Operating along the North River in Marshfield, Massachusetts for over 200 years by members of the Hatch family, the mill was built on a small pond along Union Street by Deacon Joel Hatch. It was built on the same property as his family home, known today as the Red House.* Over 15 such man-made ponds existed in Marshfield, all built to store water to power grist, saw, fulling, carding and box mills.
Operated originally as a grist mill in 1752, the Hatch Mill was converted to a saw mill in 1812 to provide timber for the thriving shipbuilding industry along the North River. The Hatch Mill utilized 14th century up-and-down saw technology in its work.
In the 1800s, eleven shipyards were located along the North River through Marshfield, Scituate, Norwell, Hanover and Pembroke; eight were in Marshfield. More than 1,000 vessels were landed on this river, including the Columbia, the first ship to circumnavigate the globe while flying an American flag, and the Beaver, a cargo ship that played a role in the Boston Tea Party. During the Civil War, the wooden boxes used to ship combat boots to Union soldiers fighting in the South were milled in Marshfield at the Hatch Mill.
The original Hatch mill contained an up and down saw based on a 14th century design; it remained in operation until being upgraded to a circular saw with a turbine water wheel in 1872. A two story box mill was added in 1859 which has been restored. Many of the homes in this ares of Marshfield still contain wood milled at the property and are now highly sought by restoration experts and historical preservationists.
Work at the Hatch mill ground to a halt in 1965, and the local historical society bought it three years later. The late Roy Kirby and his partners, Jack and Bob Clancy, bought the 3.5 acre property from the town historical society for $1, with the condition that they would take over the $40,000 mortgage, restore the mill and leave the land undeveloped.
Over the years many other residents and craftsmen joined the project including preservation carpenters from North Bennet Street School, expert preservationist Michael Burrey of Plymouth who also worked on Plimoth Plantation, Rondout Woodworking of New York, and even students in the Building and Construction elective program at Marshfield High School.
*The story of the Red House is chronicled in a book by Sarah Messer titled, “The Red House: Being a Mostly Accurate Account of New England’s Oldest Continuously Lived-in House.” It is still owned and lived in today by Sarah Messer’s parents Ron and Pat Messer who continue to support the Hatch Mill restoration effort.