Thursday, May 1, 2008

Paper People: Jefferson County's Pioneering Manufacturers

Jefferson County never became a major player in the business of making paper. But it had three pioneering paper mills, two of which operated for decades.

The first, the Mooney Paper Mill on Big Creek, remains in the name Paper Mill Road. But it founder, Isaac Mooney, committed suicide about a year after its 1826 founding. It quickly passed through the hands of Alfred McDaniels and was then converted into a grist mill.

The mill erected by John Sheets just below Manville, where the mill race can still be seen on the west bank of the Indian-Kentuck, had a much longer history. Sheets, who purchased a grist mill in the same location in March 1820, was operating a paper mill, probably by the end of 1827, as the Madison Courier of Jan. 12, 1828, described the mill as “recently built by Major John Sheets.”

A fire at one of his Switzerland County properties led to a sheriff’s sale and the property went through the hands of two of Sheets’ investors before being sold to Andrew Everhart, a papermaker from Hamilton County, Ohio, for $3,000 on May 1, 1853.

The 1860 Census of Manufacturers reported Everhart had invested $8,000 in capital. He used 250 tons of straw and 200 cords of wood annually to produce twenty-four tons of paper, valued at $10,000. He employed four people, paying them $60 in an average month ($15 each). He had two engines, the main one steam-powered.

Debt also killed Everhart’s business and the mill was then sold to Harvey Foster via a sheriff’s sale on May 5, 1861 and by 1863, it was owned by Nicholas and Henrietta Manville. Nicholas, showed on the 1863 federal income tax assessment list as a paper manufacturer, sold the mill to Fleming and Andrew Siebenthal on July 19, 1866. But the deed excluded the papermaking machinery from the sale, which may have been transferred to Robert Manville, a partner in papermaking business in Madison.

Upstream from Sheets’ Jefferson Paper Mill was the China Paper Mill, which operated on a site about a mile downstream from China. Demaree historians say it was founded by Samuel Demaree, who died in 1826. However, deeds do not refer to a mill until the 1850s.

But on May 5, 1838, his grandsons William U. and Samuel B. Demaree, his grandsons, sold water and dam rights to Henry Jackman. The History of Papermaking in the United States reported Jackman and James Hamilton started the paper mill between 1835 and 1840. (Hamilton had married the elder Demaree’s daughter and Jackman was Hamilton’s son-on-law).

The property was sold to William U. and Samuel B. Demaree with the 1850 Census of Manufacturers listing W&S Demaree as a paper maker. The two had invested $2,000 in the operation, using 50 tons of straw and 200 cords of wood annually to produce 3,000 reams of paper. They employed four people, paying them $60 a month on the average.

The mill was then sold to Henry James on June 4, 1855, who was shown in adjacent to Samuel Demaree in 1850 as a papermaker, and perhaps was already running the facility. The 1860 Manufacturing census showed Henry James as the owner.

But James' business didn't last much longer. On Dec. 4, 1860, he sold the property to William W. Demaree. Whether Demaree operated it is not known, but five years later he sold the boiler and engine “at the Old Paper mill near the residence of said Demaree” to be used in a sorghum mill in Brooksburg.