Combs Hollow

Mendham Township’s first industrial center was established in what is now known as Combs Hollow. This Historic District is located in the center northern section of the Township and in Randolph, which split from Mendham in 1805. Bound by Combs Hollow Road, India Brook and Combs Avenue, it was heavily wooded, rich in natural resources and powerful water sources.

Levi Lewis and his brother Eliphalet settled there in the 1730s. They built grist and saw mills, three dams and mill ponds, a tan yard and blacksmith shop. The mills produced timbers for the first Presbyterian Church in Succasunna, and Levi donated a lot for its cemetery. The Lewis Farm grew rye and corn, and contained apple and peach orchards. The Lewis forge and four mines produced much of the local iron ore, which had to be sent to England at that time, with finished products sent back to the colonists. This trade practice was a contributing factor to the Revolutionary War.

Levi and his wife Mary built a home on property located along a road later called Combs Avenue. Eliphalet married Jane, daughter of the clockmaker and inventor Lebbeus Dodd of Mendham. Their home was on Combs Hollow Road. Neither house still exists, with only traces of ruined foundations. Levi’s son Edward married Mehitable, daughter of neighbor Daniel Horton. Their house was built in 1768 on the west side of Combs Hollow Road.

Levi and his sons were active in local Mendham government, holding the offices of Overseer of the Poor, Collector, Freeholder and Overseer of the Roads. Levi died in 1779 and Edward continued operating the mills until he sold them to Moses Combs around 1807. The operation was built up to nearly 80 employees and the area became known as Combs Hollow.

Wilma Sagurton, a descendant of Levi Lewis, wrote “The Lewises of Combs Hollow and The Combs Hollow Historic District,” presented to the Morris County Historical Society in March 1991. In addition to the family history, she described many artifacts of Levi Lewis’s 1799 inventory, which give a glimpse of the man and way of life during his time. She gave several lectures on local history and donated many artifacts to various museums, including the Ralston Museum in Mendham Township. She died in 2010 at the age of 94.

Combs Hollow map, Wilma Sagurton

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