Skip to main content

The Yankee Express

Otherworldly voices and forms haunt The Dover Mills


The Dover Mills still sits at One Washington Center in the heart of downtown Dover, New Hampshire. The mill’s history is ripe with tales of prosperity and woe. Perhaps that is why its walls are full of ghosts and ethereal noises passing through the time barrier.
The mills go back to the early days of the Industrial Revolution. John Williams and fellow investors formed the Dover Cotton Factory in 1812 along the Cochecho River. In 1823 the name was changed to Dover Manufacturing Company because they began manufacturing other items along with the cotton.
Factory life was hard. Mr. Williams paid his worker girls forty-seven cents a day. They received room and board and put two cents per day towards medical.  The workers toiled for eleven to twelve hours a day. From March thru October, the workday ran from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM with forty-five minutes for lunch.
John Williams moved to Boston around 1828, leaving James Curtis in charge of the business. He was harsh and insensitive to the woman employees. He cut their wages from fifty-eight cents a day to fifty-three cents. He even imposed a fine of twelve and one-half cents for anyone who showed up late. 
On December 30, 1828, about four hundred of the eight hundred female workers stormed off the job and took up a picket line in front of the factory. This was the first strike by women in the workforce of the United States. Unfortunately, the strike was a failure. The mill owners placed an ad for replacements, and the women were forced to return to their jobs on January 1, 1829, with a reduction in pay.
Expansion created another building to manufacture cloths and other related goods. This branch was named the Cocheco Manufacturing Company. The spelling error in the name was due to an oversight by the state clerk when recording the birth of the business. Even the river now bears the name with the missing “H.”
Years passed, and the mill grew into several buildings. One building of particular interest was the new Building #1, built at the bend of the river, known as “The Beach.” This building is the site of the tragic fire that occurred on January 26, 1907. The fire broke out on the fourth floor at about 6:30 PM. Since the sprinkler system was down, the fire spread quickly. Workers had to leap from the windows, and many were injured. The firefighters fought the blaze for one and a half days in temperatures that plummeted as low as twenty-six degrees below zero.
In the end, four people were lost to the fire, and the building was gutted. They rebuilt the structure and by 1908, it was back in business.
In 1909 the factory was sold to Pacific Mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts. At the end of World War I, things took a turn for the worse. Then came the Depression, and in 1937, the great facility finally closed its doors. In 1940 the town of Dover bought the mill at an auction for the sum of fifty-four thousand dollars.
They rented the complex to small businesses, but the buildings had fallen into a sad state of disrepair. By the 1960s, only the ghosts inhabited the empty shells that loomed over the center of town. In 1984 the mill was purchased and renovated into office and business spaces. The building lives once more with the advent of present-day industry and the revenants of the past.
People standing outside of the building after business hours have claimed to see strange glowing lights hovering around the upper floor windows. Voices of the long-dead still echo through the building as if calling out over the clamor of the machinery that once graced its walls. Other noises frequently heard are the clanging of old machinery. The sounds resemble old looms and other manufacturing machines starting and stopping. A custodian working the night shift often heard the phantom machinery running while he was working.
Otherworldly voices and forms have been witnessed in one of the towers. Eerie lights sometimes emanate from the basement windows. This would not seem so strange if it was not for the fact that the basement has been securely sealed for many years.
Could the workers of the past still be drawn to their duties long after their mortal time on earth? Is the machinery that maimed or claimed the lives also part of the spirit world; or is it just a byproduct of the ghost’s never-ending tenure at the haunted Cocheco Mill?