The History of Killingly’s Villages
In 1826 Caleb Williams of Providence bought twenty-seven acres from Asa and William Alexander and John Day along with the privilege to use waterpower from the Quinebaug River. There he built a factory village he named Williamsville. This mill was equipped to make cloth from bales of cotton shipped in from the South. Williamsville consisted of little more than the cotton mill and tenant houses during the late 1820s.
The Williamsville Company owned one hundred five tenements by 1886. A flood in March of 1936 forced police to evacuate residents out of these homes. Again, as an aftermath of the terrible 1938 hurricane, the lower village was inundated and the village was destroyed.
One of the earliest utilizations of the water privilege in Williamsville was by Robert N. Potter at Litchfield and Boys Avenue to make bobbins and spools. Alonzo and Orrin S. Arnold became his partners and continued to run the Potter/Arnold Bobbin Shop after Potter’s death in 1879. The shop burned in about 1900 but some of the ruins remain.
A partnership of local men headed by Robert Boys succeeded in interesting the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, in using the Williamsville mill to produce the cotton duck needed as reinforcement material in rubber tires. Goodyear bought the village in 1913 and became the first tire company to produce its own cloth-laminating material. The village name was changed to Goodyear in 1916.
The Goodyear tire business increased in the years after World War I. The Goodyear Company expanded its facilities and then, under the direction of Robert Boys, the general manager, planned and built an entirely new village on a knoll overlooking the old village named Goodyear Heights. The streets were well laid out, splendidly lit, and supplied with every modern convenience. There were eighty-four new and modern homes. The Goodyear Company closed its operation in 1932 during the Great Depression.
In 1937 Rogers Corporation, a paper and chemical producer, acquired the plant and the houses were sold individually. Rogers Corporation continues to add to the plant and prosper with an extensive research and development program. The village again changed its name in 1954 from Goodyear to Rogers.
The Williamsville Fire Company was organized in 1833 to look out for the welfare of the fast-growing community of Williamsville. When the first members of the company responded to a fire call, they traveled on foot, pulling a hose reel behind them. They lay claim to being the oldest volunteer fire department in Connecticut. Its territory was explained as “the area they could cover in 10 minutes pulling the apparatus.” A replica of the Williamsville Company’s first pumper is displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.