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Once known as Wales for a property owner in the vicinity, Phenix acquired its present name from a fire which in 1821 destroyed the Roger Williams cotton mill, a wooden structure of 1810–1811, along with much of the center of the town. Parts of the existing mill “rose from the flames” as the Phenix Manufacturing Company in two stone buildings in 1823 and 1825, along with a second raceway—and survived five other substantial downtown conflagrations during the late nineteenth century. Shortly after this initial rebuilding, around 1830, the mill came under the control of Crawford Allen, eventually joined by his brother Zachariah Allen, especially prominent as an early textile entrepreneur and inventor who operated mills in the villages of Allendale (North Providence) and Georgiaville (Smithfield). They joined with the engineer David Whitman, a technological innovator who planned and altered some of the great Massachusetts mills in Lowell, Lawrence, and Fall River as well as others in Maine. At Phenix this group allegedly manufactured the first sheeting in three-yard widths—that is, wide enough for a double bed without seaming. In a succession of moves, the Lonsdale Company (see under Lincoln), which also owned the mill at nearby Hope (Scituate), gradually took control of this mill, obtaining full ownership in 1861 when they incorporated it, together with their nearby operation, as the Hope Manufacturing Company. As such it continued into the middle of the twentieth century.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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