The Folsom Family and Sythe Manufacturing

The Charles T. Folsom (1808-1886) family is actually in two different censuses from 1850.  The first in May, 1850 in Waterville, Maine where he’s listed as a “Mechanic”.  The second in October, 1850 in Fayette, Maine, where he and his son are listed as “Sythe manufacturers”.

I started digging for information on sythe manufacturing in Maine and I found this about the history of Fayette, Maine:


“Underwood’s Mills, in the eastern part of Fayette, was the largest industrial section of this town. There, from the earliest days, were a sawmill, shingle and clapboard mill, tannery, grist mill, wool carding and a cloth dressing establishment. Subsequently, the North Wayne Scythe Company constructed extensive Scythe works here.”

So in 1850 both Charles T. Folsom and his son (Charles E. Folsom, 1833-1919) worked at the North Wayne Scythe Company.  Charles T. had moved the entire family from Fayette, Maine somewhere between May and October of 1850 to work there.

The next thing I noticed is that in 1860, the family had moved again, to New London, New Hampshire.  This fact about Fayette, Maine suddenly took on new meaning:

“A fire in 1857 destroyed all the buildings [of the North Wayne Scythe Company], and a new tannery and scythe shop were rebuilt immediately.”

The factory where the Folsoms worked burning down in 1857!  So they packed up and moved to New London, New Hampshire.  Why New London?  I had a hunch, so I did a search on “sythe manufacturing” in New London:

From Wikipedia (,_New_Hampshire):

“Elkins is a small village in New London, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, United States.

The village was originally called “Scythe Factory Village” or “Scytheville”, because of the presence of a scythe works in the village, using the outflow from Pleasant Lake to power the equipment to manufacture this agricultural implement.”

So the Folsoms moved to a village actually called “Sythevillle” to work at the large scythe factory there.  As late as 1880 Charles T. Folsom’s employment is listed as “Sythe polisher” in the census.

More info on the New London sythe factory:

The scythe works closed in 1889 and, in 1896, the village was renamed in honor of John P. Elkins, a physician who had served the community from 1875 to 1888. The scythe blade manufacturer in the village was founded in 1835 by Richard Messer, Joseph Phillips and Anthony Colby. Still in their twenties, Messer and Phillips had learned the business in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, while Colby provided the water rights but no capital.

All of the necessary iron, steel, and coal had to be hauled by oxen from the nearest railhead at Concord. In 1845, the Northern Railroad arrived in Potter Place, shortening the teamsters’ trip by 25 miles (40 km).

The scythe works operated for over fifty years, employed almost a hundred workers, and shipped products around the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. A dozen 3-ton grindstones and fourteen trip-hammers were powered by water running through a series of three dams and millponds. Among the many other mills sharing this power supply were a saw mill, shingle mill, grist mill, cider mill, hosiery mill, carding mill, and tannery.

In 1880, the New London Scythe Co. shipped over 120,000 scythe blades, 12,000 hay knives, and 6,000 axe blades.

By October 1888 the grinding and hammering were silenced, as the industry moved closer to raw materials and distribution centers, and as agriculture became more mechanized. Water power no longer offered a competitive advantage. The company’s property, plant and equipment, which earlier had been valued at $150,000, was sold at auction for $9,650.

Within a year and a half, the village’s population dropped from 300 to 75, and the area began a slow transition to other water-related enterprises: tourism and recreation.

About cthomas1967

Seeking to bring my ancestors out of the shadows of history and into the light. I have always been interested in history, and at a few different times I tried to do a family tree, but wasn't able to do it with the technology that was available then. On a business trip I visited the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO and it was a very impressive establishment. While I was there I remember thinking, "Didn't my great-grandfather father fight in World War I? And wasn't his brother killed alongside him in some famous battle? I wonder if I can find out where he died." That's what started it all. View all posts by cthomas1967

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