Joseph Dean and Son Woolen Mill - White Clay Creek Hundred - part III
Joseph Dean and Son Woolen Mill
A lot of the following text is straight out of Thomas Scharf's 1888 "History of Delaware".
I modified and added to some passages to better fit this posting.
On September 11, 1702, John Guest obtained a patent for a tract of land in White Clay Creek Hundred containing two hundred and twenty-three acres which included the site of the Dean Factory. On August 14, 1704, Guest sold this land to Samuel Lowan who May 19, 1715, sold it to Samuel Johnson. Johnson by his last will and testament bearing date April 2, 1737 devised it to his two sons, Napthaly and Daniel. On October 7, 1738, a division was made of the land, Napthaly taking sixty-three acres and twenty-six perches, the mills and other improvements, and Daniel the remainder of the estate.
The exact date of the erection of the mills cannot be determined, but it was some period between 1715 and 1738. On August 18, 1740 Napthaly conveyed the mills and his portion of the estate to Rachael Jones, a widow who afterwards was married to David Davis. The mills were in her possession until December 8, 1848, when she and her husband sold them to Edward Miles, who on April 16, 1759, conveyed them to John Smith. Smith was the owner of the mills for two years and then Andrew Fisher and Mordecai Cloud purchased them. The estate remained in their joint possession until May 5, 1763, when Mordecai Cloud sold his portion, which was a two thirds interest, to Moses Pyle. For ten years there was no change in the ownership. At the termination of that period John Simonton became the owner and managed the mills until 1806, when he sold them to Isaac Tyson. Benjamin Watson was the next owner, and in 1831 the mills burned, but were rebuilt by Watson. The succeeding owners were Dr. Palmer Chamberlin, James Kennedy and Samuel Thomas.
In 1845 Thomas sold the mills to Joseph Dean. During all this period the mills were used only as grist and saw mills, and did mostly custom work for the inhabitants of the western portion of the White Clay Creek Hundred. Mr. Dean, who was thoroughly acquainted with the manufacture of woolen goods, having been engaged in the business for many years in and around Philadelphia, determined to convert the mills into a woolen manufactory.
Immediately after the purchase by Dean, the buildings were remodeled, additional ones built and fitted up with the requisite machinery for manufacturing woolen goods. The enterprise proved profitable and in 1847 his son, William Dean, was made a partner and the firm became Joseph Dean & Son. Each partner agreed to take out five dollars per week, and, though William’s family then numbered five, they ended the year without a dollar of debt, and each partner received $120 as his share of the net profits.
For ten years business prospered, and the firm accumulated considerable capital, but the panic of 1857 swept away all the gains of a decade. Joseph never fully recovered from the shock, but William soon rallied, took the old mill, machinery and stock left, and entered upon another successful career. Joseph Dean died in 1861, and John Pilling, who had been many years with the firm of Joseph Dean & Son, was admitted to partnership under the old firm name. Due to government orders for uniforms during the Civil War, in 1863 the factory was inadequate to meet the demands and it was enlarged, making it a three-story building 160 by 60 feet. At this time $200,000 worth of woolen goods were manufactured per year and shipped to New York.
It was a pretty big deal in 1878 to have an "electric light" in a mill. 85 years later, when Ainsworth Abbott retired, he still didn't have electricity in his mill, or his house.
In 1882 the woolen factory was producing about three hundred thousand yards of cloth, and it was found necessary to increase their production by the erection of a new mill.
It was deemed advisable at this time to make it a stock company under the name of The Dean Woolen Company, and to incorporate it with William Dean as secretary and treasurer, an office he held until his death in 1887.
A stone mill one and one-half stories high was built, the one story being 220 by 50 feet and the half story 220 by 25 feet. Other necessary outbuildings were also erected and the capacity of the mill in 1882 was twice the capacity of the mill of 1863. $400,000 of woolen goods were annually produced and found a ready market in New York. The number of employees at that time was 175 and the business was managed very successfully and the factory run steadily until December 25, 1886 when the mills were totally destroyed by fire.
The mill was never rebuilt and all the business interests in Newark were affected by the loss of the factory. Many of the citizens of Newark became unemployed and moved from the town.
William Dean died soon afterwards, on April 12th, 1887. His obituary from The Morning News is at the end of this article.
One hundred years after the fire, in the late 1980s, the abandoned site was redeveloped into forty-eight apartments, along with shops and offices.