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Biddeford Mills Museum

Pepperell Mills lower lagoon, Biddeford, 2014

Contributed by Biddeford Mills Museum
MMN Item 104213 Item Details
Pepperell Mills lower lagoon, Biddeford, 2014
MMN Item 104213 Zoom


The Pepperell Manufacturing Company was incorporated by the Saco Water Power Company in 1844, immediately workers started building the underground canal system needed to power the machinery in the future Pepperell mills.

The lower lagoon “is part of the Pepperell’s underground canal system” dug by Irish immigrants, the granite walls with perfect arches and without mortar, were made with granite from local quarries were built by Italian immigrants who were known for their detailed stone work, in 1910 Mill 10 was built over the lagoon.

The traditional way of building a canal system was to run the canals parallel with the river, the water would travel through the canals, fall into wheels in Mill’s cellar and the spent water flowed back to the river.

The canal system for Pepperell Mills required an unconventional design because the land gradually sloped upward from the river and the mills were located so that the canals leading to them were at right angles. The problem was that the water, after falling through the wheels, had no way to return to the river.

Builders solved this problem by creating a lagoon with two levels, separated by a granite wall. From the upper level they built underground canals at right angles leading to the mills parallel with Lincoln Street. To return the spent water, another canal was built directly underneath the canal that transported water to the wheels. After passing through the wheels, the water flowed down into the lower canal leading to the lower lagoon, where the water joined with the Laconia canal and eventually flowed back into the river.

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