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Eastvale Dam and Paper Mill

Milestones Vol 29. No. 3

Editor's Note: The author of this piece is unknown. This story was found in some files from Bob Bonnage.

Probably antedating by a short time the small settlement and iron industry near Walnut Run was that at the Upper Falls. Prior to 1800 Dr. Samuel Adams bought 400 acres of land between 17th St. and Steffin's hollow and extending from the river to and including Mt. Washington. (The much mentioned "stone fence" reaching from 8th Ave. paralleling 17th St. almost to the river bank and which marked the southern boundary of his land was probably built by him.)

He erected a cabin nearby, constructed the first dam and built a grist mill and saw mill. He planted an orchard of which some tree stumps were still visible about 1900. A little later a small plan of lots was laid out, a long stone house and probably a few other cabins erected, and a large frame home for his family was completed.

An accomplished and widely known engineer, whose name and activities have now been almost forgotten, later lived in the Adams dwelling. His name was Mr. Whippo.

Archibald Robertson started a paper mill in 1829 at 5th St. and 9th Ave. It was steam powered, and the water was pumped to it by a force pump from a noted spring near 3rd St. and 7th Ave.. It was conveyed through "pump logs." The latter were of soft wood or soft grained timber with a 3-inch hole bored through and tapered to fit into the next joint.

About 1847 the engine and boiler needed replacement, and the owner decided to rebuild where he could use direct water power. The location of the Adams dam appealed to him, and he decided to remove his factory there.

A well preserved handbill of Mr. Robertson's in existence headed "Notice to Contractors" and dated July 15, 1847, requests proposals for excavating and continuing the race at Adams' dam, to be 18 feet at the bottom and to have a depth of 4 feet below the top of the dam. Also for the excavation of a wheel house and the erection thereon of a stone building 40 by 20 feet, etc., to be completed by the following November.

This building when completed was the landmark known for an age as the old paper mill. The woods nearby was identified as the paper mill woods; and the factory whistle, terrible and hair raising, which had been brought from the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876, several times daily reminded the town folk during the '80s that the plant was not idle.

By 1850 Mr. Robertson was again making paper. He also enlarged the grist mill under the management of Samuel Sager. Straw used for the manufacture of paper was now obtainable by canal boats. In earlier days it was poled down in flat boats from Mahoningtown.

Uncertainty exists as to what kind of a dam or dams were used at this place. The belief is that the first Adams dam was a wing dam extending only partly across the stream. Numerous of these were in use on the frontier at that time. It might have been a brush dam, where tree limbs and brush were fastened together with white oak withes and weighted down with stones. The debris of the current soon made a barrier which raised the level of the water. A brush dam ran John Wolf's mill just below the present Tenth Street bridge for several years about the same time.

It is further believed that one of Mr. Adams' sons made an improvement, extending the permanent construction from shore to shore. This is not unreasonable, for Robertson's hand bill makes no mention of the dam itself, and it is known to have been a permanent fixture when he began to operate his paper mill with water power.

A sad accident happened above the dam about 1850. Two young girls, daughters of Rev. Dr. Thrhart, who lived somewhere up the river, skated down to the mill for flour. Returning they both went through rotten ice opposite the old stone White dwelling in College Hill. Both bodies and the sack of flour were found together.

Martin Metzger and others under the name Metzger, Frazier & Co. were successors in ownership by 1876. It finally passed out of existence, though the ruins still remained a landmark for many years.