Hoosick Township Historical Society

The History of Wallomsac and the Wallomsac Mills

 

This information was gathered from material found in the Louis Miller Museum, material collected by Christina Stevens, who was a granddaughter of Samuel Stevens (who owned and operated the paper mill at Walloomsac at one time), an article entitled WALLOOMSAC VALLEY RICH WITH HISTORY, by Joseph A. Parker, and from a discussion with Howard Bornt of North Hoosick.

 

Compiled by Gilbert E Wright in 1996.

 

While The Battle of Bennington was fought on a farm owned by John Green, the post-war history starts with Thomas Sickles, who owned a farm nearby and also owned the facilities for water power at the Walloomsac River. The water power was used to run a saw mill, a grist mill and a flour mill.  This is reported to be in 1791 or 1792.

At the turn of the century, Thomas Sickles operated a cloth mill using either flax or linen or wool. Both flax and wool were readily available in the area at that time. It is believed that he was the first man in America to operate a loom with water power.  It is also reported that he ran a cotton mill in 1812.

With so many mills in the area there is little wonder why the community was known as Sickles Mills  When the Town Of Hoosick was formed, Thomas Sickles became town supervisor and conducted the town’s business at Sickles Mills.

In 1830 the mill was sold to Seymour Gooding, who also ran a cotton mill. It was then sold to Austin Downer and a man by the name of Pratt, who later sold it to the Walloomsac Paper Company in 1875. There is an account of a scythe-making mill in the 1830s. The exact location is unknown.  Mowing machines were produced in the 1850s, causing the demand for scythes to decrease.

The duration of the first mills is uncertain. However, paper mills have been there since the first one in 1854. They have been rebuilt four times in the past, 1874, 1881, 1900, and 1914. This information is engraved on a marble plaque located on the existing building. The plaque is no longer visible from the ground due to new structures added to the original building.

There are conflicting reports as to the owner of the original paper mill. One account credits Downer and Pratt. The second account credits Alexander and William Orr. Both accounts agree that year was

1854. The second account states that the mill was bought by Alexander and William Orr of Troy, who changed it into a paper mill.  They had mills in Pittstown, Lansingburgh, and North Hoosick as well as Walloomsac. In 1852-1853 new paper making machinery was installed. Samuel Stoughton Stevens was employed to set up the machines and later was put in charge of all four mills. When the Orr brothers were in their eighties, they sold the mills at Walloomsac and North Hoosick to Samuel Stevens and George Thompson in 1922.

The Stevens and Thompson mills produced oatmeal wallpaper and

ingrains. Also, specialty papers such as filters and heavy paper used for loudspeakers in radios. The mill was closed in 1939 and left empty until 1941.

The Windsor Paper Company bought the mill in 1941 and operated it until 1943. One of their products was a paper for wrapping meat and a dish material for meat products.

Thomas A Galante and Sons operated the mill from 1943 to 1953 and continued producing the same types of products. During War II they also produced ammunition containers.

Columbia Boxboard was next to own this mill, from 1953 to 1990. It was sold to York Town Company in 1990, who kept the name Columbia Box. It was sold again in 1995 to the Bennington Paperboard Company, which still owns this mill and continues Producing paper products. The products have varied some but are basically heavy box material, including rigged packaging, refrigerator and freezer cartons.  Some of the raw material has been waste paper, and recycling was done long before the need became apparent.

This mill site, the oldest in the town of Hoosick, and the county of Rensselaer, has operated uninterrupted to this day. In researching this, I have found some conflicting information, and I have tried to point to that.

While the mills changed as the demands for their products did, the community changed with them. From Sickles Mills of 1792 to the name Walloomsac today, it has remained a self-contained hamlet for many years.  History not recorded must be gathered from someone's memory.

Helen Hogan and Morgan Parkhill described what Walloomsac was like as a community. The basic businesses and structures of any community were the railroad station, general store, post office, church and at least one hotel.  There was a community center and homes were built around the area for those who worked in the mills. As time changed these little communities we can only see the rernnants and can only wonder- about the past. The railroad station is gone, having been moved before its complete demise. The general store and post office lasted well into the 1940s . The St John Episcopal Church still stands, but ceased having services in the 1950s. The school house, a brick building located on the north side of Rt. 67, served the community for more than a century. This was School District No. 7 and became part of the Hoosick Falls Central School system during the period of centralization.   The building was demolished soon after. The hotel was originally owned by Ama Hays and is known today as “Peggy's.” The community center is now a private home. There was a saloon known as "Daddy Moore" that operated until the road was changed and it was torn down.

Across from Peggy's is a brick structure with the words "Walloomsac 1840" engraved over the door. It was and still is a private home. It was built by the Gooding family and has had several owners including Mr. Galante, who owned the paper mill across the road.  East of this hamlet and mill site, Frank Somervile operated a tavern during the 1930s and 1940s. This has changed ownership several times. It was empty for several years, and then in the 70s was used to display antiques for sale.

At the border of New York State and Vermont State, there is a brick house known as "The State Line House".  There are conflicting stories connected to this building as to the year it was built and the name of the builder   The information changes with each author. The year- "1794" is engraved in stone above the front door.  This must be significant. According to many, the house sets in two states, three counties, and four towns.  However, the deed states that the property is in the town of Shaftsbury, County of Bennington, State of Vermont and the town of Hoosick, County of Rensselaer, State of New York. The building is located across the official state line, which created its famous name.

From what I have learned, Michael and Madeline Akoury owned the house and the original land around it through the 1940s.  I have not found when they bought it or from whom. Mr. Akoury had a race track on the land across Rt. 67, where he trained race horses and held horse races each Sunday. Some years later he sponsored car races, also held each Sunday, on the same land. The building has been used as a night club, with varied activities offered through the years A restaurant, bar and dancing were the main attractions although other activities were mentioned but not written about. It was sold to Anthony Parry in 1966, who renamed it The Five Flys, again a night club.  The entertainment included dancing girls and was well known in the area. A fire in 1984 destroyed part of the building. The original property extended from the Washington County line south to the Walloomsac River. Shirley and Floyd Cottrell bought the house and property on the northern side of Rt. 67 in 1986. The house was repaired and still sits in two states. Where the original property was divided, the land between Rte. 67 and the Walloomsac River obtained by Bets Truck Leasing Inc

Along the south side of the Walloomsac River, from the mill site east to the Vermont border is farm land along with some homes that have been built in recent years. In the area of what is now the Caretakers

Bridge was a dam that produced power for the trolley system. The trolley system operated from 1889 to 1927.  Just east of that were the car barns and the Battlefield Park.  The park offered a picnic area complete with pavilion and a merry-go-round.  Accessible by trolley, families could and did enjoy the fun and relaxation.

Traveling further east takes you past a one-room school house that, unlike most, is still standing. It was built on property belonging to the Cottrell family and was returned to them. The small schools closed after centralization in 1962. It was used as a meeting place for the local Constabulary.

Continuing east is an old cemetery and the foundation of the

Walloomsac Church. This was first incorporated April 8, 1811 and reincorporated in 1845 and again in 1858. It was part of the Pittstown Circuit. The building was moved in 1898 and is located two tenths of a mile east of the original location, where it stands today.

There is an abandoned slate quarry on a farm owned by the Cottrell family. The years of its operation and the name of the owner is beyond the memory of today’s citizens.  With the help of Nick Flynn, I visited

the mine on May 5, 1997. It still can be recognized by its deep gouge in a hillside. There are several rows of slate near the bank of the river. They are setting on edge and moss covered but in reasonably good condition.  We also found a cable, partially buried, laying from the top of the hill to the bottom.  Looking at the old mine invokes many questions.

Traveling Rt. 67 or the Cottrell Road, the Walloomsac Valley of the nineteen-nineties is filled with homes, old and new, the mill and a few farms. Walloomsac is known more for the Battlefield Park on the north side of Rt. 67 than for its contribution to progress. Its history, hidden from our tumultuous daily life, is known only to those who seek it.