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Cotton manufacturing started in a small way in Manville in 1812; eventually, after several corporate reorganizations, the Mann family came to play the leading role in the mill and town, by the 1830s under the leadership of Samuel Mann. The Manns were bought out in the 1850s by Harvey and Samuel B. Chace. The mills were located on the Cumberland side of the Blackstone immediately below the Main Street bridge. With the construction of a new granite dam (1868, the third on the site) and a huge brick mill (1872), 350 feet by 76 feet, with a 76-foot-by-26-foot ell, on the Cumberland side of the river, the Manville Company became a very sizable textile plant indeed, to which Frank P. Sheldon in the early twentieth century made substantial additions, including one of his most extensive one-story sawtooth-roofed weaving sheds, measuring 560 feet by 240 feet. Meanwhile, the Manville Company expanded outside the village by mergers with the Social Manufacturing Company in Woonsocket and the Bernon Mills in Georgiaville). Today this giant plant is totally gone, destroyed after a period of abandonment following a combination of flood and fire in 1955, leaving only two tailrace arches and the dam as relics of what was there. Surviving mill housing is of special interest; much of it is altered by renovation, but one project is unusual.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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