The Green Brook that greeted the early settlers in the early 1700's was a larger stream than we see today. The steam was used to furnish water power to operated early sawmills and gristmills. Prior to 1800, there mills had been located at four different sites within Green Brook Township.
Stephen Vail Jr. Gristmill
One of the early mills in Green Brook was a gristmill built by Stephen Vail Jr. about 1765. It stood near the bend of the road southeast of what was the Trust Homestead (now owned by Raritan Valley Hospital) and about a mile from Sebring's Mill. (See Stephen Vail Mill)
The mill stones were removed from the mill about 1892 by the Trust family. In 1915, the building burned so nothing remains now except the spot on which it stood and the stories which have been handed down to the younger generation about the popularity of the place in the early days.
The exact date when the mill was built is not known but it appears to have been long before the Revolutionary War.
Sebring's Gristmill and Sawmill
About a mile downstream from Goad's mill was another big gristmill owned by Joshua Martin. Later on a sawmill was built there, also. Descendants of the early settlers have said that both mills were very busy places.
Hat Shop Opposite the Dam at Sebring's Mill
Opposite the dam near Sebring's Mill and across the road, a short distance from the Sebring property, was a large two-story building which was used as a hat shop. No one seems to have heard the name of it. No doubt, it was the largest of the three because of its location near the dam.
When the hat making business was discontinued, the Union Sunday School held its meetings in the building. This seems to have been the only place of worship connected with the township in the early days. The Union Sunday School later changed its place of meeting to the Harris Lane School (mentioned in story of schools).
As machinery began to be used in some of the larger cities, the hating industry gradually died out and no one seems to recall hat shops having existed after 1860. Many of the descendants of the early families can remember having relatives who worked in the hat shops of the nearby cities.
In 1940, a member of the Vail family, aged ninety-four, remembered that he, as a boy in 1860, purchased from Chappon's Tannery a hide from which he had two pairs of shoes made, one a fine pair and the other a coarse pair. Mr. Vail recalled distinctly the two large vats where the hides were treated. The tannery was located on Rock Avenue between Greenbrook Road and what is now Highway 22.
The Cider Mill on Madison Avenue
In the title of land purchased by Mr. Vernon Noble, in 1948, is mentioned a cider mill and a mill race in Green Brook, on Madison Avenue. When the mill was in operation the property was owned by the Vail family.
At one time a powder mill seems to have been located on Madison Avenue, also.
Vail's Cider Mill
Along the brook and behind the home of Mr. and Mrs. G. E. Douglas, 155 Greenbrook Road, was an old cider mill which was at one time owned by Ephraim Vail and run by Abram R. Vail, a son. In the olden times it was a very busy place but no one can recall its having been operated for several years.
The Old Clay Pit and Brick Yard
On Jefferson Avenue in Green Brook Township was an old clay pit last owned by a man named Rajotte. Bricks were manufactured there for many years. The clay pit was in Green Brook; but the brick yard was in Dunellen. The bricks were made during the summer and the kilns were burned during the winter. The bricks for many of the early homes in both Dunellen and Green Brook were purchased there. No work has been done there for many years. In fact, there are no remaining evidences of a brick yard.
The Vail Fulling Mill
The Vail fulling mill was the first cloth dressing establishment in this portion of the country. It was owned, together with a sawmill at Coontown, by Samuel Vail, who was a clothier. In connection with his fulling mill was also a big carding machine, which was a great convenience, as farmers then made their own cloth. Coontown was very near Warrenville and not far from Green Brook. Samuel Vail was a relative of the Green Brook Vails.