Morristown in Morris County, New Jersey — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Birthplace of the Telegraph
— Historic Speedwell —
Today, electric power makes it possible to locate factories in convenient places close to transportation. In the early 1800’s, Stephen Vail built his ironworks not in the center of town but in a narrow ravine where the Whippany River could be dammed to provide waterpower. At Speedwell, the mechanical innovations fabricated at the ironworks and the invention of the telegraph helped bridge the gap between the age of waterpower and the world of today.
Never one to miss an opportunity, Stephen saw that he could harness the power of a nearby stream to create a separate business weaving cotton. He bought the property, revamped an older waterpower system and rebuilt an old mill into what was then a modern factory. To keep his new waterwheel turning during the winter, he added a wheelhouse to help prevent freezing. Although this business plan did not work, the Factory was kept in running order and the waterwheel was replaced in 1848 with the more efficient model that still survives today.
In the 1970’s the Wheel House was completely restored and the waterwheel put back into working condition. The collapsed wheel pit was excavated
Water for the Wheel House was supplied by a pond located to the north near where the apartments now stand. A raceway extended from the pond and ended just behind the Homestead Carriage House. Originally, the raceway was connected to the Wheel House by an overhead flume. However, in the 1840’s the unsightly flume was replaced with an underground pipe. The overflow water from the upper pond filled the lower pond. That water was used to power the pattern makers shop that was once located between the Whippany River and Cory Road. The lower raceway can be seen in the woods east of the path leading to the parking lot.
Because the water level in the upper pond is higher than the top of the 24 foot diameter waterwheel, the water system acts like a siphon. Pressure in the penstock, the iron pipe under the lawn, pushes the water up through the standpipe and
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1848.
Location. 40° 48.856′ N, 74° 28.822′ W. Marker is in Morristown, New Jersey, in Morris County. Marker can be reached from Speedwell Avenue (U.S. 202), on the right when traveling north. Marker is located at Historic Speedwell. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 333 Speedwell Avenue, Morristown NJ 07960, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Ford Cottage (here, next to this marker); The Homestead Farm (a few steps from this marker); The Factory (within shouting distance of this marker); The Granary (within shouting distance of this marker); L’Hommedieu House (within shouting distance of this marker); 1849 Carriage House (within shouting distance of this marker); Moses Estey House (within shouting distance of this marker); Homestead Carriage House (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Morristown.
More about this marker. The marker contains a diagram of the waterwheel and Wheel House, indicating the Factory Wheel House, Standpipe and Tailrace. Recent photographs of the Wheel House and waterwheel are also on the marker, along with maps of the configuration of the upper and lower ponds and how they feed the Wheel House, and of present day Historic Speedwell.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Take a tour of the markers found at Historic Speedwell.
Also see . . . Historic Speedwell - "Birthplace of the Telegraph". Morris County (Submitted on July 10, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.)
Credits. This page was last revised on December 9, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 10, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 682 times since then and 40 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on July 10, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.