Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Landscape and The Prallsville Mills

In 1720 Daniel Howell built what became the Prallsville Mills in Stockton at the confluence of the Delaware River and Wickecheoke Creek. It was one of the many water powered mills that introduced the early industrial revolution to western New Jersey. Rebuilt in the 1870s after a fire, it remained in operation until the 1950s. The superhighway of the early 19th century, the Delaware and Raritan Canal, was completed in the 1830s. It passed between the mills and the Delaware, providing transportation using barges and mule teams to move goods across the state to New York City. This was one of America's busiest navigation canals from its opening until the building of the railroad alongside it made it obsolete.

The tow path along which the mule teams, and later the railroad, traveled is visible in the lower right of the photo above.

The Delaware and Raritan Canal (foreground) and Delaware River (background)

Hamamelis virginiana (late January view) outside the mill

Knowing this is a part of understanding the landscape of this area. And how ironic it is to consider that this emblem of the early industrial revolution has come to be seen as a pastoral landscape.


  1. Very interesting. I love this kind of history. It is true that the more informed you are the more you will enjoy what you see. I like a story that is attached to something not so obvious to others.

    I had a grandfather of the time when transporting goods by steam ships and paddle boats was popular who made a grand living from the steamboat generation. His name was William Riley Bugher. He was a great boat builder. He ran several lines and was an inventor.

    His son another grandfather of mine is responsible for the waterworks development in my area of NC. He invented a great many of the water treatment practices that are still in use to this day. So from a father who built boats to a son who helped with our waters---they sure were attracted to water;)

    So your story just keeps on connecting and weaving.

  2. I have a fascination with water (probably because I grew up and live in a semi-arid region) and love visiting these old structures. Knowing the history of our interaction with water helps us understand its importance to our lives.

  3. Flowergardengirl and Susan,

    Yes, water is and has been very important in this place (over the ages in every place, of course, even in the arid parts of Texas). It's interesting to note that once the canal lost its original use, it became a very important part of the water supply of central New Jersey, and remains so. It was built mostly by Irish immigrants, by hand, in the 1830s, so life for the makers must have been rather miserable.

  4. Your photos are very atmospheric. Yes it is interesting how these buildings which were once industrial are seen as pastoral. I dont think that would apply to the industrial mills here in the UK as they are huge big brick constructions but even so they do create a sense of place.

  5. Patientgardener,
    I have seen abandoned industrial sites in Germany converted into beautiful, haunting, planted landscapes. It seems the human desire to recover and recreate ruined places takes many different forms.



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