Monadnock Paper Mills celebrates 200 years

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in 2019. Courtesy photo—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in 2019. Courtesy photo—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in 2019. Courtesy photo—

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in 2019. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/15/2019 9:26:07 PM

In 1819, Moody Butler founded a business near the banks of the Contoocook River that is still thriving and successful, as one of the oldest continuously running in the state.

Back then it was simply known as Paper Mill or Bennington Paper Mill, and it wasn’t until 1880 that it got the name that has been associated with paper making in the region for two centuries, Monadnock Paper Mills.

The mill was built in its location to take advantage of the river. In the beginning, a lot of what the mill produced was just handmade paper for writing, accounting ledgers and books. But a lot has changed over the course of the last 200 years and keeping up with trends and foreshadowing what is coming down the line is how the mill has been able to stay relevant in an ever-evolving business landscape, said CEO Richard Verney.

“Our future was not going to be in the printing paper arena,” Verney said. “And that’s just one example of how the business has changed over the years.”

Verney’s father purchased the Monadnock Paper Mills in 1948 after Col. Arthur Pierce, the mill’s second owner who took over around the turn of the century, passed away and no one in his family stepped up to run it. Gilbert Verney was a longtime businessman who had his hands in many industries at the time and was approached with the idea of buying the mill.

“My father was unique in a sense that he got in and out of businesses like people get in and out of automobiles,” Verney said. “When he bought the mill, it wasn’t in very good shape. The war years were tough.”

But the elder Verney was in this one for the long haul. He eventually handed off the business to his three children, while Richard is the only one still involved with the day-to-day operations. Verney said his father hoped that his family would continue the business after he was gone.

Verney has been at Monadnock Paper Mills for a little over 50 years now, joining the family business when he got out of the Army.

What Verney finds unique about the mill is the loyal employees they have and the longevity and institutional knowledge that makes up the work force.

“I remember times when we’ve had three, maybe four generations working here from one family at the same time,” Verney said. “We have good people that work here and the New England character is one of perseverance.”

It’s what makes up the heartbeat of the business and why Verney feels they’ve been able to maintain a high level of production and adjust to whatever comes next.

“The industry is consolidating and if we’re going to continue to exist, we have to evolve,” Verney said.

Over the course of 200 years, the mill has made paper out of just about everything. There was a short time when they actually used logs, but these days they get recycled fibers known as pulp for its raw material, and has for many years.

The process of creating paper is rather indepth and less of an art, which is what Verney used to consider it, and more of science these days. The pulp starts in bales and then goes into the mixer, combining with water from the mill’s artesian well. The mixture starts out at about 95 percent water when it first goes onto the wire, an oscillating belt that helps combine and bond the fibers together to begin the process of removing water and making paper.

“There’s a lot of chemistry in paper and you have to control the moisture content,” said Lisa Berghaus, director of marketing communications.

On the wire, it’s hard to imagine what you see turning into paper, but at the end of the 70 foot belt, it starts to resemble paper. As it twists and turns through various large pieces of machinery, it is slowly turned into whatever form of paper that is needed to fill orders.

“Each one of our papers have a specific use,” Berghaus said. “The runs are getting smaller and smaller and more diverse.”

They have two machines and the staff work on 12 hour shifts. They typically make paper five days a week, depending on orders and how big they are.

“As consumer tastes change and the market changes, you have to change,” Verney said.

Throughout the years, Monadnock Paper Mills has created a wide variety of paper products and the list only seems to grow as time goes by. They once made the paper used in vacuum bags and have been involved in medical packaging paper for 30 years. They make paper that are used for gift cards and price tags that hang on clothes.

“The first breakthrough was when we made vacuum bag paper,” Verney said. “That led us down the road to specialized products.”

You won’t find their paper just sitting on a store shelf because each paper is made for a particular business who then uses it to create their product.

And with the push to eliminate single use plastics, the mill has been working with a variety of customers to create a paper that can be used as a replacement product. With a team of engineers and scientists, the mill is always looking for ways to create new materials.

Currently, Monadnock Paper Mills employees 175 people at its Bennington facility, which is known as a non-integrated mill, meaning they don’t produce their own pulp, but rather purchase it for their paper production.

The mill was opened shortly after the War of 1812 and it was in 1835 when the company introduced the use of wood pulp to the paper manufacturing process. They once had a pulp mill and an extension of the railroad in the 1870s greatly increased their production capabilities.

“You get so wrapped up in what you’ve got to get done today, you don’t always appreciate where you’ve been,” Verney said.

In 1880, the name was changed to Monadnock Paper Mills and it was just before the turn of the century that they began using the river to help power the plant. Pierce purchased the mill in 1904 and ushered it into an even larger production capacity. It was in 1922 when they acquired ownership of the hydro facilities and dams, which at that time was enough energy to run the mill. In the mid 1970s, the Verney’s installed a wastewater treatment facility onsite that helped improve the quality of the Contoocook.

In 200 years, there have only been three families to own the company, which Berghaus said shows just how committed they have been to the employees.

“I have a tremendous sense of pride working here because the owners have a tremendous sense of pride,” Berghaus said.

Throughout the year, there have been company wide celebrations and acknowledgements of the 200th anniversary. On Wednesday, Berghaus will be at the Bennington Historical Society to discuss the mill’s 200 years. They will be doing a limited number of tours that the public can sign up for in August.

For more information about Monadnock Paper Mills, visit mpm.com.


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