Two weeks ago, we visited the old mills that were once on the Mispillion River west of present-day Rt. 113. Today we will continue on downstream, first visiting what became known as “The Old Red Mill” on Milford’s Silver Lake.
Milford Mills - "The Old Red Mill"
In February of 1787 the General Assembly of Delaware passed an act that enabled “Parson” Sydenham Thorne to build a dam across the Mispillion River at a site where a previous dam had been begun by a Joseph Booth. The purpose of Thorne’s dam was to power a mill to grind wheat and that dam created Milford’s Silver Lake. The miller that Thorne hired was a man named Richard Clark.
Sydenham Thorne died in 1793 and the mill property passed to his nephew Pater Caverly and the body of water became known as “Caverly’s Mill Pond.” In 1811 the property was bought by James Clayton and the pond of course, became known as “John Clayton’s Mill Pond”. The sale included “all houses, mills, mill dams and Mill ponds” including what is now known as the “Parson Thorne Mansion.”
James Clayton was not a miller, but rather a tanner, and the next year he sold the mill property to Samuel Lockwood and Armwell Long, but kept the mansion for himself. The new mill owners built themselves a new mill. In 1816 two more men bought a one quarter interest each in the milling operation, one of whom was Dr. James Mitchell’s father, John Mitchell. (More about John Mitchell later.)
By 1817 Lockwood owned a three-quarter part of “Milford Mills” the operation and may have been the miller. James Clayton died in 1826 and the Commercial Bank of Delaware bought his one-quarter share, and when Lockwood passed, the mill was sold at public auction to John W. Darby.
In 1842 there was another sheriff’s sale of the "three-story grist mill, bark mill, hide breaker, pump, hay scales, bark shed, dwelling houses, cooper shop, miller’s house, and tenements," but Darby was soon able to buy it all back.
When the Junction & Breakwater Railroad was built it 1857-59, one of it's purposes was to connect Milford to the Delaware Railroad mainline and that is one of the reasons that the town of Harrington sprang up where it is. The line turned south at Milford toward Georgetown and in doing so it used the Silver Lake dam to cross the Mispillion River. The Milford railroad station was built on Maple Ave., just south of the dam.
When John Darby died the property was bought by Peter F. Causey. Causey sold it to his son Peter Causey Jr. in 1870. However, a couple of years later the mill burned down and was rebuilt in 1874-75 as a large four-story mill.
Although “Milford Mills” was painted high on the side of the mill in plain sight, the building was known locally as “The Old Red Mill”. for obvious reasons. It was indeed old, it was painted red, and it was in fact a mill. After Causey’s death in 1911 his wife inherited the property. When she passed the Equitable Trust Company of Wilmington took possession.
In 1921 the mill was bought by W.R. Hitchens and managed by Augustus Holson. The millers were Dan Cole and Harry Lindale, probably the same millers that had worked for Mrs. Causey. Mr. Hitchens owned and operated the mill until it shut down for good in the fall of 1941. It was sold in 1945 to Hallett Vinyard and torn down to make room for his fuel oil business.
Mispillion Mills was a steam powered grist and saw mill located across from the Milford train station. It was built in 1879 by Messrs. Smith and Houston and the flour mill had two run (sets) of stones and could produce about 15 barrels per day from locally grown wheat.
The saw mill had a Mulay saw (vertical reciprocating saw), one large and several small circular saws, a planer and a matcher (molder). The saw mill produced large quantities of oak timbers for the Philadelphia and New York markets, as well as custom milling for the Milford shipyards. It was all run by a 50 hp steam engine supplied by a large boiler
Tub Mill? So what is a Tub Mill? Generally speaking, water powered mills come in two main types, they either have a waterwheel of some kind or a turbine of some kind. The waterwheels may be overshot, breast shot or undershot. A Tub Mill is a type of turbine powered mill. In Abbott’s Mill, the turbine is at the bottom of a seven-foot-deep concrete tank of water and the weight of the water flowing through the turbine is what causes it to spin. In a tub mill a stream of fast moving water is directed at the turbine blades by means of a flume or large pipe. The turbine is housed in a tub to help control the flow of water around the turbine.
Just north of where Rt. 113 and Rt. 1 merge north of Milford the highway crosses Swan Creek, hardly even noticeable from the highway. Just to the western side of the highway is Tub Mill Pond where William Manlove built a mill about 1757. The actual mill was located about where the north-bound lane of Rt. 1 is now. In 1760 he willed it to his daughter Mary, wife of Joseph Mason, who owned it for 26 years. When Mason died in 1786 his son Joseph Jr. became the owner. The mill was sold in 1806 to William Henderson, ending 46 years in the Mason family. When he died in 1811 his daughter became the owner and when she died about 1819 or 1820, daughters Priscilla Walton and Nancy Henderson inherited the mill, but they promptly sold it to Dr. John Brinckloe.
Dr. Brinckloe added a saw mill, bark mill and a house, but probably did away with the grist mill. In 1831 Dr. James Pemberton Lofland bought the mill property from Dr. Brinckloe’s estate. When he died in 1851, he left the Tub Mill property to his son James Rush Lofland. The mill was still in operation in 1888, but it was no longer in use after about 1900 and was torn down about 1920.
Mispillion Mills was a steam powered grist and saw mill located across from the Milford Train Station. It was built in 1879 by Messrs. Smith and Houston and the flour mill had two run (sets) of stones and could produce about 15 barrels per day from locally grown wheat.
The saw mill had a Mulay saw (vertical reciprocating saw), one large and several small circular saws, a planer and a matcher (molder). The saw mill produced large quantities of oak timbers for the Philadelphia and New York markets, as well as custom milling for the Milford shipyards. It was all run by a 50 hp steam engine supplied by a large boiler.
Marshall’s Mill Pond is the last of the seven mill ponds we'll visit in the Mispillion River watershed. It’s located on Harring Branch in Milford, just below SE 2nd Street on the western side of Rehobeth Blvd., and only about a block south of the Cedar Beach Road.
The very first mill in the Milford area was built on Herring Branch between 1695 and 1696 by a carpenter named Joseph Booth on his 475 acre land grant. This is the same Joseph Booth that later tried to build the first dam where Silver Lake now sits. Booth sold his mill to James Seaton and his wife Elizabeth in 1715. When Seaton died his will left the mill and 400 acres to Elizabeth and when Elizabeth died she left the old mill to her brothers Jabez Maud and Joshua Fisher and a sister Margery, married to James Miers. In 1731 the mill and 350 acres was deeded to Margery and James. They sold it in 1735 to William Milnor and it eventually passed to John Bowman, Jr.. The large 400 acre tract that included the mill was purchased by John Walton in 1748 and passed down to his sons George and Samuel after his death in 1751. George Walton sold the mill and 167 acres to George Black, Sr. on March 1, 1782.
In 1828 future Governor Peter F. Causey purchased the mill from Sally and Henry May. Sally May was the former Sarah black, daughter of George Black, Jr. who gave his grist mill to Sarah and her husband Henry in 1817. Causey named his operation "Mill Creek Mills" and he owned it from 1828 until 1850, when he began purchasing the rights to Milford Mills and Haven Mills. Daniel Currey next owned the mill and sold it to his daughter Mary in 1851. Mary Currey sold the mill it to Caleb and Delos Griffin in 1865 and very soon after married retired Civil War General Alfred Thomas Torbert.
The Griffins soon sold the mill to Dr. William Marshall in 1871. At the time it was being used as a bark mill, grinding oak bark into a fine powder, called quercitron, to be used in dying and the tanning of animal hides. Marshall had the funds to completely renovated it into a first rate grist mill and he operated it under the name of “National Flour Mills.” It had three run (sets) of mill stones; a crusher stone for grinding bark, a wheat stone and a corn stone, that were powered by a 30 hp Reynolds and Coursey turbine and a 30 hp steam engine. The "National Flour Mills" could grind 125 bushels of wheat and corn per day, which is very good.
Dr. Marshall passed away on November 9th, 1900 and the mill went to his wife, Hester Marshall, although it was still being operated by miller R. C. Coulter. . Fifteen months later, on the evening of Saturday, February 20th, 1902 a devastating fire broke out in the mill that quickly overwhelmed the Milford Fire Company.
Mrs. Marshall sold the property in 1919, including the entire pond, to Edward M. Davis. who turned it into a public water park. It was a very popular place during the gas and tire rationing years of World War II.
History of Delaware, John Thomas Scharf - 1888
Industries of Delaware, Historical and Discriptive Review - 1880
Images of America - Milford by Dave Kenton
Memories of the late M. Catherine Downing
Memories of the late Anne Zodorsney Sparklin
David W. Kenton, Milford Historical Society Newsletter, Spring 1993
Thanks also to Claudia Leister at the Milford Museum for her research help.
In my next post, in two weeks, we will leave the Mispillion River and head south, first exploring the mills that are, or once were, on the ponds of Cedar Creek. Ponds with names like Swiggett, Cubbage, Clendaniel and Hudson.
In his post next week, Paul has an interesting talk about Dandelions.
You either love them or hate them,
I guess it depends on where they are.