Search

Who was Ainsworth Abbott?

The man that operated Abbott's Mill for over four decades, Ainsworth (nmi) Abbott, was born on June 22, 1885 in Ellendale, Sussex County, Delaware to John T. and Clara (Warren) Abbott. His parents had just married the previous year, but his father died when Ainsworth was less than two years old, leaving no will. His mother, Clara, petitioned the Delaware Orphans Court to settle his accounts and his 47 acres of property in the Cedar Creek Hundred were eventually sold to the highest bidder, a William S. Fisher, for $600. Of this Clara received: $182.56 (equal to $4,923.14 today) and two year old Ainsworth received: $89.84 ($2,422.73). (The Orphans' Court was also responsible for partitioning the real estate of a person who died without a will.)


His mother eventually remarried and in 1900 15 year old Ainsworth was living with his mother and his step-father, David Lofland. Ainsworth married 19 year old Linda W. Donovan (b: 1885) on Oct. 30, 1904, the wedding performed by E. B. Taylor in Ellendale. Linda's father was James H. Donovan, but her mother was deceased.

In 1909 Ainsworth and Linda had a son and in 1910 Ainsworth was working as a carpenter, doing odd jobs. By 1918, when Ainsworth registered for the WWI Selective Service, he lived in Ellendale and said his nearest relative was his mother, Clara Lofland, so he and Linda must have separated by then. In the 1920 census, Linda and Nelson were living alone and by 1930 Linda had married Isaac Clendaniel, a team driver.

Ainsworth reported in his 1918 Selective Service registration that he was a Miller, and he supposedly built and operated a grist mill near Ellendale, but it soon burned to the ground.


Shortly thereafter, on June 5, 1919, Ainsworth Abbott and Joseph J. Smith bought the old "Johnson's Mill", by then known as Lakeview Roller Mills, from W. Shockley Dougherty, which included the dam, the land with the pond and ten acres of ground north of the dam, which made 113 acres altogether. It appears that his mother lent him the money and two years after that Clara Lofland bought out Joseph Smith's share. The mill must have been doing well because within a year Ainsworth was able to repay his mother and he owned and operated the mill for the next forty one years. There is no evidence that Abbott ever referred to his mill as "Lakeview Roller Mills". Being a frugal man, he usually ordered plain paper bags for his local sales.


On March 27, 1923 38 year old Ainsworth married Mary Williams, aged 33, of Greenwood, Del. This was her first marriage and she and Ainsworth never had children of their own.

Ainsworth later reported on his 1942 selective service papers that he was 5 foot 2 inches tall, 159 lbs. had brown eyes and black hair. The 1940 U.S. Census states that the highest grade he completed in school was the 5th and for his wife, Mary, 4th grade, however, the couple successfully operated the milling business by themselves for forty years. Their only employee was someone to make their weekly deliveries in one of their Ainsworth Abbott circa 1955

panel trucks, first a 1929 Chevy and later a 1931 Ford.


During the first five years that he owned the mill Ainsworth learned that there were times when Johnson's Branch couldn't supply enough water to run both the cornmeal millstones and the flour roller mills. This may have been why the mill had recently changed hands so many times. Although Ainsworth was a frugal man, he apparently didn’t mind spending the money necessary for mill improvements. In June of 1925 he bought a used Fairbanks Morse type Y 20 H.P. semi-diesel engine from the Farmers Supply Company in Arbovale, West Virginia and had it shipped from Cass, W.Va. by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. Including shipping it cost him $550, equal to about $8000 today. He then installed it outside, just to the north of the mill and knocked out part of the brick wall in the basement so that a belt could reach the main drive shaft.


This allowed him to operate the entire milling operation at once, very important because milling in this part of the state was a very competitive business. Within just a few miles of Abbott’s Mill there were three other operating grist mills, ( on Griffith Lake, Blair's Pond and Silver Lake) so if customers were not able to get their crop ground at Ainsworth Abbott's mill, they didn’t have far to go to get it done somewhere else. Abbott's Mill was known to produce a very high grade of flour, buckwheat and corn meal. He also installed a drive shaft through the west wall of the mill so that he could power outside equipment, such as a cordwood saw or even a combine.

In May of 1927 he bought $338.45 worth of lumber ($4,635 today), windows and doors from the I.D. Short Co. in nearby Houston, and built a two-story addition to the mill to house the engine. This wing has protected it for over 90 years and when it was recently restored the only work that was needed was to rebuild the fuel pump and it then started right up. To see the engine running there is information below about how to schedule a tour of our mill.




Mary and Ainsworth Abbott, circa 1941 - (notice his 1931 Ford in front of the mill)


On April 11, 1938 Ainsworth traded in his wife’s old kitchen range and bought her a new 9000 Series Ivory Quickmeal Kerosene Range & Reservoir from Wilson & Gerow , Frederica, Del. He paid $95 for it, a goodly sum that would be equal to about $1,700 today! (He did manage to get $20 credit for their used range.) This was just two weeks after their 15th wedding anniversary. Coincidence?

***********************************************************************************************************************


Mr. Abbott's vehicles were involved in at least three different accidents in the 11 year period between 1935 and 1946 . One of them, in 1940, involved the fender on a 1937 Cadillac belonging to a Washington D.C. lawyer named Claude Branner.

Text of a letter from Mr. Branner to Mr. Abbott:

Editors Note:

(1427 Eye St is next to Franklin Square and only a couple of blocks from the White House)


Claude E. Branner, Lawyer, 1427 Eye Street, N.W., Washington, D. C. Feb. 26, 1940

Dear Mr. Abbott,
I stopped at Wright Brothers Garage on my way home, and was advised that they would fix the fender for $7.00, but that it would necessitate my a 1937 Cadillac staying over in Milford for a full day, which I was not in a position to do. I therefore took the car to Imirie's Garage when I returned home and was advised by them that they would make a charge of $10.00 to do the same work. The charges here are generally higher than in a small country town, which accounts for the difference in price. I feel that you are legally obligated to pay the charges made here, however, if you feel that the $7.00 price from Wright Brothers is all you should pay, you may send your check in this amount to Imirie's Garage , Bethesda, Maryland, or to myself, and I will pay the difference.
I would appriciate your taking care of this immediately, as the car is at this time being repaired.
Yours respectfully, C. E. Branner
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
G. W. Imirie's Garage, Bethesda, Maryland, February 24, 1940
Straightening and refinishing right rear fender of 1937 Cadillac. $10.00

Mr. Abbott promptly sent a seven dollar money order to Imirie's garage!

***********************************************************************************************************************


Our monthly 3rd Saturday "Running of the Mill" tours begin on March 20th. To schedule a tour please call 302-422-0847 ext. 102

********************************************************************************************************************

Continued soon: Disaster, The Great ChesapeakePotomac Hurricane blows in.

17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Site problems

I'm having problems with our site. Paul's post for this week will be late.