Excerpts from Iron Fever

The Blast Furnace

With the development in the iron industry of the blast furnace, plans for a change at Bull’s Bridge must have been forming, as a new company appears in the records: the Ousatonic Ironworks. April 24, 1826 the Ousatonic Ironworks bought from John Hurd, Phillip Judd, Agent, 5 acres and 36 rods by the river with all the water privileges. 1826 was the year all three Kent blast furnaces opened: Stuart, Hopson & Eaton in Flanders, Rufus Fuller, John Adam & William Samuel Johnson in Macedonia, and the Ousatonic Ironworks at Bull’s Bridge.

Tallman Chamberlain must have built up his holdings and been active in its development, continuing to be part of it for six years until April 2, 1832 when he sold 40 acres, the furnace core and adjacent land to the Ousatonic Ironworks. (11)

October 23, 1832 the Ousatonic Ironworks, Phillip Judd, Jr, Agent, bought from John Hurd “five acres, all interest I have in waterpower and privileges,” bounded North by the highway, East and South by Tallman Chamberlain and West by the river. In October, Judd bought this same piece from the company for $500. The Judd family had a farm on Geer Mt. and were interested in the Orebed which was adjacent to their land and had a nail works on their property. (12)

By March 21, 1835, Silas Camp of Claverick, Columbia County, New York had become involved in the Ousatonic Ironworks and bought land near Lewis Spooner for the company which he promptly sold to Abel Beach. Soon thereafter, as agent for the company, he bought from Lewis Shays “land and dwelling where Shays now lives” adjacent to the furnace. (13)

Five years later, apparently dissatisfied with conditions at the works, Camp received a judgment against the Ousatonic Iron Co. on Oct. 1840 for $1764, $67, $34.22: total $1838.79 (14)… …Charles Rufus Hart, writing in 1935 about Connecticut furnaces says, “in 1844 the (Bull’s Bridge) furnace operators rebuilt the Bull’s Falls Stack to 40 feet high with 16 foot bosh diameter – enormous dimensions for a Connecticut blast furnace.” According to him, this second furnace may have been too large for the waterpower afforded by the Housatonic River at this site. (16)…Its original capacity was rated at 3-1/2 tons per day. Had everything corresponded with the size of the stack, the capacity between the two changes would have been twenty tons a day. The Wheelers must have made the change and probably operated the business until the next change in ownership came…

The Monitor Ironworks

David Benjamin acquired all the land and equipment formerly owned by the Bull’s Falls Ironworks from Samuel Tomlinson, Russell Tomlinson, Stephen Tomlinson and William D. Bishop for $6,500. (22)

He immediately turned it over to the Monitor Ironworks for $17,000, “all land formerly owned by the iron works…with buildings, machinery, waterpower, and privileges belonging thereto and all the property in Kent, in a deed dated July 22, 1860. (23)

The formal incorporation of the company appears in New Haven County records dated June 30, 1863. “The undersigned being the President and a majority of the Directors of the Monitor Iron Company, a Joint Stock Company…Certify That the purpose for which it is established is the following,

“For the manufacture of Iron, the purchase of all Real Estate necessary for the business necessary or convenient for the prosecution of the principal business. The capital stock of said Corporation is Fifty Thousand dollars and is divided into Two Thousand Shares of Twenty Five dollars each.

Stockholders

      D.A. Benjamin 800 shares

C.S. Bushnell 500 shares

F.F. Rowland 500 shares

Everett Cauder 200 shares

And we further certify that the amount of Capital stock of said Corporation paid in is Twenty Five pr. cent.

      F.F. Rowland, President ) A majority

Cornelius F. Bushnell ) of the D.A. Benjamin ) Directors

The Monitor Ironworks supposedly supplied iron for the famous ship, the Monitor. With no business records to verify it the story must be considered legend. As for all the companies that worked Bull’s Falls there must have been some periods of success to make so many men convinced of its potential. Like all others, however, the Monitor Ironworks folded as evidence by the following Probate Records.

The 1865 Court Records show a claim against the Monitor Ironworks by Cornelius L. Bushnell as indebted to Stephen Tomlinson, Russell Tomlinson, Wm. D. Bishop, Henry Hurd and co-partners Stuart Hopson & Co, for a series of loans totaling $15,500. (24)

Attachments appearing in the Probate Records against the Monitor Ironworks begin April 18, 1865.

      Henry Scudder, New York City vs Monitor Ironworks at $50.

April 24, 1865 David Holles vs. Monitor Ironworks I.R.S. Tax $650.

June 19, 1865. A petition by Asabel Lyons & Ezra Curtis of Bridgeport partners in Lyons & Curtis vs The Monitor Ironworks, a joint stock company jointly indebted to the petitioners in the sum of three hundred dollars.

Sept. 1865 David & Elisha Parker of Brooklyn, N.Y. for Daniel Parker & Co., $2,600, damages and cost.

These claims ended activity at Bulls Bridge. The still unanswered question is why the Ironworks was so promising and so unsuccessful. Was it absentee ownership, inexperienced operators, poor location? Even finding business records might not tell.
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