In 1836 Peter Page built a sawmill on the banks of the Mulpus Brook on Great Road in Shirley, a short distance above its outlet at the Nashua, almost across the street from the end of Kitteridge Road. In 1856 William White and Company bought the mill property and the water privilege. The following year the mill itself burned but was soon rebuilt with enlargements and improvements.
Next to the dam they built an ice house so that ice could be harvested from the mill pond over the winter and stored in sawdust for use the following summer.
Next to that was a building that housed the water-powered up and down saw. Some of the cut lumber was turned into shingles and shaves, amounting to 500,000 pieces annually.
Connected to these buildings was a shop for making baskets of every grade and size, from those that hold four quarts to "mammoth" ones that hold four bushels. Some of these baskets for household use were peddled to local farmers and others were sold to manufacturers and merchants. In 1883 the White Brothers were producing fifteen thousand baskets every year. At the Historical Society Museum we have photos of the basket shop and some sample baskets and workstands.
Across the road from the mill was the home of the White's which some folks may remember as Snapper Newhall's house. The 18th century home and its outbuildings were demolished in 1991. There were other mill worker homes around the area and there were other mills just upstream of the sawmill. In the late 19th century, this part of Shirley was referred to as Woodsvillage.
Shirley artist and historian Sandy Farnsworth wrote a book called Dolly of Woodsvillage. This book is based on stories Sandy heard from her mother-in-law, Dolly Kemp Farnsworth, with much additional research added to round out the picture. The book will give insight into the life of those who worked at and around the White Brothers' mill.
For more information on Woodsvillage or the White's mill, call or visit the Shirley Historical Society at #182 Center Road, Shirley, MA 01464, Mondays and Saturdays 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. 978-425-9328, firstname.lastname@example.org