directing to original research and commentary from the history community
the old
lead mill

Saugerties Stories
Peigi Mulligan June 2016

A Compilation of Writings concerning the History of The Old Lead Mill

Brink's Early History of Saugerties 1902
In 1830, Isaac McGaw erected a building for the manufacture of calico prints on the north side of the Esopus and below the falls, paying Henry Barclay a rental of $850 a year for the water privilege. It was never used for the purpose, and in 1835 Charles Ripley bought and enlarged the works and began the manufacture of white lead. This was continued until after the beginning of the Civil War of 1861-65, when the works were abandoned. In this connection the white lead works at Glenerie should be mentioned, which were also begun in 1835 and were finally closed only with the absorption of the Ulster White Lead Company into the lead trust.

Dec 10 1853 Saugerties Telegraph
New York and Saugerties White Lead Factory
Last week we visited the White Lead Factory ... and by the courtesy of those in charge, were shown through it. The establishment is just below the falls, with an immense water power and a favorable situation. A wheel of some forty feet in diameter drives the machinery.
About the year 1829 the late Henry Barclay ... erected a building on the present site of the lead factory for the purpose of printing calico, but the spray from the falls rendered it too damp and the enterprise was abandoned.
A certain Mr. Ripley in the same year commenced making white lead. Col. Clark, who afterward manufactured at Glen Erie, conducted the establishment for him ... Col. Clark was ... for about twelve years with him and his successors ...
After having the establishment for several years, Mr. Ripley died, and the property came into the hands of John Jewett & Sons. During their ownership a great freshet damaged the property to a large amount ... About the year 1841 John Jewett & Sons became insolvent, and the property was sold at sheriff's sale and bought by McCullough & Co. for $44,000 in whose possession it has remained until the present time.
In the great freshet of the spring of 1841 the carpenter's shop, a large portion of the docking and the vinegar house were carried away, together with a quantity of coal.
Since that time a new dock has been built upon which a part of the buildings now stand.
We derive the above facts from Mr. Richard Thomas who has been engaged in the factory since the year 1831, and who has made many important improvements in the machinery and is still doing so.
From time to time the buildings have been enlarged and new ones erected. At present there is a building of stone four stories high, 175 feet long and 40 feet wide, which contains the machinery &c - a building 459 feet long and 30 wide, in which the corroding is done, besides other smaller ones, such as carpenter's shop, blacksmith shop, &c. ... From thirty to seventy men are employed. ...
Mr. Searing is agent for the company, and has the whole control, assisted by Messrs. Whiteford and Thomas. ...
Formerly lead was corroded by horse manure - next by the steam of vinegar ... Now tan bark is used ...
The present process is much more healthy than formerly, there having been no deaths from lead colic for the last eight years in this factory.

Sylvester's History of Ulster County ... 1880
The Old Lead Mill - Isaac McGaw in about 1830 made the necessary excavations, and laid the foundations of a building on the present site of the lead-mill, for the purpose of manufacturing calico prints, said mill being subject to an annual lease of $850 for the water privilege, payable to Henry Barclay. Before the mill was completed Mr. McGaw became embarrassed, and was obliged to abandon the enterprise. Mr. Somers then undertook to complete the work, but also failed, though he finished the mill to about half the size of the later building. He designed to establish oil-works. In 1835, Charles Ripley bought it, enlarged the building, and commenced the manufacture of white lead according to a process Col. Edward Clark, his superintendent, claimed to have discovered. Mr. Ripley died suddenly of inflammatory rheumatism in 1837. The property then passed into the hands of John Jewett Jr., of whose father $40,000 capital had been borrowed by Mr. Ripley.
Mr. Jewett carried on the business for some years successfully. Col. Clark, who had left upon the death of Mr. Ripley, returned and claimed a royalty of $10 a ton on all the lead that had been manufactured. Upon the trial that ensued, it was proved that the process claimed to be discovered by Mr. Clark had been used and abandoned in France many years before. This legal examination showed that Mr. Jewett's income from his business had been $30,000 to $40,000 a year. Mr. Ripley, the founder, had originally obtained $10,000 of Wm. Young, in addition to the $40,000 of Mr. Jewett. This second mortgage for $10,000 was owned in 1844 by James McCullough, who finally foreclosed, and at the sale bid off the property at $40,000 or more. In 1851 the right to the water-power was purchased of the estate of Mr. Barclay, and the payment of an annual rent terminated. Mr. McCullough had organized a stock company, under the name of "The New York and Saugerties White Lead Company," of which he was the president until 1857. In that year Wm. Ghion, son of one of the stockholders, was chosen to that position. Mr. Seaman G Searing was superintendent of the works from July 1, 1850, until 1858, when he retired by reason of ill health, and was succeeded by Mr. John L. Peak.
Mr. John Peak had been succeeded in the superintendency by Mr. Charles L Buckley. ...
At the old lead-mill Minie rifle-balls were manufactured for a short time, when the mill was closed. The property then became the foot-ball of the courts and real-estate brokers, while savings-banks and insurance companies loaned money and foreclosed mortgages.
Several attempts are said to have been made by various parties to purchase the property for the purpose of establishing business, but all failed to close the contract; and so the "old lead-mill" stood for years a picturesque ruin, worthy the pencil of an artist, the interior steadily ravaged by village boys, the outside walls standing firm, but the large old water-wheel falling beneath the touch of decay, until a few years since fire swept away the old landmark, leaving only the blackened ruins to designate the site on which it stood.

April 20, 1876 Saugerties Telegraph
The Old Leadmill Burned
... those who have their homes on the south side readily discovered that the old Lead Mill buildings, situated just below the dam, were in flames. The Empire Hand Engine was the first at the fire ... The Steamer Minnehaha was as quickly as possible set to work, but very little could be done in the way of saving the old combustible structure ... The fire was checked, however, enough to ensure the safety of neighboring buildings, which was all that could be done ... The walls, except the west end one, and the wheel were standing after the fire. ...
It is thought the fire was the work of an incendiary, and that it had been started very early on Tuesday morning. It has been currently reported that, during the past few months, all the iron and brass that could be carried has been stolen from the mill, and that even the immense water wheel of many tons weight was removed by the aid of jackscrews and the brass boxings taken ...
After all, it would almost seem that the burning of the old buildings can be very little loss to any-one, even to the owners, since everything had been allowed so to go to destruction, that in order to ever use the magnificent water power afforded on the site, the old buildings would have had to be taken away and new ones erected.
The following is a very compact little history of the old Lead Mill, which appeared in The Pearl ...
"... William Ghion, who carried on the works up to 1861 or 1862, when the company failed.
The property then passed into the hands of a Wall street broker in New York. Mr. S. L. Mitchell became president and continued the business up to a short time after our late war broke out. Mr. Charles L. Bulkley, his superintendent, having invented a process for manufacturing the conical or minie rifle ball with wonderful rapidity, they there commenced their manufacture, but for some reason unknown to us they closed the mill and removed to New York, as before stated, a short time after the war broke out. Mr. George W. Nelson bought it at auction in New York in 1870. He obtained a loan of $7,500 from the Ulster County Savings Bank of Kingston. The second year after the loan the savings bank commenced foreclosure proceedings. Nelson applied to the Knickerbocker Life Insurance Company of New York for a loan of $17,000, representing that he wanted $7,500 to pay off the savings bank mortgage and $10,000 to put the mill in repair, preparatory to starting. They let him have it, the mortgage was paid but Nelson did not put the mill in repair. In a year of so the insurance company commenced a foreclosure and bid it in themselves for $7,500. After this various parties endeavored to purchase it for different enterprises, but failed."
... the property is now being advertised to be sold, under ... judgment of foreclosure on the 1st day of June, 1876, at the Court House in Kingston.

Aug 10 1876 Saugerties Telegraph
The old Lead Mill property, the ruined mill on which was burned a few months ago, has passed into the hands of Mr. Wm. R. Sheffield, one of the proprietors of the Sheffield Paper Mills at this place. The price paid, we understand, was $5700. This is very valuable property because of the excellent water power belonging to it. Since the property has passed into the hands of so enterprising a young gentleman as Mr. Sheffield, we may expect to see it put to such use before long, as will be of benefit to our place. No better location for a factory could be found than this site of the old Lead Mill, the great resources of which in the way of power, have so long been left unused. ...

Supreme Court 1889
Supreme Court, Kings County
The Knickerbocker Life Insurance Company, Plaintiff, against George W. Nelson, and others, Defendants ....

Ulster County Book of Deeds, Book 201 p 262 ... This Indenture made the 31st day of July in the year 1876 between The Knickerbocker Life Insurance Company ... of the first part and William R Sheffield ... of the second part ... in consideration of the sum of $5,750 ...

Brink's Olde Ulster ... 1912
In 1830, a year or two after the building of the mill, Henry Barclay caused to be drawn and engraved a beautiful steel picture of the mill and surroundings. The lead mill at the falls (built that year) appears. The suspension bridge across the Esopus is in the foreground. The upper falls, now covered by water held by the dam, is shown. It was drawn by G. Wall [William Guy Wall], engraved and printed by Fenner Sears and Company, and published in London, on the 15th of January, 1831 by I. T. Hinton and Simpkin and Marshall. Another edition printed from the same plate and bearing the same date, bears the XXX inscription - "Barclay's Iron Words, Ulston [sic]". Both are in the collection of Chaplain Roswell Randall Hoes, U.S.N. It is from Chaplain Hoes' collection that we have obtained this rare and priceless engraving this month.

The New York Annual Register 1835:
The Saugerties White Lead Works, Charles Ripley, superintendent, Ulster Village; William Kemble agent, 91 Washington st, NY. This establishment manufactures white lead, dry and in oil, and prepares all kinds of coloured [sic] paints. It is calculated to make 500 tons annually.

Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents, Part 1 1852: Carbonate of Lead; July 11 1837 patent, Charles Ripley

1795-1895. One Hundred Years of American Commerce ...; 1895
Great Falls Manufacturing Company, in 1832; ... changed by Batelle & Renwick to the Ulster White-Lead Company ... (Glenerie)
Jewett, Sons & Company, at Saugerties, in 1838; ...

Gazetteer of the State of New York 1836
... The Saugerties White Lead Works, capable of manufacturing 500 tons of paint per annum ...

Journal of the Franklin Institute 1846
Bogardus' Universal Eccentric Mill
We give the following extract of a letter from S. Spelman, Saugerties, New York:
"In 1842 the New York and Saugerties White Lead Company purchased and put up one of your universal mills; since which time it has been in almost constant use, in grinding White Lead in Oil, at a very trifling expense, and is now apparently in as good order as when it was first started. It has done considerably more than one run of stone would in the same length of time and has done its work well. I consider your mills superior (for the above named purpose) to any other grinding apparatus that has fallen under my observation. In fact, the Company having added nine mills to the establishment since the above named date, showing conclusively in what estimation they are held."

The Merchants' Magazine and commercial Review 1847
The Works of the New York and Saugerties White Lead Company are situated in the village of Saugerties, on the west bank of the Esopus Creek, about a quarter of a mile above its mouth or entrance into the Hudson River. The main building is of stone, 200 feet by 50, four stories high, in addition to which there is a stone storehouse, and several frame buildings connected with the works. The factory was erected in 1829, is at present owned and carried on by an incorporated company ... The water power by which the machinery is driven is supplied by the Esopus Creek, and has never been known to fail, even in seasons of the greatest drought. They employ about 60 hands, exclusive of those employed in the making of kegs and casks ... Labor paid $1 per day. The white lead manufactured by this company stands high in the market. James McCullough, 159 Front street, New York, is president of the company, and agent for the sale of the white lead.

The Tammany Times, vol 22-23; 1903
The National Lead Company
One of the largest industries on Staten Island is the manufacture of white lead at Port Richmond, where are located the Jewett White Lead Works, owned by the National Lead Company.
The manufacture of white lead was begun in these works by the late Mr. John Jewett, in 1842. Mr. Jewett was originally interested in a small white lead factory at Saugerties, N.Y. at a time when the English manufacturers largely supplied the white lead consumed in the United States. Mr. Jewett, recognizing the possibilities of the business bought the present site in 1841 and in 1842 commenced the manufacture of white lead by the old Dutch process, which is the manufacture in vogue at the works to-day and which is the only successful process by which white lead of the highest quality can be made. ... sons George, Charles and Orville, under the firm of John Jewett & Sons ...

As Vinegar was used for the Dutch process in the lead mill, more from Sylvester's History of Ulster County, 1880:
Besides the enterprises of magnitude mentioned under the head of 'industrial pursuits,' there were at Saugerties village at one time a starch-factory, a vinegar-factory, a cooper establishment, and a grist-mill, a portion of which were destroyed by fire and the others abandoned. There was also up the creek an establishment brewing ale, abandoned thirty years ago or more.

A Brief History of Saugerties, Michael Sullivan Smith
... Charles Ripley had attracted the interest of the Jewetts, established lead dealers in New York, for financing the enlargement of the old refinery ...

A History of Trinity Episcopal Church, Saugerties New York; the First 130 Years
The second-hand organ began to falter and Mr. Charles Ripley paid for a replacement to be built in New York and sent up "by the time the river opens" in 1836.

The Catskills: Painters, Writers, and Tourists in the Mountains 1820-1895; Kenneth Myers; 1987
Jasper Francis Cropsey
... a view of the New York and Saugherties [sic] White Lead Works, on Esopus Creek, Saugherties [sic], New York - at the National Academy of Design. This last painting was listed as being owned by James McCullough and seems to have been the original for the colored lithograph of the McCullough lead mill published by John Endicott. It seems probable that the painting of McCullough's mill was a commission which Cropsey used to support his two 1844 trips to the area.

An Unprejudiced Eye: The Drawings of Jasper F. Cropsey; Hudson River Museum, 1979
Jarvis McCullough's Leadmill on the Esopus Creek, 1844
Pencil with wash and touches of white on paper ... May 24, 1844
Lent by The Corcoran Gallery of Art
In 1845 Cropsey exhibited no. 16 New York and Saugherties [sic] White Lead Works, on Esopus Creek, Saugerties, New York, owned by Jas. M'Collough, and no. 233 View on Esopus Creek at the NAD; no. 29, View on Esopus Creek, at the AAU.

Newspaper Accounts

March 4 1842 The Evening Post
White Lead - The New York and Saugerties White Lead Co having purchased the manufactory formerly used by Messrs. John Jewett & Sons, and known as the Saugerties White Lead Co., are now receiving a supply of White Lead, dry and ground in oil, in the various sized packages, which is warranted to be a superior article. For sale by Jas. McCullough, 77 Wall street

1847 Morning Courier and New York Enquirer
Tuesday, July 15
At 12 o'clock at the Merchants' Exchange
Saugerties - To Capitalists and Manufacturers - the valuable and productive property as Saugerties .... Consists of a vast amount of Water Power ... together with 230 (?) acres of land, immediately around the water power, a large part of it laid out in streets and lots, on which many dwelling houses are erected. A large paper mill, a productive toll bridge, and many dwelling houses will be included in the sale. This property will now pay seven per cent per annum on the price at which it will be sold.
There are other Falls of the Esopus Creek ...of at least an hundred feet; all of which may be got for a small consideration, and if judiciously improved would soon give rise to a city like Lowell, on these premises. The manufactories now in full operation are the Ulster Iron Works, the New York and Saugerties White Lead Works, the Saugerties Paper Mill, a Grist Mill and other smaller works.
A good steamboat runs regularly between these Works and New York. Freights up and down 75 cents to a dollar per ton, taken from and delivered at the Mills. Payments will be made very accommodating. For further particulars apply by letter or personally to the Auctioneer, or on the premises, to Henry Barclay.
Lithographic maps of the above property can be obtained of the Auctioneer.

May 20 1848 Saugerties Telegraph
Empty Casks - Linseed Oil Casks, first rate for water, for sale cheap, at the works of the New York and Saugerties White Lead Co.

Aug 31 1850 Saugerties Telegraph
Our Village
At no time since it received its first impetus, by the erection of the Iron Rolling Mill Paper Mill, Axe Factory, Lead Mill and other manufactories, has our village improved as rapidly as of late. During the last two years a large number of new buildings have been erected and old ones rebuilt. There is not a street, we are happy to say, that does not exhibit evidences of improvement and prosperity.

Dec 19 1851 The Evening Post
White Lead - The New York and Saugerties White Lead Company are now prepared to supply dealers with the different grades of white lead, as follows:
Pure white lead, ground in oil, in packages from 25 to 1500 lbs each
Extra white lead, ground in oil, in packages from 25 to 500 lbs each
No. 1 white lead, ground in oil, in packages from 25 to 500 lbs each
Pure white lead, dry, in packages from 100 to 1000 lbs each
Extra do do do
No. 1 do do do
This lead is guaranteed to be as good as any namufactured, and will be sold on the most favorable terms, at their warehouse, 150 Front street, New York
James McCullough, President

Mar 23 1875 Daily Freeman
Messrs. Barritt & Jernegan's pretty little monthly, "The Pearl" ... comes to us for March with as fresh face and lively contents as usual. The illustrations this month are "The Old Lead Mill," ... A historical sketch of the "Old Lead Mill" is given ...

Feb 22 1876 Daily Freeman
During the freshet last week a portion of the old lead mill dock, below the dam, floated off and now lies on the flats. Between the ravages of water and man this property will soon be gone. Eight wagon loads of iron, etc. were taken to Rondout junk shops during this winter, to be sold - taken out at night.

Feb 28 1876 Daily Freeman
The darkies who had taken up their winter quarters in the old cooper shop were all turned out in the street on Saturday morning bag and baggage, to make way for the conversion of that establishment into an ice house. They have since moved into the old lead mill.

Mar 27 1876 Daily Freeman
Saugerties Half a Century Ago
Partition street ... followed the same course it now runs until it came to where Matthew Smith's residence now stands, when it turned off and wound down around by the old grist-mill, which stood where the old lead mill now stands, and thence along the creek to an old scow ferry, which ran from a point in the rear of the old stone house near the iron bridge directly across to where Myer & Rosepaugh's ice house now stands. There being no dam at this point the creek of course was some thirty feet lower than it now is, and the road ran along its border. ...

May 1876 Saugerties Telegraph
The lead mill property recently destroyed by fire, is once more under process of foreclosure ...

Aug 1876 Saugerties Telegraph
The main topic and conversation in the business circles during the week was principally directed to the purchase of Mr. J. B. Sheffield of the old Lead Mill property for so low a price. Heretofore the owners refused five times the amount paid for it by Mr Sheffield. - Every body wonders at this cheap transfer, and how, as it has passed into the ownership of a person who will not very soon consent to dispose of it, our capitalists say - "If we had only know it, we would have paid more money for it."

Apr 12 1877 Saugerties Telegraph
For a number of years previous to about 1844, when they sold their property to Mr. McCullough, the firm of John Jewett & Sons owned and worked the old lead mill in this village, and many of our older citizens undoubtedly remember them well. ...

Nov 15 1877 Daily Freeman
Completion of Sheffield & Son's New Paper Mill ...
... The old lead mill property, the old cooper shop and the Barclay House have all passed into their hands this year, and in 1878 Saugerties may very properly be called Sheffield. ...

Mar 16 1878 Daily Press
A fine photographic picture has just been finished by Teush, the photographer, taken from Mynderse Hill, showing a portion of the ruins of the old lead mill, the falls, the iron bridge, the iron mill, the paper mill and the ferry dock. A die is to be cut from this picture for use by the First National Bank of this village, on some of their banking paper.

Aug 15 1878 Saugerties Telegraph
The Ice Case
... Myer vs Whitaker & Finger ice case ...
An ice house where the old lead mill stood, with a slide from the dam to it, and another slide from it to navigable water in the creek below, and a monopoly of the ice on the pond, is rather a good thing to contemplate - for Mr Sheffield.
Very Truly Yours
Theodore B Gates
Brooklyn NY Aug 10 1878

Dec 12 1878 Daily Freeman
After The Flood
... the old lead mill walls below the falls are nearly all down, and the great volume of water rushing down upon it presents a grand spectacle and thousands have visited the scene. A piano passed over the dam on Wednesday ...

Nov 2 1880 Saugerties Telegraph
The Lead Mill in this village, under the management of Mr Charles Bulkley, has undergone many valuable improvements lately, and is now in full operation. The Iron Mill, too, is running with its full force employed. The Paper Mill having undergone extensive repairs and improvements, of which we have heretofore spoken, is again in successful operation. The completion of Dubois' Cooperage will soon again bring his hands to their wonted labors. The Gas Company is doing a large amount of work. All these combined cannot but make business very brisk and prosperous in our village, for some time to come. There has been no period in its former history when things looked so promising.

Aug 11 1881 Saugerties Telegraph
The old stone house owned by W. R. Sheffield, on the lead mill property near the dam, has been greatly improved lately by the addition of a new roof &c.

May 15 1884 st
A wire fence has been erected about the old lead mill property by its owner, Wm. R. Sheffield.

May 6 1929 Daily Freeman
Riparian Rights at Saugerties Determined; New Dam Will Be Built Agreement reached by the Martin Cantine Company and the Diamond Mills Paper Company ...
The Cantine Mill is located on the north side of the creek, having acquired the old iron and lead mill rights, while the Diamond Mills are located on the south side of the creek, having acquired the old Sheffield rights. ...

Mar 3 1939 Saugerties Telegraph
Who Remembers Happenings Here Over Half a Century Ago RL 'Lew' Decker' Who Remembers?
Who Remembers - The old White Lead Mill located under the cliff just below the dam. Peter Decker, watchman. The steel cable conveyor reaching up to the mesa platform located where the Cantine factory now stands. After the mill closed and went out of business, Peter Decker continued as caretaker. His watchful eye must have been on a blink for the vandals removed the whole works, piece by piece. Do you recall the big water wheel rearing up facing the dam the cockeyed angle to it? It seemed like the wheel was constantly sneering at the dam, telling it to go to h---.
Who Remembers - the big freshet in the upper creek, when the entire lower bridge area was under water. Contrary to expectations, the old dam stood the gaff. When the waters subsided, the Iron Mill, the Paper Mill, and, in fact, the whole lower area, was buried under tons of slime and silt. I recall it required fifteen teams three weeks to clean up the Iron Mill, and about the same time to clean up other buildings to get back to normal.

July 28 1958 Daily Press
Turning back time through The Pearl (1875)
The first method of crossing the Esopus at Saugerties, of which we can find any trace, was a scow or rope ferry, which crossed it at the Stony Point. This was previous to 1800. It was known as the Mynderse Ferry. There was a similar ferry near where the present iron bridge now crosses it. This was known as the Persons Ferry, because of a grist mill owned by a man of that name, which was situated on the present site of the old lead mill below the dam.

Nov 15 1973 Post Star w/picture
The ruins of the office of the Old Lead Mill on the lower Esopus Creek at Saugerties are shown as it appeared in the 1890's. The foundation for the building was laid in 1830. The steeple of St Mary's Church can be seen over the top of the hill in the background.

Sept 19 1974 Post Star
Chase Manhattan Bank ... as successor to the Saugerties National Bank and Trust Co ... plaintiff
The Martin Cantine Company ... defendants ...
Notice of Sale ...
Parcel No. 1
... It is intended to include all of the Cantine Mill property located within the area mentioned and also shown on Map No. 1 of Valuable Property of Land late belonging to Henry Barclay as the parcel designated thereon as the "lead mill lot, White Lead Works and Dock,: and Lots 1, 2, 3 and 4 on the south side of the old road to the landing ....

July 23 1981 Post Star
City Items, Vernon Benjamin
The year was 1891 and this place was jumping with activity. ... The most active area, as far as people interacting with each other is concerned, had to be the Island where the old lead mill stood and where shipping and manufacturing went on unabated throughout the century. Sam Melius the fisherman lived there, and Albert Perks, mill hand; iron roller John Punford, laborer Philip Reiley; several McCormicks and Lynches; John and Michael Kenney; Francis Kugelman, a laborer; papermaker Andy Hodges, and the tollgate keeper Peter H Hommel.

July 3 1936 Saugerties Telegraph
Isabel Overbagh
The Lead Mill, another of Saugerties' early manufacturing plants, is, like the Iron Works, *alive in history only. It was, however, at one time a thriving business. ...

And so ends another Saugerties Story.