Paper Mills in South Bend and Mishawaka

In 1868 William Beach, a practical papermaker from Balston Spa, N.Y., came to South Bend in search of a waterpower site and capital. Here he met John Keedy who ran a grist mill. Mr. Keedy was a man of means and very progressive. It was only natural that these two men should get together in a business way.

Beach and Keedy Mills

In partnership they began building operations and in 1870 the mill started successfully with give 300-lbs. beaters (agitator blades), two 400-lbs. beaters, one 500-lb. beater and one 56” cylinder machine. The South Bend Tribune stated that the combined weight of this machine equipment totaled 32,000 lbs. They made tinted book papers for the Chicago paper trade and the business proved so successful that another and larger mill was planned and built in South Bend.

William H. Beach and Company

The equipment of the new mill consisted of twelve 500-lb. beaters, one 72” Fourdrinier machine (a machine that uses a specially woven plastic fabric mesh conveyor belt (known as a wire as it was once woven from bronze) in the forming section, where a slurry of fiber (usually wood or other vegetable fibers) is drained to create a continuous paper web. After the forming section the wet web passes through a press section to squeeze out excess water, then the pressed web passes through a heated drying section.) and two 44” cylinder machines. Turner’s South Bend Annual, 1873-1874, describes the new mill further:


The main building is 78’ front by 160’ in depth. It is a three-story and basement building of brick and stone, adjoined by a boiler house, wheel house and bleach house. The wheel house contains seven American Turbine wheels, manufactured by the Globe Iron Works Company of Dayton, Ohio. The whole cost of the establishment is not far from $200,000.00. Its capacity is over 30 tons of book and print paper per week. Both mills are under the management of William H. Beach. Associated with him in the new mill are John A. Hendricks, John H. Keedy and E.W. Hendricks.


Turner’s review of 1875 printed:


South Bend has become as justly celebrated for the size and importance of her paper mills as for her great industry in wagon manufacture. The enterprise and great business ability to William H. Beach has given us two of the best paper mills in the land. One of them, that of W.H. Beach and Company, in size and producing capacity, is only equaled by one, that at Holyoke, MA (at this time both the Parsons Paper Company, and the Holyoke Paper Company of Holyoke, MA, were rated by Lockwood’s Directory at six tons each.) Probably no man is better qualified for his position than William H. Beach. If he is positive and persistent, he is honest and reliable, and puts on no feathers usually assumed by a great corporation or a great monopoly. His tracks make a business trail in which others may well follow. He has never asked the city to make him a donation, directly or indirectly, has never threatened to leave the city if a subsidy was not granted him. If Mr. Beach cannot live here on his own business merits we will cheerfully help him out as we helped him in. He will never beg. He asks no gratuities.


South Bend might have become one of the paper manufacturing centers of the country, so well was it situated in regard to markets, water and power. Things started successfully, but a series of disastrous events beginning with the great Chicago fire that burned out the Butler Paper Company leading to their bankruptcy, with the South Bend mills large creditors. Then came the great commercial panic of 1873. John Keedy, the financial strength of the business, vainly struggled to hold together the organization, but his personal fortune was swept away with the burning of his grist mill. The paper mills were closed, and the companies bankrupt. Turner’s business review of 1876 reads:


Disaster, dire disaster-two of the best paper mills in America, are, like the last rose of summer, left standing alone. Silence reigns where last year all was bustle and business. But this condition cannot last long. The interests and capital involved will soon put the wheels and the machines in motion. It is useless to say that South Bend has not received a shock. She has. Witness the utter prostration of her paper mill industry. Two of the finest paper mills in the country closed and [are] useless. Over $200,000 worth of property lies unproductive. The operatives are discharged and dispersed; the brains have left for other parts. So far as they are concerned, today all is desolation. One of the best business men ever known in South Bend is employed elsewhere, he having charge of several paper mills in the state of New York. That man is William H. Beach. A few kindly words-a few kindly acts on behalf of some of our citizens might have kept him here, and have kept the paper mills in running tune-the few kindly words were not spoken, the few kindly acts were not manifest and we lose forever one of the most able and enterprising men ever known here. The ‘old mill’ has been sold at the bankrupt sale to John R. Foster, president of the First National Bank, for $10,000.


Mr. Beach and his family returned to New York where for several years he operated a paper mill with his son Jerome Beach. Later he moved to Minneapolis, MN, and associated with Mr. Pray in the foundry machine and lumber business.

The Reynolds Mill

In 1877 the Beach and Keedy mill resumed operation. Turner’s business review, 1877, states:


The papermaking interest, which for a time was dead, has been resurrected. Messrs. Reynolds and Foster have set one of the two large mills in motion. The business is admirably conducted and hence successful. It is in the hands of those sterling gentlemen, Ethan S. Reynolds and John R. Foster under the firm name of Reynolds & Foster. The superior products of this mill under the new management have already added to the reputation of South Bend as a paper manufacturing center.

St. Joseph Paper Mill Company

In 1880 E.S. Reynolds succeeded the firm of Reynolds & Foster, and ran it until 1894 when the property was leased by the St. Joe Paper Mill Company under the management of James H. Long. The product was changed to wrapping paper, and later to grocery bag paper.

F.P. Nicely and Company, La Salle Paper Company, Nicely Brothers Company

In 1901 Frank P. Nicely organized the F.P. Nicely and Company, purchasing the mill. Mr. Nicely was originally from Hamilton, OH, but came as a boy to South Bend. He worked his way up to superintendent in the old Indiana Mill. Mr. Nicely rebuilt the mill. In 1902 the name was changed to the La Salle Paper Company, and operated successfully on high grade paper wrappers until Mr. Nicely’s death. In 1927 the company was reorganized and the firm name changed to the Nicely Brothers. C.W. McAlpine was superintendent of this mill from 1900.


After the closing of the Indiana Mill, Mr. Nicely went south and built a paper mill near New Orleans, LA. Returning to South Bend in 1899, he took charge of the La Salle Mill, enlarged and entirely rebuilt the plant. All the original machinery was replaced with new and modern equipment. Stone walls, steel girders and roofing were built around and over the paper making machines which did not cease operations as the plant ran continuously throughout the renovation.

State Mill

After the failure in 1873, the Wm. H. Beach and Company (State Mill) remained idle until 1879 when the property was purchased by the Bolton Brothers: Clem, James and John. In 1880 the Cleveland Paper Company became interested with Lucius (Lute) Clark and the Boltons, and the mill operated under the firm name of Bolton, Clark and Company with Lucius Clark as manager. Mr. Clark was a very ambitious man and made many improvements, one being the first to use electricity for lighting his mill, generating his own current, and using arc lights. He started to make manila paper and to manufacture paper bags under patents owned by the Cleveland Paper Company. To assure a supply of pulp for the mills he became interested in the manufacture of ground wood in nearby Mishawaka.

Indiana Paper Company

In 1884 W. W. Taylor succeeded Lucius Clark, and in 1885, The Indiana Paper Company was formed with Wm. O. DeVay of Indianapolis as president, and M.A. McGinnes, Secretary and Treasurer. Mr. DeVay was very successful branching out in 1877 with a mill in Mishawaka. The Lockwood directory for 1894 mentions a change in the equipment at the Indiana Paper Company.


After the death of Mr. DeVay, Mrs. A.V. DVay became President, with W.S. Fish Vice President, Wm. P. DeVay, Secretary and Treasurer continued to run the mill. In 1903 Havercamp, Whitney and Company with George B. Havercamp, President and Treasurer, Howard E. Whitney, Vice President, and J.H. Whitney, Secretary purchased the Indiana Paper Company, closing down for good in 1894. The mill was sold to the A.C. Staley Manufacturing Company, predecessors of the Stephenson Underwear Mills, who occupied most of the buildings. The first superintendent of this mill was a Mr. Sharpless from Holyoke, MA.

South Bend Paper Company

This company did a bag and paper business in 1900 under the name of the South Bend Paper Company. They manufactured bags under the local management of C.F. Post.

E-Z Opener Bag Company

Later, Mr. Herbert E. Westervelt very efficiently managed the affairs of this concern, and changed its name to the E-Z Opener Bag Company. In connection with the mill at Taylorville, IL, the South Bend division was later abandoned, but the business continued as one of the foremost bag manufacturers of today with plants in various parts of the country.

Meriden Mills

In 1882, Lucius Clark with George H. Taylor formed the Mishawaka Paper Company, and equipped one of the buildings left vacant by the Milburn Wagon Works when it moved to Toledo, OH. Associated with the Westervelts they first ground pulp wood, but later equipped the plant with three 800-lbs. beaters, and a 72-inch cylinder machine making straw wrappers. For years James Miller furnished under contract the straw for this mill at $3.00 per ton, and kept many teams busy gathering it from the farmers, always keeping a heavy stock of it in the yards on the old Jefferson Road.


In 1885 when William O. DeVay purchased Clark’s interest in the State Mill, he also purchased the Meridian Mill, and they were both operated under the firm name of the Indiana Paper Company until 1897 or 1898 when it was closed permanently. George McClung was an early superintendent of the mill, and later on, Howard Weston was superintendent of the plant.

Bertrand Paper Company

About 1910 or 1911, A.B. Smith formed a paper company and set up a cylinder machine in a part of the old abandoned Singer Sewing Machine plant at South Bend to make wrapping paper. This concern was not successful and soon went out of business.

Albert Gaylor Pulp Company

In 1881 or 1882, Albert Gaylor, a grocer in Mishawaka, built a pulp mill in the rear of the old Perking Ax & Windmill Company to make ground wood from aspen, or as the natives called it “quakenasp” which grew abundantly in the marshland nearby. It was cut in lengths suitable for the grinder, the bark shaved off with draw knives by hand, and the knots chopped out with a hand ax, or later bored out with a machine auger. The equipment of this mill consisted of 3 grinders, one Kingsland refining engine, and a 44-inch wet machine producing 2.5 tons of pulp per day.


Associated with Mr. Gaylor at different times was Lucius Clark, also E.C. Westervelt, who took over complete ownership in 1891, but soon exchanged it for a controlling interest in the Bissell Plow Works in South Bend, which also made ground wood.

Stokes Mill

The Albert Gaylor mill was built by Mr. Stokes from South Bend and renamed the Stoke Mill. It was a wood mill built next to the Schindler Flour Mill. Amos Willard, one time Chief of the fire department in Mishawaka, was superintendent of this mill. It burned down in 1892 and never rebuilt.

Bissell Pulp Company

The first mention of this ground wood mill in the Lockwood directory was in 1884, and it was known as T.M. Bissell and Company. It was later known as the South Bend Pulp Company. J.O.C. and J.W. Van den Bosch were associated with the company at this time. In 1891, control of the Bissell mill was taken over by Edmond C. Westervelt, and ran until 1894.

Chicago Indurated Fiber Company

The Chicago Indurated Fiber Company was formed to make so-called paper pails, tubs, etc… This ran but a short time, and the mill was dismantled in 1894 by Frank Nicely.

Mishawaka Pulp Company

The Westervelts were also interested in the old ground wood mill located in the old Milburn Wagon Works, and became known as the Mishawaka Pulp Company.

The Elk Mill-Mishawaka Paper & Pulp Company

About 1894, William Miller, his son, and W.F. Kimball started a ground wood mill of five ton capacity, and later built the Elk Mill equipped with a 72-inch Beloit Fourdrinier Machine to use up their ground wood in the manufacture of Bogus Manila Wrapper. This plant was known as the Mishawaka Paper and Pulp Company with W.F. Miller and Henry Watts as superintendents. Later, the property was purchased and dismantled, and the Fourdrinier machine sold to the Unity Paper Company of Potsdam, N.Y.

Wakana Paper Company

In 1925 the La Salle Paper Company built another mill in Mishawaka known as the Franklin division, with a 90-inch machine to manufacture wrapping specialties. In a later reorganization, the mill became known as the Wakana Paper Company and was Mishawaka’s last remaining paper mill.

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