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Early History of Mills in Cedar Creek Hundred, Sussex Co., DE

From: “History of Delaware, 1609-1888, by J. Thomas Scharf”

(The following was written in the late 1880s)

The earliest and, in fact, the only industries of [Cedar Creek] hundred, consist of grist and saw-mills, some of which were erected at an early date and have not been in operation for many years. Cedar Creek afforded the best advantages for mill seats, and consequently more mills were built on it than any other stream in the hundred. The oldest grist-mill on this stream is situated near Cedar Creek village, and is mentioned as early as 1769 as Draper's mill. It was later inherited by Mary Draper, who married Hon. Joseph Haslett. After his decease it passed to his heirs, who conveyed the mill to David Smith, on July 12, 1825. He retained possession until December 18, 1829, when he deeded it to his son, David R. Smith, who on May 21st of the following year sold it to Jacob B. Dutton. Lemuel B. Shockley became the owner March 23, 1838, and remained in possession till Oct. 17, 1838, when he sold to Wm. B. Coulter. In 1839 the mill was burned, and the present one immediately erected a little east of the original site. In 1852 a saw-mill was erected, but is no longer in use. The property was retained by Wm. B. Coulter and his son, Thomas J. till 1885, when it became the property of H. L. Hynson and J. H. McColley. It is now owned by Dr. J. S. Prettyman. The grinding is done by burr, and consists mainly of custom work.

The next mill above was, at an early date, owned by John and William Draper, and by them sold to Lemuel B. Shockley, by whom it was rebuilt in 1819. John C. Davis was the next owner, and after his death it was sold by his heirs to Hitchcock. He retained possession a short time and then sold to Hiram Barber, by whom it was conveyed to C. M. Miles. It next came into the possession of Mr. Dubois, by whom it was sold to Mark L. Davis and Bevens Cane. Mark L. Davis & Son, the present owners and proprietors, succeeded Davis & Cane. In 1885 the roller system of grinding was adopted. The mill is run by water-power, and has a capacity of one and a half-barrels per hour.

About 1780, Bethuel Watson erected a grist-mill on Cedar Creek. After his death it was inherited by his daughter Sarah, who married Lawrence Riley. After the decease of Riley, the mill came into the possession of Trustan P. McColley, by whom it was sold in 1848, to Lemuel B. Shockley, and in 1860 it came into the hands of Elias Shockley, the present owner. The old mill was burned in 1880, and in the following year the present building was erected. The grinding is done by burr, and is mostly custom work.

The next mill above [at Hudson’s Pond] was early owned by Benjamin Hudson and later passed to his son, C. H. Hudson. In 1871, he sold to Jehu H. Clendaniel, the present owner. The mill was rebuilt in 1878. It consists of a mill for grinding corn and a saw- mill. At the opposite end of the dam an old saw-mill formerly stood.

The last mill on this stream was a saw-mill, owned in 1830, by William Deputy. After his decease, it was inherited by his daughter Elizabeth, who married Isaac Betts. It next came into the possession of William Betts and Samuel Clendaniel, and was last operated about sixteen years ago.

The mill in this hundred, on Prime Hook Creek, was erected at an early period by Caleb Cirwithin. On May 29, 1759, it came into the possession of John Cirwithin, probably a grandson. In 1816 it was owned by John Smith. At a later period it became the property of Henry Smith, by whom it was sold to Benjamin F. Waples, and is now owned by his heirs. In 1869 a saw-mill was built, which has been abandoned for the past eight years, on account of the scarcity of water.

In 1884 the present gristmill was built, and has since been operated by Charles J. Waples. The grinding is done by burr, with a patent-process attachment.

On Herring Branch are a grist-mill owned by Dr. William Marshall, and a saw-mill of Chas. Harrington.

In 1829, Peter F. Causey was the owner of a grist and saw-mill on Herring Branch, which later came into possession of Daniel Curry. On December 10, 1851, he sold the property to Mrs. Mary E., wife of Gen. A. T. A. Torbert, who sold the mills to Delos and Caleb Griffin on May, 1, 1865. They retained possession till December 9, 1871, when they sold to Dr. Wm. Marshall, the present owner. On October 6, 1884, the mills were burned. The erection of the present mill was immediately commenced, and on February 10, 1885, the first grinding was done. The mill is a three-story building thirty by fifty feet, and is fitted up with a full roller system. The capacity is two barrels per hour.

A saw-mill was built on this branch at a very early date by Beniah Watson, Sr, After his death, it passed into the hands of Beniah Watson, Jr., who operated it till his death, when it was inherited by Bethuel Watson. The mill is now owned by Charles Harrington, who married the daughter of Bethuel Watson, and thus became the owner. The mill has not been operated very much for the past few years.

Red arrow indicates Johnson's Mill, now called Abbott's Mill

In 1840 William Johnson was the owner of a grist-mill on Bowman's Branch [now Abbott’s Mill on Johnson’s Branch]. About the year 1848 it became the property of Nathaniel Johnson, and at his decease was inherited by his sons Richard and William. By them it was sold in 1870 to John A. Nickerson, whose heirs still own it. The grinding is done by burr. The mill has been operated for the past four years by Z. Nutter.

In 1881 Henry Stuart erected a steam saw and grist-mill. The grist-mill was operated one year, and the saw-mill three years.

******************************************************************************************************************************** Photos of Sussex County Mills are from the Delaware State Archives on-line collection:

Frank R. Zebley Photographs - 1941

The Old Red Mill on Silver Lake in Milford, DE

Ainsworth Abbotts Mill, near Milford, DE 1941

Williams Bark Mill at the head of Silver Lake, Milford, DE

Tub Mill, just north of Milford, DE

Diamond State Roller Mills, Milton, DE

Millsboro Mill, DE

Lincoln Mill, DE

Records Mill, Laurel, DE

Enterprise Milling Co., Laurel, DE 1928

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Robert Muncy
Robert Muncy
Aug 08, 2023

My grandfather Miles Elwood Argo operated a sawmill in the Greenwood area. He died in 1956. I don't know anything other than stories of him leaving Argos Corner in the morning and not getting home until late in the evening. I'm trying to find any information I can on the mills where abouts and history.

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