Rexleigh Marble Mill - Photography by Tim Patrick

Rexleigh Marble Mill

Rexleigh and Rexleigh Mill History

          James Turner and Joshua Conkey from Pelham, Massachusetts were the first settlers in this region in 1761. They were joined the next year by Hamilton McCollister. The first dwelling was a rough log cabin in the grounds where the Ondawa hotel now stands.

          In 1764 a patent of 25,000 acres was obtained – one half owned by a group of New England settlers and the other half by Oliver De Lancey and Peter Du Bois, two government officials. This patent was surveyed into 308 lots. These men last sold their shares to Reverend Thomas Clark, and his company of Irish and Scotch immigrants at a perpetual rent of one shilling per acre. Reverend Thomas Clark was the first {Presbyterian} minister in this area.

          It might be reasonable to presume this land was part of the sale patent where lots were purchased by the Clapp family. This land lies along the river, forming a boundary line to the township of Salem. In Asa Fitch’s notes, he states, “Major Stephen Clapp...long owned Salem lots 281, 282, 283, and the northern part of the large pine lot 302” Dr. Fitch also noted, “He divided his large property among his sons.” Later in these same manuscript writings, I find, “Esquire Constant Clapp, who kept his property the longest…. Now owns the Sherman H. Dole farm on the south of the mill.” (Dr. Asa Fitch, Photostatic copy of manuscript writings, 1849-1850, V1471 Washington County Historian Office, Hudson Falls, New York)

          Major Stephen Clapp came from Connecticut before or during the Revolutionary War. He was a soldier and won his title by active service. He built a mill in Rexleigh, which occupied 40 – 50 inhabitants, known as Clapp’s Mills. He died May 3, 1829, aged 76.

          Major Clapp used to boast of the importance and respectability of his sons – no other family of men in the country were comparable to them. Constant, a justice of the peace, settled on the other side of the Batten-kill in Jackson; Otis, a leading merchant with Dwally (the youngest son), settled in Essex County; Wheeler, better know as Colonel Ephram Clapp, of the war of 1812, manned the mill and distillery, finally moved to Pittsford near Rochester, where he opened a large store; Stephen Jr., a constable, lived on a good farm in Jackson; Samuel, also a constable, settled on a farm in Hebron and finally moved to Adrian Michigan. Miss Helen Green, a granddaughter of Stephen Jr. was the only descendant of the family in Salem. Major Stephen Clapp’s sons were the most prosperous men in the community.

          The celebrated Roger Clapp, who emigrated 1630, influenced his brother, Nicholas who came in 1633 and two of his five brothers also came. Thomas Clapp was the grandfather of Reverend Thomas Clapp, who was the president of Yale College from 1739 to 1766. I believe this Clapp to be a relation to Major Stephen Clapp. Isaac Clapp is presumed to be some relationship to Stephen Clapp also. Asa Fitch bought Isaac Clapp’s farm about 1824 because Isaac became addicted to intemperate habits.

          The Clapps maintained a saw mill, a grist mill, and a woolen factory. The “Clapp flock” formerly ranked as one of the four best flocks in the country. The low price of wool for several years had endured Esquire Clapp to sell out. There were 13 woolen manufactories in operation in the country at the present time. Clapp’s mills produces 10,000 pounds of wool. All of the establishments were chiefly occupied with “custom work”, that is wool brought in from the neighborhood to be manufactured into cloth and flannel for family use.

Number of sheep in Jackson

6,046-1825

13,039 1835

16,308-1845

Salem:

10,599-1825

21,848-1835

25,422-1835

(Dr. Asa Fitch, Survey of Washington County, 1849, page 957)

          It’s later manufacture were the sawed marbles of the Baxter Manufacturing Company who built the marble mill in 1865 to saw their Rutland Marble Company, (Gazteer of Town of Washington County, 1871-1872.) The marble to build the mill in Rexleigh was transported from Rutland to the mill by the Washington and Rutland Railroad. John Baxter owned and operated the mill. Clapp’s Mills became known as Baxterville. “A sharp blade of steel with no teeth was used to cut marble . Sand and water ran on the blade. It sometimes took two days to cut through a block of marble.” (Earnest Cleveland, interview by John Patrick, Salem, New York, 11:30 AM, April 15, 1967)

          At the same date the Clapp name is found owning and operating a coal and lumber yard.         

          Frank H. Graham. my great great [written by John Patrick my great uncle], purchased the Baxter Marble Mill from John Baxter. Frank Graham was a lawyer and a former principal of a seminary at Fort Plain, New York. He sold his lot of 300 acres to the Trustees of Rexleigh School June 18, 1890.

          “St. Paul’s Parish School was opened in Salem in September, 1882, under the charge of Reverend J. H. Houghton. Thirty-two students were enrolled. In 1883-1884, about 80 students were in attendance. Three boys were taken into rectory and thus a boarding school. St. Paul’s Hall came into existence and the rectory was later enlarged to accommodate . In 1889 it was apparent larger quarters were needed and in 1890 the Trustees bought 300 acres of property from Frank Graham about three miles south of Salem. It was named Rexleigh. Rec meaning king and leigh meaning meadow. The hope was that the splendid site would soon be crowned with a school worthy of the “King’s Meadow.” (Harriet Williams, Salem Book, 1896, page 135)

          In 1892 it was clear that the school could not continue in Salem with success. After the school year 1892-1893, under the charge of Mr. A, C, Arnold, the school was closed until the money should be forthcoming to build at Rexleigh, on a more extensive and lasting plan. The estimated cost of the school to build in Rexleigh was 100,000 dollars. All that was needed at the time was 75,000 dollars.

          A leaflet entitled “The Sowing of the King’s Meadow” was printed. (T. A. Wright, The Sowing of the King’s Meadow, 318 Calal Street, New York) The following letter was enclosed:


Bishop’s House

Albany, Dec, 1890



Reverend Hohn H. Houghton,    

 My dear brother,          

         I I feel that your success in establishing, almost unaided, a school which commands such patronage as your cataloger shows, ought to receive the most cardinal recognition from your bishop.          

         In identifying myself under corporation with it’s future at Rexleigh, and thankfully accepting it as the Diocesan school for boys, I feel that we are merely transplanting your vigorous work’ not confining it to the Diocese of Albany, but making it a permanent foundation for the whole church…          

          I pray God to grant you your heart’s desires in the securing of noble buildings worthy of he beauty of Rexleigh and in the increase and establishment of the school. 


Your faithful brother,

William Croswell Doane

Bishop of Albany

(Personal letter from William C. Doane, Bishopof Albany, to Reverend John H. Houghton December, 1890.)

          The plans for the school included a kitchen, laundry, scullery (pantry), servant’s hall, dining room, library, common room, a hall, reception room, large school room, recitation rooms, laboratory, small library, main hall, another kitchen and dining room. In a separate building there were plans for a chapel, chair room, sacrisy (basement), a playroom, drying room, laundry, bakery, (second floor) three master’s rooms and fifty eight other including baths and servant’s quarters. The legal corporate name of the institution was “Trustees of Rexleigh School”. Reverend John H. Houghton was rector and James Gibson of Salem was treasurer. Enough money could not be furnished to pay for the necessary expense.

         The mortgage was foreclosed and land lost to George Brockaway in March, 1896. Mr. Brockaway ran the mill for a short time. He made very high grade woolen underwear, Bennington underwear. A sign said Marble Knitting Mill in black letters on the white marble. Green ivy vine trailed over the building, making it very beautiful. Smith and Temple were running the mill for Brockaway. Mr. Brockaway found lived where Margaret Maxwell lived. The property in Jackson at this time belonged to Frank Cleveland.

          George Brockaway sold the area to Clinton Van Vliet June, 1, 1910. For a while shoddy rubber boot linings were made. Later the Bartlett Scythe Company took over and made hand scythes, grass hooks, and similar tools. The Worthington Manufacturing Company tool over from Bartlett. They made a few scythes, machetes, sugar cane knives, and grass hooks. Steel which came in by the railway was tempered there. It is believed that Worthington closed down because they could not compete with German knives after the war. The Adirondack Manufacturing Company, Inc, bought the mill and the surrounding area March 8, 1921. Remington Arms wanted to purchase the mill and make jackknives at one time but the deal did not go through because they could not agree on price.

          “At one time there were twelve other houses, 200 workers at on time in the mill. They ran three shifts a day. The foundation on the right as you go toward the bridge from the Salem side was a blacksmith shop. I have found ox hoes by it.” (Earl G. Flemming, interviewed by John Patrick, Salem, New York, 8:30 PM March 17, 1967

          Marble from the south end of the mill was taken over to East Greenwich for the wall next to the road by the school. The rest of the building used to come out to the driveway with a courtyard in the middle. Supplies were piled in the middle. A freight-house approximately thirty feet by fifteen feet was located by the railroad track. Later this was torn down. There used to be an old boarding house which faced the road, it had nearly thirty rooms. Thelma Green can remember playing there and going through vacant rooms when she was a child. Frank Reading ran the boarding house.

         Twice there used to be a post-office in Rexleigh, but each time it closed down, possibly because it was not receiving enough service. The little concrete building which is toward Shushan from the mill was used to store gasoline. The Bartlett Company built it because of safety reasons. The gas was used to wash the metal scythes before painting to take the oil off.

         There used to be a flag station which held a bracket for a flag. The milk station was a platform where milk was taken onto the train. A depot was about twelve by sixteen feet, seventy five feet long. It used to set on a marble wall but was moved to the railroad crossing.

          “Farmers used to take their milk to Rexleigh for years. Stewart Green, father of Francis Green, ried milk to the station for farmers around the locality for some time. While doing this he had an accident when he was smashed into by a train, hurting him and damaging his vehicle. The train struck with such impact that the milk cars were cut in two. Stewart Green was one of those who worked in the mill before he went into service in 1913.” (Nellie Green, interviewed by John Patrick, Salem, New York, 2:00 PM, April 3, 1967)

          On another occasion, a freight train loaded with marbleized slate ran into the rear of a milk train in Rexleigh. E. Smithe was the engineer. Three people have drowned in Rexleigh, two suicides. A young girl named Blanchfield, dressed in a Sunday white dress and white hat, carrying goldenrod, drowned herself by jumping off the side near the bridge and into the river.

          There used to be a district schoolhouse by the junction of route 22 and 29 next to where the bottled gas plant is now. The Rexleigh children used to go there to school.

          The Adirondack Manufacturing Company sold out to CMM Corporation May 17, 1925. On a map in our possession, which is a photocopy of property purchased from C. Ashley and wife by CMM Corporation, a sketch is drawn of the crest dam, island, tail race, engine room, open court (with small building in it), large building in-closing court, a building over the tail race, two small buildings, a warehouse, a shed next to the road on the other side of the railroad tracks, a restaurant with a porch, and three small houses – one by the bridge, and two in the field near the railroad tracks.

          There was a great flood in the year 1927. The dam above the mill partially went out. It went completely out in the flood of 1938.

          The CMM Corporation sold to the New York State Hydro-Electric Company, Inc. From there it was sold to the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation on December 30, 1930. John and Dorothy Hubbard purchased the land and mill from the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation on April 24, 1945. The Hubbards sold everything they could out of the mill. Most of it went for old iron, The floors were torn out, the building was partially taken away.

          John and Dorothy Hubbard sold the lot to Mr. and Mrs. Curtis E. Patrick, my parents. My father [written by my great uncle John Patrick] restored what he could and replaced the floors in the mill. He raised about 7,500 chickens in the mill. He went out of the poultry business in 1956, it has remained idle since.

          Almost all of the old houses and buildings have either been torn down or burned. At the present time [1967] there are only five houses in Rexleigh on the Salem side of the Batten-kill. Halloween night, October 31, 1966, the large barn next to the covered bridge burned down. It was on the Jackson side of the river, and was owned by Howard Cleveland.

         

          This history of Rexleigh and the Rexleigh mill is a retyped copy of a paper that was researched and written by my great uncle, John Patrick, in the year 1967.


          The Cambridge Pottery company (Rexleigh Potters) operated in the mill starting in 1967. It was run by John Oakley and E. Donovan. They created ceramics and pottery which was sold both locally and brought to New York City to be sold. In 1976 , their last year of using pottery in the mill, there was a fire that did a large amount of damage to the property. In 1991 their was another fire at the mill that damaged to mill further to the point of no longer being usable.


         Since the Rexleigh mill was donated to the Battenkill Conservancy in 2016, their focus has been to clean up and repair the site. Ultimately they plan on creating a permanent public access point to the river while preserving and restoring this beautiful piece of Washington county history. Currently they are working on getting the site on the state and federal national register of historic places. Their next step is raising funds to secure the marble walls and create a riverside pavilion. Any and all donations to this the Battenkil Conservancy are key to preserving this site. For information on donating or getting involved please visit their site: battenkillconservancy.org


Special thanks to Judy Flagg of Salem, NY for helping with the research, and to John Patrick and the rest of the Patrick family for helping with the history.


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