John Dawes, Inventor at 94

The following story, originally from the Trenton State Gazette, is about a man who was far ahead of his time.  It was found in the Allentown Messenger dated May 27th:


Among the visitors at the State House Monday was John Dawes, of Jackson Mills, Ocean county, who probably is the most remarkable nonagenarian in New Jersey. Mr. Dawes is 94 years old and he has just obtained a patent for an invention on which he has been working more than 70 years. It’s a windmill scheme for generating electrical power – one that the inventor believes is going to put about a quarter of the output of coal out of business and save taxpayers a lot of money.


Mr. Dawes came to town to see Governor Fort. He wanted to protest against the proposed reservoirs in North Jersey for the storage of water for municipal supply. Storage such as is contemplated is now useless, he declares, as his machinery will keep everybody supplied with good, fresh water at very small cost.


Governor Fort was not in town, and after resting and talking awhile Mr. Dawes started for home. He declared that the greatest thing Governor Fort ever did was the signing of the trolley freight bill.


Mr. Dawes, although he was born away back in 1815, is yet quite active. His eyesight and hearing have slightly failed him, but he can readily read with glasses and his penmanship is better than the average businessman.


The old inventor numbers among his relatives former Justice Van Sickle, of this city, and Aaron V. Dawes, the Hightstown lawyer. The latter’s father, Dr. Aaron Dawes, who died a few years ago, was the inventor’s brother.


Mr. Dawes believes that the principal reason he has lived so long is the fact that he never used tobacco in any form, nor drank intoxicants except for medicinal purposes.


He says he’s an anti-rum man, but that he doesn’t believe in prohibition. His argument is that if men want to cut their years short by drinking, they have a perfect right to do so.


The inventor was born six miles from Flemington and spent much of his youth in Somerville. He is what is known as “a natural born genius,” for even as a boy his inventions made the neighbors sit up and take notice.


For fifty years he resided in Imlaystown, and some twenty years ago he moved to Jackson Mills, about six miles from Lakewood.


Although he experimented on his wind mill scheme for seventy years, its perfection was not revealed to him until a few years ago.


“I hope,” said Mr. Dawes yesterday; “that the Governor will make no such fool bargain as is being talked of in the matter of water storage. By my invention I can supply water to every city and village in New Jersey for $300,000. The wind will drive my mills and produce the electrical power – generating it right out of the air.”


“But,” asked a listener, “what will the mills do when the wind doesn’t blow?”


“A very silly question,” answered the inventor, “and one that’s easily answered. Man doesn’t work all the time and neither need my windmills do so. When the wind blows they will fill reservoirs with water for use while the machinery is resting.”


The patent office reports describe Mr. Dawes’ invention, a patent for which was granted January 12, this year, as “an improvement in wind motors, constructed to include a series of wind wheels, arranged in batteries, and so geared together that the power of all the wheels may be harnessed and transmitted to a single driven element, or distributed to plurality of driven elements, at the will of the operator.”


Mr. Dawes says he has refused several offers for his invention, but that he will keep it in his own name and organize a company for manufacturing the machinery.


“I can run a car, or a train,” said Mr. Dawes, “from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with my invention. I can store 10,000 horsepower of electricity at any point at an eighth the cost of steam. My windmills sweep the whole board – they will do anything that steam could do.


Mr. Dawes has had a busy life, for, besides spending a lot of time figuring out inventions, he has been a miller, a farmer and a merchant, and he has studied law.


He is proud of the fact that his father was English, and his mother “high” Dutch – a combination, he declares , that insures “the best stock in the world.”


The inventor has been married twice and his present wife has reached the age of 74 years. His first wife died forty years after marriage and Mr. Dawes was 71 years old when he took his second helpmate.


His only child is Isaac S. Dawes, a wealthy manufacturer of vinegar and cider, at Imlaystown, who also is of an inventive turn.


The inventor has applied for Canadian patent rights for his machinery and has been offered a conspicuous place for the exhibition of his model at the Seattle exposition.