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John Prescott’s Old Mill


Going over my notes from my Historical Society days, I found the following from an article that I wrote for our Spring 1995 “Newsletter“:

“And in the Unfinished Business Department, we have a few interesting developments. Our good friend, Norm Golden came to me well over a year ago to ask if the Historical Society could help with the matter of the old millstone on the Common. He explained that back in the 40’s, his family had contributed one of the two millstones that was used at the Old Mill before it burned down earlier in the century. He and his young bride, Mary were not living in Harvard at the time and so he did not have all the details, but he felt sure that there should have been a plaque on the millstone that presents the history of the millstone. He said that the other millstone (the mate) was placed in front of his family home by his brother, George.

The Old Mill Pond

Fishin’ the Pond at the Old Mill in 1870. This grist mill, built by William Adams in 1818, was later owned by the Shakers until it was destroyed by fire in 1888. The original mill was built by John Prescott in 1668 and operated by his son, Jonas. (This very old photo is in exceptional quality and is courtesy of the Golden family.)

We did a little research at the Society on the installation of the millstone on the Common and confirmed that it had been contributed by the Golden family to the Historical Society in 1948. Walt Harris chaired the Historical Society Committee to find a suitable Town Marker for the Common and the millstone had been accepted and installed on the Common by the Historical Society on the occasion of the Society’s 50th anniversary. Otherwise, there was just a reference in Ida Harris’ “History of Harvard: 1850-1940” in the Bequests and Gifts section mentioning that:

“An old millstone from the site of the Jonas Prescott mill given by George W. Golden in memory of his mother with a bronze town marker and a granite step given by the late Mrs. Michael Griffin will ere long be placed on the Common, as a gift from the Harvard Historical Society.”

Last January, we lost our friend Norm Golden and during a visit recently with his son, Michael, I learned that Michael had uncovered several key documents and pictures that had been in the family archives regarding the history of the Old Mill and the gift of the millstone by the family to the Historical Society. The documents include the program for the 50th anniversary of the Historical Society on July Fourth of 1948. But most interesting was an article by Walt Harris on the subject of the millstone and the ‘Harvard Marker”. he writes:

“…An especially excellent and historically desirable millstone has been located by Ole Gabrielson, and T. Emerson Griffin went with us to examine it. Mr. Griffin also kindly contacted the owner as did Mr. Trueblood and Mr. Files.

All of this co-operation made it possible to meet and discuss the matter with George W. Golden, Jr. Mr. Golden generously said, “You may have the millstone when you are ready to use it. I was going to put it on my lawn and erect a flagpole with the hole for a socket.’ This stone comes from what is very likely the oldest mill site in the town. It is ancient and weathered looking–broad and thick– and thus has those qualities significant of the legend in bronze that will go upon it. On the back of this millstone we will hope to place a smaller tablet indicating its source, and when we asked Mr. Golden if his name should be there he answered, “No. Put my mother’s name on it–she would have given it to the Historical Society had she been living now.”

From the Harvard Post dated May 30, 1997. Joe Theriault speaks at the site of the millstone on top of the Common on Memorial Day, whose grandfather ran the mill on Old Mill Road, reminisced and recited a poem he wrote: “This Old Stone” The Historical Society rededicated the millstone in honor of its — the society’s –100th Anniversary. Correction: Joe Theriault’s grandfather was not the owner of the Old Mill in Harvard, as the Post incorrectly reported last week in a picture caption. He was the owner of a mill on the St-John River in New Brunswick, where Joe spent much of his time with him as a child. But Joe didn’t mind the error, he kindly remarks, because it sparked some interest in the mill and the Old Mill Pond.

While it is clear that the Historical Society had intended to place a smaller ‘tablet’ on the back of the millstone to present its history and to identify the Golden family as the contributor, it was never installed. I sorely regret that Norm did not uncover this information before he died. Nevertheless, the Society will no doubt follow-up on this fifty year old oversight. In doing so, the historical dimension of the ‘Town Marker’ will be enhanced significantly knowing that the millstone was probably used at the Old Mill, John Prescott’s mill, the first mill in Harvard. This is a charge that the Historical Society could implement perhaps at their Centennial Anniversary, but certainly sometime soon.

In my visits with Norm, I would often bring my grandsons to hear Norm talk about the Old Mill and about the pond he loved so much. He explained about the turtles that come each spring to bury their eggs and about the Blue Herons and the other wild life that depend on the pond. And, then with a more serious tone, he explained that the pond is fed by the Nonacoicus Brook and that once, it was also fed by several springs coming from within the pond until the development activity upstream from the pond deposited tons of silt in the pond over the past decade. Now the pond is showing signs of dying.

We received a gift in 1668 that John Prescott developed and passed on to his son, Jonas Prescott to serve the families of Groton and then later, Harvard. That gift has been preserved and passed on for over three centuries from generation to generation through to the Shakers who used the Old Mill in the 19th century for their herb production. Today, the Old Mill Pond continues to serve us by its beauty, by its function as a wild life sanctuary and as a fire pond. It is indeed a most restful spot to contemplate and especially to exchange stories with your grandsons. It is our earnest hope at the Historical Society, that the civic organizations of this town who are interested in the preservation of our natural and cultural resources, will join with our town government and with the Golden family to preserve this historic natural treasure.  JRTT”

As a  postscript to this note since it was written in 1995, I would like to add that on the centennial anniversary of the Historical Society, I was given the honor (as a brand new Past President) to officiate at the Memorial Day presentation of the ‘forgotten plaque’ to the town. The plague (shown above) was installed on the Old Millstone below the ‘Harvard Town Marker’ which was first installed on the millstone when it was first dedicated in 1948.  My notes for the ceremony are included in our “RESOURCES’ section.

4 thoughts on “John Prescott’s Old Mill

  1. Hello,
    I am a direct descendant of John Prescott as he is my 9th great grandfather. I would love to see the pond where the grist mill stood for so long. My brother is on his way to Harvard now to look at the campus and evaluate for my nephew as he is the last of the Rugg line. Please let me know if they can see the mill while on their trip. Thank you.

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    • You certainly may see the pond and the location of the mill but the mill is no longer there today. Please let me know if you need directions. I’ll be happy to help.

      When you talk about the Harvard campus, you must know that the town of Harvard is about a one hour drive from the Harvard University campus. So, want to make sure that we eliminate all possible confusion between the town and the university.

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  2. Yes, I would like directions to the grist mill and the Old pioneers graveyard where John Prescott is buried. I believe they will need permission from someone to enter the gravesites? Thanks so much for your time and attention to this email.

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    • Directions to the Old Mill Pond in Harvard, Massachusetts:

      Take I-495 either North or South to Exit 29B to Route 2 West. Then take Exit 38B to Route 110/111. Look for Old Mill Road on your left about one mile on Route 110/111. The Old Mill Pond is about two-tenths of a mile on your left on Old Mill Road. There you will see the dam and part of the foundation of the old mill originally built by John Prescott for his son, Jonathan.

      I found some material on the burial place for John Prescott with some directions on where/how to visit the burial ground. The website address: http://moontides-mxtodis123.blogspot.com/2010/10/john-prescott-founder-of-lancaster.html

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