Rufus Fuller & The South Kent Ore Bed

Prior to Rufus coming to Kent, Alpheus at some time had managed the Ore Bed. Perhaps he knew of the opening of the clerk’s job and he might have been instrumental in securing it for his brother.

Shortly after Rufus arrived, management of the Ore Bed came into the hands of John Adam of Canaan and Samuel William Johnson of Stratford as proprietors with John Adam assuming the major responsibility for its operation.

Beginning in 1797 Samuel Forbes of Canaan, the Iron Master of the Northwest Region and of the Canaan and Salisbury Ironworks, had become interested in the Ore Hill operation and started buying up shares. By 1802 he had acquired the major interest in the bed from the first proprietors. In 1816 he sold one sixth interest to Samuel William Johnson who had also inherited some shares from his father William Samuel Johnson, a major owner and director since 1759.

John Adam was a son-in-law of Samuel Forbes and handled much of the business for Forbes. In 1816 Forbes turned over the rest of his shares to Adam. He and Johnson became the proprietors with Adam assuming the active direction of the Ore Hill operation.

Rufus was appointed Agent for the Proprietors as well as being Clerk of the Tavern, Store and Boarding House. He kept the Johnson and Adam account and handled all related business. The Proprietors were entitled to a share of ore produced in proportion to the number of shares they owned. The share was taken most often in bar iron brought back to the Hill from ore that had been processed. The iron might be sold to their credit or shipped to them to be sold elsewhere. Almost all of Adam’s iron went to Canaan while Rufus sold some of Johnson’s ore locally and some was sold in New York or areas Johnson had contacted himself.

Rufus’ books are carefully kept records of all transactions and reveal the network of relationships through Litchfield County and beyond, as well as facets of life in the township of Kent….

(Note: Many detailed and revealing excerpts from Fuller’s books may be found in Rufus Fuller and the South Kent Ore Bed, available for $10 through the Kent Historical Society’s Gift Shop)

THE ORE HILL

The Kent Ore Bed

The earliest reference to iron in western Connecticut came in 1715 from a committee of men sent to view the Western Lands granted to the towns of Hartford and Windsor by the Connecticut Colony.

Following are excerpts from the book Empire Over the Dam by Howell and Carlson, regarding New Milford’s first iron works at Halfway Falls on the Still River.

August 12, 1732, John Noble sold to Samuel Hathaway of Southfield, Massachusetts a certain piece of land and river at a place called Halfway Falls in the Still Rover, being half an acre, taking in the river and some land so that there may be a suitable way to come to the Iron Works already set up and also at the dam across the river.

December 7, 1732 Peter Hubble of Newtown, sold to John Fairweather one third part of the Iron Works dam, houses and instruments in making iron, on the Halfway Falls on the Still River. (1)

On the 30th of June 1733 John Noble bought back the interest he had sold in the iron works to Mr. Hathaway in 1732. Probably the sale had really been a loan – a common way of recording such a transaction at that time.

The 20th November 1733, Eleazer Hathway, then of New Milford, borrowed L 100 current money of Elisha Williams of New Haven, Peter Kubbel of Newtown, Robert Walker Jr. of Stratford, Jared Elliot of Killingly, Martin Kellog of Wethersfield, David Noble and Joshua Ruggles of New Milford, giving a mortgage on twenty acres of land just above the Iron Works, but Provided Eleazer Hathaway should furnish a certain amount of iron from the Iron Works at certain number of years, then the mortgage to be of no effect.

Mr. Hathaway was to perform the work and business of a skillful Bloomer in the Ironworks built on the Still River in New Milford, belonging to the grantees above named for the benefit and advantage of said grantees; particularly that he should make twenty four tons of iron from two forges yearly, or twelve tons if only one forge should be furnished him. He was to make Shire moulds, cranks, gudgeons, the like such as are wont to be made in Iron Works. (1)
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