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Garrison's Lake and the mills on the Leipsic River

Updated: May 1, 2022

Do you know where "Garrison’s Lake" got its name? Read on...

Garrison's Lake - Google Earth


A mill on what is now called the Leipsic River, owned by one Charles Robinson, was sold, probably to settle his estate, in 1789 by Kent County Sheriff Andrew Barratt to Joseph Nock and his wife Rachel, and inherited by their son Daniel Nock. On December 9th, 1817, the mill and a considerable amount of property was sold by then Kent County sheriff Enoch Joyce for $8275.oo to Robert Register to settle a $3528.40 debt owed by Nock to Nicholas Ridgely.

On the same date, December 9th, 1817, Robert Register mortgaged the mill and property from Nicholas Ridgely for one dollar to settle a $3,392.80 debt that he owed to Mr. Ridgely. The agreement stated that the $3,392.80, plus interest, had to be paid within one year, so I think the mill must have had a pretty good business.

Nicholas Ridgely eventually gave the property to his brother, Henry Moore Ridgely

Henry Moore Ridgely sold the mill to John W. Layton on 13 April 1833. Included in the sale were the "Mill, Mill-Seat and Real Estate... and also all houses, orchards, trees, fences, ways, waters, water-rights and water courses and other improvements..."

At some point Joseph Hoffecker acquired the mill and later sold a half-share in it, including 82 acres, to Jessie S. Huffington for $4,000 on April 4, 1858.

In July 1858 Hoffecker and Huffington bought an insurance policy for their mill, which was described as follows:

"A Flour and Grist Mill, Three Storied, the first story Brick, the balance a substantial wood frame, thirty-six by forty-one (36 X 41) situate on the State Road leading from the town of Smyrna to Dover, about four miles from the former and eight from the later, in Kent County. There are three run of Burs (Mill-stones) with all requisite modern improvements in said Mill. to which is attached a Steam-Engine of twenty horse-power, by which the Machinery of said Mill is propelled about three months in each year. The Boiler of said Engine (underwhich the fire is kept) is set in a Brick Vault , entirely out-side of said Mill-House, the ashes also are kept in the Brick Vault, there being therefore no fire kept in said Mill-House, except in a small stove during the coldest weather of the year, the pipe of which is well secured through sheeting. Valued at Six Thousand Dollars, and Insured for Two Thousand dollars. Owned by applicants and at present tenanted by James Evans.

Dwelling house two storied 18 by 31 feet with back building 14 by 14 feet situated about 200 yds from [Mill]. Valued one thousand Dollars, insured for six hundred dollars. Owned by applicant and at present tenanted by James Evans. Warmed by two fire-places & two stoves, the pipe well secured. Pump 5 feet off. "

On the 6th of July, 1882, Jesse S. Huffington bought Joseph Hoffecker's share of the mill and 79 acres for $7,900. He also re-insured the mill, but now there was an additional frame barn of 26 x 31 ft, a 22 x 22 ft. stable, a 15 x 8 ft. corn crib, a frame two story dwelling house 31 x 16 ft. with one store kitchen attached 15 by 14 ft., a tenant house (one story) 17 x 16 ft. with shed kitchen attached 16 x 9 ft. and another tenant house (one story) 19 x 14 1/2 ft. with shed kitchen attached 14 1/2 x 12 ft.

The dwelling house is probably the same one listed in 1858, but in 24 years the listed value had dropped from $1,000 down to $750, as had the value of the mill, from $6,000 down to $5,000.

The Wilmington Daily Commercial - January 22, 1873

Jesse S. Huffington bought Joseph Hoffecker's share of the mill and 79 acres for $7,900 on 6 July 1882.

Ephraim Garrison - Garrison Family Tree,

Upon Huffington's death two years later, the mill was bought at sheriff's sale by Ephraim Garrison for $7,150, (October 29th, 1884. )

When Ephraim Garrison died in 1912, at the age of 83, he was considered "one of the leading men and landowners of Kent County." At his estate sale on August 12th, 1914, his 823-acre farm near Smyrna sold to his oldest son Gamaliel Garrison for $18,900 and his 223 acre farm near Bethel Church sold to his youngest son Thomas D. Garrison for $12,800. Three other farms brought $8,150, $5,700 and $5,000 and other properties in Cheswold brought $4,770.

In August of 1900 it was necessary to drain Hoffecker’s Mill Pond so that the flood-gates could be repaired. The pond was known to have a large quantity of catfish, so two men purchased the “fish right” for a week, and on the first day they caught 1,200 lbs. of catfish. Four days later they caught another 1000 pounds and on each day the catfish were shipped out on the steamer “Brady.”

July 28th, 1905 - The Morning News

Ed. note: I could find nothing else about C. B. Massey's ownership of Garrison Mills. Apparently, he had been working at the Howell Mill (Brecknock) near Camden in 1900, when he got injured. Massey's Pond is just upstream from Garrison's Lake.

July 30th, 1900 - The News Journal
Massey's Pond - Google Earth

14 Jan. 1910 - Senator J. Herman Anderson and son Clifford retired from the milling business at Garrison’s Mills. Senator Anderson’s father-in-law was Ephraim Garrison. The next week, on Jan. 19th, Clifford married Mary Trought Buckson. The mill was bought by Levin Casson, of Dover and Camden.

Less than two years later Levin Casson’s 37-year-old wife Edith died, on October 26 1911. She left him with five young children to care for. Three years later, on October 8th 1914, their 13-year-old daughter Mary became entangled in the third-floor mill shaft and died instantly from her horrible injuries. Her pall-bearers were six of her young girlfriends.

In 1914 the Leipsic River was dredged to allow boat traffic to once again pass up the river. Cost of the project from the Delaware Bay to the town of Leipsic was $8,500 and from Leipsic to Garrison’s Mill another $19,600. This was the first that the river had been open to steam vessels since 1859.

Then, on November 1st, 1917, Levin Casson’s dam and the bridge suddenly washed out, completely draining the millpond. Muskrats, tunneling through the dam, were blamed for the damage. Mr. Casson gave up and sold most of his mill machinery and in December he abandoned the property.

The dam and the bridge washed out again in August of 1928 and it was fifteen months before the brand-new DuPont Highway could be permanently re-opened.

13 August 1928 - The News Journal
4 Sept. 1928 - The News Journal

The work on the new three span, concrete slab bridge over the Leipsic River was finally completed in early November, 1929. This was only about five years after the DuPont Highway had been completed. If you'd like to read more about T. Coleman DuPont's $4,856,098.20 gift to Delaware (about $81,644,413 today), you can check it out here:

In 1790 Simon Kollock erected what is now known as the Cloak grist-mill, on Little Duck creek, near the Seven Hickories. This mill was run until 1886 by descendants of Ebenezer Cloak, who purchased it in 1824. This would have been the second mill upstream from Garrison's Lake.


I'LL BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: In the early 1800s the Leipsic River was then referred to as "Little Duck Creek." Sometime after 1868 it became the "Leipsic River," flowing bast the town of Leipsic, which had taken that name by 1814. (Leipsic is home to the famous "Sambo's" crab house.)


Pawpaw blossom 2022

Back in September 2021, I wrote an article in this blog about my new love: Pawpaws, the other "Fruit of the Gods". My readers may remember that our single pawpaw tree in Woodside had produced exactly twice the crop last year that it had produced the year before, which was just two pawpaws.

Well, our tree is blooming this week, and it is absolutely loaded with blossoms. The blossoms are small, but very plentiful, and bugs are all over them, hopefully doing their pollination thing in spite of the cool weather we've had lately. Fingers crossed, perhaps we'll double our crop again and have FOUR pawpaws to enjoy in September. Should I hope for even more? Stay tuned.

Lots of Pawpaw blossoms - April 2022

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