Excerpts from Iron Fever

Justice of the Peace

Feb. 25, 1771

Town Clerk’s Office Kent

Just previous to this problem with the Assembly, Moses had sold 150 acres to Peter Pratt, July 2, 1770. This tract included the gorge with the waterpower of Macedonia Brook with extensive acreage up to the top of Fuller Mountain. Pratt held this for three years and apparently started an iron works on the brook. He sold the property to Hendrik Winegar of Amenia Union in Dutchess County, New York in 1773. (Winegar had built the big brick house still standing in Amenia and had a large farm there. The family had originally come from the German Palatinate, expelled by the king and helped by Queen Anne of England to this country, they settled in Northeast and Germantown in New York State. They were millers and ironworkers as well as farmers.) (9)

Two years later Hendrik Winegar (1775), sold the piece now recorded as 130 acres (maybe the “more or less” terminology was at work) bought of Peter Pratt with Ironworks and coal house and grist mill building on the premises. This is the first mention of Ironworks in deeds pertaining to the tract. It indicates that the ironworks was well established. (10)

THE KENT IRON MANUFACTURING COMPANY

In the early 1800s the iron industry never lacked for investors. Several locations in Kent offered tempting opportunities. With ponds, brooks, falls, and high grade ore nearby, also rocks, sand, line and charcoal, and a hill sloping from the road to the furnace site, requisites listed by Howell and Carlson in Empire over the Dam, Kent had several good locations available. With Kent Furnace, operated by Stuart, Hopson and Eaton, located on the Housatonic in Flanders, Bull’s Bridge operated by a series of owners, the Macedonia Brook site had an active iron works and seemed ideal for a third blast furnace.

In 1816, Rufus Fuller came to Kent from Plymouth, Connecticut. He bought a 1/3 share of Carter’s Forge in South Kent from Stephen Sergent November 17, 1817. (1) His brother Alpheus had come from Dover, New York in 1808 buying from John Payne the first 1/3 of Carter’s Forge on the outlet of Hatch Pond, “utensils, coal house and privileges, 1/3 right to the stream where the forge stands and pond called Hatch, 1/3 right in lowering same and crossing John Hopson’s land for the purpose.” (2) With Jabez Beardsley he bought another 1/3 from Asaph Swift October 12, 1804. (3) With Rufus’s purchase control of Carter’s Forge was with the Fullers. They operated a puddling works on the outlet of the Hatch Pond brook. This site now belongs to Harold Bilby. (1989)

Rufus Fuller, in 1816, began to operate the Ore Bed store. He was active in selling ore and was agent for the owners of the South Kent Ore Bed. With the development of blast furnaces in 1824, he became interested in the possibilities for a furnace at Macedonia and enlisted the support of two men, investors in the Ore Bed, in the new project.

In 1824, Samuel W. Johnson, who had taken over from his father, William Samuel Johnson, his interests in the Kent Ore Bed and furnaces in the Kent area, and John Adam of Canaan, also an investor in the Bed, as well as the Canaan and Salisbury iron business, joined Rufus in subscribing $500 each to begin the Kent Iron Manufacturing Company. Rufus was made agent for this company. His first acquisition was the Wilson Iron Works located below the gorge on the Macedonia Brook. (4)

Starting with the purchase from John Wilson and the heirs and partners of Ambrose Wilson with land, buildings and water privileges, including the damming of the outlet of Fuller Pond, by October 25, 1824, he had control of an ideal location for his furnace. For this he was to pay $1,115, one half to be paid April 1, 1826 and one half on April 1, 1827, with interest. This transaction was recorded February 22, 1825. On March 27, 1825, he paid $700 on this deal for the property. (5)

November 2, 1824, Asa Parks received $20 from the President and Directors of the Kent Iron Manufacturing Company for 1/2 acre bound east on Winegar’s Forge Pond and Parks land, north on land formerly of Robert Wilson, west on the highway, south to a point near said Pond. (In 1987 this would have been on the property north of the stone house. The old road ran directly in front of the house and the pond was across the road directly in front of the house. The property was owned then by Zachariah Winegar and his forge was further down the brook where the Preston Mountain brook joins the Macedonia Brook.) (6)
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