Finishing mill - Beebe River
Village at Beebe River
October 15, 2012
Hopedale in October
G&U locomotive in Hopedale – YouTube Trains now arrive daily. Here's one that came in on October
11. One more time - October 12.
Draper Corporation open house at its plant in East Spartanburg, SC in 1953.
The Parklands, October 6. Hopedale Pond, October 1 and October 11.
Naughty, Naughty Nipmuc.
on the wall in a closet by the stage in the town hall. A few years ago I took pictures of some of the
names and put them on my website. This week I was able to get them all - 24 pictures. Lots of
names that are familiar to those of you who grew up in mid-20th century Hopedale. Here they are.
Twenty-five years ago – October 1987 – Draper Complex Sale Expected Next Month
First Girl Scout Event in Hopedale – Hayride Through Sutton, Picnic at Purgatory Chasm
World population is estimated to have reached five billion people.
The United States is caught up in a drama that unfolds on television as a young child, Jessica
McClure, falls down a well in Midland, Texas, and is later rescued
Fifty years ago – October 1962 – Hopedale Pharmacy Displays Prescriptions Going Back to 1847
VFW Auxiliary Will Hold Pantry Party
Cuban Missile Crisis begins: A U-2 flight over Cuba takes photos on Oct. 14 of Soviet nuclear
weapons being installed. A stand-off then ensues for another 12 days.
For several decades, Draper Corporation had a plant in Beebe River, New Hampshire. Here’s Bill
Wright’s account of a recent trip he made there, to see what he could learn about the facility. To read
the article on a page with more pictures connected to the story, click here.
Dave Meade and I met in Lincoln, NH and headed south to the Campton Historical Society in
Campton, New Hampshire.
We were greeted by Sandra Decarie the curator and Bob Mardin the librarian. The introductions were
heartfelt and happy as we immediately commenced discussing Draper. Bob excused himself to call
his brother Richard who had worked at the Draper Beebe River Bobbin Plant for 24 years.
Beebe River had a history of logging and sawmills. At one point much of the lumber was used in the
manufacture of pianos. Parker-Young established a sawmill in 1917, over seven years creating
160,000,000 board feet of lumber, depleting the supply of spruce trees. Though hard times clouded
the horizon, Draper was looking for a site to manufacture bobbins. The requirements were a saw mill,
a huge supply of hardwood, a railroad and a labor force. Whereas Beebe River met those criteria,
negotiations for the purchase occurred in Boston during April of 1924. The deal was consummated
with “as much as fuss as purchasing a pair of shoes from a merchant.” The transaction netted
Draper 25,000 acres of land, 28 miles of railroad track, five locomotives, 500 boxcars, the post office,
theater and community center.
( It may be noteworthy here to state that the relationship of Beebe River to Campton is the same as
Spindleville to Hopedale.)
Draper built a finishing mill, roughing mill, box shop, dry kilns maintenance garage and generator
building. Across the (now removed) railroad tracks was a pond, immediately beyond which is a
village with houses, and a community hall built and/or maintained by Draper for its employees.
(Writers note: We found a wonderful nugget as we walked the grounds. The village park had the
identical playground equipment; slide, swings, monkey bars, etc. as were at the Hopedale Town
Park. Same style and manufacturers).
At its peak, Beebe River employed 350, produced 100,000 bobbins per day and manufactured the
shipping crates for looms. Raw materials from Guilford, ME, Woodford, VT and Tupper Lake, NY were
transported to Beebe River to supplement the hardwood harvested locally to satisfy the enormous
hunger for bobbins. These were shipped to Hopedale via rail.
As with Hopedale, Draper was a major presence. In addition to the scores of jobs and a livable
community, it paid 40% of Campton’s town taxes.
In 1967, Draper stockholders voted to merge with Rockwell-Standard. At that time, there was no
indication of what the future held for the plant.
(Significant of the above data was found in the,“Campton Bicentennial 1767-1967 Commemorative
Booklet, Reprinted and Updated 2002).
Richard Mardin was able to recall many elements of his 24 years at Beebe River. His family did own
and operate a local sawmill but the bobbin factory offered better opportunities. He began his career in
1959 as a machinist and ended as Manager of Industrial Engineering. The plant made and
maintained most of its own cutting tools.
His recollections include that Draper “took good care of its people,” and enlisted Gus Burg to erect
about 20 houses.
Logs were brought in by rail and dumped into a pond to rinse dirt and stones from them. They were
then brought to the sawmill to be cut and ultimately shaped into blanks which were then kiln dried.
From the blanks, bobbins of different configurations (to match various diameters of thread) were
manufactured. The bobbins were all made of rock maple because that hardwood would always “run
Beebe River continued operations until the mid 1980s. The demand for wooden bobbins had
diminished. Although alternative products such as hand saw handles were produced, the end had
come. Richard noted with a wry smile “… if a suit from Hopedale showed up on Thursday, salaried
employees were going to be let go. If the suit arrived on Friday, hourly employees were on the
dismissal list.” Bill Wright, September 2012.
Here are three links sent by Peter Metzke to three sites about Beebe River.
Campton Historical Society flyer about a program on the Draper plant at Beebe River.
Campton Historical Society page on the village of Beebe River.
A page on logging in the Beebe River area.
Photos of Beebe River and the Draper Plant Hopedale History Ezine Menu HOME