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Creating the Museum: The Red Mill Five

Five community-minded men, known affectionately as the Red Mill Five, acted with vision and courage when they bought the derelict Red Mill to restore as a museum.  Monroe DeMott was president of Shive, Wright and Exton, a real estate and insurance firm; Cyrus Fox owned Cyrus R. Fox, Inc. lumberyard; Ralph Howard was a restaurateur who owned and ran Clinton House; Robert Lechner was a teacher who founded and ran a camp in Stanton; and James Marsh was a well known artist and musician.  

The story began in 1960, when the Red Mill Five, spearheaded by James Marsh and Monroe DeMott, finally succeeded in buying the landmark Red Mill on the west bank of the South Branch of the Raritan River for $15,000.  

For the next 12 years, the Red Mill Five met at noon on Fridays at the Clinton House to turn their vision into reality. Ruth Hetherington, executive secretary to Monroe DeMott, became secretary to the Red Mill Five for 12 years and was an integral part of those formative meetings at the Clinton House.

The first three years were about the hard, hands-on, physical work as the large, empty building was cleaned and repaired, the roof and waterwheel replaced, and a collection started through donations from the local community. Dorothea Connolly was hired as Curator and she completed the first exhibits in the Mill - a kitchen exhibit and a children’s exhibit with old clothes and games. In 1963, the Clinton Historical Museum opened to the public. Following in Dorothea Connolly’s footsteps, Claire Young later became staff curator and continued to fill the Mill with exhibits, including a Victorian bedroom and parlor, a World War I living room and kitchen, and a wheelwright’s shop.

In 1964, James Marsh bought the Mulligan Quarry and donated it to the museum.  The museum and grounds were officially dedicated in 1965.  By 1972 the Red Mill Five were ready to pass the baton, and other community members stepped forward to continue their mission to protect the Mill, its collections and our local heritage.  The museum grew and, over the years, became known as the Hunterdon Historical Museum in 1996 and, in 2002, became the Red Mill Museum Village.