Excerpts from Iron Fever

As Mr. Lewis (deceased) part of the works is purchases by Mr. John Hamilton and whereas the Ironworks has been called by the name of Bull’s Ironworks hitherto, we do think it proper to have the said works entered on your books of Record called by the name of Carron Ironworks as all the accounts hereafter will be kept under the title.” Another deed in May 1776, transfers to John Hamilton from David Lewis, William Samuel Johnson, George Chapin, of Stratford and Angus Dickinson of New Milford, “all my estate.” This is the only time the name of Carron appears in any available records. The deeds do show that the ironworks was well established under Lewis.

Over the years the property of the ironworks extended considerably beyond the location of the works itself. The operating area of the enterprise was the 40 acres located on the east side of the river from the southeast corner of Bull’s Bridge and bounded north on the turnpike to Litchfield. This 40 acres appears as a unit in all transactions relating to the furnace. Supplementary land was needed to support the teams of oxen used by the company as well as to provide quarters for some of the operators and was acquired periodically. A total of 1300 acres appears in some deeds.

For some reason the settling of David Lewis’ estate seems to have been long and drawn out. On April 14, 1790 David Nichols purchased 40 acres, the furnace core, from the state of David Lewis. His purchase of the furnace property might indicate he intended to work it. June 28, 1790 Robert Charles Johnson, a son of William Samuel, bought 40 acres from the estate of David Lewis. He kept his interest in the Ironworks until September 9, 1794 when he sold it back to his father William Samuel Johnson. The working relationship between Nichols and Robert Charles is nowhere defined. (5)

In 1791 the two deeds may mean that David Nichols died. Anne Nichols and Lewis Nichols (wife and son?) each bought or received from David parts of the David Lewis estate. There is no information as to how the furnace operated or by whom. (6)

Four years later in three deeds dated December 3, 1795 is recorded the same by Lewis Nichols of 61 acres, 12 acres and Bull’s Ironworks to Catherine and Pixley Judson of Stratford, the entire property around the Ironworks. (7)

The Judsons kept the property for four years until April 20, 1799 when Gilead Hurd bought half of “the whole piece (consists) of 108 acres” near Bull’s Falls from Catherine and Pixley Judson of Stratford for $950. (80)

The Hurds of Newtown had a long interest in the iron business. Joseph Hurd was one of the original investors in the South Kent Orebed. John Hurd who may have been Gilead’s father had considerable farmland in the Bull’s Bridge area. The Hurds stayed involved in the iron business longer than most of the investors.

Ten years later, in 1809 (9) Tallman Chamberlain of Kent bought 12 acres near Bull’s Falls from the Judsons, and November 1809 added two pieces of 40 acres from Gilead and John Hurd in a series of three deeds, and May 13, 1819 bought from Tallman Chamberlain most of his holdings. (10)

With only these deeds as guide, there is no information about the operation or production at the furnace. They show continuous activity at the plant but no assurance as to who was involved. With the record of Hurd’s continuing involvement it may be they were responsible for its management. Chamberlain’s deeds may really be loans as in the earlier records such arrangements are usually recorded as outright deeds and the investor took no part in occupying or managing the property. The only conclusion is that there was sufficient production at Bull’s Bridge to keep a number of people willing to put money into the business.
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