The largest manufacturing complex in Danville was on Joe’s Brook. Over many decades, a series of mills operated here to produce lumber, flour or woolen cloth. Greenbank’s Hollow or Village (South Danville) was earlier known, successively, as Whitcher Mills, Davis Mills, and Bolton Mills—named for the owners of the mills that provided lumber, flour or cloth.
In 1849, Benjamin Greenbank purchased the existing Bolton woolen mill and over the years converted it into a five-story woolen factory. Greenbank’s mill was the largest in the region and in the 1850’s employed 45 people and produced 700 yards of cloth daily. The mill supported 25 families and scores of sheep farmers. Caledonia County was sheep country, and in 1840 there were nearly 15,000 sheep in Danville.
Greenbank’s Hollow (or sometimes Greenbank’s Village), also had a post office, store, gristmill, sawmill, school, and several residences. Greenbank’s Hollow was truly a “company” village as most of the enterprises and buildings were owned by Greenbank.
On December 14, 1885, a fire that began in the woolen mill quickly devastated the hamlet, destroying the woolen mill, store, several residences and the covered bridge. Greenbank did not rebuild. Instead, he decided to move his enterprise to Enfield, NH, where purportedly a railroad spur line would be provided to enhance the efficiency of his mill.
Within three years after the fire, many Greenbank’s Hollow residents had moved away.The gristmill continued operation, and the store was rebuilt and operated for several years. The school closed its doors in June, 1912.
There were just enough sheep in Danville and surrounds to support the local mills at the time of the fire. Indeed, the wool markets in the country had been in steady decline since the repeal of the tariffs on woolens in 1846. The repeal of tariffs signaled the end of the sheep era, and by 1850, the year after Greenbank purchased the mill from Bolton, the number of sheep in Danville had dropped to 3,653.