Looking for the 1876 "S Mill" near Kennells Mill, PA

S Mill and Fulling Mill on Beers 1876 map

In 2009, Mike McKenzie took a hike along the creek in the area of the fulling mill and the "S mill" that are shown on the portion of the 1876 Beers map of Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA that is reproduced above. He looked along the road and the creek bed and the old railroad bed as far down as the Bedford County line, but saw no any evidence remaining of the fulling mill.

He did find an old bridge abutment on the fulling mill side of the road, and on the other side of the road (the south side) he found the old stone foundation that is shown in the photo below. He also observed that the old railroad bed, which is on the north side of the road, seems to end when it gets parallel to the location of this structure. He could see no signs that the old railroad bed went any farther. (Click here so see an old map that shows that railroad.)

In describing the stone foundation, Mike said that it sat just above the new bridge, "right next to the water level of the stream". Water from the stream can be seen in the photo, and Mike was actually standing on a rock in the stream when he took the photo. The foundation only has three sides, the upper side being open.

Mike indicated that everyone said that the foundation was part of an old tavern, but he believes that originally it was the "S Mill" that is shown on the Beers map. He noted that there is level ground above it, and questions why anyone would build a structure right down at water level unless it was built to utilize the water. He said that the cement chimney, an obvious later addition, covers up a square hole that was obviously original to the structure, since the stone lintel is intact. He noted that this hole was possibly used to allow passage of the water wheel shaft. The area above the top of the broken off chimney fragment appears to be damaged from freezing water. This damage is evidently related to spray resulting from water hitting the top of the over-shot water wheel from a flume. (The nearby Kennell's Mill used overlapping boards to covered up the exterior of the mill wall near the water wheel; this was obviously to help to minimize water damage to the structure.)

  • Click here to see an enlargement of the water-damaged area of the foundation. Based on the damage right over the square hole in the wall, and the structure location up against the creek, I am convinced that this is a water powered mill, and is almost certainly the "S Mill" that is shown on the 1876 Beers map.

  • Click here to see Mike's hand sketch of where the foundation is located

  • click here to see an aerial photo of what that area looked like in 1939. Mike reports that the stream above the mill would have been easy to dam because the bedrock formations above the mill already give the appearance of a dam when viewed from below.

    Stone foundation near the intersection of the Palo Alto Road and Comps Road.

    The next photo is an end view of the foundation; click here to see a closeup that shows the square nail holes in one of the planks that is embedded in the wall. Mike estimates that this side of the foundation is only about 10 or 12 feet wide. I have always assumed that the "S Mill" on the 1876 map was a sawmill. Now here is the actual structure at that location, and it is too small by itself to represent a sawmill. A sawmill has a long carriage on a track that carries the log into the saw blade. By itself, this foundation isn't big enough for such a carriage.

    Mike and I, who live 1500 miles apart, were pondering this question, and independently came to the same potential answer. In 1969 I worked on my Grandfather's belt-driven sawmill. it was a long wooden structure. I was imagining that one end of a such a wooden structure might have been supported by, or near, the stone foundation, and the foundation could have also housed part of the drive mechanism. Mike e-mailed me with the same basic theory. He wrote "I was thinking about this being a sawmill last night, I realize the foundation isn't very wide but I am also thinking that the upper portion may have been a wooden structure and much wider and even possibly longer, the picture I took of the side is from a higher elevation where the ground is level and ideal for a larger structure (this turned out to evidently be the tavern parking lot; see below). The wall/foundation is fairly tall and would have needed to be to to house the wheel mechanism and related sawmill mechanics (I assume). Also being built next to the water, it would have had to been a solid and stable foundation (which it appears to have been). The floods and high water have not had much affect on it.".

    The strange thing about this site, and another water-powered sawmill that is shown on the 1876 township map, is that local sawmills were still water powered in 1876, which is well into the steam power era. I also believe that Warren's Mill (in another township) must have also been water powered, based on where I have been told it was located.

    Side view of the stone foundation near the intersection of the Palo Alto Road and Comps Road.

    The next photo is reproduced from Roger & Mona Huffman's 2005 book "A Look at Southampton Township Pennsylvania the Way it Used to Be!", with Mona's permission. This 1950s photo shows the tavern that was located at this site. The book reports that the building was originally a mill, and there was a large water wheel along the side of the building that powered the mill. During a phone call in 2013, Mona said that she and her husband remember seeing the water wheel as youths, and described it as an undershot wheel. The volume I book says this was "originally the Fulling mill or woolen mill". Whether or not this is the same building that is shown in Volume II as being the Fulling Mill is unknown, but it appears to be smaller. The 1876 Beers map shows the Fulling Mill as being located across the road from this mill. In 2009, my Uncle Melvin reported that Lester Korns told him that his woolen blanket came from the woolen mill where the tavern was. We had looked at the tavern photo not long (a few days or hours) before Melvin's statement about the blanket. I believe the fulling mill in Volume II relates to the 1873-1894 Tauber operation on the Dennis Comp farm, and the woolenmill that served as a tavern in the 1950's was an earlier but heretofore unknown fulling/woolen mill operation that produced Lester Korns' 1839 coverlet. Whether the two operations were in the same building is unknown. It may even be that the S. Mill/tavern location was the primary woolenmill in the circa 1839 operation, and was later used at some period during the Tauber operation, to supplement the operations of the Fulling Mill across the road that is shown on the 1876 map. Whether or not the mystery can be unravelled, there is a strong tradition that the S. Mill/tavern was used as a woolenmill.

    Once Mike saw the tavern photo, he remembered the old tavern too, and remembered that Jim Sacco, Sr. owned it and also ran a tavern there. In regards to the older structure that can be seen in the rear of the tavern photo, Mike reports that the roofline matches the stone founation. Mike also reports that although the 1876 Beers map seems to indicate that the fulling mill was more or less right across the road from this S. Mill, that side of the road is mostly an embankment/slope, and doesn't seem to match the lay of the ground in the fulling mill photo in Volume II.

    The next image is a 1939 aerial photo of the intersection of the Palo Alto Road and Comps Road. The "S Mill" location is indicated.

    1939 USDA aerial photo of the intersection of the Palo Alto Road and Comps Road.

    L. Dietle, with significant input from Mike McKenzie.
    September & November, 2009, revised October 2013

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