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An Axe from Clayville, NY

In 1804, David Johnson Millard was born to Charles and Rebekah Millard in a home near Delhi, in present day Delaware County, New York. His father was a blacksmith who forged tools in a small mill along the banks of the west branch of the Delaware River. Shortly after David’s birth, his family found it advantageous to relocate, and they settled in the Sauquoit area about 70 miles north of their former home. The area was rich in flowing creeks of the correct size to run mills by water, and at the time had a number of small factories that were producing shovels, rakes, forks, and other agricultural implements on a moderate scale. Charles and his brother, Amasa, took to making scythes alongside the other local manufacturers. D.J. Millard spent his youth in the Sauquoit Valley surrounded by tool production, and was blessed with a little brother named Sterling Armstrong Millard on July 7th, 1810.

Sterling Armstrong Millard

Around the mid-1830s, D. J. and S. A. Millard, who had been working alongside their father and uncle for a few years, decided to start a scythe business of their own. To that end, the brothers set up shop in a narrow portion of the Sauquoit Valley in a mill built in 1814 as the Cobb and Robinson Shovel Factory. The shop had been converted to a scythe manufactory in 1818 by Davis and Bowles and was well equipped for the Millard’s needs. The company that was operated by the Millards was known as the “Paris Furnace Company”, and despite being a project of both brothers, it was headed by D.J.

The area grew quickly as the new company flourished, and the area soon became known as “Paris Furnace Hollow”, and then just “Paris Furnace”. Sterling’s family prospered, and he and his wife, Cornelia, saw the birth of their first son, Charles Sterling Millard, in 1840. David seemed quite good at running the business, setting up an office and employee store, and marketing his goods in a highly effective way. Within a few years of the start of manufacturing, his wares had won top prizes at a number of local and national exhibitions, and had a good reputation nationwide. He tended to employ quality men, one of whom was Joseph Howard. Joseph was a local of Paris, NY, and was well liked. He became the head clerk and manager of the Paris Furnace Company store. Though not notable in respect to axe history, Joseph is worth mentioning as his daughter, Roxana, would be the mother of Asa Gray, arguably the most notable American Botanist of the 19th century.

Asa Gray

Despite success, David J. and Sterling A. Millard parted ways around 1847, with the younger brother setting up his own shop. The new business was called “S.A. Millard and Company” and was located a short way upstream from his brother’s factory. Sterling’s success was slower to build, and his investment was buffered by those of others, leading him to have numerous partners. One such partner was a young man named John Milton Butler. Butler had a short-lived involvement with the early company, signing on in 1850 and then leaving in 1852 after health issues caused him to focus his attention elsewhere. After Butler’s retreat, Phillip C. Curran was Sterling’s primary business partner for quite some time. Despite a steady rotation of business associates, Sterling’s Family continued to grow, with the addition of 3 daughters: Julia, Jeanette, and Eliza, and 2 more sons, George Arthur and William Josiah. David would have no sons, but would be blessed with 5 daughters.

In 1861, as both the Paris Furnace Company and S.A. Millard and Co. were growing in popularity and profitability, the country entered the American Civil War. Though many New Yorkers would join the Union Army and head off to battle, the troops needed to be supplied with the necessities of war as well. Like many other tool manufacturers, including the Collins Company, the Paris Furnace Company was given a chance to help supply the tools needed for successful campaigns. In 1861 or 62, D.J. Millard, with the assistance of a German sword make in his employ, successfully gained a government contract for 10,000 model 1860 Calvary Sabers. This was one of many contracts seeded out to a number of tool makers, and though records would show that the company would produce 10,031 swords under the contract, this would be the smallest of such contracts for the model 1860 sabers during the War. The Paris Furnace Company’s reputation for exceptional craftsmanship certainly would have helped in gaining the contract, and the swords that were produced were noted as being of exceptional quality.

Along with the bulk contract of Sabers produced by D.J. Millard, another sword stands out in history as being the product of he and the Paris Furnace Company. On January 16th, 1862, John L. Worden took command of an Ironclad Warship named the USS Monitor. Though it was still under construction in New York when he took command, Worden immediately took ownership of its commission and oversaw its completion. When it was completed, he immediately set sail for Hampton Roads, Virginia, where, on March 9th, 1862, the Monitor encountered the CSS Virginia, an Ironclad build on what remained of the scuttled USS Merrimack. The battle that ensued lasted 4 hours, and was considered the first battle between iron warships in the history of mankind. Though both ships were forced to withdraw, Worden was injured by an exploding shell, leaving him partially blinded. Despite no absolute victory, the occasion, and Worden’s bravery, did not go unnoticed. President Lincoln himself visited Worden in the hospital while he was recovering from his wounds, and the State of New York Commissioned the construction of an ornate commander’s saber for the hero of the day. The saber, assembled and finished by Tiffany. & Co, measured in at 37-inches, was inlaid with gold-and-silver, and was etched with Neptune, God of the Sea. The blade itself was crafted by none other than D.J. Millard at the Paris Furnace Company.

John L. Worden with the D.J. Millard bladed sword

As the War came to a close, business in the U.S. boomed with the economy that only a war can provide. Both D.J. Millard and S.A. Millard came out of the war prosperous, and with a more assured wealth, they were both free to expand their businesses and watch them grow. Both men would patent ideas that they would use in their businesses. D.J. Millard would work on an alloy that was resistant to break down by salt water and acid, and would apply it to both roofing and the lining of pipes. There is no evidence of a patent for that invention here in the US, but he was able to obtain a patent in Europe. S.A. Millard would patent a process for rolling hoe blanks (#74570), a machine for rolling hoe blanks (#80083), and a scythe blade design (#227,033). As the brothers came into the later years of their life, there was no doubt that both, and their respective companies, were successful in their endeavors. By 1869 Paris Furnace Hollow was being referred to as the village of “Clayville” (after Stateman Henry Clay) and boasted a population of 1,200 citizens. By then the Paris Furnace Company was headed by David J. Millard as President but also had Samuel Jones Look as its secondary investor and Secretary and Treasurer. However, S.A. Millard and Co. was now headed by Charles S. Millard, who had taken over for his father, and Phillip C. Curran following as a secondary partner. Both companies were noted as manufacturing about $100,000 worth of agricultural implements (forks, hoes, scythes) annually, with about $50,000 in capital each. Neither, at the time, were noted as producing axes. Sometime after 1870, the Paris Furnace Company was sold to B.F. Avery and Sons. Numerous sources note that later in life D.J. Millard struggled with stress, and spent time in a local treatment facility for citizens with mental issues. This may have been a factor in his selling of the company, and as he had no male heirs, the choice may have been the only one he had. He would pass away within a few years in 1875. Avery was a native New Yorker from the Aurora area who had amassed a large fortune selling plows and other hardware in Louisville, Kentucky. He was also the brother-in-law of Samuel Jones Look, having married Look’s sister Susan while she had been teaching at the seminary in Utica earlier in life. Avery may have looked at the newly acquired works as a New York production facility, as he had similar in Louisville, Memphis, Shreveport, Dallas, and Oklahoma City, or he may just have seen it as an investment to help out family. Regardless of the reasoning, he was listed as President of the company from the early 1870s through 1881. However, during that time, the company was also continuously listed as for sale. Unable to find a buyer for the “investment” they had made, the Paris Furnace Company facilities, assets, and land was auctioned off to the highest bidder on June 6th, 1883.

Shortly after the auction of his brother’s company, on November 4th of 1883, Sterling Armstrong Millard left this world. His company, well under the control of his eldest son, Charles Sterling Millard, was navigating through an era of political and economic unrest. Much like the rest of the American industrial world, the company found itself the target of financial panic based upon the formation of trusts, price decreases, and tariffs. In order to bolster support, in 1884 the S.A. Millard Manufacturing Co. became a member of the “Hoe and Fork Maker’s Union”, which at the time included the Ashtabula Tool Company, the Geneva Tool Company, and the Ely Fork and Hoe Company (all who would eventually become members of the American Fork and Hoe Company) as well as Lane and Gale of Troy (G.T. Lane would be the first VP of the American Axe and Tool Co). At this time, I am unsure if the Clayville Manufacturing Company was the purchaser of the Paris Furnace Company, or if it was held by other investors prior to the formation of the new company. However, by the end of the decade, the property and facilities that had been built and maintained by D.J. Millard and the Paris Furnace Company were under the control of the “Clayville Manufacturing Company”, of which very little is known. It is known that Charles Sterling Millard’s younger brother William Josiah Millard was a lead investor in the company, and held the position of Secretary and Treasurer for the extent of the company’s lifespan (He may well have held that position for the S.A. Millard Company as well). The company’s primary concern was the production of axes. It is also known that W. J. Millard joined the “Central Steel Goods Company” as its Treasurer at the same time the Clayville Manufacturing Company began production of axes in 1890. This combine was the association of 5 agricultural implement manufacturers that attempted to gain a business charter from state of New York but with an intended sales office in Chicago. The intended agricultural combine caught the attention of the United States Government, and at the same time the American Axe and Tool Company was battling scrutiny as a trust by the Congressional Anti-Trust Committee and was labeled suspected trust “#2”, the Central Steel Goods Company was listed as suspected trust “#29”, the “Fork and Hoe Trust”. Due to its view as a suspected attempt at a trust, the Central Steel Goods Company was denied a charter and never incorporated, leaving its constituents as individual companies. As listed in the 1891 Utica City Directory, the Clayville Manufacturing Company, Axe Manufacturers, were managed by superintendent Archibald Raleigh. Raleigh had been an employee of the Francis Axe Company until its absorption into the American Axe and Tool Company, after which it would seem that he took up work in Clayville.

The early 1890s were a tough time to try and start an axe business. Between the involvement of the American Axe and Tool Company and the political wars that the tariff situation had created, many medium to small axe makers, even those who had been around for quite some time, were finding it hard to pay the bills. Due to this, it’s not surprising to note that by 1893, the Clayville Manufacturing Company was already in need or reorganizing. Literature notes that in March of that year, the company was re-incorporated as the “Hubbard, Babcock, and Millard Axe Company”. Oddly enough, the “Hubbard” portion was noted as “John U. Hubbard of Clayville”. No historical records or city directories note a John Hubbard living in Clayville for any of the years they are available for. John U. Hubbard of “Hubbard and Blake” of Oakland, Maine, would have been going through a period of insolvency due to financial issue after selling out to the American Axe and Tool Company, though he may have been convinced to be an investor. Hubbard had spent time in Troy as a scythe maker in his youth, and would end up in Massachusetts in 1901, so it’s likely that the John U. Hubbard noted as a member of the new axe manufacturing company of Clayville was one and the same.

Unfortunately, the economic hardships of the times would catch up with all the manufacturing companies of the Clayville area by the mid-1890s. Not only did the “Hubbard, Babcock, and Millard Axe Company” of W.J. Millard fold, but so did the S.A. Millard Company of C.S. Millard. Both companies were bought at auction by none other than John Milton Butler, the same partner of S.A. Millard from the 1850s who had withdrawn due to health issues. Butler, after recovering his health, had become quite wealthy as the president of the local bank. In March of 1896 he would buy both of the Millard companies, effectively closing the era of manufacturing for the Millard family.

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