Industry in the Valley
The Sacandaga Valley history of industry is extensive. This will only touch upon the other industries besides logging in the area. It’s interesting that it is noted among references that even as the main industry of logging diminished in the late 1800’s ; the valley continued to grow. This wasn’t the case in many other of the areas in the United States. When a main industry went out most other industries, including the population, also left.
Grist mills were among the first industry built being the most important . Sawmills were usually located near at the same place and built at the same time in most instances. The woodenware mills produced: bowls, grain measures, rakes, scythes, clothespins just to name a few. Then later on the majority of knitting mills, leather tanning, woolen and carding mills were started.
The first gristmill was built by Sir William Johnson at Mayfield in 1773. It was destroyed during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt. It then became known as known as Romeyns Mill and operated for many years. The mill was sold in 1795 and in the years that followed other people operated which grew into the operation of two stones which would grind about 12,000 bushels annually. Also in Mayfield Oliver Rice began a fulling mill in 1795. Fulling is a process in woolen cloth making which involves the cleansing of wool to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and making it thicker. Between 1785 and 1830 Riceville grew much bigger and a sawmill, distillery, foundry, and skin mill were also built.
Northville’s first grist mill was built on Hunter Creek in 1790 as was a sawmill.
In Providence in 1797 a grist mill, saw mill, tannery, and shoe shop in Barkersville was built; and later on a casket factory.
Broadalbin’s first grist mill in the village was built in 1808 and conducted a saw mill. As early as 1828 a paper mill was built at Union Mills near Broadalbin by John Carpenter, this paper mill burned three times and was rebuilt until sometime around 1877 it burned for it‘s fourth and final time.
In 1813 a woolen mill was built at North Broadalbin, The business was carried on for some time, but in the depression following the War of 1812 became unprofitable and was abandoned. Years after the war, it operated for a time then burned in 1894 .
Edinburg’s first gristmill was built in 1827; which came after a woolen mill in 1808.
Batchellerville was the site of woodenware industry. It’s peak production of the above mentioned items was between the years of 1850 and 1880. Batchellerville’s population at this time was approx 360 to 380 people. From 1876 through 1890 a series of fires suffered by these woodenware mills caused one third of the inhabitants to seek employment elsewhere.
Fish House and Osborn Bridge remained the more residential communities while Conkingville and Day were hubs of the logging and tanning industry.
In 1891 the Northville knitting mill was started by Eli Van Brockum of Amsterdam and employed 250 people. Building was 94’ x 145’ feet and 3 stories high a with a 2 story coal house that was 22 x 65 feet. The mill produced underwear, shirts and sports clothes. The mill had it’s own generators and was the first building in the village to use electricity. It exited for a few years and went out of business. The building was demolished and is now a vacant lot.
Also in Northville, the only one of it’s kind in the area was started by Ray Hubbell and James A. Cole. The two entrepreneurs started the Globe Metal Binding Company in 1880. Hubbell came up with an idea for metal corners made of brass which aided in the manufacture of oilcloth. The makeshift business started in the back room of a blacksmiths shop on Bridge street.
The first American oilcloth was made in Philadelphia in 1809. Oilcloth is made of coarse cloth, usually linen or canvas, coated with heavy paint, glue, or with an application of many coats of linseed oil. The cloth is stretched on a frame and stiffened.
Oil cloth served many purposes. In the home it was used as floor covering: the fabric was also sewn into waterproof bags, clothing, table covering. It was also used as roofing material and was used to hide rough wooden surfaces to make them easier to clean which included work benches and scullery surfaces. It also gained popularity in curtain material, wall covering, hats and other waterproof garments.
The first patent for “Hubbells Corners” was in 1880 and ten patents followed; the last one in 1886. A Canadian patent was taken out in 1881. By 1880 the demand was so great for these corners by manufacturers a larger factory needed to be built.
Hubbell had four locations in production. The two in Northville were located at Bridge and Second Streets, and the other at Washington and First. There were also two in Painesville Ohio. In 1890 the factory on the corner of Bridge and Second Streets burned and was rebuilt in two months.
The business was a great success. Cole and Hubbell also were involved in the glove industry. The two were also community minded and contributed to the growth of the village building structures for business use and involvement in community issues and government.
In 1910 James Cole passed away leaving his Hubbell to run the business alone. Ray Hubbell later retired passing the business on to his son Frank. The Hubbell Factory on Second and Bridge burned in 1918 leaving behind it’s chimney. Ray Hubbell passed away three years later.
by Lorraine Frasier