and also to names such as Orswell Mills
as a few years later in 1933 directors from the mills would sit for the last time in its long and colorful history.
In the photo below a good view of the Orswell Mills can be seen back in the early 1900's.
~ Credits for the above photo go to Mrs. Daphne Taylor of Fitchburg ~
For an excellent history of other mills in New England including the Wamsutta Mills as mentioned above -
New Bedford Textile Mills
The above link is an Excellent website devoted to the history of mills, people and companies.
- TEXTILE INDUSTRY HISTORY -
Moving forward in time to 1918
Frank Robinson is seen below as Past President of the Orswell Mills
with Thomas Robinson as Vice President.
Thomas Robinson was also the 1st Vice President
for the Nockege Manufacturing Company 1917 - 1918
~ More information below ~
Below, an original advert dating back to 1913 for the Orswell Mill.
The types of spinners, twisters & looms used in this Mill are a mystery up until this day !!.
There is a good possibility they might have been either Whitin Looms from the Whitin
Machine Works in Uxbridge or from the Crompton and Knowles Works in Worcester,
although the latter company specialized more in wool machinery. The Draper Company
in Hopedale gives no mention to this mill as one of its customers, being the most likely
as most Draper manuals cover not only their machines but also their customer base in full.
~ More yet to come on this interesting Mill ~
Other Textile Mills within Fitchburg included: ~ The Star Worsted Company ~ Below, an original advert dating back to 1910 for the Star Worsted Company. Click here Seen below, the Star Worsted Mill taken around the 1915 period showing the separate warehouse, Click here Click here
Hollow Woolen Mill
Grant Yarn Company
Star Worsted Company
Fitchburg Woolen Mill
Fitchburg Yarn Company
Sherrifs Worsted Company
Fitchburg Worsted Company
Parkhill Manufacturing Company
Nockege Manufacturing Company
( C B. Smith, Treasurer & Manager ~ ~ ~ P W. Flint, Assistant Treasurer and Secretary )
The mill was situated at 42 West Street and by 1913 consisted of 9 combing machines,
11 worsted carding machines and 12,272 worsted spindles. The mill was powered by
both steam and water, the latter may have been a water turbine to provide the motive force
for driving the machinery, while the steam power would be used to run a stationarg engine
directly connected to a generator for the lighting, ( a dynamo room ) to power the lighting for
the three story building, plus a separate warehouse and other numerous outbuildings, many
of which were later additions built by 1917. The mill produced worsted yarns 10s to 50s on
spools, bobbins and in skeins mainly in the grey, and the black and white mixes, selling
directly to the trade and public.
The architect for the Star Worsted mill is unknown, at this point in time.
A likely may have been - The G. M. Parks Company based in Fitchburg ( Parks-Cramer Company )
A link below to some old adverts from Parks-Cramer, Courtesy of Gary Mock and his web site
Textile History. Org.
with the boiler room and smokestack situated away from the mill due to safety reasons, by this time
electric lighting would have been installed, but it is unsure whether all machinery would have been
converted to electric motor drive due to the costs involved.
The owner of the Star Worsted Company was James Phillips, Jr., a long time manufacturer in the City
of Fitchburg, who also owned the Beoli Mill and the Arden Mill, in 1871, when in his early 20's he
came to Fitchburg along with the late Edward M. Rockwell, purchased the Beoli mill and began the
manufacture of worsteds. Ten years later the Arden mill was purchased. In 1881, with the late George
M. Proctor he organized a corporation and founded the Star Worsted Company. The unit was sold in
1894 to Charles B. Smith and the late Charles T. Crocker. After the sale of the latter and the merger
with American Woolens, he retired from his activities in Fitchburg and later lived on the west coast.
James Phillips, Jr, died in Los Angeles, CA, August 30, 1931, at the age of 83.
Many other textile mills preceded the above named and can be found on the page below
And for a look at the Nockege River Mills ( formally the Fitchburg Yarn Company ) as they stand today, a link below
~ The Star Worsted Company ~
Below, an original advert dating back to 1910 for the Star Worsted Company. Click here
Seen below, the Star Worsted Mill taken around the 1915 period showing the separate warehouse,