You've arrived at the John Russell Cutlery blog. Some of you may know me, Peter Atwood, as I am a well known knife and tool maker. I happen to live not far from the historic site of the John Russell Cutlery in Turners Falls, Massachusetts.
I decided to start this after a recent trip down to the original factory site. A local man who is interested in the industrial history and heritage of this area organized a group of local folks who wanted to learn more about the old factory. So we met up on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and hiked down to the river to check it out.
The John Russell Cutlery was in operation from the 1870's until the historic flood of 1936. The flood waters rose to great heights that year and caused much damage to the area. The Russell Cutlery was one of the casualties as it lay just beyond the dam at Turners Falls. The buildings were flooded out and the business was basically ruined. They salvaged what they could of the machines but the building was in bad shape. The Cutlery decided to relocate the next year to a town in eastern Massachusetts and remained in business there for many years.
Anyway, the area is really cool. The river is quite a powerful force and all that raw power is what attracted the mills in the late 1800's. There were paper mills and machine shops all along the CT River and some of the adjacent buildings still stand to this day. Some of the paper mills are still operating as well.
After roaring over the dam, the river hits bedrock and then rushes to meet a huge ridge in front of it which then forces it to take a sharp left hand turn. A man made canal runs alongside the river some 20 feet above it. It starts at the dam and makes that left hand turn with it. Thus the Cutlery site rests on a spit of land that is kind of an artificial island between the canal and the river. The canal has large gates that would open and bring water through the various buildings along it to provide power for the machines. Some of the building that remain still use the water power to generate electricity for their operations.