The Library 2 (Part 3) – The Old Mill

Wilton Mill and water fall

(This is the latest installment of the series that starts with The Old Mill.  The previous chapter was  The Library 2 (part 2).  The Table of Contents is here)

(Note 2 – This is Part three of a four part chapter)

— —

“Before we get into the ball itself, I have to bring up one thing I forgot I forgot to mention.”

“Martha’s boyfriend, Samuel.”

“Yes, how did you know?  Samuel Larson, who was about 18, was the oldest son of one of the mill owners in town.  Of course Thomas owed more money to William Larson, Samuel’s father, than just about anyone else except Alexander.   Samuel and Martha had been making googly-eyes at each other for over a year, and the ball was going to be a time when they could actually dance together.  Remember, it was her coming out party.  Everyone expected a marriage announcement by summer.”

“Since I know a bit about Martha, I can only guess it turned out poorly.”

“It did.  But the ball did start off great. As expected.  Everyone who was anyone was there.  Well, except for Thomas.  And Alexander, who everyone expected.  He never showed up.  And funny thing, Thomas’ family wasn’t there.  They never missed a ball.  They later claimed Thomas wrote them and said it was called off since Abigail was still recovering from childbirth, even though it was almost 5 months later.”

“Well, some would say four and a half months isn’t a huge amount of time for post-natal recovery.”

“No, but she was fine.  He just didn’t want them there.  Remember, she’s the one who insisted on the party.”

“Yeah, OK.”

“And thinking of Thomas, he was missing most of the day, though people said he was in and out of the mill.  He closed down production, gave the workers a holiday at a quarter pay for the day.  That was quite generous.  I’m going to jump way ahead of the story, but towards evening, when all of the well-to-do were at the big to-do, people heard screams from the mill.  Some people raced over.  A few who went in to check it out say they saw Thomas carry a body and plant it under the mill.  Later, a lot of the records disappeared, including the witness reports, if they ever really existed.  Some people also disappeared and showed up dead later.  People stopped talking about that and other things that I’ll get to later.”

“Yeah, peek my interest.  So how many people did he kill?”

“Wait for the story to finish and try to do the math yourself.”

“Will I need a calculator?”

“Maybe, since you’ll run out of fingers and perhaps even toes.”

“Nice.  But then, they do called 1821 the time of dying, don’t they?  So, on to the ball…”

“The ball went well for a time.  Martha had the time of her young life, dancing with the handsome, and rich, Samuel.  Abigail was as happy as she could wish for.  Some said she kept looking at the door.  Was she waiting for Thomas, or for Alexander De’Trell?  Some thought the later.”

“Well, who could blame her?”

“I agree, but the people back then didn’t.  When there was a late arrival, it was Thomas.  He was impeccably dressed and looked better than anyone remembered seeing him.  He gathered the people in and said that everyone who had a stake in the mill, include those who he owed money, needed to meet in the executive room at the mill in an hour.  The party was over.  He told them all to go home, except those he told to go to the mill.”

“And they didn’t laugh in his face?”

“No.  He somehow convinced them that he had exciting news and that they needed to be there.  Remember, despite how we look at him today, he was very well respected in town.  People liked him, except for some who were closest to him.  The party ended and they all left.  Thomas then sent the servants out on a wild goose chase and sent Martha to bed.  A lot of the records are real sketchy, so we’re not sure what happened.”

“Where they usually better?”

“Remember I told you that the girls kept diaries?  There are six pages missing from Martha’s, actually 12 sides, and four from Margret’s or eight sides.  And there were no entries for the night in Abigail’s diary, obviously.”

“Obviously?”

“I thought you knew.  Anyway, Thomas goes into town and there are many versions of what happened next.  A few town’s people said he pulled up in a wagon, ran in and did something.  A fire started, he came back out and carried two bodies in and tossed them into the flames.”

“Two?”

“People guessed the first was Abigail, but nobody could say who the second one was, so it was discounted as vicious rumor.  It was libel, just like the stories of drunkenness.”

“Of course it was.”

“Thomas’ version was that he went in and was attacked.  Alexander De’Trell went down and lit the fire.  In a stroke of poetic justice, he died in the flames that he had set.  His body was found under the building, or what was left of it, only identifiable by a gold tooth in the charred bones.  Abigail had followed Thomas and saved his life, but died when a beam came down and crushed her skull.  Of course, there were no beams around her body when found, but he said he had pulled it off of her and tried to save her, but was overcome in the conflagration.  All of the rich people, at least those who didn’t die in the fire, sided with Thomas.  His story made sense to them.”

“That must be what Barbara was talking about.  She made Thomas out to be a huge hero and Alex as the villain.  The winners write the history books and all, and Thomas, in the long run, lost.  At least that’s what Barbara said.”

“I’m sure she did.  My good cousin dotes on the man, but I think she’s dead wrong.  There is a lot of evidence, at least from our vantage, that points to Thomas starting the fire.  The thought was that he put wool under the executive room, poured alcohol on the wool so it would burn quicker.  Remnants of wool was found there, even though there shouldn’t have been any.  Of course, it was a wool mill, so wool could be stored anywhere.  He had bought some alcohol, for the business, and it wasn’t seen again.  But that doesn’t prove he poured it out.  It could have been stored and destroyed in the fire.  Or it could have even been moved after the fire, but not recorded.  I’ll use that word again, it is all circumstantial.  There is nothing definitive to prove he did it.  However, what survives points to him setting it over Alexander.”

“How many people were in the room?”

“Seven.  And then there was Abigail and Martha’s Samuel just outside of the room, and don’t forget Alexander beneath it.  So ten altogether.  Thomas did have scrapes and bruises, even a few light burns, which helped him with his story.  I can’t be sure, but if it had been today, he still would have been charged and it’s very likely that he would have been convicted.”

“But he was rich.  Actually, that still happens today.”

“It does.  Even though he talked about his innocence, there was a lot that happened afterwards that appeared to be done to protect him, though some say to it was protect him from an overzealous judicial system that wanted his blood.  There were bribes, witness tampering, missing records, you name it, it happened in this case.  Altogether, five people died mysteriously, all witnesses against Thomas.  There was nothing to prove that he had anything to do with their deaths.  Coincidence.  All of the other witnesses retracted their statements.  Some even said Alexander had bribed them into making them.”

“OK, so we have ten people in the mill and five witnesses.  Using my fingers and toes, that’s only fifteen.”

“You forgot about those that were sent to Connecticut two weeks before the ball.  You know, for a while some of the people in town used the term ‘sent to Connecticut’ as a euphemism for being murdered.”

“There’s momma Margret, the teen mother, the twins and the coachman or field hand.  That puts us up to twenty.  I hope there aren’t any more, I ran out of fingers and toes.  I guess I can see why some call it the time of dying.  In this low period, was the town then struck by disease, a plague?”

“No, that was about it.  But the mill was badly damaged and closed down.  Thomas said it would never reopen.  He didn’t have the resources.  People started to leave.  Not a lot, but some.”

“It obviously did reopen.”

“Not by Thomas’ doing and not that year, 1821.  After the fire, Thomas acted very oddly.  You may think he always did, but it wasn’t until this time that it showed publicly.  Some said that he had cause, that his wife had been killed and his business destroyed overnight.  Others weren’t so sympathetic, particularly since he was a real bastard to all but a handful of friends.  And George, of course, he was always good to George.  It might sound awful, but few people were sorry when he died in his sleep one night.”

“Did he have assistance?”

“Quite a few people blamed Martha, but she was out of town that night.  Some of the servants say Margret had a blow-up argument with Thomas.  According to the servants, Thomas admitted to quite a few of the killings and promised to kill Margret and Martha if they ever slowed down enough.  That’s one of the pages missing from Margret’s diary.”

“Patricide?”

“Nobody today believes Thomas was Margret’s father and we believe that neither did he.  Remember, it is very possible he killed both his father and mother.  As far as back then, nobody who was anybody believed the servants, anyway.  And thinking of the servants, the story, or perhaps legend, that the servants told, was that when Martha got home later that day, she was met by a wide-eyed Margret.  Margret told her she had killed Thomas and asked if that meant she was an evil person.  Martha said no, she had saved them both and perhaps others.”

“Others?”

“Witnesses were still dying at this time.  They stopped dying when Thomas died.”

“How long did he live after the fire, then?”

“It was about six weeks.  After he was gone, there was a lot of legal stuff, arguments, and everything else.  In early September, Martha gave up and just grabbed power.”

“Good for her.”

“It was, and for everyone else.  She started to clean and rebuild the mill.  It wasn’t ready for production until the spring of 1822, but at least it was back.  Most of the records were burnt in the fire, but she had a spare copy of some of them.  Anyone who was on payroll the day the mill burnt and promised to start again when it was repaired was put back on payroll.  She could only give them half pay, but that was better than nothing.  She also forgave rent payments from November through May.  She sent food to some of the poorer families.”

“Wow, I never knew she was such a giving person.”

“Yes, she saved the town, some would say.  Others would say she tried to bribe the town.  She had a lot of enemies, particularly in the other mill owners.  They called her Alexander’s slave, still doing his work after he was dead.  The said she killed her father, even though she couldn’t have done it.  Some said she had conspired with Alexander to kill her father because she wanted the mill.”

“There are always people like that.”

“There are.  But she showed them.  The mill was never as successful as during the time that she ran it.  Not even Alexander did as well.  She had what we’d call very liberal ideas about labor and so her workers were more productive.  She didn’t make quite as much from the properties, but she kept better care of them.  She took Thomas’ other investments and turned them around.  Debts were quickly payed off and the Goodes became richer than they were.  Things were on the up-and-up.”

“So it ends, Thomas killed by one daughter while the other shows him up by becoming super successful.”

“This only ends the first act.  The next act is even better, in my opinion. Everyone concentrates on Thomas, but he was a terrible villain.  He was just too evil.  People don’t want a cardboard antagonist.  The villain of the second act, well, you tell me if there is a villain.   Perhaps there isn’t and it’s just life, which is often more interesting.

“I can’t believe there is more!  OK, tell away.”

— —

The Old MillPrevious – – Table of Contents  – – Next

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3 thoughts on “The Library 2 (Part 3) – The Old Mill

  1. Pingback: The Library 2 (Part 4) | Trent's World (the Blog)

  2. Pingback: If We Were Having Coffee on the 6th of May | Trent's World (the Blog)

  3. Pingback: The Library 2 (Part 2) | Trent's World (the Blog)

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