Monsey Memories: Elisha Peck, Industrialist of Haverstraw
By: Yitzy Fried
In the expanding community of Haverstraw, there are two landmarks that hark back close to two centuries in Haverstraw and the presence of Elisha Peck, who lived in a secluded mansion. Today, we delve a little deeper into this cornerstone in Haverstraw’s history.
Elisha Peck (1789-1851) was a Massachusetts-born merchant who formed a partnership with Anson Green Phelps. He ran the British side of their business from Liverpool for about thirteen years. The partnership ended in 1834 after an accident at their New York warehouse claimed the lives of seven people. Their assets were divided, and Peck took ownership of the metal manufacturing plants at Haverstraw, New York. Phelps continued with the mercantile business that he had developed with Peck, forming a new company called Phelps Dodge.
One source of information about the Peck’s presence in Haverstraw and their industrialist work comes from an article in The Journal News: “Stories have appeared in the Journal News giving brief summaries of how Elisha Peck brought over rolling mill equipment from England on the ship Samson, and when the community was built around the iron mill that was established by Peck and Phelps (his longtime partner) the community was called Samsondale in honor of the ship.
“When I was a youngster and went out on hikes with my father, one of our favorite tours was through Peck’s woods, stopping under the shade of the trees at the ruins of the old water-wheel that operated the foundry and hearing my dad tell me how his father had worked in the plant while it was a going concern. Dad liked to fish in the Minisceongo Creek there. And he used to catch fish there too.”
He was born in Lenox, Massachusetts, into a family whose ancestors had arrived in the United States from Essex in about 1635. Peck began his career in working metal and went to work with an uncle in Berlin, Connecticut. Eventually, he formed a partnership with Anson G. Phelps, who had purchased property in Haverstraw in Rockland County near the Hudson River. They brought out machinery from England, as noted, and started producing iron in these mills beginning in about 1833. In addition to the rolling mill, other production on the site included the manufacture of screws, wire, and chemicals such as sulphuric acid.
He also had interests in railroads, including the Somerville & Easton and Elizabeth & Easton Railroads (which became the Central Railroad of New Jersey), the Providence Railroad, and the Hudson River Railroad. Additionally, he became involved in steamboat connections between Haverstraw and New York.
For many years, Elisha Peck resided in a mansion in Haverstraw. The mansion would later be torn down, and Peck died in 1851. But the landmarks that testified to his time there remained in the area long thereafter.