Killingly past

These photographs were kindly supplied by the Killingly Historical Society. Click on the small images to see a larger version in a new window.

Danielson, 1877

This 1877 map shows the town center, then known as Danielsonville. The Danielsonville Cotton Mill is at the confluence of the Quinebaug and Five Mile Rivers. The Quinebaug Company Mill is at the bottom to the West of the Quinebaug River in the Town of Brooklyn. Note the rolling, open farmland in the background.
The Industrial Revolution was almost 90 years old when this map was drawn. Samuel Slater started the revolution in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 1790. Slater's nephew opened up a textile mill in Putnam in 1806, and he was quickly followed by a series of Rhode Island industrialists seeking water power in the Quinebaug River valley. By 1815, 169 textile mills within a 30-mile radius of Pawtucket had 135,000 spindles in motion. Killingly would never be the same.

Himes Mill

The Himes Mill is one of the many mills that sat along the Whetstone Brook in the middle of the 19th century. A wooden mill was built on this site in 1828, but it burned down in 1847 and was replaced by a stone mill in 1850. John Himes moved his operation into the new mill and operated it for the next 29 years. The mill produced woolen goods in the early 1900s and closed in 1930. Today the mill houses the Whetstone Mills condominiums.

Danielsonville Cotton Mill

A view looking south from the File Mile River towards the Danielsonville Cotton Mill on the corner of Main and Maple Streets and a view from the top of the same mill looking north along the Five Mile River and across Danielson. James Danielson farmed this land in the early 1800s. In 1809 Danielson built a frame cotton mill on the east side of the Five Mile River. A stone mill was added eight years later, and by 1819 the mill was weaving with power looms. Cotton shortages forced the mill to close in 1864. The brick mill in the picture was built in 1868 on the other side of the river. In 1897 the mill held 451 looms and 21,080 spindles and employed 210 workers. This area is one of the oldest textile mill sites in the entire U.S. Nearly 160 years of continuous textile production on this site ended in 1964 when a dyeing firm went out of business. The footbridge across the river was originaly built in 1850 by a local doctor as a shortcut to his house on Maple Street and was replaced several times. The bridge on the site today was built in the 1930s.


The village of Ballouville was founded by Rhode Island industrialist Leonard Ballou in 1826. Ballou operated a mill until 1860 when he was bought out by the Attawaugan Manufacturing Company. The mill in this picture was built by the company in 1860 and still stands today. By the mid-1880s the company had 800 looms and 36,000 spindles in operation in its three mills in Attawaugan, Ballouville, and Pineville and employed 500 people.

Elliotville Lower Mill

The old wooden mill on Peeptoad Road was built in the 1850s for spinning and warping. A second mill upstream on the Whetstone Brook took the spun cotton and weaved it into cotton sheetings. In 1870 the two mills contained 3400 spindles and employed 49 workers including 13 children. The upper mill housed 86 looms. The mill is one of the few remaining wooden mills surviving in New England. Fire was a constant hazard at the working mills because of the fine cotton dust in the air, and most of the wooden mills burned down while in operation. Today the mill is a private residence. The stone bridge by the mill is also a rare historic artifact. The bridge contains no mortar and is supported solely by careful placing of the stones.

Main Street

Main Street, Danielson, circa 1910. The existing Town Hall building was originally constructed as a Music Hall in 1876 and was considered one of the finest buildings for public entertainment to be found in Windham County. The auditorium had a stage and gallery and seated 800 people. In 1906 the music hall was purchased by the town and was converted to the Town Hall.
This picture shows an electric street light. Danielson received electricity at the turn of the century from the People's Light and Power Company (who also operated the trolley from Danielson To Putnam). Some of the more rural areas of Killingly did not receive electricity until the end of WWII.

Wildwood Park - Lake Alexander

Wildwood Park was a popular summer resort on the east side of Alexander's Lake in the early 1900s. The area was originally owned by the Alexander family who were involved in many of Killingly's mills. This picture shows one of the many pavilions that stood on this site. The tower in the background rises from what was the Alexander family's mansion. The mansion was a fabulous Italianate villa built in 1865. It later became a 40-room hotel to serve the resort and was demolished in 1935. Wildwood was served by an electric trolley from Dayville which, in turn, was served by trolleys from Putnam, Plainfield, and Providence.

Early nature lovers

With the industrial revolution raging around them at the turn of the century, these three well-to-do Killingly residents still found time to enjoy the outdoors. While the mills bought prosperity to Killingly they also bought a tough life for the new immigrants. In 1850 a mill worker worked a 69-hour, six-day work week. The mills were lighted with fish-oil lamps in the winter, and work was sporadic when the millponds and streams froze over. There were four holidays--Fast Day in April, July Fourth, Thanksgiving, and Christmas--and little time for enjoying nature.

Many more old photographs can be found in the Killingly book by Natalie Coolidge and Robert Spencer from the Images of America series published by Arcadia. The book is available from the Killingly Historical Society library and museum on Main Street (open Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10-4).