The Minisink Subscribers to the 1795 "Young Mill-Wright & Miller's Guide"

Mark Thomson, Esq. estate inventory

Browsing through Inventories, Volume A, 1803-1808, of the Sussex County, New Jersey Probate records, my attention was immediately drawn to the heading, Printed Books, in the Estate inventory of Mark Thomson, Esq., as sworn to at Newton in 1806.  Thomson (1739-1803), a Colonel of the First Regiment Sussex County New Jersey Militia, a Representative in the fourth and fifth Congresses, 1795 - 1799, and a slave owner, built a mill on the Paulinskill. The settlement on the site would become known thereafter as Marksboro.

Further research into the ninth title listed in the Thomson Inventory led to the University of Pittsburgh's rare 1795 first edition of The Young Mill-wright and Miller's Guide by Oliver Evans.

One of the notable features of this edition is the bound in Subscriber pages at the end of the book, a list of well-to-do patrons who sought "to encourage the work," in the words of the author, through underwriting the cost of publication in return for a discount. Typically this would be the first print run as delivered to the subscribers, subsequent runs would lack these pages further reducing the cost. Many of the subscribers would order multiple copies of the work.

The list of subscribers, a virtual Who's Who of the young Nation, included George Washington, then President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, former Secretary of State, numerous Senators & Representives, but most interestingly, it also included a handful of lesser known men in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Among them were second and third generation millers and mill-wrights whose ancestors had settled in the Minisink Valley.

Isaac Swartswood [Swartwood]

The 1795 Subscribers:  Isaac Swartswood [Swartwood] in present day Pike Co PA; Abraham Van Camp [Campen, Jr.], mill-wright in present day Warren Co. NJ; Jonathan Baker, mill-wright, and Hugh Forsman in present day Monroe Co. PA; James Douglas, Abraham Haver, and Ralph Hunt in Sussex Co. NJ.  Among the author's advertisers for Mill stones & equipment is William Byrnes of New Windsor NY.

Numerous others are residents of neighboring Hunderton (sic) and Summerset (sic) counties in New Jersey, and in present day Northampton Co. PA.  Most, but not all, of the alphabetically listed subscribers are followed by city or county (subject to later boundary change), with states being abbreviated with a single letter.  A number of subscribers have no identifying region so I may not have recognized their surname or variant as resident in Tri-state NJ, NY & PA.

A brilliant inventor and engineer, Oliver Evans would hold the third patent ever issued in the United States. His book would transform milling technology, remain a staple manual for millers, and would be revised and reprinted in fifteen editions through 1860.  James Poupard (1769-1814) the meticulous engraver, also illustrated for the American Philosophical Society's Transactions, including A Chart of the Gulph [Gulf] Stream, with remarks by Benjamin Franklin, 1786.

No less interesting in the Mark Thomson, Esq. estate inventory, on the page following Printed Books and under the headings Slaves for Life and Dutch Servants, were 12 individuals ~ but that is a story for another day.