2. Apples in Early
When the first English
settlers came to
Sherborn in 1652, they
brought apple seeds
with them. Thomas
Holbrook, one of the
first settlers, planted
the first orchard in
Sherborn. His farm
was located where
South Main Street
crosses the Charles
Since 1652, Sherborn
has grown apples. In
1750, the Porter apple
was actually developed
here in Sherborn. It is
a sweet, medium-size,
3. Apples in Early Sherborn
Apple cider was a very popular drink.
In the 1700s, every American drank an
average of 1.14 barrels, or about 36
gallons, every year!
Many of Sherborn’s apples were used
to make cider. In 1798, there were 20
small mills in town.
4. Barrels to Gallons
A barrel of apple cider equaled about 32 gallons.
5. Apples in Early Sherborn
By 1860, there were only 7 cider mills around town, but more cider was produced
by these mills than in earlier times. In the mid-19th century, when the train tracks
were built through town, trains brought apples from outside of Sherborn to supply
the mills, so even more cider could be made.
6. Dowse Orchards
Dowse Orchards has grown and sold
apples and cider in town since the
American Revolution in the late 18th
century. For more than 200 years,
the Dowse family has farmed, grown
apples, and made cider in Sherborn.
7. Making Cider
Grinding the Apples
The process for pressing cider was similar
in many of the small mills in Sherborn.
First horses were used to run the
machinery that ground whole apples into
a pasty mixture called pomace. Early
grinding wheels were made of stone.
8. Making Cider
Grinding the Apples
Later, grinding wheels made of metal
were used to grind the apples into
9. Making Cider
In a large press, about 75 bushels of apples (pomace) were used in one
pressing. It took about 48 hours to press the mixture down. The best quality
came in the first light pressing, then the screws were turned to get out more
liquid, and finally the pomace was taken out of the press, cut up, and replaced
with new straw for a third pressing that yielded the poorest quality cider.
10. Making Cider
After pressing, the pomace was used for livestock
11. Making Cider
After pressing, the cider was sometimes
filtered to take out any impurities. The cider
was now sort of like apple juice and could be
drunk right away. (Today, apple juice is
filtered much more, so it is clearer than cider.)
If the cider was going to be fermented, which
made it alcoholic, it was returned to large
barrels with special spouts, called bungs,
where the liquid could ferment. When cider
was drunk out of the barrel, it was alcoholic
and bubbly like beer. Because alcoholic cider
lasted longer than fresh, it was this type that
was usually drunk in colonial and 19th century
To make champagne cider, which was
alcoholic, almost clear, and very bubbly, the
fermented liquid was specially filtered and
bottled in corked champagne bottles. In these
bottles, the liquid further fermented.
12. Holbrook Grist Mill
In the early 19th century,
Jonathan Holbrook built a mill
building and dam near Sewell
Brook next to his Forest Street
home. He used water power to
run a saw mill and grist mill,
which is a mill to grind grain.
Then, in 1853, Holbrook began
making cider in part of the
building. Initially, Holbrook
made 150 barrels of cider per
season. (A barrel is about 32
gallons.) Later, he built larger
buildings down the road.
The old mill and dam were torn
down in the 1890s. One of the
grinding wheels from this mill
is on display in front of Town
Holbrook Mill, Forest Street
Grinding Wheel of Stone
13. Holbrook Cider Mill (1853-1909) – Overview
The Holbrook Cider Mill eventually became very large. By the
end of the 19th century, the mill was said to be the largest
refined cider mill in the world. By the 1890s the mill
produced over 40,000 barrels, or 1.28 million gallons of cider
The Holbrooks made an alcoholic, champagne cider that was
sold as far east as England and Sweden, and as far west as
Nebraska and Texas. Apples from all over New England and
New York state were needed to supply this huge mill .
One of Several Holbrook Cider
14. Transporting Apples and
For the first fifteen years of the
Holbrook Cider Mill in South
Sherborn, the nearest railroad
was five miles away in Natick.
All the cider made in the mill
had to be transported by horsedrawn wagons over dirt roads to
the depot in Natick, where it
could be shipped out by train.
15. 1860s Railroad Track
Bringing the Railroad
In the 1860s, it was proposed that a
railroad be built from Framingham
to Mansfield. The tracks would go
through West Sherborn.
Jonathan Holbrook paid for his own
survey for a line of track that would
pass much nearer the centers of
Framingham and Sherborn. This
route would also go within a few feet
of his mill in South Sherborn.
Holbrook’s route was shorter – it
saved the railroad company about
½ mile of track and about $50,000.
Holbrook Cider Mill Early Buildings on Sewell Brook
Holbrook Cider Mill Later Buildings on Railroad Tracks
16. The Railroad
In the late 1860s, the railroad was built along a line right by the Holbrook
Cider Mill. The first freight train coming into town was loaded with apples for
the Holbrook’s mill.
New Cider Mill
The large mill
pond is where the
Sewell Brook was
formed by the dam
at the older mill
17. The Railroad
The railroad made it easier to expand the Holbrook Cider Mill. Using the new railroad,
Holbrook could ship cider directly to New York. Also, apples could be shipped in from
greater distances. Local farmers still drove wagon loads of apples to the mill, also.
18. The Mill Grows
By 1868 the mill produced 6,000 barrels every cider
season. The level of activity at the Holbrook Mill
was so great that Forest Street was the first street
that Sherborn voted to widen "to take care of the
exceeding amount of traffic at the mill."
These two color photos show the only mill building
that remains today. It is on the western side of the
tracks. The black and white photo was taken in the
1870s of a mill building that stood on the eastern
side of the tracks. Also on this side were huge
storage buildings and large production buildings.
19. Invention of the Steam-Powered Cider Press
One of the innovations, or new methods, that the Holbrook Mill brought to cider
making was to use a steam-powered cider press that they invented and patented in
1871. This picture shows the cider presses in operation. In the background is the
conveyor belt that brought apples to the mill from the railroad siding.
The pomace was found to
be an excellent cattle food,
and so the Holbrooks sold
and shipped it to farmers
all over New England.
20. Refining the Cider
One of the new buildings added in the 1860s
contained huge vats filled with fine sand
through which the cider was filtered to remove
impurities. Some of this sand came from the
gravel pit across the railroad tracks from the
mill. This is where Cider Hill Lane is now
Holbrook Cider Mill
21. Weighing and Storing the Apples
Another new building built near the railroad
tracks contained storage rooms in the
basement and grinding rooms above.
Near the tracks were huge scales for weighing
the apples that came in the train cars. Train
car loads of apples were run onto scales to be
weighed. Then, the apples were shoveled out
of the train cars by hand or by steam shovel
into the basement of the building. The car was
weighed again and moved forward to make
room for the next car.
Next, the apples were moved to the grinding
rooms above the storage rooms at the rate of
1,200 bushels in 40 minutes! (A bushel is a
basket holding the dry equivalent of 8
22. Largest Employer in Sherborn
The mill employed the largest workforce in town. During the off-season, only four or five
employees were needed to tend the cider and fill orders for cider. But, during the cidermaking season the mill employed about 50 people, mostly men, who worked in 10 hour
shifts, six days a week. The mill was operated 24 hours a day during cider season.
23. “Holbrook and Sons” Prospers
This was a family business. Jonathan Holbrook had three sons who were all active in the
mill: Charles, John, and Eben. The prosperity of their family business allowed Jonathan
and two of his sons two build well-crafted Victorian-style homes.
Jonathan built a large, four-story home at 11 Maple Street in about 1880, but it was torn
down in 1940. Only the granite steps remain today. Jonathan lived in this house with his
daughter, Georgiana. He loved to dance, so the fourth floor of his home was a ballroom!
Cider Mill Founder
24. “Holbrook and Sons” Prospers
Charles built his home at 137 South Main
Street in about 1870.
John built his home at 44 North Main
St. in the 1880s.
25. “Holbrook and Sons” Prospers
Eben stayed in the old (1690s) family house at 69 Forest Street. This picture was taken in the 1870s.
Eben is standing on the frozen mill pond with his daughter, Ella. Their dog plays near Ella’s feet.
Part of the enormous barn was used for storing cider barrels, which can be seen in front of it.
26. Holbrook Cider Mill Buildings
In 1886, a huge, new storehouse was built. It measured 365 feet by 65 feet. It was just
one of several buildings that made up the mill complex near the railroad tracks. The
picture on the left shows the only remaining mill building as it appears today. The two
photos on the right show part of the foundations that remain of one of the old buildings.
27. European Sales
In the 1880s, the mill produced over 30,000 barrels of
cider a year. Sales offices were opened in Europe.
About 1/3 of the cider was sold in Great Britain as
“Holbrook's Champagne Cyder,” or champagne-style
cider and “prime cyder on draught,” which is the beerstyle cider. An English advertisement is shown at right.
About 1/3 of the cider was sold in Great Britain.
More than 1/3 of the cider
was sold in Sweden,
28. United States Sales
About 1/3 of the cider was sold all over the eastern United States and as far west as
Nebraska and as far south as Texas.
29. “The Word’s Largest Cider Mill”
In the 1890s, the mill's capacity reached over 40,000 barrels a year. The Holbrook
Cider Mill was advertised as “The World's Largest Cider Mill.” This illustration
appeared in advertisements in Great Britain. From about 1890 to 1909, the Mill
continued to produce cider on this grand scale.