Sawmills, before those for grain

One of the first thing the colonists typically built was a sawmill. From what I’ve seen to date, it always came before a gristmill. I would have thought food would have been the priority, but there are suggestions they imported their flour or even bread instead.

That raises questions of just exactly what their meals were. The Puritans were devoted to their beer and tobacco – and that extended to even their children.

For that matter, how early was Beantown a synonym for Boston?

More than a dozen years after the settling of Hilton Point just across the river, Alexander Shapleigh built the first of two tide mills at his Kittery House estate. Water from the incoming tide was impounded and released later in the day to power the mills. Here’s the site today.
The mill pond remains in today’s Eliot, Maine.

So why sawmills? The early settlers along the Piscataqua apparently erected log cabins, along with fortifications. For that matter, the sole surviving garrison house, preserved at the Woodman Institute, was essentially a log cabin built around 1675.

But flat boards were needed for shipbuilding, wharf planking and bridges, and barrels – for shipping dried fish, especially. Perhaps lumber itself was also an export to Barbados, the Bahamas, and the West Indies.

Let’s remember, too, the construction of dams and mills and their operation required sophisticated skills.

I’m guessing that few of the early English settlers along the Piscataqua were menial day laborers.


Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


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