[Faulkner Mill, North Billerica, MA]

Where there is a mill there is a river. And a dam. Currently (no pun intended) interested in that mill—once owned by ancestors of mine*—I am therefore interested in that river: The Concord.

You know who else was? Henry Thoreau. Who, for a week in August of 1839, along with his brother, traveled along the Concord River. As the brothers’ dory approached Billerica, they noticed that the salmon, shad, and alewives had disappeared. Thoreau wrote this:

Poor shad! where is thy redress? When Nature gave thee instinct, gave she thee the heart to bear thy fate? Still wandering the sea in thy scaly armor to inquire humbly at the mouths of rivers if man has perchance left them free for thee to enter. . . . Armed with no sword, . . . but mere shad, armed only with innocence and a just cause. . . I for one am with thee, and who knows what may avail a crow-bar against that Billerica dam?

The original mildam had been built in 1710; in 1721, another irate Concord resident, Dr. Jonathan Prescot and his buddies indeed took a crow-bar to that damned dam and nearby grist mill. (Was Dr. Prescot an eco-warrior? No. The dam had caused flooding on his property.) Subsequent reiterations of that milldam, its falls powering several mills, including the side-by-side Talbot and Faulkner Mills, prevailed. (The story of the Faulkner Mill—and the wealth it generated—is a story for another day.)

Until now. 

Wouldn’t Thoreau—and all those poor salmon, shad, and alewives—be amazed!

* Keen eyes will notice that mill owner Luther Faulkner’s daughter was Amy Prescott Faulkner Wild. She was my grandfather’s mother.

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