Excerpts from our Kent Tales volume, Iron Fever, which is available from our Gift Shop for $10.
Excerpts from Iron Fever: Kent’s First Ironworks
Kent’s fascination with iron began with the very settling of the town. Lots of the First Division were auctioned at Windham in March of 1738. By September of that year a Town Meeting was held at the home of Ebenezer Barnum, a Kent Proprietor. This was located in North Kent on the twelve rod highway, Kent’s Main Street, two lots below Nathaniel Berry’s farm which is on the west side of the highway at the corner of the old road to the North Kent Bridge where we now go to the dump.
This Town Meeting, among other things, voted to lay out the town’s second highway, “at the foot of the mountain (Cobble Hill’s south end) to continue up the notch (1989 past Walker’s) to the foot of the ‘eight lots’ so-called, eight rods between twelve rods to the Iron Pots.”
Ebenezer Barnum came from Danbury and he may have known that the Ore Bed was open. As early as May 1738, at the second Town Meeting it was voted “that Ebenezer Barnum shall take the 49th lot or share in the First Division on condition that he build a sawmill by the last of December next and also a grist mill in two years.” This lot was way to the south of his homesite and he turned back this offer to the town. Instead he bought the lot in Flanders now occupied by the Kennedy’s and put his grist mill on the east side of Cobble Brook north and across from the sawmill his neighbor Jonathan Morgan had built earlier on the next lot to the south.
Across the highway and south of Barnum’s homesite in North Kent when the Second Division of lots was drawn in 1739, a road was opened up East Mountain to the ridge (Botsford Road), then straight south past the west side of North Spectacle Pond to the Fairweather Purchase on the New Milford border. By 1744, Ebenezer must have explored this road and the North Spectacle area and seen its possibilities for an Iron Works, for he bought two lots in the Second Division on the west side of the pond.
He must have presented a plan to the Town Fathers for at a Town Meeting in that year, 1744, it was voted “Ebenezer Barnum may lay out six acres for the convenience of making an Iron Works dam and that Ebenezer Barnum may lay out four acres more for an Iron Works.” This location was at the outlet of North Spectacle Pond, the northeast side of the pond and this ten acre unit appears in all deeds pertaining to the Iron Works from 1744 through to the end of Morgan’s Forge in 1867.
Barnum sold his grist mill in Flanders to Jonathan Rowley, and set up the Iron Works as a family operation with his sons, Gideon, Ebenezer, Jr., and Richard. They were able to get a plant started. It was an early form of ironworks able to turn out bar iron (pig iron) for the local blacksmiths, forges, and puddling works. It never became a blast furnace…
Macedonia’s Forges and Mills
Mills and forges below the gorge on Macedonia Brook began much earlier than has generally been realized. Water coming from the Nodine Hollow Brook, joined by the Fuller or Pond Mountain Brook forming the Macedonia Brook was harnessed to provide power.
Following the auction of the First Division of lots in Kent in 1738, starting the development of the town, the division and sale of lots continued in a fairly orderly fashion through the tenth division 1771-3. These lots on the east side of the river formed the town, contributed taxes and were under the supervision of the Town Fathers.
Across the river were the Country Lands or Colony Lands, not part of the town, and a few people had settled there before Kent was started. These lands, some 11,000 acres caught the eyes of a number of men who felt there was desirable land to acquire easily, without obligation to the town for taxes or regulation, and with few people having much knowledge of what was available and what it might offer.
Joseph Fuller and Joseph Lasell, original Kent Proprietors, were the first to be tempted by the west bank of the river. They staked out large tracts of land and appealed to the General Assembly for approval of grants, disguising the amount of land involved and presenting themselves as hard-pressed farmers. The legislature was skeptical of their claims and reduced their acreage considerably.
Moses Rowley (or Rowlee) of Sharon must have had some information as to what the land offered, for he acquired almost the whole of Macedonia in a fairly legitimate fashion. At least he paid someone for what he acquired.
February 19, 1743-4, he bought a tract of land from Samuel and Rebecca Algur for 30 pounds containing a small dwelling, called the Algur “home lot” which Obadiah Hawley of Stratford had given to Rebecca Algur (his daughter) by deed executed April 17, 1732, recorded in the first book of Records of Sharon. (1)
In addition, on the same date, for 700 pounds in bills of credit old tenor, Rowley bought from Samuel Algur “1/2 part of the land Samuel Algur and William Castle bought of Joseph and William Hart of Farmington November 17, 1739, before Joseph Hooker, Justice of the Peace.” (2)
On the first map of Kent, the Algur Grant is shown on the west side of our Kent Bridge. It follows the road north-west and along the ridge of the mountain on the north side of the road about three-quarters of the way to Eads corner. (1989)
Five years later, May 10, 1748, Rowley added a very large tract purchased from Robert Watson of Stratford. This joined the Algur tract on the south, went to the “York Line on the west, up Fuller Mt. road to the crest of the hill then again west to the York Line.” This covered a large chunk at the beginning of what is Macedonia Park and included the gorge of the Macedonia Brook. (3)
This large tract Robert Watson of Stratford had acquired with Benjamin Hollister and Henry Stevenson the month before, April of 1748, for 200 pounds with a lease for 999 years from Captain Maheu, Keft Sawmill Cokenes, Jobe Mahew, John Anteney, Thomas Suknes, and John Stokes, Indians of Nodine Hollow. (4)
Watching the haphazard acquisition of the Colony Lands, the townspeople of Kent, anxious to have control of the area for sale and town support, as Charles Grant surmises, appealed to the General Assembly to be allowed to annex the lands. (5)
“With some perspicacity, the General Assembly, studying the situation, ordered that the land is annexed to the town only with reference to town privileges and without passing the fee thereby.” This measure was passed in 1743. The lands were not surveyed until 1752 when Roger Sherman was appointed surveyor by the General Assembly. He and two chairmen took seventeen days to divide the 11,000 acres into 28 lots. Then an Act of 1853 ordered the sale of these lots at auction. Somehow Moses Rowley’s land was missed in the survey and (his land) was not sold with the rest in 1753-54. (6)
At first, Rowley probably used the Algur house, but after the 1748 land purchase, according to later deeds, he built a house and sawmill on the south side of the road on what is now the Preston Mountain Brook. Later in 1788, this was the site of the Converse forge. There’s no record of Rowley having a forge there.
“In 1769 he received an eviction order and petitioned plaintively against it. His memorial to the General Assembly pleads that Watson had purchased the land of the Nodines, April of 1748. He had entered upon and made improvements and built a sawmill supposing he had a good title and other buildings.” (7)
A committee investigated and satisfied itself that what Rowley alleged was true. They recommended that he receive a grant to include his sawmill. The General Assembly approved and the grant was formalized in 1769. Moses had further trouble. In 1771, it was charged that he had deceived the Assembly and that the land granted him had been represented to be small in comparison to what it really was. After two more investigations, Moses was ordered to appear in New Haven ‘to say why the grant should not be declared void.’ Moses admitted to 900 acres. If this was smaller than the actual land claimed he was really gambling on obscurity. The General Assembly records show no disposition of the case but Kent Records show he became a public charge so that the grant probably had been rescinded. (8)
“Whereas the subscribers, selectmen of the town of Kent have inspected into the affairs of Moses Rowlee of Kent and find he is guilty of poor husbandry and mismanagement in his business and is thereby in great damage of wasting his estate, we do therefore appoint Abraham Fuller to be overseer over said Moses Rowlee to order and direct him in the management of his business until the selectmen of Kent aforesaid shall give further order.
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 track. 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 an 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)
Rufus followed this purchase with a series of deals, acquiring all the land adjacent to the Wilson Forge. July 14, 1825, 26 acres were acquired, “land on which the new Furnace now stands, land which Robert Wilson received from his father Ambrose’s estate, and an additional ten acres Robert Wilson had purchased of John Wilson, Benjamin Chickens, and Abraham Rice. (7)
March 11, 1826, 141 acres, reaching to the New York border were bought from Alpheus Fuller and Nathaniel Perry for $1200. An important piece was added from Phoebe Converse in the purchase of 1/5 part of about an acre adjoining Fuller Pond with the privilege of damming said pond. These purchases gave control of the land around the two brooks north of the gorge above the furnace site. (8)
October 20, 1824, Fuller wrote Samuel W. Johnson of Stratford that he had gone the day before to the “raising of the Cole House, 30 by 60 feet, a large building. They have built the dam at the outlet of Fuller’s Pond so-called and are tearing away the rocks and stones and leveling the ground for the foundation for the furnace, have built the raceway out nigh of the brook and are leveling up to make a large platform to deposit pigs on. It begins to look like a new place. They are expecting the man every day to come to lay the stack.” (9)
He wrote also that he “had forgotten to inform that the directors appointed the first of November for our first installment to be paid in of $100 on a share. I told Esq. Perry I was calculating to write and inform you and forgot to do it. Shall expect to have the pleasure of waiting on you at the Ore Hill the first Wednesday in November. Esq. Adam has not been to the hill since you were here.”
On December 10, 1824, Samuel Johnson had received a letter from I.M. Woolsey of New York with advice about the type of blower to be installed. “I have not until this day been in possession of the information required to answer your letter respecting the proper kind of blower for the Macedonia Furnace. Of the different kinds of which I have had descriptions the two following appear the best. First, an iron cylinder similar to the one used by the West Point Foundry at Cold Spring.
The West Point Company offer to construct a cylinder of 30 inches diameter and four feet stroke, to make a double stroke (that is to throw out as much air on the return as on the forward stroke) complete – viz cylinder, bottom, top valves, piston, and piston rod – for $800. This appears high but without a draught of it, I cannot obtain estimates of other founders. It might be geared to strike any number of strokes in a minute. If 25 it would discharge 425 cubic feet of air in a minute. (10)
“Second, a wooden blower as used by McQueen in his furnace in New Jersey, with two cylinders of which I send you a draught. This is drawn for a 5 feet cylinder and four feet stroke and striking four times a minute to each cylinder would discharge 628 feet of air per minute. Constructed as drawn on the plan it would cost $250 exclusive of the water wheel. It might with advantage be geared with a crank instead of a stirrup but would require in such case two or more additional cog wheels which would enhance the cost considerably.
“Neither of these estimates embrace the cost of a regulating receiver which is very necessary in my opinion, in either case. I presume a wooded cylinder would not sustain a pressure much more than 4 strokes per minute.
“The more I reflect upon the subject the more I am convinced that the proposed dimensions of the furnace are too small. All practical men with whom I have conversed recommend at least 40 feet in height and the diameter of the boshes in proportion.
“In consequence of the rise of England iron the best iron cannot be imported for less than $55 and will next year be scarce and high. Should the Macedonia iron prove of good quality I shall not find any difficulty in disposing of all they can furnish.”
The Furnace opened in 1826 as a warm blast operation. With the promise of such a good market for its production, it would seem to be set for success. No records of its operation have come to light so far but tradition has it that it was constantly beset with problems. Perhaps the final stack was too small. However, there seems to have been money for land purchases (almost a mania with the Fullers). (11)
In 1827, March 7th, the Kent Iron Works completed its purchase of the Wilson Forge property by buying for $250, “four shares, 1/4 each from Zachariah Winegar, and Garret Winegar, Asa Parks and Harvey Smith, a little north of the gristmill including land, water privileges, coalhouse, and tools, blacksmith shop standing on or near the opposite side of the highway (west) from said forge and 1/4 of its tools.
Although the previous purchase gave control of the land around Wilson’s Forge and its water power, now the site of the new furnace, land purchases by the Kent Manufacturing Company continued.
Acreage on the Sharon line and Fuller Mountain from Samuel Fuller, March 24, 1828. This might have been for charcoal as there are old pits all over this area. (12)
One hundred acres from Benjamin Davis of Amenia, March 4, 1830, bounded north by Samuel Beecher, east by the state of New York (from Fuller Mountain Road west to New York state and also more New York state and Nodine land). (13)
April 15, 1828, from Erastus Chamberlain, a place in Macedonia with buildings, north on Zacariah and Garret Winegar, west on Garret, south on Dimmon and Hiram Converse, more Fuller Mountain land. (14)
Previously, March 1827, they had bought out the Winegars right to dam Fuller Pond, though the deed was not recorded earlier. (15)
May 6, 1831, they leased for three years “a dwelling and garden where David Nodine now lives with the privilege during said term to repair and build an addition to said house.” This plot was bounded on the south by Zacariah Winegar, east on the highway, north and west by Garret Winegar. (16)
December 6, 1831, a small dwelling west of the highway, adjacent to road leading from Levi Stone’s through Nodine Hollow neighborhood (so-called) was bought from Philetus Winegar for $150 adjacent to company lands. (17)
Rufus Fuller on July 3, 1832, sold the Kent Iron Manufacturing Company, ten acres where he previously lived (with buildings, the same piece I purchased of William and Polly Davidson and Abigail and John Wilson) where Samuel Brenton now lives. At this time he moved back to town buying the Swift house in the middle of town. (18)
Other purchases included an acre and five rods near Fuller Pond for $20 on January 8, 1833, west of the pond. (19) Ten acres on top of the hill near Simon Beecher from Milton Brown, January 28, 1834. (20)
From David Nodine, March 14, 1835, two acres in Nodine Hollow conveyed to Mary Nodine by Thomas Barlow for $40. (21) Finally, May 25, 1835, 50 acres were purchased from Hiram Converse for $250 bounded south on Amasa Leonard, east on Philetus Winegar, north on Ambrose Wilson, west on Hiram and Simon Converse heirs. (22)
NOTE: All this land in Macedonia around the Furnace and on Fuller Mountain and across the mountain to New York State would be purchased later by Rufus Fuller, Jr. for the White Family who gave it to the State for Macedonia Park…
…Samuel W. Johnson must have had faith that the business could be made to operate successfully for he bought the assets of the company on September 2, 1842, “at a Director’s Meeting duly held at the Counting House, Charles Edwards as Secretary was empowered to sell to Samuel W. Johnson for $8,000 all parcels and tracts of land and all the buildings and furnaces, forges and iron works, water privileges and real estate embraced and contained in a mortgage deed to Phoenix Bank of Hartford dated April 4, 1839.” (30)
Two years later, October 22, 1844, Samuel W. Johnson turned the Macedonia Furnace property, three dwellings, furnace forge, coal house and blacksmith shop and other buildings, 80 acres, also two acres with puddling forge, wood and coal house and the outlet of Fuller Pond and water privileges to his son Edward Johnson. (31) The same day Edward borrowed $509 from his father with the furnace as collateral. (32)…
… Still standing at the entry of Macedonia Park is the remnant of the stack of the furnace on the edge of the brook below the gorge. The steam from the vent from the furnace shows its stone framework on the upper level of land across the highway on the west side, and the sides of the big dam below the furnace show clearly on the brook above the bridge to Fuller Mountain. The mill house, frame, sawmill, gristmill and cider mill, last operated by Ebers Peters stands across from the stone house now owned by the Levines (1990).
The final episode in the life of the furnace was told by Sherm Chase. At the time of World War I metal of all kinds was in great demand and everything that could be used was salvaged. The huge iron shaft that drove the water wheel at the furnace was still lying beside the brook. Ten to twelve feet long it took two teams of heavy work horses to drag it up the hill to load it on a truck and carry it away.
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)
“Mr. Hubbel, Sir”
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.
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.
- 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.