Milton History

a pictorial history of Milton, PA

Milton Steam Tannery

Milton Tannery - Elm Street

The Tannery was located on the east side of Elm Street, east of Baker’s mill. This view is facing northeast. The center stream of Limestone Run ran along the left side of the building. It can be seen on the 1870 map of Milton. The tannery was purchased by William H. Reber from Samuel Teas Brown in 1864, when Reber came to Milton. It was burned in 1867, and again in 1880. Go here to see a fire insurance survey of the tannery property done in 1879.

Picture from the book "Chronicles and Legends of Milton" by George S. Venios

From Bell’s History of Northumberland County 1891:This business was begun in 1795 by John Armstrong. From Armstrong it passed to William Jordan, and then successively to Abraham Straub, Samuel T. Brown, William H. Reber, and Thomas B. Gould, the present proprietor. A large part of the square bounded by Elm, Center and Mahoning streets is occupied by this establishment. It was burned in 1880, and was rebuilt with improved appliances under the name of the Milton Steam Tannery. The daily capacity is two hundred fifty sides of leather daily, or seventy-five thousand per year; six thousand cords of bark are consumed annually, and employment is given to fifty men.

From Industrial and Commercial Resources of Pennsylvania, Historical Publishing Company, 1887, page 96: William H. Reber, Union Cropped Sole-leather Manufacturer - One of the most enterprising and public-spirited citizens in Milton is Mr. William H. Reber, the leather manufacturer. Born in Heidelberg Township, Berks County, he early in life determined to be a tanner, and after having learned the business in its every detail and understood the manufacture of leather in accordance with the latest-received and most scientific principles, he started out on his own account with a small tannery whose value was not over five thousand dollars. He gradually built up a very large and profitable business, and from time to time increased the resources of his establishment. On October 5, 1867, a disastrous conflagration destroyed his property and caused a loss of fifteen thousand dollars. With characteristic energy, however, he commenced rebuilding, and in the following December his new tannery was completed. This large and well-equipped structure was burned to the ground in the great fire of 1880 which swept away every business house in Milton. Nothing daunted, another and still larger tannery was erected costing thirty-five thousand dollars, and this is the one which is now in such successful operation. The main building is 78x100 feet in superficial dimensions, and other structures, including two beam-houses, 85x90 and 40x50 feet in area respectively; beech-house, 40x50 feet; bark-mills, bark-sheds, 40x140, 29x118, 28x115, and 2ix110 feet respectively—are located at convenient distances on the premises. The stock of bark, hides, etc., that is always kept on hand is something enormous, and as many as forty thousand sides are converted into leather every year. From five to six thousand tons of oak and hemlock bark are consumed annually, and forty experienced operatives are here employed at all seasons of the year. The leather manufactured here is as fine as any made in the United States and is known in the trade as Union Cropped Sole-leather. It commands a ready sale wherever offered, and the well-known Philadelphia firm of Kirkpatrick, Kinsey & Co. purchase immense quantities of it annually. It is also in great demand in Boston, Lynn, and other shoe-manufacturing centres, its durability, strength, and elasticity being conceded by all leather merchants to be unsurpassed and but rarely equalled. During his difficulties occasioned by the two fires which temporarily injured his business, Mr. William Kinsey, a member of the above-mentioned firm, and who has been a purchaser of this leather for upwards of thirty years, thinking that this enterprising tanner might require financial assistance to enable him to embark in business again, generously volunteered the loan of twenty-five thousand dollars; but the liberal offer was not accepted, the money not being required. Mr. Reber is highly honored and esteemed by all who know him, and he has done much in promoting the growth and prosperity of Milton. He is an energetic and capable manufacturer, a strictly honorable and upright business man, and a public-spirited citizen.

Footbridge and Tannery

Tannery From The Footbridge

Photo courtesy of the Milton Historical Society

This view is to the southeast toward Elm Street from the footbridge over Limestone Run, next to the lower Buoy block. The tannery can be seen to the right. The footbridge was used by the Miltonian Fire Company to lead their horses to stable. The picture was probably taken in the 1880s, after the fire and before Samuel J. Shimer bought the land to expand his cutterhead factory between Race and Mahoning Streets.

The houses on Elm Street, starting on the left, were occupied in 1900 as follows: No. 160 - William P. Wendell, Justice of the Peace; double house at no. 164 and 166 - William Krisher, Clerk and John F. Wolfinger, Telegrapher; no. 168 - John Peeler, blacksmith.