By Capt. Franklin Ellis303
The manufacturing interest of Chatham have attained great prominence, especially in the production of paper. For many years the town headed the list in this industry, and yet has a greater number of mills than any other town in the county. The power afforded by Steeny and other creeks has been well utilized, and the cheerful hum of machinery is heard all along these streams.
From the census of 1810 it appears that the town at that time possessed twelve grain-mills, eight saw-mills, four fulling-mills, and three carding-machines. There were also one hundred and thirty-eight looms in families, producing seventy-three thousand yards of fulled cloth and brown linen per year.
Among the first improvements for manufacturing were on the small creek, which is the outlet of the lake in the southern part of the town, and were widely known as the "White Mills." They were operated by Rufus Clark and others, and furnished flour for the settlers many miles around. The locality became a business point, and hither came Joseph W. Watson to begin the manufacture of cotton-wadding. This, in time, became the absorbing interest, and about 1830 the grist-mill was also converted into a wadding-factory by George Humphrey. Further improvements in this direction were made by Francis H. Rathbone, and the present proprietor, J. W. Smith. The works are constructed on a large scale, comprising several extensive buildings, operated by steam and water-power.
At Chatham Centre grist-mills were operated at an early day by Colonel Van Alstyne, on the west side of Kinderhook creek, and by James Brebner on the opposite side. The natural fall at this point is not good nor favorable for improvement, and both mills have long ago been removed. Farther up the stream a grist-mill was erected by two Quakers in the early settlement of the town. This spot has since been occupied by mills owned by Van Alstyne, Kessler, Bullis, Sweet, and others. The power at Malden Bridge was improved for saw and grist-mills, the latter being demolished in 1845; the former was swept away by a freshet in 1869. The same year Rider's mills were also swept away. This place was improved for milling purposes soon after the Revolution. The mills were long known as Mosher's but had been in the Rider family many years previous to their destruction.
At North Chatham a grist-mill was erected by a man named Vail, which was subsequently operated by Walker, Root, and others, and was destroyed by fire in 1868. A woolen-factory at this place has also been abandoned.
At Chatham a pioneer mill was erected by Stephen Wilbor, which was afterwards owned and operated by Jedediah Brockway and others, and was destroyed by fire in 1875. The saw-mill at this point was built in 1827, and the foundry in 1837, by Joel Page. For many years it has been operated by Philip Hurlbut & Son, making plows and farm machinery.
The mills at East Chatham were first owned by Hosea Bebee, and then by Anson Pratt. They have been rebuilt, and are still operated by the latter's sons, and enjoy an excellent reputation.
The manufacture of paper, in Chatham, was first begun in a small building, on the site of Morris & Boice's present mill, about 1828, by Dickey & Wilder. A grist-mill was converted into what was known as a hand paper-mill. About 1834, Wright & Hamilton introduced the first machinery to facilitate the manufacture of paper. The present mill has been supplied with modern machinery, and enjoys a good reputation.
At what was known as the Clark mills there was formerly a grist-mill, afterwards a carding-machine, then a satinet-factory, and later a cotton-wadding factory, by H. & E. Backus. A paper-mill took the place of the latter, where, about 1840, was used the first steam-dryer in these parts. By its use the capacity of the mill was increased tenfold. These mills have been discontinued. These mills have been discontinued.
Above this point Plato B. Moore established a mill about 1840, which in time became the property of the Gilberts, and as such was widely known. The mill is supplied with one fifty-inch machine and one thirty-six-inch engine, giving it a capacity of several hundred tons per year. J. T. Shufelt proprietor.
On the site of the old Stewart grist-mill--a pioneer in this section--was erected the "Payne Paper-Mill," having a good sixty-eight-inch machine and two engines. It is operated by L. A. Tyler.
The "J. H. Garner mill," on the Steeny, above the last named, is supplied with a large machine and two engines, enabling it to produce an excellent quality of paper, and giving it a large capacity.
Just above the village is the old "Davis mill," having a fair capacity; and at Chatham village is the extensive mill belonging to the "Mesick Paper Company." The buildings are substantial, and supplied with machinery which gives the mill a capacity of four tons of heavy paper a day. An extra quality of light paper with a waterproof finish is also manufactured. Employment is given to eighteen men. Just above this power was formerly a large grist-mill, by Joseph R. Colman, which was subsequently used as a distillery, but is now idle.
A mile below the village, on Steeny creek, is the "Columbia paper-mill," erected by J. W. Smith & Son. Spacious buildings occupy the site, and much money has been expended in experiments to produce paper from wood and other fibrous material, but without success, and the mill stands unused.
Below this mill is the "M. M. Tompkins mill," established in 1856 by Staats D. Tompkins. It has a forty-eight-inch machine and three engines, capacitating it to produce three thousand four hundred pounds of straw wrapping-paper per day.
Below Chatham Centre, on the Steeny, is the "Bullis Brothers' mill." It was erected in 1853, by Tompkins, Bullis & Wilson, and has two forty-eight-inch machines, and four thirty-six-inch engines. The capacity is five tons of heavey paper per day. It is a first-class establishment.
The Malden Bridge paper-mills were established in 1845, by Hanna & Peaselee, and since 1859 have been solely owned and operated by Horace Peaselee. There is a substantial dam across the Kinderhook, affording a fourteen-foot fall, and a constant power. The mill comprises a main building of brick, three stories high, thirty-eight by sixty-eight feet, with large wings, machine, bleaching and linter rooms. It is a very complete establishment, having two forty-eight-inch machines and six large engines. The product is nine hundred tons of straw wrapping-paper per year, and is noted for its excellence. Cardboard is also manufactured, and the mill has been run on other kinds of paper. Employment is given to forty men.
In this locality a tannery was formerly carried on by John W. Pitts, and a furniture-factory by a man named Holmes, which has also been discontinued. About 1840 the manufacture of wooden pumps was begun at Malden Bridge, by Parsons Thayer, and for the past thirteen years has been carried on by Robert Hoes. The factory occupies a shop twenty by sixty feet, and employs seven men in the yearly production of five hundred pumps of the Thayer pattern.
The "Chatham Village Smelting Furnace" was erected in 1873, by Beckley & Adams. It was operated a year, but has since lain idle. The buildings are substantial, and well arranged; and the furnace was of capacity to produce ten tons of pig-iron per day.
The Chatham village foundry and machine works were established in 1840, and are at present operated by George E. Drumm & Co. Considerable general work is done in the production of farm machinery, mill castings, etc., and a specialty is made in the manufacture of the Reversible Plow No. 13,--an implement which has attained great popularity. The works employ thirty men.
"The Chatham Village Marble and Granite Works" were established in October, 1867, by Charles Smith. A large amount of very fine work is done, giving employment to six men.
At this place are also several carriage works, and other large and well-conducted mechanic shops.
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