The Town of Madrid was formed in 1802. Originally it was referred to as Roberts’ Mills and later Columbia Village before being called Madrid in the early 1860’s. In the early days, life centered around the Grasse River where factories and homes grew. In 1852, Madrid was said to have two taverns, a bookstore, two shoe stores, six stores, one tannery, one saw mill, one grist mill, two wagon shops, one woolen factory, four churches, one jeweler and three blacksmith shops…just to mention a few spots!!! In 1873, a two-story brick school was built next to the present day Madrid Hepburn Library In 1882. The bell that hung at this school now hangs at the Elementary entrance of Madrid-Waddington Central School. The Madrid Bridge was built of stone over the Grasse River connecting people and businesses.
A personal account of life in Madrid:
“At the south end of the bridge was the woolen mill, a big gray stone structure with a wide flight of wooden steps leading to a platform before the double doors of the main rooms. When I was crossing the bridge on my way to and from school I could hear the klang, klang of the looms, an ominous sound to me. Across from the woolen mill was the tannery owned and run by one of the numerous John Fishers roundabout. This one was Baptist John. On the northeast end of the bridge stood the gristmill. The sight of huge stones, which, powered by water wheels, moved round and round with a steady, majestic rhythm and ground the flour, fascinated me. The boys were interested in every step of the process by means of which the wheat or corn left the blinds and became flour or corn meal. It was the atmosphere that intrigued me- and the miller. He was a friendly, kindly man named Smith and he looked as I thought, as a miller should. Across from the gristmill was the sawmill, run by John Meeker in my day. How I loved the delightful fragrance of the sawdust and the piles of freshly cut lumber! And the deep toned music of the big saw which cut off the edgings. These edgings made cheap but good stove wood and my brothers used to bring them home on their sled and saw them into proper lengths for the kitchen stove.”- Ruth Goodnow Keenan
Madrid Historic Businesses:
Since its early settlement, Madrid has been a center for business and industry. This area in particular was home to a number of businesses. Saw and Grist Mills- The first grist and saw mills were built by Seth Roberts and Mr. Clark in 1803. The original mills were destroyed by fire in 1814 while owned by Jarah Meach. Timothy Reed later purchased the property and built a grist and saw mill under one roof. The property burnt down in 1856 while owned by Hiram Horton. The following year the stone grist mill seen in the photo was built opposite the saw mill. The mills underwent several changes in ownership and operation until 1948. The saw mill in the photo burned down for the last time in 1950. Woolen Mill- As early as 1823, Captain Jesse Goss was running a cloth-dressing mill at the location. The mill remained in the Goss family until the 1860’s at which time it was operated by Mr. Adolphus Vansickler. The mill used water power to generate electricity for their heated irons. When the river was low there was insufficient power to run the irons. (Madrid Herald, Pub. September 1909) In the early 1900’s the building housed the Madrid Electric Light Company which became incorporated in 1912. In later years, the building was abandoned and remained vacant until town down. Pants Factory- Previously a cloth-making mill built by Alfred Goss in 1833, this building became the property of the Madrid Woolen Mills in 1893. The Madrid Woolen Mills was a stock company organized for the manufacture of cloth and pants. It was operated by 30 employees and turned out 100 pairs of pants a day. The factory closed its doors in 1916, but was reopened four years later by an Ogdensburg business to manufacture nurse’s uniforms and hospital gowns. Fly and Insect Destroyer Factory- In 1905 the F. Williams Manufacturing Company, of Morrisburg, Ontario “bought the Nelson W. Pike store building on the Brooklyn side” to produce and distribute Dr. Williams Fly and Insect Destroyer, a product well known & widely used by the local farmers for domestic and agrarian pests. (Madrid Herald, Pub. 1905) Laundry- John A. Andrew began a laundry business after moving to Madrid in 1894. In 1903, a gasoline tank exploded, injuring Mr. & Mrs. Andrew and burning down the laundry and three other buildings. “Lockwood’s carriage shop and the pants factory adjoining were saved only by the most heroic work on the part of volunteers.”(Massena Observer, Pub. July,16 1903) The laundry remained in operation until John Andrew’s death in 1937.