The History of Big Alum Lake
THE DAM AT BIG ALUM
During the 19th century, textile manufacturing became an important industry along the Quinebaug River. In 1827 the Quinebaug Company, a five-story spinning and weaving mill, was built by Josiah and Henry Fisk, and Fiskdale developed as a major mill village. Big Alum's dam, located at the intersection of the current Mt. Dan and Trail Roads, was built around 1912 to provide hydropower to the Fiskdale Mills. The textile company had secured the rights to the water from Big Alum that flowed through a gatehouse, into a brook for half a mile, and then under the road to Long Pond. These waters ran to the Quinebaug River and were used to run the generators for the mills.
The reason some of the older cottages around the lake are so close to the water is that they were built when the lake was much lower and farther out. When the dam was built the water level rose and much of the rocky shore in front of the cottages was covered. The Rocks (Puffer's cottage) and the Silver Ball (DiGregorio's) are good examples of this.
Years later, the American Optical Company owned the water rights to Big Alum and controlled the dam. In 1955 flood control work began on the waterways to Southbridge and maintenance of the dam fell to the Town of Sturbridge.