Author and historian Peter Stowell. (Conrad)

HEBRON — Historian and author Peter Stowell, of West Gardener, recently spoke to the Hebron Historical Society on the history of spool mills in the state of Maine.

Beginning with the Kashmir shawl, which was very expensive to produce, the Jacquard loom was invented in 1804 and thus made shawls cheaper to manufacture. The Paisley shawl became popular after this because of cheaper production costs.

Later, James Clark, of Scotland, wound thread on a lathe-made spool and along with cheaper labor, the spool industry was born. Buyers would pay a small deposit for each spool and production became very lucrative.

Due to the availability of suitable wood, Clark came to America and set up a factory in Newark, New Jersey. White birch became the wood of choice. It was plentiful, clean, workable and resisted staining. Initially, much of the wood was shipped there from Maine, but soon factories were built in Maine. The first factory, records suggest, was built in 1848 in what was identified as “Berrysville” near Lewiston.

From then until 1975, there was a total of 151 mills throughout the state. Records reveal the existence of 53 mills in Oxford County alone, including one on Ben Stone Road in Hebron.

The public is invited to the society’s next meeting, which will feature Maine mystery writer, William Andrews, on “Historical Societies – Great Places for Murder.” This will be held Tuesday, May 28, at the Town Office, 351 Paris Rd., at 7 p.m.

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