If you live in Niles and you have not heard of the French Paper Mill, chances are you just moved here – yesterday.
The French family has been an intrinsic part of this community since Joseph W. French created our first industry in 1872 when “Bradner, Smith & Company, in connection with Mr. French, purchased a third interest in the water power at Niles, having previously manufactured the first wood pulp at Three Rivers. This was the first wood pulp made west of New York,” according to “The History of Berrien County.”
French was born in Oxford Township, New Haven County, Conn., June 8, 1833, the son of David and Elizabeth (Wooster) French. He was reared in Connecticut and taught school for one winter in his native town before moving to live with an uncle at Deep River, Conn. for five years.
He learned the trade of making paper boxes and then in 1854 moved to Three Rivers, Michigan where he purchased an interest in a manufacturing business that was devoted to the production of spokes and other carriage materials as well as making ax handles. Two years later he began the manufacture of wagons, carriages, omnibuses and hearses.
Julius D. Shailer of Boston was an associate in J. W. French & Company which carried on what History describes as “a very extensive manufacturing enterprise, which brought a gratifying measure of success.
“Mr. French was thus connected with trade interests until 1857, when he closed out the business and turned his attention to the manufacture of paper.”
Published August 1st, 2009