The first Lawless Mill was built in 1835 next to Irondequoit Creek at the north end of the old Penfield Road — now Washington Street — as a flour mill, one of 17 mills located in the 1800s along the creek which falls dramatically between Linden Avenue and Penfield Road generating a series of waterfalls used to provide power. During the Civil War the company converted to a paper mill. At that time, straw purchased from local farmers was used as the raw ingredient to make a thin tissue like paper. The unlucky mill burned down in 1868, 1872 and again in 1924. This was somewhat common in paper mills of that time.
In 1926, the Lawless sons, David and Michael, bought land from the Pierce Oil Co. on Ontario Street overlooking the remains of the old Spring Lake and rebuilt the mill calling it the Lawless Brothers Paper Mill. The main product was a cardboard like material.
With improved production techniques output reached 110 tons of paper per day. Endicott Johnson bought 3,000 tons of paper per year to make their shoe boxes. The Oneida Silver Co. bought the entire acid-free stock from Lawless to line their silver jewel boxes. DuPont in New Jersey bought heavily from the East Rochester based company. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada were also markets where the company’s products were in demand. At the company’s height of operations, 115 workers were employed.
At various times, Eastman Kodak would ask the mill to manufacture a large paper order in record time. The mill would stop all other operations and complete the request for camera boxes or various sizes of other paper goods.
On Saturday night around 8 p.m., Jan. 12, 1965, fire broke out in a malfunctioning pulp mixing machine in the basement of the main building. Over 200 firemen from 10 companies responded to the flaming holocaust, visible for miles in the night sky. The East Rochester Fire Department remained on duty until Sunday afternoon but could not save the business and the Mill closed their doors forever
Thus ended the run of another founding business in the village. That left only the Brainerd Manufacturing Co., who moved from their original location on Ontario Street to Washington Street in 1905. Their buildings on Ontario Street were taken over by the Ontario Grain Drill Co. They too went out of business in 1962. Brainard’s left for China in 1999. They were the last of the pioneer manufacturing plants to leave the village.