In 1687, when John Estell Sr. settled in what would become Weymouth Township, he had no idea the location would eventually be named after his family or that much of the Estell legacy would be preserved as part of an Atlantic County Park located on State Route 50.
The Estells were descended from the French D’Estails, a Huguenot family that escaped religious persecution in their native country by relocating to England. In an online posting, the Estell Manor Historical Society identifies Jean Conte D’Estail as purchasing an estate in Langdale County, England.
According to the National Register of Historic Places, the family was granted 271 acres of land in Monmouth County, New Jersey by British monarchs George I and Queen Anne in 1671 and soon settled across the Atlantic.
When George II provided an additional 6,000 to 8,000 acres in the southern portion of the state then called West Jersey, John Estell Sr. relocated to the spot. In 1695, the Estell territory officially became part of Weymouth Township, which belonged to Gloucester County at the time.
It was John Estell Jr. who, over the next 55 years, began to establish the family’s reputation in the area, building the Estell Mansion in 1750 and founding a trading company called John Estell and Son. The business proved successful, providing South Jersey with supplies from New York City, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore.
In 1799, the year after Weymouth Township became part of Atlantic County, Port Elizabeth’s Eagle Works introduced the first of many glass factories in South Jersey. The business obtained supplies such as clay, lime, salt and soda from John Estell and Son, who soon began to provide similar materials for other glassworks as well.
In the early 1800s, John Jr.’s son, John Estell III, was looking to expand the family business and, according to Weymouth Township historian Douglas Yearsly, “he meant to do iron, but the ore quality must have been low [and] there was nearby competition at Monroe and Etna.”
Instead, John III established both a gristmill and sawmill on Stephens Creek, probably in the early 1820s, expanding the businesses in what was now known as Estellville. Still not satisfied, however, John III decided to move ahead with plans for a glass factory. In 1825, he contracted John H. Scott to build such a facility and one year later, his glassworks opened, further developing the village named after his family.
According to the National Register of Historic Places, Scott’s design for the glasshouse included constructing the buildings out of sandstone and aggregated stone that were cemented with limestone mortar. Some buildings also incorporated “brick keystone archways.” The materials and design ensured the structures would not succumb to blazes common in such factories. The use of sandstone, the only such instance in South Jersey glasshouses of the 19th century, is the reason ruins of the Estellville Glassworks still exist today at Estell Manor Park.
The glassworks, along with homes for its employees, was contained on one acre of land within the 11-acre village that would soon house a church, school, cemetery and company store. The glass factory complex was comprised of five structures adjacent to each other.
The building that housed the melting furnace where the glass was blown and shaped is described in an Atlantic County Division of Parks and Recreation pamphlet as measuring approximately 40 feet by 70 feet with a height of 15 feet. A pot house that stored the raw materials for making glass stood north of the melting furnace.
A flattening house for the production of window panes, which proved more lucrative than the company’s bottle manufacturing, also stood on the property along with a cutting house and a line kiln, which the pamphlet describes as “two sites which remain completely below the surface and…uncovered in 1975 during the completion of the Environmental Resource and Historical Inventory of Estell Manor Park.”
The National Register of Historic Places identifies the company store as having stood on the south-side of Route 50. It was, according to its description, a two-and-a-half-story building. While John Estell III had conceived the idea of establishing a glass factory in Estellville, he would only witness its first 13 years of operation.
Next Week: Daniel Estell