Mill Owners and Operators
The earliest mill owners were millers themselves. But the more successful the mill, the more help was needed to run it. Millers hired laborers or indentured servants, and it was fairly common for millers to own one or two slaves. In the 1780s, there were about 50 slaves in Amwell Township, many of them owned by millers. In Delaware Township, Samuel Opdycke owned the mill that later was known as Sergeant’s Mill. His slave was named Robbin and was bequeathed to him in his father’s will, written in 1777. When Robbin died, he was buried on the hillside near the mill. Other early mill owners of Delaware Township who might have owned slaves were Peter Rittenhouse and his son Elisha, Charles Woolverton and his son John, and John Besson.
Samuel Kitchen, who owned the mill in Sand Brook in the 18thcentury, did not mention a slave in his will. But he did need help. In 1771, he advertised for “A Sober Man that understands tending a Fulling-Mill and dressing cloth in all the Branches of that Business.” Because so few records survive, it is hard to tell who was employed at local mills. Such workers were usually tenants, so they left no land records. It is not until 1850 that the federal census records occupations. That census identified only six people whose occupations were “miller,” and also one person, John Chapman age 26, identified as a “Millmaker,” probably meaning that he produced mill wheels.
The following year, a map of Hunterdon County was published, known as the Cornell Map, which showed five sawmills and seven gristmills located in Delaware Township. Not all of the owners of those mills were identified in the census as millers, and most of the millers in the census did not own the mills they worked. This was also true in 1870, comparing the census of that year with the County Atlas published by Beers, Comstock & Cline in 1873.
Delaware Twp. Mills of the 1850s
The 1851 map of Hunterdon County showed property owners and businesses. There were five sawmills shown in Delaware Township; 1) at Croton, 2) the Myers mill on Old Mill Road, 3) the Sergeants mill at the covered bridge, 4) the sawmill on Strimples Mill Road and 5) a sawmill and clover mill on Reading Road. Of the Grist Mills, some were located where the owners also ran sawmills: 1) the Myers Mill on Old Mill Road, 2) Sergeants Mill, 3) Conover’s mill at Headquarters, 4) Hiram Moore’s Mill at Sand Brook, 5) J. P. Hunt’s mill on the west side of Buchanan Road, 5) Hiram Deats’ mill at Brookville and 6) the mill at Prallsville. So all told, there were ten milling operations in Delaware township shown on the Cornell Map.
Clearly, Delaware was well equipped with mills. There were at least another two or three mills not listed in the Cornell and Beers maps. One was the Thatcher Sawmill which Jacob Thatcher operated on his farm north of Sand Brook. The Cornell Map shows a “J. Thatcher” owning property along the east side of Route 579 where the Robin Hill development is now. Another mill belonged to Elnathan Werts, brother of George Werts. He ran a sawmill from the waters of the Wickecheoke Creek that ran through his farm near Whiskey Lane. The Besson Sawmill was probably no longer in operation by 1850; it was located at the intersection of Stone Signpost Road and the Locktown-Flemington Road, and was owned in 1850 by Daniel Carrell, who also owned Strimples Mill.
Another interesting mill was the Lawshe Cider Mill on the original homestead of the Covenhoven family near Headquarters. But that gets into the subject of distilleries, of which there were also many. A discussion of cider mills and distilleries will come later, along with Delaware Township taverns.
Here is a list of the mills shown on the map of 1851 combined with information on millers identified in the 1850 census. Some of the people identified as Carpenters in the 1850 census were probably also operating mills, perhaps as a sideline during times of the year when creeks were running full. Future articles will describe each of these mills and their owners in detail.
Delaware Township Sawmills in 1850/51:
- Croton Sawmill.Probably worked by John W. Gary, 30, Carpenter, and Joseph Gary, 33, Carpenter; they were living next to Dennis Carkhuff 35 Blacksmith, who once ran the mill. David Sebold is supposed to have been the owner and operator at this time, but he does not appear in the Delaware 1850 census. He does show up in the Franklin Twp census, age 53, farmer, and on the Cornell Map living northwest of Croton.
- The Myers mill onOld Mill Roadwas both worked and owned by Tunis Miers, 30, miller.
- TheSergeantmills at the covered bridge were worked by David Jackson, 36, miller, but owned by Green Sergeant, 55, farmer.
- The sawmill onStrimples Mill Road, shown as “D. Carles Mill” on the 1851 Map, was owned by Daniel Carrell, 33, Carpenter. Carrell also owned the old Besson sawmill near Ferry Road and Locktown-Flemington Road, but whether it was still in operation is not known. He sold both mills in 1852.
- There was a sawmill and clover mill at the Rittenhouse farm onReading Road, shown as “Wm Rittenhouse S & Clover Mill” on the 1851 map. It was owned by Garret Wilson and run by his son-in-law, Watson J. Rittenhouse.
Delaware Township Gristmills in 1850/51:
- Conover’s mill at Headquarters, owned by John Conover, 56, merchant, and Elias H. Conover, 52, farmer, was run by Joseph Storr, 65, miller, born in England.
- Hiram Deats’ mill at Brookville, shown as “H. Deats Mill” on the 1851 map, was owned by Hiram Deats, who does not appear in the census for Delaware Township in 1850. He did not buy the mill complex until 1851, and was probably living in Quakertown when the census was taken. Deats himself did not run the mill. He was busy producing plows and stoves in his foundry. Who the miller was is not known. Perhaps it was miller Charles Opdycke, who was 20 in the 1850 census, living with parents Charles (50) and Charity (44) Opdycke.
- “H. Moore’s Gr. Mill” at Sand Brook, on the 1851 map, was owned by Hiram Moore, 38, farmer (worth a handsome $8,000), but the miller was David Hortman, 35. There was probably another miller working here: Caleb F. Wolverton 40 miller. He was the son of Charles Wolverton who was associated with the Sand Brook mill. By 1870, Caleb Wolverton gave up milling to become a “Saloonkeeper” at age 60.
- J. P. Hunt’s mill on the west side of Buchanan Road. The 1851 map shows “J. P. Hunt’s Gr Mill”. The owner was John P. Hunt, 63, Carpenter (worth $3500). At the age of 63, one would expect Mr. Hunt to have some assistance, but none of those listed as millers in the census seems likely to have worked at his mill.
- Myers Mill on Old Mill Road, shown as “G & S Mill” [Grist and Saw Mill] on the map, was both owned and operated by Tunis Miers, 30 (also spelled Myers).
- The mill atPrallsville, simply “G. Mill” on the map, was owned by William L. Hoppock, 57, [occupation? and value]. The mill was worked by John C. Holcomb, 20, and Lambert Hoppock, 29, millers.
1850 Industrial Schedule–Grist & Plaster Mill, $300 invested in the plaster part, 5 tons [?] plaster at $200; uses water power and 1 employee paid $25/month; produces 75 tons plaster worth $375 and Tolls [flour?] worth $1000 [pg 243 #7].
- Sergeant’s Mill, “G. Mill,” and “S. Mill” in separate locations on the map. The mills were owned by Green Sergeant, age 55, farmer worth $9,000, and worked by David Jackson, 36, miller.
Strangely enough, no mills in Delaware Township were advertised in the Hunterdon Gazette in 1850. Hiram Moore of Sand Brook appeared, but he was promoting a racing horse, not his milling. (By 1870, the Gazette was no longer published; I have not checked the Democrat because, unlike the Gazette, the Democrat is not yet indexed).
The 1873 Beers Atlas served the same purpose as the 1851 map, but with more detail. The Mills were basically the same as 20 years earlier. There were eight mills shown in the Atlas: at Croton and Prallsville, a sawmill at Brookville, a saw & grist mill on Old Mill Road, Sergeant’s saw & grist mill, Carrell’s grist mill at Headquarters, and sawmills on Strimples Mill Road and Reading Road. No mills appeared in the Beers Atlas on Buchanan Road, in Sand Brook or on Strimples Mill Road.
Delaware Twp Mills in the 1870s
Sawmills in 1870-1873:
1) Brookville. “S. Mill” in the Atlas. Owned by Hiram Deats.
2) Croton. “S. Mill” in the Atlas. Owned by Bateman Hockenbury, 51, farmer, with land worth $5,000, with wife Rebecca, 48, and eight children.
3) Old Mill Road. “S & G Mill” on Atlas. Owned by Tunis Myers, 62, miller, real estate worth $1300, personal property worth $300.
4) Reading Road. “S. Mill” in Atlas. Owned by Andrew Butterfoss who leased it to Edward Phillips, 53, miller.
5) Strimples Mill Road. “S. Mill” in Atlas. Owned by Calvin G. Strimple, 36, farmer with land worth $4,100.
Grist Mills in 1870-1873:
6) Covered Bridge. “G. Sergeants’ Mill” on Atlas. Owned by Green Sergeant, age 75. Operated by James Sergeant 28 “Working on mill” living with the family of Henry? Sergeant 38 Day laborer. David Jackson was no longer the miller as he was now (at age 56) a Justice of the Peace.
7) Headquarters. “ Conovers G. Mill” in Atlas. Elias & John Conover no longer owned the mill. In 1861, Elias Conover, deeply in debt, sold it to Bennet Vansyckle who may have sold it to John A. Carrell. This is one of the few cases where a former owner’s name remained with the mill.
Prallsville: “Kessler & Co. Quarries, mill, store, office.” Lemuel O. Kessler of Philadelphia bought the Prallsville mill from William L. Hoppock in March 1873 for $40,000. One of the millers was most likely John F. Hoppock 49 (personal property worth $400).
9) Sand Brook: Not shown in the Beers Atlas, but said to have been run by its owner, Hiram Moore, until his death in 1893. It was probably operated by his son, Robert H. Moore, 34, miller (personal property worth $1200).
Brookville: According to E. T. Bush, there was a James Snowden grinding feed there in 1870. He did not appear in the 1870 census. Bush wrote that he was followed by Samuel T. Wilson, who also was not in the census. The Atlas does not show a Grist Mill. In the 1870 census there was a Samuel H. Wilson, 33, working on the farm of Richard H. Wilson, 67, farmer with $9,000 worth of land.
Other Millers Identified in the 1870 census:
Hiram B. Ent 36. His parents lived on Upper Creek Road, so he might have worked at the Tunis Myers mill on Old Mill Road.
Bennet Cooper? 33 b PA, “Forman on mill,” Philip Lauer 20, “Engineer on mill,” and David Moore? 24 “Forman on mill” may have worked at the Prallsville mill. They were living near railroad people.
Not counting the Lawshe cider mill, there were twelve mills in Delaware Township in 1851. But by 1873, there were perhaps nine mills. By the 1870s, milling was definitely on the wane. Sawmills were limited to custom work, as lumber was imported from the west in standard sizes. Fulling mills were gone since cotton had replaced wool as the preferred fabric, and cotton fabrics all came from large factories. Farmers still made use of grist mills to turn their corn into feed for livestock, but flour was more likely to be bought in the local store. Linseed oil mills and plaster mills were still operated, but there weren’t many of them. Prallsville had the oil and plaster mill that served much of Delaware Township. Gradually, the mills were being phased out.