By Captain Franklin Ellis23
This flourishing village is in the northeastern part of the town, about nine miles from Hudson, and the same distance from Chatham village. It is a station on the Harlem railroad, and a point of great and increasing importance on account of the extensive manufactories located here. More than $1,000,000 are invested in the different industries, which give employment to hundreds of men and women.
Philmont has a very pleasant situation on the foot-hills of this section, which elevate it above the Claverack valley, and afford a magnificent view of the rich country below and the distant cloud-capped Catskills. It is principally on the north bank of the Eastern, or Ockawamick creek, a rapid mountain-stream, whose descent to the Claverack is here marked by a series of falls of wonderful beauty, aggregating more than two hundred and fifty feet in the course of half a mile. Excellent water-power is thus afforded, which has been still further improved and multiplied by a fine system of hydraulics. This has been the means of elevating the place from a mere hamlet, in 1850 (page 240) to its present fair proportions, with a population numbering more than one thousand. George P. Philip was the projector of this enterprise. While the place was yet a comparative forest, in 1845, he caused a large dam to be erected above the high fall, from which a canal was dug along the hill-slope, at an angle with the course of the stream, across the terraced rocks. This gave him a succession of water-powers, having from forty to sixty feet fall. Until this period, the only manufacturing industries were a small grist-mill, known as Gifford's, where Roberts' paper-mill now is, and a small satinet and carpet-factory, by James Philip & Co., farther up the stream. The latter being the chief industry caused the place to be known as "Factory Hill." The present name was given it by the Harlem railroad company in compliment to George P. Philip, whose industry and enterprise first gave the place importance.
The water privileges of Philmont are controlled by a company composed of the different mill-owners, each possessing franchises according to the number of feet fall his mill site represents. Provision has been made against seasons of drouth by constructing a reservoir of thirty-six acres, at the village, and another of fifty-six acres, a mile and a half above. Their combined capacity is 37,000,000 cubic feet, and they usually afford a sufficient volume of water to enable the different mills to work uninterruptedly the year around.
The satinet-factory above alluded to, was afterwards converted into the Ockawamick Hosiery Mills, George W. Philip proprietor, and employed forty-five operatives in the manufacture of shirts and drawers. The building was destroyed by fire, and in 1876 the present substantial brick factory took its place. It contains six sets of machinery for the manufacture of underwear, varying from two and a half pounds to ten pounds per suit. Fifty operatives are employed.
About 1847, George P. Philip erected a large factory building on what was known as "high rock," and supplied it with machinery for the manufacture of fine woolen goods. A large quantity of excellent work was produced, but being found unprofitable, it was changed into a hosiery-mill. As such it was last operated by P. M. Harder & son, until its destruction by fire, in 1875. The factory has not been rebuilt.
The celebrated Nelson P. Aken's Philmont Hosiery-Mills, which was reputed among the most complete in the country, date their establishment from the humble beginning made by Mr. Aken in 1861. That year he put up a small frame factory on the site of his lower mills, which contained two small sets of machinery. The enterprise was a success from the beginning, enabling Mr. Aken to erect the splendid lower mills in 1865. The main part is fifty by one hundred and sixteen feet, four stories high, and is surmounted by a French roof. On the west is a side tower, six stories high. The knitting and finishing building attached is a three-story brick, thirty-six by one hundred and twenty feet in extent; the machine-shop and lapper-rooms are thirty-six by eighty feet, with three stories and basement; and there is besides a two-story bleaching-house, thirty by one hundred and sixty-two feet. There are twenty-four sents of machinery, employ three hundred operatives, and producing four hundred dozen of underwear per day. The quality varies from a fine gauze to a very heavy weight, for wear in the coldest climate. Mr. Aken's success is due in a great measure to his selection of an able corps of assistants. H. F. Wilkinson has rendered efficient service, the past twelve years, as superintendent. W. S. Wiley is the head machinist; Thomas White, foreman of knitting department; John Hays, foreman of finishing department; Isaiah Merrill superintends the cutting; and C. S. Vanderpool is the inspector of the goods, nothing of an inferior quality being allowed to pass out of the mills. Mr. Aken is at present erecting a second mill, also of brick, four stories high, whose dimensions are one hundred and ten by two hundred and forty feet. It is designed to accommodate the operatives on the goods after they have been knit. About two hundred more persons will thus be afforded employment, while the manufacturing facilities will be greatly increased. Both mills are supplied with the most approved apparatus for use in case of fire, and all the surroundings indicated the most scrupulous attention to the sanitary condition of the factories.
The manufacture of paper was first begun at this place about 1855, by George P. Philip, who built a mill on the site at present occupied by the Philmont Paper Company's Mills. The Philip mill was burned in 1859, and the present one was soon after erected by Horton Harder. It is a first-class establishment, having large and well-arranged buildings, and an excellent power from a forty-two-foot fall of the canal. There are two forty-eight-inch machines and two thirty-six inch engines. A find grade of straw wrapping-paper is produced, varying from five hundred to seven hundred tons per year. Twelve men are employed. The business of the company is managed by Horton Harder, agent, and W. H. Harder, secretary.
The Philmont Paper-Mills are on the main stream, on the site of the old Gifford grist-mill. They were established in 1858, by Samuel Rogers, but have since been enlarged. The mill contains a sixty-eight-inch machine and two engines. Six hundred tons of rye straw are consumed annually in the manufacture of a strong wrapping-paper, giving employment to nine men and three women. H. W. Rogers is the proprietor.
The Philmont Machine-Works were erected about 1860, by Harder & Ellsworth, and were subsequently operated in an extensive manner, by J. F. Ellsworth, in the manufacture of paper-mill and woolen machinery. The main shop is a three-story frame, twenty-four by seventy feet, besides having adjoining shops. Twelve men are employed, principally on repair-work and paper machinery. The shops are at present run by C. F. Ellsworth and Edward Herrick.
The Philmont Scale-Works are conducted by George H. Snyder, who began the business, at Troy, in 1872, removing to this place in 1877. Twelve different kinds of platform and counter scales are manufactured, employing seven men. Mr. Snyder also conducts a foundry in connection with his scale-works.
A Needle-Factory was established by E. F. Connelly, in March, 1876, and is still continued by him. The product is one hundred thousand knitting-needles per month, giving employment to four men.
(page 241) The place has also several large mechanic shops, and formerly contained another paper-mill, operated by L. M. Fritts & Co., which has been allowed to go down, and the power is at present unemployed.
Philmont is well supplied with stores, and has a post office, which was established in 1858, with Cornelius M. Horton postmaster. His successors in office were John T. Snyder and Henry P. Horton, the present incumbent.
A short distance east of Philmont are the Highland, or South Bend Grist-Mills, around which are a cluster of houses and a blacksmith-shop.