Mill History

Colony Mill History

The Faulkner & Colony Woolen Mill was established in 1815 on the site of an 18th century saw and grist mill that was powered by the Ashuelot River. As inventions of textile machinery developed during the Industrial Revolution, Francis Faulkner and Josiah Colony gradually added carding, spinning and fulling equipment, and powered looms. The hills surrounding Keene and the region beyond were cleared for sheep pasture to provide raw material for the mill. This coincided with the New England ‘sheep craze’. In 1848, the railroad coming to Keene was a great advantage, opening up to markets in Boston and New York. Eventually, the railroad enabled the mill’s products to reach all over the east coast.

The American Civil War caused a demand for woolen cloth for uniforms, blankets and tents. The F. & C. Woolen Mill, along with many other textile mills throughout New England, signed government contracts that proved to be very lucrative.

World War I and II saw more government contracts, but work was not as lucrative as during the Civil War. Still, the F. & C. Woolen Mill reached its peak during World War II, employing over 500 men and women and producing 1,406,000 yards of cloth for the United States, Russia, France and Norway. Mid- 20th century developments in synthetics caused the mill to close in 1954, making it the longest running family-owned textile mill in the country.
The mill building complex survives today as the Colony Mill Market Place.