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The Jessup and Moore Paper Mills, Rockland and Augustine






Mill Seats on the Brandywine River - ca. 1816

The circa 1816 map, above, represents the Brandywine River from about King Street (Rt-13) in Wilmington, at the bottom, to Rockland at the top. Each of the little black dots represents another mill, even all the dots clustered on both sides of the river at the bottom. (Sorry it isn't clearer)

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During the 1820s, brothers Benjamin and Ziba Ferris operated a cotton mill and weaving factory, as well as a blacksmith shop, on the south bank of the Brandywine near the future Augustine site. In 1825, the cotton mill contained 600 spindles as well as carding engines and other cotton processing equipment. The equipment was sold in 1826, and the mill was listed as abandoned by 1832. According to an 1832 business survey, the cotton mill was located between Benjamin Wood's unused bark mill and Isaac Jones' snuff mill. Jones also ran a flour mill on the property.


Augustus E. Jessup and his partner (and son-in-law), Bloomfield H. Moore formed under the name of Jessup and Moore in 1843. They purchased the abandoned cotton mill in 1843, and it became the site of their paper-making operation. The Augustine Paper Mills, named for Augustus E. Jessup, was located on the Brandywine River, less than half a mile above present-day I-95.

Augustine Paper Mill - 1906

By 1854, the company had expanded into the former site of William Young's mill in Rockland, purchasing the improved property from Cyrus Hillborn after his textile manufacturing operation went bankrupt. The newer buildings on the site were used for paper-making, while Samuel Kirk's old cotton factory was converted into a stable. In 1877, a fire in one of the mill buildings led to a $250,000 loss for Jessup & Moore. Undeterred, the company built additional mills on both of their properties and also added a sizeable warehouse near the confluence of the Brandywine and Christina Rivers. Jessup & Moore used machinery built by Wilmington firms Pusey, Jones & Co. and J. Morton Poole, to manufacture high-quality book and magazine paper until 1933.


Rockland Paper Mill

During the Civil War, rags used in the papermaking process became scarce, so Mr. Moore and some others became the first in this country to manufacture pure cellulose from wood, which was then known as Bleached Soda Pulp. The Delaware Pulp Mill was built for this purpose, located where Mill Creek flows into the Christiana River, not far upstream from down-town Wilmington. It manufactured what a 1910 “Morning News” article described as “the highest grade of soda fiber made in this country, and has a product of 125,000 pounds (62.5 tons) per day. To make this quantity of pulp they consume about 100-125 cords of wood per day.” That would be a stack of 8-foot logs, 20 feet high and 100 feet wide. Every day!

Delaware Pulp Mill - ca. 1906
Delaware Pulp Mill - The Christina River is behind the mill and Mill Creek is on the left.

Alfred Jessup retired in 1870, leaving Bloomfield H. Moore in charge of the firm, until his death in 1879, when W. H. Sharp took over as president, with Eugene W. Fry as Secretary and Treasurer. In 1898, Augustine Mills was producing 50,000 pounds of fine book and printing paper a day.


March 5th, 1910 - The Morning News

Delaware Paper Mills, Inc. took over Jessup & Moore's original paper mill at the Augustine site in 1934. The company made heavy paper and cardboard boxes. Beginning in 1939, they leased the site to the Container Corporation of America, who were making sixty tons of paperboard a day within the next decade, and continued to make paper products at the factory until the early 1980s.


During the 1970s there were seven nineteenth-century brick and stone mill buildings still existing in the complex, some with original iron trusses. This included the original three-story mill building, also known as Building 7, erected from randomly laid stone with walls three feet thick, a slate covered gable roof, and an arched brick opening for the mill race. There were also various later two-level mill structures and support buildings. As of now Building 7 is the only surviving part of the complex. The property was redeveloped into a gated condominium complex in 1985. The oldest mill structure, Building 7, was converted for residential use, while the other six buildings were replaced by new construction.


Sources:

https://www.hagley.org/research/digital-exhibits

Wikipedia

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