As early as 1772, a saw mill and iron manufactory were operating here along the Pawcatuck River. On May 3, 1820, Lewis Kenyon purchased a large farm from Thomas Holburton. He set up a mill to card and weave fibers where the village of Kenyon is now located and the area became known as Holburton's Mills. Lewis descended from John Kenyon, who settled in Misquamicut in the 1660's as a "freeman." His father lived in Charlestown and fought in the Revolutionary War under Capt. Amos Green of Charlestown.
The purchase included a small stone woolen mill. Here, Lewis established and ran a business of finishing cloth until his death in 1839. Elijah Kenyon, his son, carried on the mill business, eventually forming a partnership with his brother, Abial. By that time, the old mill was used for carding and spinning. The first six looms were introduced for the weaving of cloth. These six looms brought much success to the mill.
In 1844, a new, much larger mill was built near the site of the old mill with greater facilities for manufacturing. By 1856, Elijah purchased the interest of his brother, Abial, and successfully operated the mill until 1863. That same year, C.B. Coon was admitted as a partner and a large, spacious store was added for the convenience of the mill workers. The village by then was called Kenyon's Mills.
In 1881, the new post office was added to the village and the name was finally changed to Kenyon. Another change came that same year when Elijah died and his son, John, succeeded to the business and operated it with great success under the name E. Kenyon & Son. By 1889, a railroad station was established along the main line of the New York, Providence and Boston railroad which passes through the village.
As we have seen with each mill village, a pattern of progression emerges. Each used the power of the Pawcatuck River. Every mill builder and owner built good white clapboard houses for his workers. Thus a neat, orderly village emerged with a school, store and church. Between 1850-1900, many workers came from the terrible textile villages of England where working conditions were unspeakable, bringing to our villages people of an industrious nature. As these mills grew in size with prosperity, so did the villages.
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