Three-Hundred-year-old loom will again produce woven cloth

Print More

When Sadoce Wilcox, Jr. of West Granby died in 1833, his estate papers were testimony of a family living comfortably, if not prosperously, engaging in a variety of activities.

Their 200-acre farm included fields of various grains and hay, wood lots, and apple and peach orchards. In the barnyard and pastures could be found sheep, cattle, horses and hogs. His blacksmith shop was crammed with tools, and across the road from his house, he and his sons operated a cider mill and distillery. Their guests ate off china and pewter plates with silver spoons.

Volunteers from SBHS and Windham Textiles at work readying the Wilcox loom for action. From left, Peggy Church, Donna McLaughlin and Sue Bruno. Photo by Martha Miller

He had held various high-ranking public offices, and he had already loaned money to most of his sons and daughters to set up their own farms or businesses. One item, tucked away in his list of possessions that merits note is “an old loom.” Here was a reference to one of his family’s most important activities.

It was, indeed, “old” by 1833. According to an expert in such family looms, it probably dates to the early 1700s. In fact, in Sadoce’s father’s and grandfather’s estate inventories there is mention of a loom. Could it have been handed down through three generations? What is even more exciting to think about is that this loom, now about 300 years old, will once again turn out woven cloth as it once did over two centuries ago!

Visitors to the Wilcox House (145 Simsbury Road in West Granby) on Open Farm Day, Sept. 16, will be able to observe demonstrations by specialists in early American weaving techniques between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Salmon Brook Historical Society curator Martha Miller and volunteer Dave Laun have been working with Windham Textile and History Museum volunteers Donna McLaughlin, Peggy Church and Sue Bruno to refit the old loom and ready it for action.

As detailed in a previous article in The Granby Drummer by our late and greatly missed Carol Laun, Salmon Brook Historical Society acquired the Wilcox House in 2019. At the time, the loom was housed in the attic along with dozens of accoutrements and associated tools indicating that part of the house had been a weaver’s workshop.

With the help of loom expert Nevan Carling, it was moved to a first-floor parlor, where families sometimes did their weaving, so that it could be viewed more easily by visitors.

Subsequent research showed that numerous families in West Granby were engaged in a “cottage industry,” raising sheep, spinning wool into thread, and weaving the thread into cloth for their own use or to trade for commodities they did not manufacture themselves in the early days of the Industrial Revolution in Granby. They had their wool carded (cleaned) and their thread and cloth dyed just up the street at Alpheus Hayes’s cloth works on Salmon Brook. Colorful rugs that, according to Wilcox family tradition, were created in this process are on display in the Wilcox House north parlor. Come see the “old loom” at work once again on Sept. 16.

Loom expert Nevan Carling disassembles the Wilcox House loom. Photo by Mark Williams