Ironworks at Bull’s Bridge
Hard facts about the ironworks at Bull’s Bridge are scarce as no business records have come to light. From the Town’s land records, a few letters and court records, the history seems to indicate perpetual optimism and discouragement for a series of ever-hopeful investors. The location on the Housatonic River below a frequently spectacular falls always appeared to promise great possibilities that lured a series of owners to try their hand at the iron business. Hope springs eternally.
However at a Town Meeting held December 29, 1766, there is a reference showing that an ironworks was functioning there. “Voted that we will do nothing at all less or more tords reparing the Bridge over the Ousatonick River by Captain Johnsons Ironworks nor for lying a road through Capt. Johnsons and Mr. Lewis land from Iron Ore hill to said works.”
December 13, 1756, Kent’s Town meeting records show “Isaac Bull of Dover, Duchess Co. New York, shall have the privilege of building a sawmill and ironworks or any other waterworks on the river within the limits of the Fairweather Grant in order said Bull shall begin in two years and pay Kent 30 shillings lawful money.” Four sons came to Kent with Isaac to help develop his enterprises, John 24, Jacob 21, Thomas 19, and Abraham 16. His sawmill and gristmill were well known and well established. An ironworks receives no mention. In 1758 the town voted that Isaac could build a house and workshop on the highway that runs by his mills on the Ousatonic River.
The Early Ironworks
July of 1762, William Samuel Johnson and his partner David Lewis bought or really mortgaged Isaac’s “Mantion House” and mills. The Bulls continued to live there and manage their businesses. William Samuel Johnson of Stratford had bought an interest in the South Kent Orebed in 1755, and was deeply involved in its management. With David Lewis also of Stratford, Johnson bought not only the Bull property but most of the land of the Fairweather Grant which extended east from the river and south of Bull’s Bridge Road across the lower end of Kent to the New Milford line and east to Warren. (1)
Following this, the Land Records of May 24, 1776 record a deed from David Lewis, William Samuel Johnson, and George Chapin of Stratford and Angus Dickinson of New Milford to John Hamilton “covering all my Estate,” bringing a shift in ownership.
Later records indicate that David Lewis as Johnson’s partner had been active in the operation of an ironworks. May 27, 1776 a deed is recorded that shows the Bull’s Falls Ironworks had been developed by the partners. This deed transfers to Lewis from Johnson the ironworks, gristmill and sawmill and several houses, a total of 1300 acres and indicates that Lewis had been actively managing the ironworks. (2)
David Lewis must have died suddenly as a deed the following year dated May 2, 1777 from his estate returns the property of “Johnson and Lewis as Tenants in common, land on and adjoining the Ousatonic Ironworks and several dwelling houses, 1300 acres including land of Jacob Bull mortgaged to William Samuel Johnson.” (3)
A deed of an earlier date, February 14, 1776, records a name change for the Ironworks. (4)