Down Johnsonville Road from the Emory Johnson Homestead in Moodus, East Haddam, is a surviving building of the Neptune Twine Mills, owned by Emory Johnson and then, after his death in 1896, by his son, E. Emory Johnson. The area around Johnson’s mills was known as Johnsonville. In the “Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Year Ended November 30, 1903” (printed in Public Documents of the State of Connecticut, Vol. I, 1903; published in 1904), a picture of the building is captioned “Neptune Twine and Cord Mill, No. 3, Moodus.” The report describes the other two mill buildings as follows:
The Neptune Twine and Cord Mills, Inc., property consists of two mills, the upper one of which was constructed by Emory Johnson. In 1862 he constructed this mill, and began the manufacture of twines, and though the civil war was then in progress this mill did a successful business, and was the only one in town in operation during the entire period. The lower mill, in which Mr. Johnson had formerly an interest, again came into his possession in 1867. This mill, which was erected by Mr. Johnson’s father-in-law (Stanton S. Card), is now known as the Neptune. The name of “Neptune,” as applied to these mills, was adopted in 1864. The upper mill is 34×80 feet on the ground floor, and has two stories. On the first floor is done the carding. Its motive power is a 36-inch turbine water wheel of seventy-five horse power. The lower mill is 36×80 feet, and has four floors: on the first floor, carding, etc.: second floor, the spinning; third floor, the twisting, winding up, and on the fourth floor, the packing, baling, etc. The motive power is water, and has a force of one hundred horse power. The mills employ forty hands and consume 19,000 pounds per week. They manufacture soft and hard twines, cable cords, etc., etc.
The firm was incorporated in 1902, and the present officers are as follows: E. Emory Johnson, president and treasurer; Matthew W. Plumstead, vice president; Elsie S. Johnson, secretary and assistant treasurer.
The upper mill, known as Triton, was destroyed by fire 1924 and the lower mill, dating to 1832, was also lost in a fire in 1972. The surviving mill building (No. 3) was built in 1899 and included the mill’s office and a Post Office. As related in Fibre and Fabric, Vol. XXXV, No. 908 (July 26, 1902):
Mr. Johnson takes great pride in the appearance of his property, and the village of Johnsonville is a model of neatness. The main offices of the mills are located near the Neptune mill and are sumptuous in their appointments. In the office building is the Johnson library, containing 3,000 volumes, opened in the fall of 1899, which is free to all the employees of the mills as well as to the employees of the other factories. There is also a smoking room in the building and a room where the records of the mill for 70 years are kept. All are neat and tasty in their appointments. Mr. Johnson’s enterprise is commendable and thoughtful in promoting the welfare of the employees of the Neptune mills and is appreciated.
On Johnsonville Road in Moodus, East Haddam, is an Italianate-style house built (according to the sign on the house) in 1842. It was the home of Emory Johnson, who owned twine mills near the Johnson Mill Pond across from his home. In the nineteenth century, Moodus was the “Twine Capital of America,” with twelve mills in operation. Johnson’s father-in-law, Stanton S. Card, owned the Neptune Twine Mills, which he left to his son-in-law at his death in 1867. Johnson had already opened his own mill, called Triton, in 1862. The area of worker housing that grew up around the mills became known as Johnsonville. The two mills continued to be operated by Emory Johnson and then by his son, E. Emory Johnson, who died in 1905. In the 1960s, the house and other Johnsonville properties were acquired by Raymond Schmitt and became a Victorian era attraction. Closed in 1994 and vacant for many years, the property was recently sold.
In 1836, Henry P. Haven (1815-1876; A biography of Haven by Henry Clay Trumbull, entitled A Model Superintendent, was published in 1880) established the Gilead Sunday School in Waterford. In 1876, Gilead Chapel was built at the corner of Foster Road and Parkway North to serve as the home of this interdenominational school. After the school closed in the early 1940s, the building was used for a decade by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints. Vacant several years thereafter, in 1969 it was purchased by Raymond Schmitt for his his Historic Johnsonville Village in Moodus in East Haddam. The building was taken down and reassembled in Moodus at the intersection of Johnsonville Road and Neptune Avenue.
Cotton duck (also called canvas) is a type of heavy cotton fabric. The Atlantic Mill, originally called the Atlantic Duck Company, was first leased in Moodus (in East Haddam) in 1852. Destroyed by fire in 1854, the mill was rebuilt and operational again by 1857. Closed during the Civil War, the mill later reopened and continued in operation until 1894. In 1898 it began operating as a twine and textile mill until it burned down in 1939. Surviving today in Moodus is the “Atlantic Duck Co. Mill House,” built c. 1855.
Yesterday I featured the Carriage House at Johnsonville, a now abandoned Victorian-themed village attraction in East Haddam originally created by Raymond Schmitt, founder of of AGC Corporation. One of the buildings that Schmitt brought to Johnsonville is the Hyde Schoolhouse. It was originally built in Canterbury between 1853 and 1863 and was said to have been discovered by Schmitt’s wife Carole in an abandoned state, surrounded by overgrowth.
In the 1960s, Raymond Schmitt, owner of AGC Corporation, an aerospace equipment manufacturer, purchased the former nineteenth-century mill village of Johnsonville in East Haddam and began to transform it into a 100-acre open air museum celebrating the Victorian era. As an attraction, Johnsonville did not keep regular hours, but was open to the public several days a year (most notably during the Christmas season when holiday decorations were on display) and for charity functions. For his recreated period village, Schmitt purchased historic structures from other places and moved them to Johnsonville. One of these was the Carriage House (built between 1870 and 1900) and an adjacent Livery Stable (built around 1920). They were moved by Schmitt from Winsted. Inside, he stored his collection of antique horse drawn carriages and sleighs, which were often used in carriage rallies and in rides for the public. After a disagreement with the town of East Haddam in 1994, Schmitt shut down Johnsonville and put the property up for sale. After his death in 1998, his estate sold off much of his antiques collection (including his carriages), several pieces of the property and even individual buildings. The remainder of the village has long sat abandoned and up for sale to potential developers. Thanks to Luke Boyd for introducing me to Johnsonville.
An Episcopal Society in East Haddam was formed in 1791 by members of the First Congregational Church, who perhaps left that congregation because of plans to build a new meeting house too far from the Connecticut River landings. In 1795, the Society built the first St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on a hill overlooking the East Haddam river landings. The current church building, at 31 Main Street, was consecrated in 1890. It was built on land offered to the church by Judge Julius Attwood. The church was constructed in an eclectic Victorian mode in which the Shingle style predominates. The church’s bell, acquired in 1834-1835, came from a Spanish monastery and bears an inscription with the date 815. After the congregation moved to the current church, the bell sat on a wall near the church until a bell tower was completed in 1904.