A man-made dam has been continuously harnessing the Musconetcong River at this location for over 250 years, influencing the settlement of the region and providing visitors and residents of Finesville with a connection to its historical origins as an industrial village powered by the teeming water of the river.
Circa 1751 Samuel Morris built the first dam across the Musconetcong at this site. The dam was constructed of logs and it served as a power source for a new iron forge situated on the Hunterdon County (south side) of the river. Over the years, sale advertisements for the property boasted of "the never-failing stream of water" which supplied the forge's power. By 1780 this site, known as Chelsea Forge, had grown to contain a forge, a saw mill, two dwelling houses, a tavern and assorted buildings.
In April, 1789, land agent, James Parker, visited the property noting that, "the dam is very much out of repair but with the supplies of water being from living springs ... put in proper repair, the mills will be very valuable." The Fine family saw the potential of the property, purchased it and repaired the dam. Over the next 60 years the dam powered their new grist, oil, plaster and woolen mills which were built on both sides of the river. The village of Finesville developed around these industries providing support businesses, housing for the workers and eventually a church and a schoolhouse.
The Taylor Stiles Company purchased the mills and buildings of Finesville during the second half of the 19th century, and used the river power to make knives. Over the next five years the town experienced a final building boom and the number of houses nearly doubled.
During the early 20th century, the mill on the north side of the river was converted into a fraternal lodge and later into a private home. In 1950 a new concrete dam was constructed to power a paper mill on the south side of the river. By 1990, neither the mills nor the dam were being used for industrial purposes.
Today, Finesville is a small picturesque village boasting most of its 19th century buildings, and is part of the 195-acre Finesville-Siegletown Historic District listed in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. This historic marker serves a s a reminder of the village's industrial heritage and the role the dam played in the evolution of the community.
Musconetcong River Restoration
A concrete and rock dam was constructed on this site in 1950 to replace the previous generation of dams that powered local industry. It was removed in 2011 as part of the Musconetcong River Restoration Project. The Finesville dam is the fourth of several proposed dam removals on the river. The Project will reconnect the river and restore its natural flow, reestablish migratory fish passage to historic spawning areas, enhance the local stream ecosystem, and improve water quality within the Musconetcong Watershed.