Spotswood, NJ History

From Revolution to Spotswood Mills

Time Line
Weequehela - Sachem
The Leonards
The Johnstons
Indian Deed at the Mills
From Revolution to Spotswood Mills
Books for Sale
Guest Book
1796 map of Spotswood by Evert Van Wickle, showing the famous mill seat on present-day DeVoe Ave.

Detail of 1796 map by Evert Van Wickle. The Spotswood Bridge is present-day DeVoe Avenue. The Sawmill Dam is still the site of the dam of DeVoe Lake. Most of the colonial mills had been destroyed both during the American Revolution and a subsequent fire, but rebuilt by 1787.

Note that there is a "Peach house" on the site, and the mill building is at the site of the grist mill is the one from the previous decades, and was to be rebuilt as the Old Red Mill in the early 19th century. The picture below shows the Old Red Mill, which stood until the early 20th century.

The Old Red Mill, rebuilt on the site of the Forge Company

From Ashes to the Spotswood Snuff Industry

According to Clayton’s 1882 History of Union and Middlesex Counties, clear title to the Forge Company mill seat finally passed in 1796 when it was auctioned off and sold to Daniel Lott for L1275 (the same Daniel Lott who purchased one of the slaves at the confiscation sale in 1779). The county sheriff sold the property again 1801 to Robinson Thomas, and in 1819 title to half was purchased by John H. Disborough. He acquired the remaining half interest in 1827. His name appears conspicuously on the circa 1850 Spotswood map below. His house might have incorporated elements of the Penkridge Mansion House described in the Loyalist Claim of Perry, Hayes and Sherbrooke.

The Penkridge grist mill was located at what would later be known as the old red mill (photographs and maps show this location). The forge, with its trip hammer illustrated on the margin of the missing original Forge Company map was on or near the site of the saw mill shown on the ca. 1850 Spotswood map. The old red mill, according to Clayton, was built in the early 19th century by John Hilliker of Staten Island, on the site of the earlier grist mill. During its construction, a layer of cinders and scorched corn was dug up, evidence of a fire.

This fire was likely the one mentioned by De Klyne in his Bill of Complaint and also in the 1786 newspaper notice describing the catastrophe.

The upper forge (Swin Forge) near Helmetta was located along the road known today as Old Forge Road, which was officially laid out in 1803, although it did replace an earlier one in the vicinity. It ran from Mounts Mill in Jamesburg to the road leading to Bennett’s mill (saw mill, shown on an 1801 survey map). The site of Swin Forge was never used for industrial purposes again while the Manalapan stream was dammed for Outcalt’s Mill by 1830. Remains of this mill, site of Weequehela’s upper saw mill, are still visible to this day.

The Spotswood paper mill, located on the Matchaponix, was still in operation in 1821 when the property was acquired through auction by Phineas Mundy, Lewis Carmen and James Bishop. Four years later, Mundy bought out his business partners and continued operating the paper mill. In 1854, he sold the site to Benjamin Skinner, who began the Tecumseh Snuff Mill. By 1910, according to a Sanborn Insurance Company map, the property was being used as a wood millwork factory. The ruins of this complex are still visible along the Matchaponix.

Circa 1850 map o f Spotswood

For more information:
Native American Historical Research


For information on the Bethel Indian Mission on the Manalapan

For information on the Indian Company of 1778

For information on the Gnadenhutten Massacre (including Jersey Indians)