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The Old Mills on Prime Hook Creek

Editor's Note: Sorry about the delay in getting this posted. For some unknown reason I was unable to access this Blog Editor. SC


This week we'll look at Waple's Mill and Reynold's Mill, both on the Prime Hook Creek a few miles north of Milton.


Waples Pond


Waples Pond looking west, from the Rt-1 causeway
Waples Pond looking east, from the Rt-1 causeway


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 [1888] 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 [G.] Waples. The grinding is done by burr, with a patent-process attachment. [circa-1888]

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


Benjamin F. Waples, (Sr.) was a merchant and mill owner and it appears that his miller was probably a man named Elias B. Fowlie. Mr. Waples died at the young age of 43 on June 29, 1862. His son, Benjamin F. Waples (Jr.) eventually took over ownership and in 1870 he had two men operating the mill, James Ride and Thomas P. Magee.

In 1909 a trustee’s sale of the property of Benjamin F. Waples (Jr.) was held and his younger brother John C. Waples purchased the majority of it, which amounted to the Waples Flour Mill (by now only 25 years old) and 73 acres of farming land including the mansion for $1,816, a 99 acre farm with dwelling for $4,792 and 135 acres of farm and marshland for only $417. Another brother, Charles G. Waples, purchased 111 acres of timberland for $4,773.

John C. Waples was listed on the 1900 census as a miller, but as a farmer after that. Like a lot of other mill owners, the mill was an investment and he hired someone else to actually operate it.


A humorous piece from the Milton News section of the Milford Chronicle, dated Nov. 30, 1906 - While John Waples, of near Waples Mill, was in town on Saturday night, two boys took his horse and carriage, and wrote them some distance around the country, and returning hitched the horse up town. Mr. Waples has the animal, but so far as we are aware, no action has yet been taken in the matter.

I guess Saturday nights in 1906 were no different than Saturday nights now.


While John C. Waples was running the mill and farming, brother Charles G. Waples was operating a saw mill and dealing in lumber, among other things. He had a saw mill, probably steam powered, near the Milton railroad depot, and in 1906 he had a rail siding installed for his use in shipping and receiving lumber. In early 1909 he enlarged the planing department so that he could produce a more finished lumber product.


Milton News in the Milford Chronicle - July 3, 1908 Earle Reed came near being the victim of a serious accident on Thursday. For stepping over a moving pulley at C. G. Waples mill his overalls caught near the foot and, together with one half of his drawers, were torn from his body. One of his legs was hurt and he was compelled to use a crutch in walking for several days after.


Charles G. Waples was a prominent lumber dealer in Milton. In 1909 he sold his North Union Street home to Captain J. C. Palmer and purchased the home of the late Delaware Governor James Ponder, then owned by his daughter Miss Ida Ponder.

On January 24th, 1929 Mr. Waples was crossing the street near his home in Milton when he was struck by an automobile. He was rushed to Beebe Hospital in Lewes, but died five days later at the age of 69. He was described in the Wilmington Morning News as;

“One of the largest property owners in Sussex county. He owned a large number of houses in Milton and also a large number of farms throughout the county. He was a stockholder in most of the industrial enterprises in Milton and was a director of the Kent County Mutual Insurance Company. He was a director of the Sussex Trust company since 1924 and from the same date was vice-president of the Milton branch of the same company. He was at one time a member of the town commission and also the school board.” He also ran for Senator in 1906 and 1922.

He was survived by his wife Margaret Prettyman Waples, two sons Weldin C. Waples and William P. Waples and a daughter Nell M. Campbell.


When the Coastal Highway (Rt 1), from Milford to Lewes, was built between 1920 and 1926, two routes were considered. One would have taken the road between Waples Pond and Reynolds Pond and would have passed very near the Milton town limits. The other route was more direct and took the new concrete highway directly across the deep end of the Waples Mill pond. This likely had a lot to do with the demise of the Waples Mill. To appease the people in and around Milton a new road was constructed linking Milton with the Coastal Highway via the community of "Waples Mill" at the south end of the mill dam (where Brumbley's Family Campground is now.) The new road was designated State Rt 5, but is known locally as Union Street Extended.

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Reynolds Pond

Reynolds Pond - July 2021 - Steve Childers

In 1809 the mill on this site, [just a mile and a half upstream from Waples Mill,] was owned by Nathan Reed, followed by William McIlvain. and then Rodrick and Silas Reynolds.

"Chamber Clipper, Milton, DE Contributed by Harrison"


Reynolds Mill, near Milton, is undergoing a thorough repair at the hands of it’s [new] owner, [ex-governor] Ponder. He is putting in one of Coursey’s patent water wheels, and will make the mill good as new. [circa-1888]

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


Reynolds Mill was bought by ex-governor James Ponder sometime before 1868 as an investment. Ponder was a wealthy man who had brought one of the first canneries to the area in 1881 and played a key role in the construction of the Queen Anne’s Railroad. He was President of the Kent County Mutual Insurance Company and Director of the Farmer’s Bank of Delaware. He made improvements to the old mill by apparently removing the waterwheel and replacing it with the latest patented turbine.


The mill was acquired by Captain Thomas Chase, probably about 1897 when James Ponder died. The "Captain" in front of Chase's name was left over from the days when he captained a ship up and down the Delaware Bay.


On the night of Monday, 1909 the mill was destroyed by fire. It was supposed to have been struck by lightning, as there was no fire in or near the building on the previous day. Captain Chase made it known that the mill was insured for $2,000, which would be over $56,000 today, and that he intended to rebuild, as the mill had been very profitable. By November carpenter and millwright Henry Atkins had begun work on the new mill and the building was closed in by Christmas.


The News Journal reported that on the night of February 1st, 1916 a large touring car became stalled in the middle of the narrow dam at Reynold's Mill. "The driver had not sufficient gasoline, and the ladies of the party were compelled to remain in the vehicle for several hours while the chauffeur had to visit several farm houses before finally persuading a farmer to go to Milton for a supply. Rain and sleet were falling and the ladies had a disagreeable wait." I suppose the driver did a lot more walking after that.


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A small community called "Reynolds Mill" sprang up just south of the dam, at the intersection of what is now called Reynolds Pond Rd. and Isaacs Rd. (Rt 30). All that remains is the Reynolds Church cemetery. The Historical Marker # SC-222 reads:

On October 14, 1869, a group of local residents gathered for the purpose of organizing and electing trustees for a Methodist Protestant church near Reynolds Mills. The following month, land was obtained to serve as a site for a house of worship. Construction was completed in 1870, but the building was destroyed by fire on the day of its dedication. After worshipping for a time in a local school, members erected a second structure in 1872. The congregation was formally incorporated as Reynolds M. P. Church on April 1, 1897. By the 1960s, regular services were discontinued, and in 1967 the deteriorating condition of the church resulted in its removal.

Reynold's MP Church 1936 - Delaware Public Archives
Reynold's MP Church cemetery, looking east - Google Earth

Reynold's MP Church interior 1936 - Delaware Public Archives

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On the south side of Prime Hook Creek was a mill owned by the Ingram Brothers, later sold to Arthur Milby at a sheriff sale.


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Credits: Delaware Public Archives

Milton News in the Milford Chronicle, from "Research Tools" in Phil Martin's

"Blogger on the Broadkill", found at: http://broadkillblogger.org


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I’LL BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW…



Where did the name of "Prime Hook Creek" come from?


Well, when Dutch settlers arrived in the area in the 1630s they discovered an abundance of purple beach plums (Prunus maritima).

So, of course, they called the area “Priume Hoek”, meaning Plum Point.

Beach Plums

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Next time, in two weeks, we will visit the mills that were once on Broad Kill Creek in Milton.

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