Elijah Cleveland had already made his mark on Coventry when he decided to build
a starch factory at the lower falls. It would be the last of his major enterprises
in the village and it would be a substantial one.
The production of starch from potatoes on a large scale was a direct result of the needs of the massive cotton cloth manufacturing industry which held sway in New England in the 19th century. The process of industrial cotton cloth manufacture required the addition of a sizing material to the cotton yarns to increase their strength and decrease the roughness of the cotton fibers. Starch made from potatoes was one of the main ingredients used in this process.
The Starch Factory in the late 1890's after a collapse of the milldam (1)
|In the summer of 1837 Cleveland began the construction of his factory and the manufacture of starch commenced on November 27.|
This factory was a great advantage to the farmers, furnishing a ready and sure
market for one of their most important crops. Potatoes then brought only 10 cents
a bushel, and were slow of sale at that price. Its business increased from year
to year, and the production and price of potatoes kept even pace with the
increasing demand for them. In the summer of 1860, the factory was enlarged,
and the following Fall and Winter, 36,000 bushels of potatoes were made into
Pliny White, History of Coventry, Vermont.
|Farmers in towns with starch factories took advantage of this nearby market and increased their production of potatoes. Where the average Orleans county farm held about an acre of potatoes, farms in starch factory towns had between 5 and 20 acres planted to potatoes.(2)|
Excellent Potato Starch award for Elijah Cleveland from the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association 1841 (3)
|By 1860 one-third of all the starch factories in the state of Vermont were located in Orleans county where over 570 million bushels of potatoes were grown.(4)|
1. - Bits And Pieces Of Coventry's History, Coventry Bicentenial Committee, Coventry, VT, 1977
2. - Vermont Historical Gazeteer Vol 3 Orleans County,
3. - Old Stone House Museum - Coventry room collection, Brownington, VT
4. - U.S. Census - State of Vermont 1860, Table of Agriculture, and Table No.3 Totals of Manufactures