Visiting Harding-Jones Paper

Located just outside of Middletown, Ohio, the Harding-Jones Paper Company was one of few early paper mills that still remain nearly intact in the state of Ohio. A significant example of early Ohio industry, the mill was mostly owned by the Harding and Jones families for generations.

Located just outside of Middletown, Ohio, the Harding-Jones Paper Company was one of few early paper mills that still remain nearly intact in the state of Ohio. A significant example of early Ohio industry, the mill was mostly owned by the Harding and Jones families for generations. It was also located along the Miami-Erie Canal.

When it opened in 1865, the Harding-Jones plant manufactured fine writing paper and had an initial daily capacity of 2,500 pounds of paper. By 1870, the mill needed a company town and Excello – named after a brand of paper the company produced, was founded. Shortly after, a Corliss steam engine was installed, followed by an Edison generator, which was just the fifth that was built by Edison. A rolling machine, which took pulp to finished product in one assembly line, was installed in 1897.

The Excello operation was producing 44,000 pounds of paper per day by the 1970s but due to an aging facility and outdated equipment, was closed on April 30, 1990. Although listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Harding-Jones Paper Company Historic District, there has been no maintenance or upkeep on the structures and several are in various stages of collapse.


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My Great Aunt Encie was married to Tom Jones. As a child, our family would visit them in their mansion. My favorite rooms were the den, Uncle Tom’s study with his bedroom a step up, and the dining room where my brothers and I could pick out a small toy from one of the drawers. After Tom died, my aunt moves up the hill toaranch house. We still had a wonderful time. I remember playing with my cousin,Harding Jones a wonderful, fun boy. I re member a girl, too, but I regretfully don’t remember her name, even tho she was great fun. When I was 11, I wrote a play, Mike Meets Mars. The garage walls were covered with paper from a long roll of H-J paper. We even got to tour the paper company. I remember huge vats of lumpy, watery, smelly, stirring concoction, and I loved it all! My wonderful mother was always giving us these kinds of outings. I vaguely remember Uncle Tom, tall (but I was a kid), and handsome! And Aunt Marilyn? Is she a memory? She was really pretty. After our visits to the “Big House” Mom took us to Frishis’ Big Boys for ice cream or a meal. Now at 66, I often go back there in my memory, the very best of childhood times. Are any of my relatives out there?

Jeesh, Nancy. The girl was Elizabeth Ann Perry who was Thomas Jones’ granddaughter who was the same age as Harding and lived next door, originally in the ranch house. I actually didn’t remember that they swapped houses, but that does make sense. The Perry’s lived in the ranch house midway up the hill and the Jones house, the grand house at the bottom of the hill, became theirs after Virgil Perry became the acting executive. I am pretty sure we were in early junior high by this time. I am not clear that these children were your cousins as I believe your Aunt Encie was not the mother of Thomas Jones, Jr (Harding’s dad) or Toni Perry, his sister. Thomas Jones married her later in life; however, I remember her fondly as a genuine lady. She was remarkably kind and beautiful. I am not related, but I grew up with you and Harding and Lizanne were my best friends growing up. Your parents were close friends of my parents and your dad was the judge who married me to my first husband…

What people might find interesting is that the garage located to the north of the house was originally the stables. Some of the original stalls and tack room were kept in tact, although a few were removed to allow for parking cars inside, but the millwork and metalwork of the stalls was absolutely breathtaking. I understood that while it housed carriages and horses to pull them, grooms kept vigil over the animals and most of the horses were literally “house broken”. There was an apartment there as well for the grooms who took care of the horses. Being a horse person myself, I was always fascinated with this building. It was incredible.

I pretty much grew up in Excello with Harding, Lizanne, and Eddie Gay, whose dad worked at the Mill. My parents went to Europe in 1959 and I spent the summer living with the Perrys and riding our bikes up and down the road which was very quiet since they were in the process of building Route 4 that year. We went into the Mill and watched them producing rag paper, a rare form of paper making that created a quality paper usually ordered by the White House for stationery. It had a wonderful swan as the watermark. We had reams of rejected HJ paper in our house, as well as a few rolls, so we could draw and color. That paper was a fundamental to why I became a landscape architect and sketched in pen and ink.

It is very sad that this Mill is no longer making paper but worse that the structure has been left and abandoned like something that never mattered. Not only is the structure important but this was the focus of many lives for a long time.

Janie, I remember you, Harding and Lizanne quite well. My Mom and Dad owned the Starr Floral Company just up the road. I have often wondered what happened to you three and would love to know. Dad sold the business in 1976 to a fellow who drove it in the ground in less than three years. A nursery company bought it for the greenhouses. I stopped by there once and they are doing quite well. Mom and Dad moved to Danville, KY in 1978 to be closer to their place on Lake Cumberland. I am the only one left of the family. Younger brother, Bill, died of cancer in 1999; my folks died in 2002,and 2006. My older brother, Floyd, died of ALS a couple of years ago. I have been married and lived in Louisville, Ky., for their last 44 years. I would enjoy hearing from you..

My grandfather & my dad worked @ Harding & Jones, as well as myself. We were all stationary steam engineers. Dad worked there during the depression & and he often took me to work with him. The Miami Erie canal still had water in it and ran behind the mill boiler room. The engines had been removed from the engine room, but a small turbine generator & had been used during the WW2 years. It had been shut down but was still in the old engine room. I fired the water tube boiler as the old HRT boilers had been torn out. The canal had been filled in, but the Excello locks are still across the highway from the mill. I remember sitting on the beater room steps with my dad and water was spurting through the old lock gates.

My dad and grandfather worked at the mill, too. My dad in the mid-60’s. My grandfather likely before that. My dad cut paper and my grandfather was watchman (I think).

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