Finney & Fetter Saw & Feed Mill

The Finney & Fetter Saw & Feed Mill operated in Hopewell for over 50 years, from 1874 to around 1927. The mill was on the triangular property at the corner of Model Avenue and Louellen Street, now occupied by the Hopewell Borough Pump House.

The saw mill manufactured car, wagon, and ship timber, mostly for export, shipped all around the world. The mill provided jobs and business for the Hopewell area, “Hiring up to 25 men, they cut and planed quality hardwood lumber from the Sourland ridge, and ground farmer’s grain.”

Fetter Mill – looking northeast from Louellen St. [HHH 1897, Hw 1909]
Fetter Mill – looking southwest from Model Ave. – with tree trunk entering saw mill up an incline [Elaine Zeltner]

The first photo shows the two- and three-story mill building looking northeast from Louellen towards Model, and the second shows the opposite view looking southwest. You can see a tree trunk entering the second story of the building up an incline (like a giant pencil sharpener), to be sawed into boards and other products. The three-story end included the feed mill on its second story, and grain storage on the third story. The bottom floors were used for storage.

The operation was run by steam power, and located on the new railroad line in Hopewell, along the path of Model Avenue. The property also included storage sheds and barns for livestock for hauling logs.

== Read the full brief on the Finney & Fetter Saw & Feed Mill (PDF) ==


Finney & Fetter

The saw mill was built in 1874 by John Finney and A. G. Fetter. John Finney (1829-1894) was one of the wealthiest and most influential citizens of Lambertville, where he operated the Lambertville Spoke Manufacturing Company.

Lambertville Spoke manufactured products for carriage manufacturers and wheelwrights, including wheel spokes and rims, and felloes (the outer rim of a wheel, to which the spokes are inserted). It was “one of the largest mills of the kind in the country, having branch agencies all over the civilized world.”

Anthony G. Fetter (1835-1911), born Anton Gabriel Vetter in Germany, came to U. S. when he was 14 years old. He was first located in Stockton and learned the lumber business there. When the saw mill opened, Fetter moved to Hopewell and focused on the operation there, while Finney lived in Lambertville and focused on the spoke business.

Property with second mill building – Looking northeast from Louellen (horizontal below) to Model and the train tracks (diagonal behind)
[Hopewell Aerial 1932]

Fetter and the mill also contributed to Hopewell in other ways. Fetter was treasurer of the Hopewell Water Company from its founding until it was purchased by the borough. He also was president of both the Hopewell building and loan associations. The first telephone in Hopewell is said to have been in the saw mill, to signal when trains were available for loading. Fetter also is credited with originating Hopewell’s first street lighting system, using kerosene lamps. The sawmill also used its team of mules to keep the dirt streets passable by smoothing them with a big scraper.


The Original Mill Building

The mill shown in the photos is actually the second mill building, built after a major fire destroyed the mill and adjoining lumber sheds in 1895. The original mill building was built in 1874, described as a large frame building roofed with slate.

In the saw mill, logs were cut into planks, planks were cut into lengths and then sawed into other products, including felloes and hatchet handle bolts. Leftover material then was used to feed the furnace. The mill also sold left-over firewood.

Original 1874 Saw Mill [Fowler map 1887]
Original Saw Mill [Scarlett map 1890]

As shown on the Scarlett map, the east side of the building had an incline to feed wood into the saw mill. The southwest corner by Louellen also contained the Feed Mill.


Fetter and Kise

John Finney died in 1894, the same year as the fire that destroyed the original mill. A. G. Fetter continued the business under his own name, becoming known as the A. G. Fetter Saw & Feed Mill or the A. G. Fetter Hopewell Mill. 

A. C. Fetter died in 1911, and his family continued to run the business, while also looking for opportunities to sell it to settle the estate. In 1919, after being in the Fetter family for almost half a century, the property and buildings were finally sold by the estate in a public auction, which included the mill, machinery, barns, a team of mules, and related supplies.

Public Sale
[HH 2/12/1919]
Hopewell Pump House today, at Model (left) and Louellen (right)

The mill property was purchased by R. Scott Kise for $2860. Richard Scott Kise (1856 -1949) was born on a farm on Rileyville Road / Hopewell-Wertsville Road one mile north of Hopewell. (His father, Bloomfield H. Kise, operated the Kise Steam Saw Mill there from the 1860s until after 1880.) Kise ran the family farm there for many years, and also was a timber dealer. The newspaper article celebrating his 92nd birthday attributed his longevity to his “strong physical constitution” developed while engaged in the “rigorous job of log hauling from the Sourland Mountains” (and from farming).

Kise continued to run the saw mill until around 1927. The mill was wrecked by a serious fire around 1943, and Kise continued to use portion as wagon-house. The building and associated barns and shed were then demolished and removed in 1945.


Legacy

The Finney & Fetter Mill had a major impact on Hopewell, and even around the country and the world.

[Sanborn map 1912]

Lumber used for the New York Central docks in New York harbor was supplied through the Finney & Fetter saw-mill. The rudder stock for the “Meteor,” a vessel built for Kaiser Wilhelm and christened by Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, also came from this mill, while shipments to Australia and all parts of Europe, as well as England, were fairly frequent. But there was business nearby, too. Thousands of axe and hammer handles, made of Jersey hickory, were shaped and delivered to the Germantown Tool Co., Philadelphia; while apple wood went into Disston saw handles. Then prior to World War I, the mill handled a number of orders for walnut stock, cut to specified sizes. The wood was obtained largely in New Jersey, but some was bought as far away as Canada. Then came the war and the discovery followed that the walnut needed for gun stocks by the United States was not available, as Germany had been buying it up in advance. The mill also turned out hundreds of wagon wheels before the days of the auto.

Be It Ever So Humble, Dean Ashton, 1947

In Hopewell, the saw mill made the church pews used in the Hopewell Presbyterian Chapel in 1877. 

There was a time when the mill was the site of a thriving industry, with shipments that went all over the world. Then, too, the factory whistle, in the days before radios were known, used to be the signal for housewives and others to set their kitchen clocks at noon each day.

Be It Ever So Humble, Dean Ashton, 1947

== Read the full brief on the Finney & Fetter Saw & Feed Mill (PDF) ==

Thanks to Elaine Zeltner for information on Fetter and the mill photo.

See the 2008 HVHS Newsletter article – The Finney and Fetter Steam Saw Mill (PDF) – for more on A. G. Fetter and family.

We welcome more information, images, and materials to share on the mill, and other parts of local history.

1 thought on “Finney & Fetter Saw & Feed Mill

  1. […] is part of ongoing research along Model Avenue, including the Finney & Fetter Saw & Feed Mill (just posted), the Golden / Van Doren Lumberyard, and the […]

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