It started out in the 1700s as a small trading post, but by 1809 it was known as the Brunswick Cotton Manufacturing Company. The mill, powered by the Androscoggin River and the falls at Pejepscot, made yarn for textile manufacturing.
It changed its name a few times as it expanded—Maine Cotton and Woolen Factory, Warumbo Company, and, finally, Cabot Manufacturing Company. In the 1930s, more than 1,000 people worked in this mill, running the machinery that produced textiles.
In the mid-1950s, when I was a child living in the area, it was the Verney Mill, and both textiles and shoes were manufactured there, pulling power from the river, dumping waste back in; I remember to this day the smell of the river, the sight of yellow-brown riverfoam on the front lawn of our house on days the wind was right.
And I remember the rumble and thump of the machinery and shake of the sidewalks whenever you walked by; the feeling went through your shoes and into your feet, right up to your knees.
It was dreadful.
I had friends whose parents worked in the mill, first- and second-shift parents (sometimes one on each shift just to make sure one parent could be home most of the time: I didn’t appreciate that sacrifice until I was much older). Somebody’s mother told me once that, during WWI and WWII, there were three shifts of workers: That mill ran all day and all night; children were awakened in the morning by one parent, put to bed by the other parent, and watched over by grandparents or neighbors while their parents slept.
Everything’s different now.
The river is clean (we even have fish again!) and the building itself has been renovated; floors have been refinished, walls painted, windows replaced. There are shops and artists’ studios and restaurants—even a farmers’ market in the winter, a high-end antique business and a gigantic flea market all year round!
But sometimes, when the light is just right and I find myself in one of the lower level hallways, I can still hear the rumble, feel the shake and rattle of that machinery.