Forgotten Waterford Burial Sites: Scholfield Cemetery (Quaker Hill)

A small burial ground dating back to the late eighteenth century lies hidden behind a private home on Bloomingdale Road. Hidden behind a low stone wall lie eight gravestones dating from 1769 to 1889. Although this graveyard is referred to as the “Scholfield Cemetery,” no Scholfields are buried there. The eight burials in the yard include members of the Strickland family who lived in the house for many years. This writer assumes that there is a connection between the Strickland family and the two remarkable Scholfield brothers who established the first woolen mills in the country here in Waterford.

When the Scholfield brothers from England arrived in Boston around 1792, they brought with them knowledge that soon revolutionized our country’s textile industry. At that time, the English Industrial Revolution had brought great wealth to their land, and the government spent great effort to prevent its industrial technology secrets from leaving the country. Due to the English laws at the time, no one with manufacturing knowledge was allowed to leave the country. Somehow the two brothers, John and Arthur, managed to slip out of their country with their families and with secret knowledge of their newly developed technology.

CROSS-SECTION OF A SCHOLFIELD WOOL-CARDING MACHINE. The wool was fed into the machine from a moving apron, locked in by a pair of rollers, and passed from the taker-in roller to the angle stripper. This latter roller transferred the wool on to the main cylinder and acted as a stripper for the first worker roller. After passing through two more workers and strippers, the wool was prepared for leaving the main cylinder by the fancy, a roller with longer wire teeth set to reach into the card clothing of the large cylinder. Then the doffer roller picked up the carded fibers from the main cylinder in 4-inch widths the length of the roller. These sections were freed by the comb plate, passed between the fluted wooden cylinder and an under board, where they were converted into slivers, and deposited into a small wooden trough. (Source: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/27137/27137-h/27137-h.htm)

Within several years after their arrival, using only their memories, they created the first wool-carding machine in this country, quickly replacing the slow task of carding wool with hand-held wire brushes.

The brothers moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts and spent several months making preparations and constructing machinery for the manufacturing of woolen cloth. After meeting with wealthy investors who agreed to build a factory in Byfield, Massachusetts, the brothers immediately moved the machinery there and put it into operation. The brothers operated the business which grew prosperous for its investors. Soon other similar mills were developed and New England’s manufacturing industry began to blossom!

After about five years during one of his excursions in Connecticut to purchase wool, John Scholfield, found a valuable water privilege at the mouth of the Oxoboxo river in what is today Montville located less than a mile from a small town center on Route 163. In 1798, he and Arthur moved there and developed the first water-powered cloth manufacturing business in Connecticut on what is now called Scholfield Pond.This was the first woolen factory put into operation in Connecticut.

An Original Scholfield Wool-Carding Machine at Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts. It is now run by electricity. (Photo courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village.)

The 1799 editions of Connecticut Gazette featured an advertisement for the Scholfields, announcing their newly located business:

“The subscriber respectfully informs the public that they are now carrying on the business of Carding, Spinning and Weaving Woolen, about one mile from Haughton’s Tavern in Montville, on the road to New-London; they hope to give satisfaction to those who may employ them. Persons may have their wool carded into rolls, spun into yarn, or wove into cloth, as shall best suit them. The subscribers return thanks for past favors, and hope to merit the approbation of all who may in future employ them. — The smallest favors will be gratefully acknowledged by the public’s most obedient humble servants.”

John continued the business until 1806, when he sold the factory to John and Nathan Comstock, leaving his sons, James and Thomas Scholfield to continue the operation until the termination of their lease.

John Scholfield established another mill on what is called Miller’s Pond in Waterford in 1814. This mill and the one in Montville were the two first woolen factories put into operation in the United States.

The brothers are credited with the invention of the American carding machine and made a significant contribution to the industrial revolution in the United States by revolutionizing the manner our country manufactured woolen cloth. Historian Robert Bachman credits Waterford with playing “a modest pioneer role in the birth of the American Industrial Revolution that heralded the beginning of the end to the homespun era.” John remained in Montville until his death (at the age of 98). He is buried at Comstock Cemetery in Uncasville.

Around 1820 a romance blossomed between John’s daughter, Hannah (b. 1798), daughter of the operator of the mill and Elias Strickland (1797–1881), son of a farmer, [5] who lived in the house nearby on Bloomingdale Road. Elias’ family had resided in New London since the early days of the settlement.

His great-great grandfather, Peter Strickland and his son, Thomas from England arrived in New London 1650–60. He was among the earliest arrivals to the fledgling settlement on the banks of the Thames River. Like others who arrived early, he was granted land and quickly set to work to build a home and community in a vast unfamiliar land. He married Elizabeth Comstock, probably the daughter of William and Elizabeth, recent arrivals from Hartford. Thomas married Ziporah Billings, who was born in Stonington.

Amanda (Left) and James Strickland (Right)

His grandson Peter, his namesake, born in 1718, married Sarah Williams. They were parents of eleven children. Their son, James (1769–1845), and his wife, Lucy Avery Strickland (1776–1863) probably built the house on the Bloomingdale Road property. They were both buried in the rear yard of the house. Their son, also named James Strickland (1814–1889) served in the Revolutionary War in Salem’s Company A. Both James and his wife, Amanda (1804–1867), were buried in the Bloomingdale Road plot.

The earliest burials in the graveyard next to the house tell a sad story of the short and sorrowful life of the young married daughter of Lucy and James Strickland’s daughter, Francis. She and her husband, Samuel, endured the death of two very young children, Samuel and Thomas within a year. The sorrow of the family must have been overwhelming when the young mother herself died shortly afterwards. She was laid to rest next to her children. Her husband joined her and the children. later. It must have been some comfort to the family to have then buried on their own property close by to the family.

“In memory of SAMUEL J.S. Son of SAMUEL & FRANCES Beautaugh who died March 18, 1836”

The Scholfield Burial Ground

Frances Ashcraft Strickland Beataugh (age 23) 1812-1835

Thomas Jefferson Beataugh ( under one year) 1835–1835

Samuel James Beataugh (age 3) 1833–1836

Samuel Beataugh (birth and death unknown)

James Strickland 1769- 1845

Lucy Avery Strickland 1776- 1863

Amanda Strickland 1804- 1867[7]

James Strickland 1814- 1889

Over the years numerous generations of Stricklands lived and died in southeastern Connecticut. Among them, a Charles and James Strickland operated a grocery business on upper State Street (called Buttonwood Corner) in New London, sometime in the eighteen or nineteenth century.

Notes

[1] Sommer, Carol. “Innovators in industry and the arts: the Scholfields.” The Day. Web. 20 January 2019. <https://www.theday.com/article/20190120/ENT07/190129995>

[2] Baker, Henry Augustus. “History of Montville, Connecticut, formerly the North parish of New London from 1640 to 1896” https://archive.org/stream/historyofmontvil00bake/historyofmontvil00bake_djvu.txt

[3] Bachman, Robert Leland. An Illustrated History of the Town of Waterford,. p. 64–65 According to the Federal Census of Industry in 1820, it was the only industry recorded in Waterford at that time.

[5] https://patch.com/connecticut/montville-ct/amp/5460888/who-was-scholfield-pond-named-after 1/6 9/18/2019 Who was Scholfield Pond named after? | Montville, CT Patch

[6] https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Scholfield-18

[7] Amanda Strickland is a daughter of James and Lucy Strickland.

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