This area is called the Powder Hollow because black powder was manufactured here in the 19th and early 20th century. The facility began around 1835 when Allen Loomis bought the meadowland surrounding the Scantic River. He soon had a small set of mills working to produce 20 five-pound kegs of black powder per day. By 1843 Col. Augustus Hazard had purchased a controlling share in the company and was responsible for much of the mill’s early success. Shortly after he acquired the controlling shares, the Hazard Powder Company was established.
Allen Loomis left the company, along with several other workers, and established the Enfield Powder Company, upstream in the Scitico area. Five years later, Hazard would buy these partners out and added this facility to his production capabilities.
In 1854, at a town meeting in the newly constructed hotel of Sylvester Charter, the town was named Hazardville after Colonel Hazard.
Hazard developed the small facility by adding two large dams, and digging canals, and holding ponds for storing the massive amounts of water for powering the facilities. The plant eventually grew to 118 mills making about 28 tons of powder a day. Hazard also established a working relationship with other large gunpowder manufacturers, like du Pont, to maintain a consistent price on the product. Also of interest is that at this time, during the Crimean War, Hazard and Henry du Pont worked out supply agreements with both sides by selling powder to England, France, and Turkey, as well as to the Russian opposition. When the British found out about this, they immediately prohibited the highly sought after saltpeter to the United States. This was a difficult blow to an industry that already had a difficult time acquiring the substance, whose main source was the English colony of India. Despite this national debacle, the two companies continued to conduct price fixing together, continuing to do so through the Civil War.
The Civil War brought about many challenges. Unlike a foreign war it would have been difficult to supply both sides and still survive. Hazard, having spent time in the south and having hosted Jefferson Davis in his home, was thought to be a possible southern sympathizer although there was no evidence that he might have been supplying the south with powder. He and du Pont were forced into making only meager profits, and had to improve and expand their facilities, and increase production during wartime, just to demonstrate loyalty to the North. After the war, the company’s problems increased. A surplus of gunpowder drove prices down, and Col. Hazard died suddenly in 1868, followed by a major explosion in 1871 that destroyed many of the mills and buildings at the facility.
In 1876 the majority of the stockholders were frustrated with the business and sold their shares to Henry du Pont in what would be the largest power transitions in the United States at that time. Another interesting business decision had taken place after the purchase: although the company was now owned by du Pont, this would not become public knowledge for another ten years.
This deceit was intentional. By 1876 price fixing had expanded to include all of the powder companies in the country. They established the Gunpowder Trade Association, which dictated, based on the votes of all the industries, the decisions on pricing and other important matters. By not revealing the purchase the du Pont Company doubled its votes and therefore controlled the decisions of smaller firms. By the end of the century high railroad prices and greater demand in the Western United States forced a reduction in manufacturing in the Powder Hollow Mills.
In 1902 The du Ponts were able to purchase Laflin and Rand, the third largest gunpowder manufacturer in the United States. As a result they saw no need to continue the Gunpowder Trade Association. By 1906 they were selling about 70% of all explosives purchased in the United States. This caught the eye of the Federal Government in 1907 and under the Sherman Act, which prevented the monopolizing of commerce, they soon forced the du Pont Company to dissolve their assets into three companies.
These three companies were du Pont de Nemours and Company, the Hercules Powder Company, and the Atlas Powder Company. In 1912 The Hazardville Mills became a part of the Hercules Powder Company. Less than a month later a huge explosion destroyed a large portion of the plant. In 1913 the plant was closed and the equipment moved to Valley Falls, NY where the company had another facility. Since this time, the area has been largely unused.
In 1967 the first plans to turn the area into a State Park were launched. It was not until 1989 that the master plan was made public and the land purchased by the State of Connecticut. Today it comprises the three separate parcels of land that are open to hunting, fishing, and other activities. The Powder Hollow section comprises 167 acres located in the Hazardville section of Enfield, CT. There is a section that comprises 180 acres and is located between Scitico Road and Route 190 near the Enfield and Somers town line. Finally a third section is in East Windsor between Melrose Road and Route 140. This section is called the Harrington lot and is comprised of 239 acres.