Wolcott History
Wolcott Historical Society

Wolcott Historical Society History for October 2014

By Florence Goodman

This month I will conclude my stories about the local men that Clarence Atwood remembered while growing up in town. The list, which consisted of thirteen men, was called, "Wolcott Helpers 1930." The last two men on the list were Wiley Pritchard and Clifford Millard.

I have mentioned Wiley Prichard in various articles in the past, but I was pleased to learn more about him through Clarence's recollections. Here's what he had to say about him. "Mr. Pritchard lived in the family homestead on Center Street at the corner of Minor Road. His father, Dennis Pritchard had a mill at the foot of Center Street. Prior to 1934, the area of Pat's Supermarket and the Bank across the street was a large pond, which supplied water to run a Pelton wheel that powered the sawmill. The Pelton wheel was an iron contraption, which funneled the falling water into a series of curved blades attached to a shaft, which ran into the mill. This was a much more efficient wheel than the traditional wooden wheel and used less water besides. Being Yankees, the miller saved logs for maximum yield, thus Pritchard boards were uniform thickness, but were wider at one end than the other- just like the log had been. No problem - just reverse ends on every other board. There was also a cider mill on the premises, which was powered by an endless rope running across the driveway onto a pulley in the sawmill. Mr. Pritchard bought land as it was available around town, and harvested trees thereon to keep his sawmill supplied. He then sold the land to others who harvested the smaller trees to be used as fuel in the Brass Mills in Waterbury. Many times, boundaries were not well established and in later years, buyers of property found their acreage designated more or less, were indeed just that."

Clarence painted an interesting picture of Wiley Pritchard and the ingenious ways he ran his businesses and lived his life. Wiley was born in 1863 in Wolcott and like Dennis Pritchard he acquired land and ran several mills along the Mad River. Wiley operated the sawmill on Center Street until 1944 when it was destroyed by fire. The cider mill also thrived, but it was because of a breakdown at that mill that Bill MacCormack was able to establish his well-known cider mill in town.

Clarence was related to the Millard family and spent many hours working and visiting them at their 88 County Road home. Clarence's recollections of Clifford are his first hand accounts of these visits to their homestead and the various activities that he observed. Their house was on the corner of Ransom Hall and County Roads and is still standing. Clifford was a proud employee of the Southington Water Company and dedicated to that job. Here's what Clarence had to say regarding this hard-working gentleman.

"Clifford Millard was quite well known around town for a number of reasons. He was known for his strength and for the number of things he could do or would try. His livelihood was as an employee of the Southington Water Company. He built fences, made gates, maintained fire lines, planted evergreens, adjusted dam gates for desired flow, kept out fisherman, discouraged parking and littering on Water Company property. On his own time, her caned chairs of all types, mowed lawns, fought brush fires spring and fall, was an excellent horseman, kept and used a trained fox hound, dried and sold fox skins, raccoon and weasel skins. He raised turkeys for market. When he joined the Redmen (a fraternal group) he made his own version of an Indian outfit. He tanned the deerskin, made the beadwork designs that decorated it, dyed the turkey feathers for the headdress and wore the outfit most realistically. He taught himself taxidermy and filled his house with mounted birds and small animals."

Clarence has given us so much to think about and has added to our knowledge of life in rural Wolcott in 1930, but he has also created a wealth of unanswered questions; I only wish he was here now to further explain more about these interesting people that lived in our town and touched his life. Thank you again to his family for sharing these materials with us; we are forever indebted to them.

(Information for this article was taken from hand written stories of "Wolcott Helpers 1930" by Clarence Atwood, History of the Town of Wolcott, Connecticut from 1731 to 1874 by Samuel Orcut, and an article from the The Waterbury Republican, Sunday Morning Newspaper, February 1932.)

William MacCormack and Wiley Pritchard

William MacCormack and Wiley Pritchard standing in front of the cider mill.

Wiley Pritchard's sawmill

Inside Wiley Pritchard's sawmill on the Mad River at Center Street.

Wiley Pritchard's sawmill

Inside Wiley Pritchard's sawmill on the Mad River at Center Street.

Pritchard Mill Pond

The Pritchard Mill Pond at Center Street and Wolcott Road.

Pelton Wheel

Pelton Wheel from Wikipedia.

Mary & Clifford Millard

Mary & Clifford Millard in 1940.

Clifford with his dog

Clifford with his dog and some of the animals they hunted.

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