Powerville is the area located

around the Rockaway River’s

Powerville Dam. Although no

longer the industrial heart of

Boonton Township, several small

businesses still thrive here. The

industrial development of the area

goes back to the late 18th century

when foundries and slitting mills

were constructed to utilize the

black stone that the Indians had

been using to make axes. That

material is called magnetite or

iron ore.

By 1800 the area had begun to

grow. Conrad Hopler had not

only built a forge that was later

sold to Joseph Scott, but had also

constructed the first dam and

bridge across the Rockaway River

in Powerville. As a side note, it is

said that he was paid 3 bushels of

salt for construction of the bridge.

The bridge was built “towards the

close of the Revolution.” Shortly

after the war ended, he built the

dam across the river just above the

bridge. He owned not only the

forge, but also an extensive tannery.

In 1822, William Scott cut, at his

own expense, a high bank road

from the falls in Boonton to his

forge and grist mill in Powerville.

Today that road is referred to as

North Main Street. The construction

of North Main Street was not a

risk, but a calculated business

proposition. John Scott, William’s

brother who served as an Army

Captain in the War of 1812, was a

Commissioner and Director of the

newly formed Morris Canal and

Banking Company and was a driving

force behind it.

The later dam built by the Morris

Canal and Banking Company

flooded the area, creating a basin

where canal boats could anchor for

the night, load and unload, and

dock for repairs. During the summer

drought, this reservoir fed the

canal through Guard Lock #11.

The dam is constructed of concrete

over a wooden interior. To enable

mule drawn boats to cross the wide.

expanse of river a bridge had to

be constructed. One hundred seventy

years after it was built, the

center support stone pillar can still

be seen today in the middle of the

river thanks in large part to the

Historical Society of Boonton

Township’s stabilization project

completed in 1999.

The above photograph,

obtained from the New Jersey

Department of State Archives, is

looking up stream from the dam

and shows the basin, with the long

mule bridge leading to Lift Lock

#10. The white building (middle

left) is the Righter store, now a

residence and enduring Powerville

landmark.

There were three locks located in

Powerville, two of them were lift

locks used to raise and lower canal

boats. The current Boonton

Township firehouse on the corner

of Old Denville Road and Powerville

Road sits on top of Lift Lock

#9. Lift Lock #10 was located

just across Powerville Road between

the road and the river.

Traces of Guard Lock #11 where

the canal and river met can be

found at Griffith Park; here the

canal ran directly in front of the

Powerville Hotel which survives

today as a multifamily dwelling.

This landmark building on North

Main Street served as an inn and

way station for boatmen and excursionists,also catering to local

and transient trade. Nathan Hopkins,

proprietor of the hotel, was an abolitionist. His young teenage

son, Charles, transported m.any runaway slaves by horse and carriage through dark and dangerous rural tracks to the next stop along the Underground Railroad. Boonton Township is one of seventeen communities in New Jersey that are official sites on the Underground Railroad.

Iron master William Scott built, in

1826, the “William Scott Mansion”

which was the largest house in the

area at the time. This impressive Federal

manor house still stands today, on the

Merry Heart Nursing Home property.

The Scott family operated a forge and

saw mill at what is now Griffith Park

and had interests in several iron

mines as well. The original forge,

believed to have been constructed by

Conrad Hopler in 1794, was purchased

by Joseph Scott, William’s father, in 1802. William is credited with expanding the business and acquiring significant investments in land. Following William Scott’s death the forge was taken over by his son Elijah and Thomas C. Willis. (Willis was the son of the

Superintendent of iron works in old

Boonton. He built three houses on

North Main Street that still stand

today.) The forge was operated by

using charcoal produced from local

forests as its heat source.

 

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