Jonathan Glazier, a Sawmilling Legacy

Jonathan Glazier was born on May 13, 1751 in Hardwick, Worcester County, Massachusetts, but he settled on Brushy Mountain in Leverett. He came with his wife, Azubah Nye, who was from a well-off Cape Cod family and whom Jonathan had married on June 23, 1774. Asa Moore, who had bought the milling privilege for Richard Montague’s mill, hired Jonathan to feed logs to the mill saw. It must have been  grueling job because all the wood had to be cut down by hand in the nearby forests and then transported by oxen, horses, or manpower to the mill. Then there was the task of maneuvering the logs onto the carriage where logs were cut; this relied heavily on human strength as the workers rolled the wood up a ramp to the platform. After that, the logs were cut by an up and down saw, which was very inefficient and slow because it had to stop and change direction after each slice (as opposed to a circular saw that continuously spins in one direction).

But while Jonathan spent his life in the mill business, his first son, Benjamin, who was born 1781 (d. April 25, 1849), became a farmer, settling on Chestnut Hill and accumulating 300 acres from a modest beginning. His brother Ebenezer, born February 28, 1793 (d. March 27, 1882), in a similar departure from their father, built a house on North Leverett Road facing Coke Kiln Road. Born in 1826, Ebenezer’s son Edward (and presumably Ebenezer himself) was a charcoal maker. It was only after these grandchildren were born that Jonathan and Azubah died–on February 24, 1836 and April 20, 1840, respectively. Edward’s son, however, Dan Glazier (b. 1860), picked up his great grandfather’s torch in 1919 when he took over the North Leverett Sawmill from the Watsons, who had owned the mill for over 100 years.

Mill at Moore's Corner; Mill River Tour by Franklin S. Clark in 1927

Mill at Moore’s Corner; Mill River Tour by Franklin S. Clark in 1927

The milling industry in Leverett had peaked from 1820 to 1870 when there were about 1,000 people residing in the town, and by 1880 the industry was in obvious decline. In fact, by 1910, almost all mills in Leverett had disappeared or been abandoned. Knowing this, it might come as no surprise that Dan Glazier’s mill was the only running water-powered mill on Chestnut Hill Brook (near Roaring Brook, one of the two main milling rivers in Leverett) from 1902 to 1980. The industry had declined for several reasons, the first of which consisted of the problems caused by the hardships of the industry itself. Mill owners had a hard life, not only because running a mill required a lot of energy and work, but also because the profession was unstable and had rapid owner turnover. Mill owners also had to worry about their dams (necessary for controlling and supplying water flow to the mill) washing out from heavy rain or snow. If that happened, the mills would not be able to operate because they had no water storage facilities to compensate for losses.At times, this water insecurity created animosity between millers but occasionally it lead to cooperation and mutual benefit. At one time, a miller built a dam upstream that cut off flows of water to mills downstream and made him an enemy of several millers; then another time several owners banded together to build a dam that sent them each water on a regular schedule and alternated routes.

Dam called Honeymoon Falls; click here for a Tour of East Leverett Mill Sites by Ethel King Folsom via the Leverett Historical Society

Dam called Honeymoon Falls; click here for a Tour of East Leverett Mill Sites by Ethel King Folsom via the Leverett Historical Society

Of course, the two major contributors to the decline of the industry were 1) a raw materials shortage as the forests were over-harvested and 2) the rise of new forms of energy and machinery that outstripped the mills and made products that could be sold at lower prices. And yet, the mills were a training ground for the industrial revolution that bloomed after the Civil War because they gave new insights into technology and they gave individuals business experience. While the mills operated, they drew their raw materials such as fat, wool, hides, wood, bark, and grain from the local community and land, and in return they made items for local use by farm households such as wool cloth, ground grain, lumber, gin, leather, soap, and farm implements.

Dan Glazier almost certainly made lumber and possibly various other wooden products like turnings (wood that has been shaped by a turning, mechanic chisel). When he passed the mill onto his third son Perry (b. 1892 after Harry in 1883 and Marice in 1885), WWII rolled around, and Perry found himself sawing keels for coast guard cutters on an extra long bed. In turn, Perry’s third son, Lee (b. 1928 after Arnold in 1925 and Warren in 1926) worked at the mill, but only as a child, before he became a woodsman. Thus four (non-consecutive) generations of Glaziers worked in sawmills in Leverett and contributed to the complex and abundant industry of the town.

Perry E. Glazier Mill