Here's a brief overview of the history of Spencer Optical Works, for those of you who may not have read my 5,000 posts on the topic over the past year. The business started in the 1850s in Connecticut and came to Kirbyville in 1874. For fourteen years, the factory thrived, powered by a force of 200 workers and the energy harnessed from the river running down from Kirby Pond. In 1888, however, the pond's owner, Judge Leonard, decided to drain the pond, cutting off the factory's power source. The Spencer brothers sued to protect their water supply but lost. The pond was drained, the Spencers established a new factory in New Jersey, and despite their effort to find a buyer for the property in Kirbyville, the three-story brick building remained silent and empty. At an unknown date, the factory and its outbuildings were torn down, and the forest has engulfed whatever was left.
That is not to say that there's nothing left to find. On this bright October day, armed with maps and old photographs, our group set out through the forest to find the place where the stream bends and starts flowing towards the town. It was at this bend that the factory was located. It didn't take us long to find evidence of a human presence, both historical and modern ...
The picture at the top of the post shows our first major find: the stones of the former dam. But the pictures below give a sense of scale of what was really an incredible feat of engineering. We stood here for a while, looking around, contemplating how such a feat might have been achieved. Did the makers use horses or oxen to haul the stones? Where did they come from? A few, interestingly enough, had quarry marks just like the stones we've found in the dig (though these stones are much larger than anything we've found at our site).
A part of the dam wall had tumbled out, creating a cave where the inside of the wall is visible. Smaller stones were packed between the larger ones, but it seems to have been entirely dry construction - that is, without mortar.
Here's the other side of the dam, where the water runs through the demolished wall.
After exploring for a while, we committed the ultimate horror movie mistake of splitting up, and promptly succumbed to Optical Factory zombies. I'm joking, of course, but Bruce did cross the stream to look around on the other side while the rest of us went on a bit further and studied the map. After a while we heard Bruce yelling for us, and he came back with two bricks - our first physical evidence of the brick factory building. In fact, Bruce had come across a whole lot of bricks, which we now believe to be the factory site, but due to a number of factors (including the time, which was getting fairly late) we decided to save the exploration for another day. Rest assured we will be back, and doubtlessly there will be a lot more to see. Just in our trip to the dam we found an additional brick (stamped with JJJ) and a ceramic insulator, both of which could be contemporary with Spencer Optical. I hope you're as excited as I am to continue this adventure.