Property History

From farm to mill to factory

The history of Fork Factory Brook

Throughout the 18th century, Long Acre Farm was a classic New England self-sufficient farming operation that pastured livestock, grew crops, and harvested hay. It also produced rope from hemp, processed flax and wool, made butter and cheese, and used animal byproducts to make candles and boots.

Next to Long Acre Farm, Joshua Morse operated a grist mill along the Mill Brook at least as early as 1771. In 1838–39, Henry Partridge purchased two mills, one on the south side of Main Street (Rte 109) – a cut-nail mill – and one on the north side – Morse’s grist mill. He modified both to create a factory that gives the reservation its name. Partridge and his brother-in-law Malachi Babcock, a blacksmith, had apparently developed a high-quality steel that they used in a Sherborn factory to produce edge tools such as cranberry rakes, adzes, knives, broadaxes, and possibly plows. They saw the Medfield mills as an opportunity to expand their business into hay and manure pitchforks, shovels, spades, and hoes for area farmers who, at the time, produced more than 1,000 tons of hay annually and looked after hundreds of head of livestock. Partridge’s operation prospered for twenty years during which time he built a large cut-granite mill building.

For a brief time after the Civil War, new owners used this mill building for a paper cutting enterprise, but it quickly fell into disuse with the advent of coal-powered industry. When the town decided to widen Main Street in 1927, the mill building was dismantled and the granite reused in the construction of a house on Foundry Street. Much of the mill site now sits under Route 109. All that remains is its broad earthen dam and stone raceway at the southern end of the Reservation.

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