The history of this mill site started in April of 1812 when Fitch, McClean and Gilbert built a paper mill "five rods south of the grist mill." The purity of the water was noted for making writing and accounting paper. In 1820 the mill produced 1,430 reams of paper (by hand) at a cost of four dollars and twelve cents a ream. Just downstream was a carding mill built by Ebenezer Bacon and later owned by John Boynton. About 1828 Calvin & Royal Manning acquired the site and lease it to Alexander & Thompson until 1830 when Thomas & James Dike purchased the site. They soon converted the mill to make common sheeting. The paper mill failed because paper-making machinery came into being that superseded the hand laid process. The Dikes also owned property on the north side of Main Street, and the area was known as "Dikes Village" for many years. The depression of 1837 contributed to their failure, and the mill was sold to J.W. Boynton and in 1838, to his father John Boynton. Eugene A. Tracy
The mill fell into disrepair after Boynton's financial failure. Tolland Bank, which acquired the site from a foreclosure, rented to William Osborn for three years. The next few years were not well documented although Nelson Kingsbury owned the site and later Austin Dunham prior to 1872. J.M. Wood leased the site to make shoddy until 1880.
Shoddy is a recycled wool product made by chopping up discarded woolen clothing until it is fine enough to reweave into useful, second-grade cloth. It was a thriving business in the early 1900's.
In 1882 Mr. Tracy acquired the site and expanded it greatly. He installed one of the first telephones in town in his office that year. By 1903 the complex included twenty buildings on this site and three across (north) Main Street. One of the buildings across the street was the mill office which houses the Bidwell Tavern today.
After the Depression and before becoming a tavern the building was the Town Clerk's office. The buildings on site were used for storage, bagging, washing, drying, picking and dusting the material. Water power was still used with storm management. The brook was partially covered at the lake in the month of June, 1908. The E.A. Tracy Company was incorporated with the profits used from the sale of 500 shares. The officers were Eugene Tracy, William Tracy, Frank Tracy, and Thomas B. Flaherty, owner of the Bidwell House.
In January of 1923 Mr. Dexter Elliot of Thompson provided $50,000 in cash and a mortgage loan and the company became the Tracy-Elliot Mills. They also operated another large site on Armstrong Road commonly called the Kenyon Mill. By 1924 the mill was generating its own electricity and reached its height of production.
By 1927 the company was having trouble paying its mortgage and in October of 1929 the owners left the area leaving behind hugh tax liens. The Town of Coventry took over the site for back taxes later that year. In 1936 the South Coventry Volunteer Fire Department was formed and occupied the brick building that remains today. There are only a few buildings left from the original twenty and the brook is entirely covered except for the existing "fire pond." The stone building in the rear was used to store town public works equipment until its roof collapsed in 1978 during the same storm that caused the Hartford Civic Center roof to collapse. The fire department occupied the brick building until their new facility on Rt 31 was built in 2001.
Eugene Allen Tracy was born on September 15, 1850 in Smithfield, Rhode Island. He came to Coventry and entered the manufacturing business in the 1870's by first purchasing a blacksmiths shop and very soon afterwards, began building the large shoddy mill complex. He lived in a home on Wall Street visible from the mill site commonly called the "Tracy Mansion." In 1900 he visited Pinehurst, North Carolina and became a member of the famous organization the "Tin Whistles." He built a house there in 1915 where he spent his summers gardening and golfing. He contributed
to many organizations and charities. Following the commercial demise in Coventry during the Great Depression, he retired to North Carolina where he lived until his death on May 11, 1934.