The Whitney Frye Era

Building the Self-Contained Mill

Daniel Cragin

Whitney Morse Frye, the youngest of four children was born to Dr. Edmund Bailey Frye and Alice Eliza Whitney on February 15, 1891 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. As a child, Whitney attended local schools, graduated in 1907 from Philips Exeter Academy, and was awarded an engineering degree after attending Dartmouth College and Lowell Textile Institute.

His lifelong dedication to the Mill started at the age of twenty, when Whitney had the opportunity of traveling with his family in Europe, or owning and operating his own business. He chose business. Dr. Frye purchased the Mill from friend and neighbor, Daniel Cragin, and helped his son start up their new enterprise, hence the name, E.B. Frye & Son.

The talented and energetic young Frye continued the Cragin line of wooden trays, boxes, piggins (dippers), and grain measures, while redesigning and inventing machinery and techniques for more efficient and modern use. New products were added to the Mill; curry cards (combs for cattle), wool cards, ice cream freezers, and pantry boxes. He extended and improved the existing water-power system to include a series of ponds and pipes that would furnish most of the Mill's energy needs.

Soon into the Whitney Frye years (1909-1961), with an expanding business and a greater need for energy sources, hydroelectric power was added to the Mill. A simple, but sophisticated generating system was designed by Frye to supplement the power needs of the Mill.

Nearby, Burton Pond and Nathan Barker's Pond were the primary water sources that provided the additional force, or "head", needed to maintain an impulse system to generate electricity. A two-inch thick, wooden staved pipeline carried the water as it was channeled into the Mill's basement where a gate regulated the amount of water needed to operate the system. At it's peak, Frye's generating system produced enough electricity to supply the Mill as well as his home across the street.



Center of Power - This huge, wooden, crowned pulley on top of the main vertical shaft is the "center of power" for the Mill's water system.

Waterpower, which was the great attraction in the 1800's when the first part of the Mill was built, is still in use today. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Frye's Measure Mill is an authentic survivor of 19th century technology and craftsmanship. Stubby, wooden levers, their uneven edges dark brown, smooth, and shiny from years of hands tugging on them, are still in place and used throughout the Mill. This allowed selected power to be transferred from the main shaft by simply moving the leather belts from one pulley to another.