Friday, December 11, 2009

E.D. Jones - The World's Millwright

One of the most fascinating stories from The Paper Trail is that of Edward Dorr Griffin Jones, or E.D.Jones, as he and his business would come to be known around the world.

Just as early papermakers would locate their mills within easy distance of printers, it became the practice along the Housatonic River for businesses that serve the interests of papermakers to situate themselves close to their customers.

The most prominent in the valley was E.D. Jones, who set up shop in East Lee on Greenwater Stream a tributary of the Housatonic and home to several small mills. According to "The Jones Story" (1966) by Dwight E. Jones (no relation): "Every indication pointed to an association with Bradford M. Couch whose shop was located along the Greenwater stream, on the opposite side from what now is the East Lee Inn. The exact working relation which he had with Bradford Couch is not clear, i.e. whether Couch, who was about twenty-six at the time, had started a shop earlier; whether they were partners or whether he simply used the Couch shop for headquarters and to get some mill work done or timber that was to be installed in paper mills. In any event, from accounts passed down by word of mouth, E. D. Jones spent much of his time in these first years with his own tools doing millwright work in the paper mills."

The dam that powered E.D. Jones' millwright shop.

Jones was not the first to set up a service shop. There were several others up and down the Housatonic, so Jones had to excel in areas that others could not. He found his first major toehold building overshot waterwheels, largely constructed of wood, with the exception of the shaft; assembled in Jones' shop then taken down to be transported to and mounted in place on the main drive shaft of the mill.

In 1856, Couch sold his interest in the shop to Jones. Around this time, there was continued expansion in the paper industry, not only on Greenwater Stream, but on other waterways as well. "For a time it seemed that paper mills sprung up like mushrooms, all up and down the streams in Lee, Tyringham, Stockbridge, Housatonic, Great Barrington, and there were times when men, seemingly bemused by the lure of this industry, erected little "one family" mills on their farms and went headlong into the business, knowing little or nothing about it and prospering little or none," writes author Jones.

Most would come to rely on the services of E.D. Jones. And because so many did, in 1866, Jones sold his shop to two of his journeymen and moved his operation north to Pittsfield. In the 1880s, two of Jones' sons joined the business, which was now associated with iron founders Wm. Clark & Company, and building complete paper mills and, interestingly, school houses and freight elevators. The business was incorporated in 1896.

A wagon dumping jack made by E.D. Jones

The end of an era passed in 1905 with the death of E.D. Jones, but the foundation which he laid would prove solid for the future.

Stay tuned for Part II of the Jones story.

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