Plaque sponsored by the Gernon Trust
Located on Route 69 & Route 97, Taftville
Construction of the great Ponemah Cotton Mill began in 1866. A group of investors, led by Edward and Cyrus Taft of Providence, Rhode Island, purchased a 600 acre farm on the Shetucket River. The first mill was 750 feet long and 74 feet wide. It began operation in 1871. The name “Ponemah” was taken from Longfellow’s poem, Song of Hiawatha, and was said to mean “our hope.” The mill owners built a village to house the workers, naming it Taftville after the principal investors. The main street of the new village was named Providence Street.
The Ponemah Mill spun and wove imported Egyptian cotton into very high quality cloth for the luxury trade. A bitter strike in 1875, led to the eviction of mill workers who were mostly comprised of Irish Americans. New workers were recruited from French Canada. Taftville became noted as a French Canadian community.
Major expansions of the mill were made in 1884, 1902, and 1910. At its peak, the Ponemah Mill employed 1600 workers and produced over 20 million yards of cloth a year. They boasted that a pound of cotton could be spun into a single strand of yarn 100 miles long. In the 20th century, the mill successfully converted to the production of synthetic fabrics. It was closed in 1972; one of the last great New England mill to shut down. Today, a variety of stereophonic equipment, woolen yarn spinning, and automated production control equipment, as well as a number of retail shops, occupies its space.