Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chillas Family/Roseville Follow-Up

David Chillas' notice of starting his own business
In the last post about Philadelphia lithographer and MCH farmer David Chillas, I made several working assumptions regarding the Chillas family's ownership of property in and around the Roseville Cotton Factory area, just east of Newark. This post seems to have given Donna Peters just the excuse she needed (which is very little, to be honest) to dig through an online database of old newspapers in search of more. In her normal fashion, she came up with a few interesting finds that I think fill in a few more of the gaps in our knowledge.

The first of these (seen above) doesn't really tell us much more than we already knew, but I think it's neat nonetheless. It's an ad placed by David Chillas in the April 19, 1853 edition of the North American and United States Gazette advertising the fact that he was now doing business on his own, after the dissolution of his partnership with Alphonse Brett. He's basically just letting people know that he's working by himself now, and doing business out of the "New Girard Building", 50 South Third Street.

While the Chillas notice is interesting, the other two are far more informative. As often seems to be the case, though, they're illuminating -- but not as much as I wish they were. I'll lay everything out and let you decide, but I think they do help to tell a bit more of the story of the Roseville Cotton Factory.

In the original Roseville post we saw that our knowledge of the ownership of the factory was almost always sort of a hit or miss thing. It seems to have changed hands numerous times, and often we go a decade or so between mentions of who the manager or owner is. The 1832 McLane Report seems to show that Harry Connelly owned it at the time, and his story is chronicled in the other post. The next mention I've found is from February 1841, when the Roseville Manufacturing Company was incorporated. Unless I'm misunderstanding it, complex was owned at that time by Thomas Cooch. As of the last post, all I knew after that was Hamilton Maxwell's involvement and that the Chillas family seemed to own at least part of it later on. Thanks to the two newly-unearthed newspaper ads, we can at least narrow down the Chillas' role a bit.

The first, shown below, comes from the June 5, 1843 edition of the Boston Courier. (If it's hard to read, you can click on it to see a larger image.) It's a notice of sale at auction for "All that valuable estate known as Roseville", including a farm, saw mill, grist mill, factory, over 30 residences, and numerous other structures. It's said to be about 207 acres, 150 of which is cultivated. The ad doesn't specifically state who the owner/seller is, but at the bottom it reads, "For further particulars, apply to Arthur Chillas, Roseville". At this time Arthur Chillas (David's older brother) was the president of the North American Coal Company, and had his (at least primary) residence in Philadelphia. But since the ad lists him, and lists him as being of Roseville, I think it's fair to assume that he owned the property then, probably buying it from Cooch sometime in the previous two years as a business proposition. Meaning, I don't think he himself was running the factory or farming the tract. This also seems to indicate that Cooch's Roseville Manufacturing Company had a rather short run.

Another assumption I believe we can make is that Chillas was unsuccessful at selling the property at that June auction. The 1849 map still shows him as owning the property then, and at some time thereafter ownership shifted to his brother David. It should also be noted that it's in this period that the factory apparently suffered a devastating fire that burned it to the ground in late November 1844. It must have been rebuilt, because two years later comes the story of the storm that blew out 1000 of its windows. I can't imagine that a factory "burnt to the ground" would have 1000 intact windows to be broken. What's still not clear is if the factory was operating during this time, or if Chillas was holding it, waiting for someone to come a lease it or buy it from him.

Now, assuming that it was rebuilt after the 1844 fire, the last ad (below) seems to give us another piece of the Roseville puzzle. To be honest, I had to read it a few times before I caught it. What we have here is essentially an expanded version of the ad I included in the first Chillas post. It comes again from the North American and United States Gazette, dated March 1, 1864. It's similar to the last ad, but with a few notable differences. First, the ad is under the name of David Chillas, who sometime around 1857 seems to have purchased the property from his brother Arthur. This ad makes clear that David did not only buy the farm, but owned the mill complex as well. Instead of trying to sell it, this time David is looking for someone to lease the factory, or preferably join him in a business venture. I think the sell/rent difference here is because unlike Arthur in 1843, David is actually living on the property.

From the North American and United States Gazette, 3/1/1864

In my opinion, though, the most interesting bit of this ad is tucked in the middle, just about where you'd (or at least I'd) start skimming over it. "Mill, recently burned down, will be rebuilt by the owner for either Cotton, Wool, or Paper Manufacture." So it seems that the factory had another fire sometime after 1846. Without any more information I can only speculate, but I wonder if maybe the most recent fire spurred Arthur's departure. Maybe he decided he wanted out, and sold the whole thing to his brother, who himself was looking for a career change. I also wonder if this explains another odd thing I came across.

In the previous post, I mentioned finding where David had testified before Congress in some sort of investigation. The whole thing is not available online, but I saw one snippet where he was asked what his current occupation was, and he responded, "A farmer, of sorts." I wonder if the "of sorts" referred to the fact that he also owned a burned out (and presumably abandoned) cotton factory and mill town.

In any case, from the the last bit of information we had previously about Roseville, it seems reasonable to assume that it was soon after this 1864 ad -- maybe even in response to it -- that Hamilton Maxwell entered the picture. He's listed as the factory's operator in an 1864 tax assessment, but it doesn't seem that he was here very long. Scharf, writing in 1888, states that the factory "[...] was burned about twenty years ago, and has not been rebuilt". Other sources hint to an end date soon after the Civil War, too. David Chillas retained ownership of the entire 200+ acre property after its manufacturing era was over. A last piece of information uncovered by Donna would seem to fill in the last gap, at least as far as the 19th Century goes.

The 1881 map shows that Arthur Chillas, David's son, inherited the property. The 1893 map shows it divided between Arthur (with 100 acres) and an A.E. Wiegand (with the remaining 107). Donna came across a 1913 Death Certificate from Philadelphia for a Mrs. Frances Chillas Wiegand. Frances was the daughter of David Chillas, and the wife of Adam E. Wiegand of Philadelphia. Despite what one might assume from the 1893 map, Wiegand was not a farmer but a Conveyancer, if I read the cenuses correctly. This was a kind of real estate attorney, I believe. What I think happened was that after David's death, son Arthur kept the farm part of the tract and sold the manufacturing/milling part to his brother-in-law. Presumably Wiegand meant to resell it, but I have no further information at this time as to what actually happened. All I do know is that the property would never see a return to its industrial past. There is more to be learned about this property, but thanks to a few fortunate finds we have a bit of a better understanding of the history of Roseville and of the Chillas family.

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