MILLS AND MANUFACTURING
COLUMBIA COUNTY, NEW YORK
By Captain Franklin Ellis113
PAGE 1 OF 6
The first of Hudson's manufacturing industries--if it was of sufficient importance to warrant the application of the term--was the little mill of Peter Hogeboom, Jr., which has been before mentioned as furnishing flour to the people of the neighborhood before a Nantucket man ever set foot in Claverack Landing.
Another flour-mill--known as the "Carroll mill"--was built in later years on the same stream, and not far form the same location, by James Nixon. It was run by a water-wheel of extraordinary size, but it lacked a sufficiency of the element which was wanting in Hogeboom's mill--water,--and for this reason was never very successful.
A wind-mill for the grinding of grain was erected on Prospect Hill,† by Joseph Barnard, in 1789. It was an octagonal structure, two stories high, and very heavily and substantially built, as, indeed, it was indispensable that it should be, to withstand the strain of the mighty wings, which rose seventy-five feet above the ground. It was a very prominent object, and could be seen over half the county; but it was not successful in the purpose for which it was intended. It was afterwards made a refreshment-house, and was fully removed. The old foundation still to be seen.
The last of the flour- and grist-mills of Hudson was the steam-mill of Henry P. Heermance, a six-story brick building, which stood on the site now occupied by the pumping-house of the Hudson water-works, to give place for which it was demolished in 1874. It was used also for the grinding of plaster.
Tanning was extensively carried on in Hudson in the early times, and was the first manufacturing industry established by the proprietors upon their arrival. As early as the 15th of May, 1784, the proprietors appointed Alexander Coffin, David Lawrence, Charles Jenkins, and Hezekiah Dayton a committee "to lay out, sell, or lease to David Bunker and Redwood Easton a convenient lot for a tan-yard." And they reported that they had sold a quarter of an acre near the Hogeboom mill, with the benefit of the stream, for forty dollars, payable ten dollars per year. This was the establishment of Hudson's first tannery, and others were started by Marshall Jenkins, Giles Frary, Robert Taylor, -----Gordon (afterwards Henry Anable, Sr.), James Nixon, Henry Ostrander, Solomon Bunker, Nathan Sears, and others.
Several of these establishments were located along the South bay. The hemlock-bark was procured from the slopes of the Catskills and the Helderbergs, being shipped to Hudson on flat-boats from Catskill and Coxsackie. It came also from the Taghkanic hills; and, besides hemlock, the tanneries used considerable quantities of oak-bark, which was obtained from the neighboring forests. The hides were purchased from the great slaughter-houses which were then located here. Besides these, the tanneries worked considerable quantities of Spanish hides, sent up from New York, as well as the great number of seal-skins brought in by the vessels engaged in that fishery. The working of these hides, however, ceased about 1800, the last sealing voyage being made in 1799.
The only one of these leather manufactories now in existence is the tannery of Henry Anable, on Front street, and that is no longer in operation. The date of its establishment is not known, but is said to have been before the year 1800. In 1808 or 1809 it was purchased by Peter Taylor, and was carried on by him for about half a century. At his death it was sold by his heirs to Robert A. Barnard, and he in turn sold it to the present proprietor, Mr. Anable. The number of vats in this tannery was about sixty, and it has done an excellent business in the manufacture of both sole and upper-leather. It continued in operation until the spring of 1877.
The manufacture of cordage was commenced here by Josiah Olcott and Thomas Jenkins, in the year 1785. Their factory or "rope-walk" was six hundred feet in length, located between Third and Second streets, north of State. This business was carried on successfully for more than half a century. The active partner was Mr. Olcott, who continued it for many years after the death of Mr. Jenkins. Later proprietors of the works were Messrs. Durfee, May & Co., and Folger & Coleman; the last named being the proprietors in 1836, at which time the business was mentioned by Freeman Hunt, in a communication to the American Traveler, as follows: "Railroad ropes are manufactured in this place by Messrs. Folger & Coleman. It is the only establishment of the kind in the country. More than one hundred and fifty tons are turned out annually. These ropes are often one and an half miles in length; more than two hundred men would be able to carry. Ten miles of these ropes are used on the Portage railroad, in Pennsylvania, per annum." At this time the works were seven hundred and fifty feet in length, having been enlarged either by Mr. Olcott or By Durfee, May & Co.
Oil and candle works were also established in the same year (1785), both by Thomas Jenkins and by Cotton Gelston. The works of Mr. Jenkins were on Diamond street, below Second, and those of Mr. Gelston were on the northeast corner of Second and State streets. These works were not of large capacity, but there is no doubt that in the hands of such practical men they proved reasonably profitable during Hudson's first whaling period. It is said that they received the honor of a personal inspection by the great French statesman, M. de Talleyrand, during his tour in the United States.
Upon the revival of the whale-fishery from Hudson, similar works, but on a much larger scale, were erected and put in operation by Messrs. Barnard, Curtiss & Co. The location was nearly where now stand the works of the Columbia Iron Company. They were twice destroyed by fire. Upon the final decay of whaling here the business was removed to Brooklyn.
Works for the manufacture of sail-duck were put in operation by Seth Jenkins and Stephen Paddock, in 1787. The establishment was probably not an extensive one. Most of its product was taken by the sail-lofts here, and it did not outlive the ship-building business of Hudson.
In 1792 a nail-factory was advertised as having been started in the city by Higgins & Conklin, but this bare fact is all that is now known of it. There is no reason to believe that its business was extensive.
The manufacture of woolens (chiefly satinets) was commenced soon after the close of the War of 1812-15. This business was carried on by various persons at different times and in different locations in Hudson for a number of years, but these attempts never met with any great degree of success. It was first put in operation in a building which stood nearly in the rear of the present site of the Waldron House, and had been carried on at that place for some years, when the establishment was destroyed by the fire of Nov. 16, 1825. We are somewhat in doubt as to the proprietorship of this factory at the time of its destruction. A Hudson paper of that time, in recounting the particulars of the disaster, mentions among the buildings consumed "the satinet-factory owned by William Van Hoesen, and occupied by Robert Patterson." It is difficult to understand why this statement, if erroneous, should have appeared in a newspaper published at the time, and in the immediate neighborhood; yet citizens of Hudson whose memory reaches back to and beyond that time, are positive that Mr. Patterson never occupied or operated that factory, but that it was first started by Jonathan Stott, and was occupied by him at the time of the fire.
But whatever may have been the fact concerning the first proprietorship, it is certain that after the fire, and the laying out of First street, Mr. Stott erected the building which is now the Waldron House, and nearly in the rear of it, rebuilt the factory. This as well as its predecessor used only hand-looms; and after a time Mr. Stott abandoned the manufacture in the city, and re-established it on the water-power of Claverack creek; this being the commencement of the large and very prosperous business which is now owned by his descendants, at Stottsville.
Another hand-loom manufactory of satinets was carried on by Patterson & Rainey, on Prison alley, above Third street. This was burned in or before the year 1828, and was not rebuilt.
A small woolen-factory was at one time operated by John Knight, and a fulling-mill and flannel-factory by Josiah I. Underhill; both theses establishments being located on the stream below Underhill's pond. Very little of success was ever realized by any of the above-named enterprises except that of Mr. Stott, at the place which now bears his name.
†The hill, however, was not at that time known by its present name. After the erection of Mr. Barnard's mill upon it, it received the name of Windmill Hill, and continued to be so known for a number of years. The exceedingly appropriate name of Prospect Hill was given to it by Captain William Ashley, who erected the first dwelling upon its beautiful slope,--the house now occupied by Augustus McKinstry, Esq. The settlement which soon after clustered around Captain Ashely's residence was at that time known as Unionville.