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The Old Mills on Cedar Creek-Part I

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

Cedar Creek is just south of Milford and the Mispillion River, in fact they both empty into the Delaware Bay at the same inlet, just north of Slaughter Beach. The duPont Nature Center is also there at the West side of the mouth.

Mouth of Mispillion River and Cedar Creek

Before the American Revolution, enterprising families had settled at the heads of the major rivers and creeks in Kent and Sussex County and opened wharves and mills that could serve the growing river trade. Cedar Creek was no exception.

The Brick Granary and the four mill ponds on Cedar Creek, Milford is just off the map at the top.

The Brick Granary

Daniel Rogers arrived in the Cedar Creek area in 1775 at the age of 21 and within three years he would be married to one of the wealthiest women in the county and in another 18 years he would be Governor of the State of Delaware.

He had been raised on a farm near Pungoteague in Accomack county, on the lower eastern shore of Virginia, descended from English immigrants that had settled in Jamestown about 1624. Upon arriving at Cedar Creek he soon purchased a 128-acre farm at the Cedar Creek crossing, just north of Argo’s Corner, which was then known as “The Wading Place.” Rogers built a tavern and a large, brick granary where he could store grain from nearby farms and then trade it for goods from ships that sailed up Cedar Creek. It was Daniel Rogers desire to create a large trading center on the banks of Cedar Creek, but his focus turned to Milford after his wealthy mentor, Levin Crapper, died that same year. Daniel was appointed the administrator of Levin’s very large estate, but within two years Levin’s son Mouton Crapper also died and Daniel fell in love with his widow Esther. They were married in 1778 and a couple of years later Rogers moved into the Crapper’s South Milford mansion with Esther, where he lived until his death in 1806.

Daniel Rogers was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1791 and then served twice as speaker. When Governor Bedford died on September 30, 1797, Rogers ascended to the office and served as governor for about 15 months.

The Old Brick Granary - Milford Museum

The old “Brick Granary” was a local landmark that could be seen by travelers on the old Kings Highway until the almost one hundred and fifty year old structure collapsed in 1924 while piles were being driven for the nearby Rt. 1 bridge.


Swiggett’s Pond

Miller-merchant Alexander Draper built a gristmill on Cedar Creek before 1727, near the small town of Cedar Creek Village. The dam created what is now known as Swiggett’s Pond along Rt. 30, less than a mile and a half south of Milford’s new Bay Health Hospital.

Swiggett's Pond, which also extends on the other side of Fleatown Road, on the left. - Steve Childers

After Draper’s death in 1734 the 700-acre plantation was divided equally between his two sons Joseph and Nehemiah. In 1745 their mother Ann left to son Joseph “land in Somerset County [now the western part of Sussex County] whereon my husband Alexander Draper built a sawmill” and to Nehemiah, owner and operator of the Cedar Creek Mill, she left a good pair of mill stones.

The 1767 will of Nehemiah Draper gave the mill and home plantation to his oldest son, Alexander, and his daughter-in-law Esther. In 1770 Alexander petitioned the Sussex County Court to permit him to repair his mill and enlarge his millpond, indicating that he may have rebuilt his father’s mill within a few years. According to an inventory and appraisement conducted of Alexander Draper’s estate in 1774, Draper also ran a richly stocked mercantile establishment. Goods for sale included expensive cloth, clothing, stocking, shoes, hats, wigs, and glassware, as well as farming and fishing supplies. Unfortunately, no buildings (including Alexander Draper’s original mill) from this period still stand in Cedar Creek Village or its vicinity.

The mill was sold to David Smith in 1825 and he owned it until December 18, 1829, when he deeded it to his son, David R. Smith. David sold it the following year to Jacob B. Dutton. Lemuel B. Shockley briefly became the owner in 1838, and quickly sold to Wm. B. Coulter. In 1839 the mill burned, and a new one immediately was erected a little east of the original site. In 1852 a saw-mill was erected, but was no longer in use 13 years later. The property was retained by Wm. B. Coulter and his son, Thomas J. until 1885, when it became the property of H. L. Hynson and J. H. McColley.

In 1886 Henry L. Hynson and wife sold the mill to Dr. John Shepard Prettyman. At the time the mill was doing primarily “custom work”, meaning it was grinding for local customers, rather than selling wholesale to Sussex county stores. Dr. Prettyman graduated from medical college in 1855 and soon after purchased the Peninsula News and Advisor, a local paper that had been "pro-slavery" before, but under his new ownership became "anti-slavery". It was the only Republican Newspaper in Delaware and the only anti-slavery paper south of the Mason Dixon line. It was also the first paper in the area to support Abraham Lincoln for president. Because of his support President Lincoln appointed Dr. Prettyman Consul to Glascow, Scotland. Later President U.S. Grant appointed him Collector of Internal Revenue.

So, it's clear that he was no miller himself, but had probably purchased the mill as a retirement investment.

Swiggett's Mill - 2013 Dave Kenton - Milford Museum

Dr. Prettyman passed away in 1904, and his wife Ann Ellen died four years later. They left the property, described as “All that certain Mill Seat and tract of land known as Cedar Creek Mills… having erected thereon a flour mill and a dwelling and outbuildings and containing two acres, more or less, being high land and also the land covered by the pond…” to their children.

Note: A Mill Seat is described as “a suitable place for a water mill. A mill site is the mill seat and the above mill dam.”)

On June 16th, 1908 the eight Prettyman children sold it all to Mitchell Swiggett of Frederica for $4,019.00. Divided eight ways the grown and married Prettyman children would have each received about $502.38, or $14,583 in today’s dollars.

I think it’s very interesting that Swiggett’s large roller mill in Frederica had just burned to the ground on June 10th, only six days before he settled on the Prettyman mill. Hmmmmm?

Mitchell & Lizzie Swiggett's home and Swiggett's Mill - 2013 Dave Kenton - Milford Museum

On Aug. 10th 1911 one of Mitchell Swiggett's hands became caught in belting in his mill. First reports on Aug. 11th were that his thumb was smashed, but a September report stated that he had lost the whole hand. Never the less, he operated the mill, perhaps with help, until he died in 1926. His wife Lizzie M. (Clendaniel) Swiggett then took over ownership, but I could find no record of who her miller was. She sold the Cedar Creek Mill in 1945 to John S. Isaacs and the present owners are two brothers who do not live locally. The Old Swiggett Mill still stands near where Rt. 30 crosses Fleatown Road to the West and Pine Haven road to the East.

Swiggett's Mill - June 2021 - Steve Childers



Google Maps

History of Delaware, John Thomas Scharf - 1888

Industries of Delaware, Historical and Discriptive Review - 1880

Dave Kenton - Milford Museum

Milford Museum


It has come to my attention that in my last post I overlooked one of Milford's old mills. I don't know any more about it than what this short article from the Milford Chronicle says. It was located along Front Street where Rite Aid Pharmacy is now, so it obviously wasn't powered by water. Either an engine or an electric motor?

J.F. Wilson Mill, Milford, Delaware - Delaware Public Archives
Wilson's Mill, Milford, DE - Milford Museum


Paul's post next week will be titled;

"Ode to a Wild Rose."

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