Wilson Stream: That Dammed-est Stream

View of the outlet of Wilson Lake with the Sawyer Cannery and GH Bass building in the background

This walk will start at the Wilton Farm and Home Museum and proceed along Canal Street to Wilson Lake and its outlet where, in 1797, Samuel Butterfield developed the first canals along Wilson Stream to power his saw and gristmills. We will discuss and view the locations of a variety of waterpower industries which later sprang up along Wilson Stream including a tannery, woolen mills, shoe shops and carriage shops among others.

The first 1/3 of a mile of Wilson Stream falls 150 feet in elevation, which is ideal for the variety of waterpower industries. In 1869, a total of 20 dams were listed in Wilton with 8 of them in the first mile. The walk will proceed along Main Street to the Civil War Monument passing the large four-story building constructed in 1904 by the GH Bass Company. Waterpower was utilized at this facility until the 1920-30s with the Bass shoe company operating at this location between 1903-1997.

At the Civil War Monument we will take a moment to look at historic maps and review historic material will show the network of flumes, locks, bulkheads, channels/canals, and penstocks that extended along and beneath this portion of town. At this point in our walk, the doors of the wagon shed of the Rawson Fuller House (historical society museum) will be opened to view a remnant of the old water pipe which fed the grist mill and starch factory.

The walk will then continue along Main Street to McGillicuddy Park where we will discuss the extensive networks of canals, diversion dams, trail races, and mill ponds previously present in this neighborhood with associated industries including a yarn mill present in the 1830s and later a woolen mill located where Food City currently stands.

At the conclusion of the walking tour, it is just a short walk back to the Civil War monument area and Wilton Farm and Home Museum where parking is available.


The route of the tour extends along existing roadways and sidewalks but not accessible to wheelchairs. The distance of the walk is just under a mile. No steep grades are involved.

Starting Location:

Meet inside the Wilton Farm and Home Museum at 10 Canal St. Wilton, ME

Ending Location:

Wilton Farm and Home Museum, 10 Canal St. Wilton, ME
10 Canal St
Wilton, Maine 04294

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

Learn more about SDGs

  • 03 - Good Health and Well-Being
  • 04 - Quality Educacation

May 4, 2024 / 11:00 AM

Led by: Richard Corey
Duration: One hour
City/Town: Wilton
County: Franklin
Language(s): English