Lower Musconetcong Valley

A Drive in the Country

By Frank Dale

Taking Route 519 south from Alpha through Springtown, the narrow macadam curves west as it enters the lower Musconetcong Valley and joins Route 627. This, 627, is the route to stay with for 519 soon deserts us and goes off to Milford. Route 627 hugs the lower Musconetcong River for its last few miles of existence through a little-known collection of ancient settlements and beautiful farms.

As a lover and painter of old mills, Dan Campanelli was encouraged to seek out this mill in Finesville for painting by the woman who now owns and has started restoration of it.

The river is squeezed into a gorge in an area known today as Warren Glen, and the water leaves this gorge like a shot from a cannon. Colonial engineers, by some esoteric formula, measured water volume, drop, and velocity, and determined that the last few miles of the river, before it joined the Delaware, produced an amazing 1300 horsepower--a lot of horses in those days. Canny farmers were quick to harness this resource; dams and mill races were built all along the last few miles of the river's length. In the mid-1700s a water-powered forge was built just below the gorge. Iron ore called hematite was mined close by, wood for charcoal was in abundance as was limestone used in extracting the metal, and the water supply never failed.

Dan and his wife Marty stand in front of the mill holding one of the signs that explain the history of this and other sites in the Musconetcong River valley.

For generations the area was known simply as "The Forge". Barely down river from the forge a family named Hughes built another power dam and called this settlement, in all modesty, Hughesville. It would become a prisoner-of-war camp for British captives during the Revolution. Hughesville along modern Route 627 consists of a paper mill today and a collection of old-fashioned company houses, grouped together on the Hunterdon side of the river. A mile below Hughesville, past the Alba Vinyard on Route 627--visitors welcome-- is a collection of homes and other buildings known as Seigletown. The Seigles were German immigrants who established a pottery business here. The product was known as Seigleware and enjoyed a great popularity in its day. Just past Seigletown another forge called Chelsea Forge was built. A settlement here was established by the Fein family--locals always misspelled it "Fine"--and the prosperous town of Finesville was born. Members of this family built a grist mill, a saw mill, and an oil mill producing oil from flax seeds (called linseed oil). The village, today, is a collection of old stone homes that straddles the river, the hoary grist mill on the Warren bank. At the mouth of the river, where it joins the Delaware, a man by the name of Hunt built a saw mill and grist mill. Before 1800 three brothers named Shank operated a ferry here across the Delaware.

The forges were built just in time. When the Revolutionary War commenced, Washington relied on them for cannon balls. Wartime production flourished until the area began to run out of trees for charcoal. The trees became more valuable than the ore, and some locals were not averse to stealing one, now and then; a new crime was invented called "tree poaching". The accelerated production for the war effort also used up much of the available ore and the coming of peace saw a decline in production at these forges. The iron works at The Forge limped along for several years, producing pots and pans and other mundane objects for sale to the general populace, but the days of glory had passed. The same thing happened to the Chelsea Forge downriver at Finesville.

In the middle of the last century an entrepreneur by the name of John L. Riegel appeared on the scene. Riegel was interested in the manufacture of paper. A paper-producing plant here would be easily accessible to the two biggest markets in the nation, New York and Philadelphia; and the valley possessed an almost unlimited supply of pulpwood and water, both essential to the manufacture of paper.

Hunts Meadow: "Patriot Edward Hunt settled here on his father's 600 acres of land prior to 1772. In 1778, 60 cavalry horses belonging to the Continental Army were wintered here and 'returned in spring in excellent condition.' Before the Revolution, Edward began digging the mill race here. It is 8/10 mile long and once powered a sawmill and the gristmill that became the Riegel Paper Co."

Riegel's first plant was at the Finesville mill, but this structure, the former grist mill, was quickly outgrown. The second location was on the nearby Delaware at the site of Hunt's grist mill. Riegel established a paper mill here at a hamlet that is known today as Riegelsville. A bridge, replacing Shank's Ferry, crosses the river here into Pennsylvania to another village called Riegelsville, named for a son of John L.. The Pennsylvania town is larger than its namesake in Jersey and has several fine restaurants for the modern traveler. A hundred years ago this thriving Riegelsville was a stop on the Philadelphia-Easton trolley line; Route 611 here is still the quickest way to get to New Hope, downriver. On the Jersey side, River Road takes its sweet time threading its way between an abrupt embankment and the old Bel-Del line along the river before it finally arrives in Milford where it links up with more modern thoroughfares.

The paper business was so good that Riegel and some associates, in 1873, formed the Warren Manufacturing Company and located the main plant at the site of The Forge, upriver. A new dam was built with a one-mile millrace which operated two large water wheels. Riegel built a smaller plant at nearby Hughesville. The Lehigh Valley Railroad ran a spur to these locations.

The company built a village for its employees, a collection of commodius homes across the street from the plants. Each house was two-storey, with a full-width front porch. Shrubs and trees were planted around the homes and a paved sidewalk was constructed along the dirt road. The little one-room school at Hughesville was quickly outgrown and a new two-room structure was built across he street from the plant, at the site of the present school. Churches,stores and a fine hotel completed the village, the largest in the lower Musconetcong Valley. The factory town was called Warren Paper Mill at first but, later, the name was changed to Warren Glen, more descriptive of this hamlet on the banks of the Musconetcong.

The mills, perched discreetly on the Hunterdon bank, still depend on the river to operate, but have a new owner called FiberMark, Inc. The company town is nearly gone--with the coming of the automobile people didn't have to live where they worked. The valley remains much as it was almost 300 years ago, its small settlements clustered along the sparkling stream; its cultivated fields stretching up the gentle slopes on both sides of the river. And the river itself, whose power has brought centuries of life and prosperity to the valley's inhabitants still rushes down to the Delaware and Roebling's bridge.

The bridge over the Delaware at Riegelsville was built in 1904 to replace an older, covered bridge, swept away in the ferocious "Pumpkin Flood" of October, 1903. This new structure was built by the John A. Roebling Company, founded many years earlier by the man who built the durable Brooklyn Bridge. The Riegelsville Bridge survived the river's worst flood, the one spawned by Hurricane Diane in August of 1955.

More on Delaware Bridges...

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Comments

Sarah Richardson
03 Jun 2017, 20:15
I stumbled on this site and was delighted to see a resemblance to my father's hometown of Galeton< PA. I wrote a long memoir about the few times I spent there (I grew up in St. Louis) on their site. It was so much fun to see that other people shared the same kind of memories. Such a different time. Greetings to all of you who remember what is obviously a lovely town.
Nicole R Freeman
19 Nov 2015, 16:50
Does anybody know where I could find old pictures of Warren Glen NJ? Of the Paper mill and the houses that were across the street from the Paper mill please let me know thank you
Kathy "Rogers" Ball
19 Nov 2015, 06:36
I have enjoyed reading everyone's comments, I have many great memories. I remember riding the school bus and stopping at A farmhouse to pick up classmate Kenny Brown. I lived in Finesville in the fifties.
In September 2015, I met up with a friend Donna Vernon, who also lived in Finesville. we spent several hours in Finesville, walking around and talking to several of the people now living there. It was a very nice day, filled with memories of days gone by forever living in our hearts today.
My cousin recently found a picture in family photos . On the back it said our friends the Hamptons Finesville Nj. Does anyone know the Hampton family.
carolyn pursell
13 Sep 2015, 20:50
early in my childhood my parents rented from the stem family.a little white house across from the beauty shop my mom use to take me to straighten out my "own cut".playing with the neighbors -softball,football,fishing at the water falls,carefuly crossing the wooden platform at the water fall.buying penny candy at both huffy stores ,watching some cow give birth at the one farm near the one huffy store next to the smith home.trick -n- treating mr.jumper bike cycle shop(he and great aunt mildred would ride the bicycle built for two) next to the olah home.the pambianchi steak shop.the csordas gas station,once a ring was so tight on my finger that my finger swell and was swollen- mr csordas cut it off-not a cut on my finger he was so careful not to cut me with the hack saw!!the mativac supermarket store..the boys built a log cabin behind warren glen school(2nd one)my brother and other boys in age group playing football and there was no race problem there.we walk and played togather with no problem at all.school dances was so much fun.the Friday night Frenchtown roller skating bus.for a dollar the bus would pick us up from rieglesville all the way to Frenchtown.the large oak trees decorated with toilet paper at Halloween time.its sad good peaceful,comforting ,secure,life comes to an end.i also learn that warren and glen means the same to the scots and irish that settle in that area of a village that is 3.5 miles long and 1 mile wide.
Tara Andrews
02 Jul 2015, 10:43
My grandparents were Ken & Ellen Brown. I have been interested for many years about the sale of their farmhouse & property. I have many childhood memories & would love to see what has become it.
Nancy Lee (Kohl) Hodge
09 Aug 2014, 05:57
My Father, Roger Kohl, Inherited his property from his Father, Wilkis Kohl. I was raised in my father's home in Springtown and went to Warren Glen and Phillipsburg High. The property was illegally passed over to a person who never lived there, after my father passed away. I have many happy memories of playing in the Pohatcong Creek, I was always at the neighbor's home, Ken and Ellen Brown, who farmed the property behind my father's home. Also Kathryn and Russell Hamlin who lived also on what is now called, Brown's Lane, my Father's property actually was on both sides of the Rt. 519 and also Brown's Lane.
laurie gaunt
27 Jun 2014, 10:57
What can anyone tell us about the old Finesville Hotel? My husband and I lived there for a couple of years and some family members felt it was haunted.....myself included!
Ellanora (Campbell) Hamill
14 Sep 2013, 20:17
I have revisted this site many times and always enjoy rereading the article and what others have written. My sister Rene (Campbell) Brodeur wrote a great comment above which tells our story and several of the other comments were written by people I know and grew up with. I just passed on the link to a lot of my childhood friends and hope that some of them will comment too.
Chuck Breiner
16 Jul 2013, 18:53
My grandfather, uncle, brothers, father and I all worked for Riegel in Hughesville. Leo, my grandfather, was the first electrician at the mill; my grandmother (Carrie) and he lived in the wood-framed company housing on the southwest side of the mill. Later, they purchased (from Riegel) one of the company-built brick duplex homes along the Muskie, later joined by their eldest son (Charlie, my father)and my mother (Millie) as neighbors. Brothers Dave, Tom, Keith (Holtmeier), and I all worked some full-time or some summer (college) hours at Hughesville and other mills. Even our mother (Millie) had a brief tour of employment at Riegel-Hughesville.\r\n\r\nKeith, Dave, Tom and I, with much assistance from our parents, delivered the Easton Express and Delaware Valley News papers to about 30 customers when the plant was vibrant in supplying income to most of the local residents' wage-earning men. \r\n\r\nMy uncle (Bill, Charlie's younger brother and son of Leo / Carrie) learned to be the second generation electrician at the Hughesville mill, learning his trade from his father on-the-job. Bill and his wife (Dot) raised their two children (Patricia and Bill) in the same wood-framed house that Bill, Charlie, and their sisters (Jane / Rose) inhabited as children. Later Bill and Dot bought (from farmer John Bellis) a house lot on Bellis Road, living in a brick ranch on the hill above the village.\r\n\r\nIn turn, several of us enjoyed train rides on the spur that provided shipping of paper by rail. We build "huts" with Riefel lumber, played tirelessly in the river, swimming and boating (in makeshift water craft that generally sank), ice-skated on the frozen mill ponds and river, and tended gardens on Riegel property. Pick-up baseball and football games often brought school-holiday crowds of 40 to play games. There were even carnivals on Riegel property in Hughesville.\r\n\r\nA protected playground for village kids, Hughesville remains a world-apart, owing much to the patriarchal beneficence of the Riegel family and the UPW / AFL-CIO union members who worked for the mills.
B Pambianchi
08 Jul 2012, 15:40
We lived in Warren Glen until Summer of 1962. We moved when I was 8 years old. Attended Warren Glen Grammer School through 2nd grade. I have wonderful memories of Warren Glen including the grammer school and walking to school. Lots of kids. Playing in those big back yards behind Matviaks, our place, Crouse's, Olah's, and across the street. Back then, Warren Glen was a Norman Rockwell type town. I learned to ride my two wheel bike there. After all these years the memories are still with me. Many more memories.
Ron Titus
13 Dec 2011, 08:21
I am working with the PRRH of Phillipsburg, Phillipsburg Rail Road Historians, to save the old Hughesville Rail Station. Anyone having old photos or memorabilia of this structure please contact me
Nicole Renee Freeman
13 Jul 2011, 18:22
my father grew up in warren glen nj.His Father who is of course my granfather worked at the paper mill across the street from their house. im trying to find old photos of warren glen nj from the 1940s when my father and his siblings were children what did it look like back then and in the 1970s when my father used to drive my older brother;and i down to warren glen nj to visit our grandfather.my grandfather was my heart his last name was freeman that all i have to say.thank you
Jimm Grimm
25 Jun 2011, 22:58
I have fond memories of this area. I met my wife 47 years ago at the Riegel Ridge Community Center, during rehearsals for the musical Brigadoon. \r\n\r\nWhen I started working at Riegels Main Lab in 1960, the mill at Hughesville was one of only two mills in the world that could be run entirely on deep well water. Atmospheric atomic testing had put radioactivity in the worlds water supply; not much, but enough to fog photographic paper. Kodak and Polaroid relied on papers from Hughesville to keep their companies in business until the streams cleaned up enough to be used again. As a result, we all have photos from that era printed on paper. The alternate would have been glass, because photo grade white plastic had not yet been invented. \r\n\r\nI remember when the water of the Musconetcong ran black, blue, green, red, or whatever color was being run in the mill at the time. Later instead of dumping water directly into the river, they sprayed it on the hillside behind the mill, and the field took on the colors. \r\n\r\nThe mill at Riegelsville was both blessed and cursed making filter paper for gas masks during WWII (and maybe even WWI, but Im not sure), saving the lives of a lot of GIs. Riding on this success, they pioneered modern Automotive air, oil, and fuel paper filters, extending engine life from 40,000 miles in the 30s to 100,000 miles in the 70s. They also made some tough papers out of worn out blue jeans. The Riegelsville paper mill thrived, until the 80s. Then the EPA shut down the mill when Mercury residues buried deep in the settling pond were declared toxic. That Mercury had been used to prevent bacteria from growing inside the gas masks when they were not being used.\r\n\r\nThe people from this area did so many unusual, imaginative, and wonderful things! Somebody ought to write a book.
Genie Erck Grimm
25 Jun 2011, 22:15
What a nice nostalgic trip! I grew up in Holland Township, just up the hill from the Presbyterian Church on Church Road, just south of Riegelsville. I have fond memories of Riegel Ridge Day Camp,first as a camper, then as a counselor, with my friend, Louise Bidwell Fahey and several others. \r\n\r\nThat Community Center was ahead of its time. In the winter they flooded the outdoor basketball court so we could ice skate. My sister and I took our dog for obedience training there, too.\r\n\r\nI can remember walking along the railroad tracks in 1955 with my Dad as the flood waters were starting to recede.\r\n\r\nLife was peaceful and pleasant back then, and my younger brother and I could ride our bikes to Riegelsville and Carpentersville unaccompanied. \r\n\r\nThose were the good old days!
Barbara Davis McGavock
28 Jan 2011, 04:57
I grew up in Frenchtown in the house that my mother, Eleanor Roach Davis Lowery, was born in. Some of my best memories as a child was going on rides with my dad, Bob Davis, to the mills to check on various Riegle Paper concerns. It was also great to attend the summer day camp at Riegle Ridge were Louise Bidwell Fahey was my counselor for years. I learned many new things from this article and had many fond memories return.
J Cook
13 Aug 2010, 11:08
I grew up here in Warren Glen and loved every day of it. This has to be one of the most beautiful and charming places that I have ever seen. My father built our house on Cemetery Road and finished it 2 days before my 1st bday. He lived in that same house till the day he left us in 2008. This place only brings back wonderful, fond memories of home.
O.B. Clifford
04 Aug 2010, 12:49
Was a trasplant from Maine and started working in Warren Glen, Hughsville and Riegelsville Milla as Quality Control Supervisor in the early 1960's.\r\n\r\nBeautiful area and a great company with technical ideas that were tops for any paper producer in the world in those days.\r\n\r\nRiegel employed over 1000 people in the four mills (Milford being the largest) in those days. Where have all the manufacturing jobs gone? We all know don't we?\r\n
Sherid Adams
17 Jul 2010, 19:12
The mill that Dan and Marty are standing in front of is across from the house in which my father, Sherid Adams Sr. was born. My grandmother was Vera Adams/Pajor. We went to church at the Baptist church up the street. At one point the building was owned by a man named Bordon, a short Frenchman. He asked me to redo the windows. I was renting a basement in Riegelsville (where I grew up) and it was full of glass and a cutter. I agreed to provide new glass and unfortunately measured only one frame. There are at least fifty. The only one that fit was the one I did measure. Each window frame was different. It was terrible. Everyone was mad a me and I never got paid. One of the things my father told me was that Blackstone the Magician performed in that building when my dad was a kid. There you go. \r\nSherid Adams
Michele Ricciuti
23 Jun 2010, 17:30
My mom lived in Carpentersville....Apparently, her family moved out two weeks prior to the flood. The old house was carried down the river. They moved into a second floor apartment in Finesville, I believe and luckily the water didn't reach the second floor. A friend of my grandmother's welcomed them to her house on a hill to take refuge, while waiting for the water to subside.
Louise Bidwell Fahey
29 May 2010, 06:37
I used to live in Hughesville. My dad was superintendent of the mill. I learned somethings from this article that I didn't know before.\r\nI have many fond memories of my childhood in Hughesville and it is so sad to see the state of the mill.
Joyce Pursell Schauer
03 Nov 2009, 15:09
I enjoyed seeing the pictures and stories of the Hunt house (my grandmother was a Hunt) and also the story by C. Pursell. I also grew up in Warren Glen and the stories brought back many memories. Where did you live in Warren Glen. I moved away in 1966.
Tony Brown
24 Sep 2009, 08:56
I don't know If I said it already but ...Hey good stuff...keep up the good work! :) I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I'm glad I found your blog. Thanks,)\r\n\r\nA definite great read..Tony Brown
Rob
06 Sep 2009, 19:00
Beautiful area but I don't understand why at the intersection of 627 and 519 (heading south) there is a road sign telling drivers to turn down 627 to get to Milford? Clearly the safest way to get to Milford would be by 519. I'm sure New Jersey doesn't want a lot of people driving down a one-lane road just before you get to Milford. But I guess that Jersey for you.
Rene (Campbell) Brodeur
24 Jan 2009, 12:48
I grew up in Warren Glen in the same house my dad (Ted Campbell) was born in, and was in the first kindergarten class at the new Warren Glen School in 1953. When I was 11, our parents wanted to move "way over" the hill to Hunterdon Co. We lived on Hawk Schoolhouse Rd., and my sister (Ellie) and I graduated from DVR. Our older sister (Betty) went to PHS, and still lives in Phillipsburg. I have so many fond memories of the area, and still go back often to visit family and friends. I especially remember a huge flood in the 50's following a hurricane. I think I was 7. My mother, Emma Campbell, was a great help to her old neighbors in Carpentersville when their houses got flooded. I also still remember the wonderful water carnivals they used to have on the Delaware River in that area. \r\nDad worked at Riegel Paper in Warren Glen from the time he was about 14 until he had to retire in his 50's. His father, John, and brother, Forrest, also worked there. \r\n
cpursell
29 Dec 2008, 23:07
i grew up in Warren Glen and always wonder where the name derived from. i could understand the "glen"part but never where the Warren came from.i love Warren Glen.the warmth of the wonderful time of childhood and teenage years,the neighbors,and the natural beauty of the small 3 mile long town.ice skating on the river behind the Olah house,mountain climbing(both side of rte 519)baseball in the smith field.of course jumping on to the train as it pulled out of the W G papermill.fishing and reading my bible down at the dam(waterfall).can't leave out sleeping out in the back yard.when the neighbors boys would eventually sneak up with their bucket full of smash vegetables to dump on each other.\r\n\r\n
Wil Bullivant
22 Sep 2008, 09:53
I've lived beside the Musconetcong River for about 30 years now. It has been a wonderful place to raise a family. The river has been an important element in my life and has been a recreation source, classroom and place of enjoyment for my children and countless friends over the years.\r\nThanks to the work of the Musconetcong Watershed Association and numerous environmentally conscious citizens, the river should remain clean, free flowing and available for the enjoyment of future generations.\r\n
Bill Leavens
10 Mar 2008, 13:51
Nice article about the most beautiful river valley in New Jersey.\r\n\r\nPlease visit www.musconetcong.org to learn more about the river and the organization that is it's biggest advocate.\r\n\r\n
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