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Eli Terry Jr. Water Wheel

By February 16, 2024July 16th, 2024No Comments

Eli Terry Jr. Water Wheel, Plymouth, Connecticut:

Near 268 Main Street is a pitch-back configuration water wheel dating back to around 1830. The wheel’s origins stemmed from a clockmaker named Eli Terry Sr. (1772-1852). In 1793, he established the Terry Clock Shop in Plymouth and pioneered the manufacturing of interchangeable parts. Terry Sr. received the first United States patent for clockworks in 1801 and introduced mass production to the art of clockmaking – making clocks affordable for the average American.

“Recognizing a vast potential market for low-cost domestic clocks, Eli Terry and his associates Seth Thomas and Silas Hoadley applied water-powered machinery to clockmaking. One of the proving grounds of the American Industrial Revolution, clockmaking changed from a craft to a factory process in which machines mass-produced uniform, interchangeable clock parts. This manufacturing technique appeared in other industries about this time and became known as “the American system” of manufacturing.”

National Museum of American History

Terry’s sons were also integral to the family business. Eli Terry Jr. (1799-1841) started at his father’s factory making locking mechanisms. Seeking to increase production, Terry Jr. relied on water power to operate wood saws. He was credited for constructing a cast iron and wood water wheel next to the Pequabuck River. The water wheel is believed to be one of only two of its kind in the United States. Output increased dramatically, and by 1845 Terry Clock Shop had produced more a half million locks.

In 1854, the Terry’s helped form the Eagle Lock Company employing as many as 1,800 workers. Across the street from the Eli Terry Jr. Water Wheel once stood the Terry family home. The house was part of a mill village bearing the name of Terryville. The lock factory was destroyed in 1940, and the Eli Terry Jr. water wheel serves as a memorial to the Terry family Eagle Lock Company ceased operations in 1975.

Fun fact: Terryville is the largest village (census-designated place) within the town of Plymouth, and is home to the Lock Museum of America.

Visit the Terryville Historical Society:

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Weston Ulbrich

Weston Ulbrich

Born and raised in Connecticut, I am a proud Nutmegger. I believe that "Life is for Service" and my enthusiasm for helping others shapes my work as a Realtor. Let's create a win-win relationship. Call or text 203.605.6086.