Next Stage presents discussion, images of water-powered mills in Windham County

PUTNEY — Like Sackett's Brook in Putney and Whetstone Brook in Brattleboro, the Stevens River winds its way through Peacham and Barnet, down to the Connecticut River.

Just as in older times, when the streams in Windham County powered mills, water worked for Barnet's farmers until the 1980s, with Ben Thresher's mill being one of the last one remaining. That mill's story will be told in Putney in a special presentation about water power by the Putney Historical Society.

On Thursday, Aug. 30, at 6:30 p.m. the film Ben Thresher's Mill will be shown at NextStage Arts, 15 Kimball Hill.

The story of Ben Thresher and his mill was captured in 1981 by a pair of New England filmmakers - John Karol of Orford, N.H., and Michel Chalufour of Bath, Maine. Their intimate documentary captured Thresher at work in his mill, modifying tools; making a cattle watering tub; showing how he harnesses the power of the river with pulleys and shafts to run his saws, trip hammer, planer, and forge blower.

After Thresher died in a road accident, the mill passed to Steven Hogan of Moultonborough, N.H. He, in turn, sold it in 1999 to Hiram and Lois Allen, then of Hartford, Vt.

On Aug. 30, Hiram Allen will visit Putney to talk about successful efforts to return Ben's Mill to working condition, including all of its original equipment and its oak penstock and turbine. If its dam is approved by the state, allowing the stream's flow to turn that repaired turbine, Ben's Mill will run on the power of water once more.

The Allens and others formed the Ben's Mill Trust, which successfully brought together Barnet residents and friends to restore the mill using local volunteer labor. Sally Fishburn, president of the trust's board, will be on hand to answer questions.

Members of Putney Historical Society will also show slides documenting the Thwing Mill in Putney. That mill was recreated at its original spot by the Wilson family of Putney in 1987 with the help of Greensboro Bend timber framer Jan Lewandowski. It sits quietly by the side of Sackett's Brook to this day - hidden from the view and knowledge of many town residents.

A donation of $3 is requested to attend the screening and talk. For further information, call the Putney Historical Society at 802-387-8500.

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