History of Worcester’s Blackstone River

History of Worcester’s Blackstone River

Step Back in Time, Imagine It's 1898...

The dam in front of you is harnessing the power of the Middle River to drive the Iron and Wire Works. In the distance, you can see workers headed to the plant where they will produce 418 different kinds of wire products. The "South Works" complex employs nearly 85% of the residents of Quinsigamond Village. Smoke billows out of the smokestacks that dot the Worcester skyline and a train whistles in the distance as it moves raw materials and final products to and from this bustling industrial city.

Water and Technology Shape the Landscape

Water power from the Middle River and Blackstone River allowed Quinsigamond Village to emerge as a manufacturing center in the late 18th century, beginning with Isaiah Thomas's paper mill. Construction of the Blackstone Canal (1825) boosted industry by linking Central Massachusetts to the rest of the world via Providence, Rhode Island. With the advent of steam power in the 1830s, the Providence & Worcester Railroad gradually supplanted the canal as an efficient mode of transportation. Together these transportation technologies allowed the Village to become a key location for the import of raw materials and the export of manufactured goods.

Remnants of this early industry are visible in the rail bridge and the dam. The large pond in front of you that was formed by this dam is now filled with sediment and has become a wetland habitat.

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