Starting in the mid-1800s, and continuing for the next 100 years, the people of Moodus manufactured cotton twine in as many as twelve cotton mills. The mills were built along the banks of the modest but sharply inclined Moodus River, providing the water power they needed to operate.
The fascinating story of the Moodus mills includes the people who built them, invented groundbreaking processes and machines, and labored in a punishing industrial environment. The owners were mostly Yankees, the workers mostly immigrants.
It was a great leap forward for fishing in 1872 when East Haddam netmaker Wilbur Squires invented the Yankee Gill Net machine. The nets caught fish behind their gills, which was an efficient and inexpensive way to gather many more fish.
Squires built a small factory in 1883 near Goodspeed Landing to manufacture his new style of fish netting. His machines simplified adjustments to mesh size and were fast — each one tying a record-setting 3,000 knots per minute. They helped make East Haddam and Moodus the cradle of the fish netting and twine industry in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Ed Stolarz took over Cofish in the 1950s from his father-in-law and led the company through a period of growth and a timely diversification into the manufacture of fishing foul-weather gear.
Matthew Goldman, who grew up in Hadlyme, remembers getting on his first boat at age four when his dad, a local fishnet machine builder and netting maker, took him aboard a wooden sloop owned by one of mill owner Crary Brownell's sons. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with boats. Matt spent much of his time on "rafts and rowboats, canoes and sailing dinghies" before acquiring his own sailboat to continue and expand his explorations.
Lucky for us, he's also a prolific and entrancing writer. Under the pen name of Constant Waterman, Matt has written dozens of poetic and intimate essays on the joys of being on and near the water in southeastern Connecticut and elsewhere. Local landmarks are often an anchor of his work, including in these two delightful essays, "Chapman's Pond" and "Another Spring Freshet."
Drone shot by Frank DiNardi