Elktownship History Pages / WRIGHT'S MILL
History of the Settlements (Towns) in Elk Township
founded April 17, 1891
Wright's Mill gives its name to the corner on which is located the former mill, using water power, operated by the Wright family for four generations .
It is located on the corner of the Aura-Ewan Road and the Elmer-Richwood Road, and has been known for more than a century . This mill had been operated by water-power through four generations and was still operating by water into the fourth generation . It had been said that there were no more mills in South Jersey run by water and then Avis' grist-mill turned up, and then a water-powered saw-mill returned to claim its rightful distinction . In the same edition published in 1942 by Henry Beck, Mr.Beck was quoted as saying that " New Jersey Makes Tree Stands for All U.S " . "It is Wright's Mill , at the crossroads known as Wright's Mill for more than a century, and its chief product , believe it or not , is wooden tree stands for Christmas trees made of poplar, pine, and gum " .
" The mill itself doesn't boast the appearance of great age but that is understandable - the old mill burned down during the operation by one of the Wrights and was rebuilt . However , the same water from a little pond that , though far away, is the headwaters of Racoon Creek plunges through the sluiceway to spin the saws just as always ."
Mr.Harry E.Wright,Jr., the owner of the property then, turned out tree stands with the amazing dexterity that comes with long association with the process of the mill . He reveals himself as a quiet spoken man, taking the whole saga of industry for granted and plaintively satisfied, in a subdued kind of way, with the living his little business made for him . He was helped in the business by his son, Raymond .
Henry Wright, Harry Jr,'s grandfather, first took over the mill back in the 1880's or maybe earlier. Harry Sr., Henry's son, carried on the business until Harry Jr. came along. . "Never worked away from her more'n two months in all my life ", says Harry, with the kind of feeling in a boast known to be exclusive . Harry said that this little mill made the first truck baskets in this part of New Jersey .
"Granddad worked up a special kind of knife on a wheel" , Harry explained . "You set up a block the right size and a basket-stave was peeled off every time the wheel went 'round . One stave a turn, you see" . Henry Wright began, however, sawing out the staves for those first five-eights baskets . He made strawberry crates, too- and toys . It may be that some of the Christmas spirit that must have centered around the fashioning of toys, has lingered down through the years into the manufacture of tree stands . For Christmas was merrier because of trees that stood sturdier all over the country due to the work at Wright's Mill . "These stands go to all parts of the Country ", Harry Wright disclosed, "...Down the West Coast from Washington, out in the middle...West, lots of places . You see, we take time out from making tree stands; then, the week after Christmas, we start right in again . We make stands all year" , quotes Harry in the article of 1942 .
Making Tree Stands
When the water got low in the summer that changed things a little . Sometimes Wright's Mill made asparagus crates too . You had to have a good rush of water to turn out tree stands fast .
"The wood came from within 15 miles or so",said Wright . We used pine and gum mostly but poplar is easier to work with, even if it's a little more expensive" .
Until World War II came Wright ran another Mill, too, one with a tractor . Five men were employed there when men were plentiful . Consequently, the turnout was better, even on the 10 gallons of gasoline alloted per day . Up to 1941 Wright's Mills were turning out 3000 Christmas tree stands a week . With water power and Wright and his son the lone operators, they decreased to 1800 a week .
"They don't talk much, these Wrights . They smoke their pipes quietly, follow the old routine with a minimum of lost motion, saw the logs outside, rain or shine and then come indoors to prepare the parts of stands for assembling . They remark that the weather has been helpfully warm and delight in the little pot-bellied stove that will keep the mill snug when the storm windows go up as a sign that winter really is here " .
"There are memories, of course, memories of Wrights who knew their grade, Wrights who were able to turn out "Chair-ronds" with as much craftmanship as that required at a machine that used to put laurel together for holiday decorating . "Grandfather invented a wiring machine to do that", Harry Jr. said .
(The preceding was taken from article "N.J. Makes Tree Stands for all U.S.) published 1942 by Henry C. Beck, Camden County Newspaper .
At present the little Wright's Lake still runs past the old mill (Now closed) as a memento to days when activity engulfed the mill area . It is still owned by the Wright family . "Old Gloucester County" a compilation of historical data from the files of "The Gloucester County Historical Society" by Raymond Archut, Woodbury, writes advertising on October 23, 1870 .
"A Saw Mill, Small dwelling house, and 5 acres of land Nicely Timbered at Private Sale--Said Saw Mill is known by the name of Simpkins'Saw Mill, between Pittstown and Barnsboro', 2 miles from Union Station (Aura) . All the above property will be held at private sale allotted December 1st, 1870, and can be seen at any time by calling on the subscribers . If not sold by that time, it will then be sold at public sale, on the premises .
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