Mill Monday 03 – Smoketown

It’s Monday, y’all! Each Monday morning, I will feature a water-powered grist mill located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Today’s featured mill is the Smoketown Mill in East Lampeter Township.

The mill was built in 1770 by James and Deborah Gibbons along the road between Lancaster and Philadelphia. Nearby, a covered bridge crossed the Mill Stream into the village of Bird-in-Hand. The Gibbons’ operated the mill for forty years when ownership passed to their daughter, Rachel, and her husband, William Daniel, in 1810. Daniel added the 3rd story, and then sold the mill to Henry Espenshade in 1829. In 1847 Henry Espenshade offered the mill for sale and he was followed as owner by Eby and M. P. Cooper before Amos Bushong purchased the mill in 1862. Amos Bushong owned the mill until 1899 when it was transferred to Isaac Bushong.

In the December 19, 1817 edition of the Lancaster Intelligencer an advertisement appeared offering a reward of five dollars for the return of a runaway negro “boy” named Perry Miller.  He was described as being “about 5 feet 10 or 11 inches high, stout made; he has when spoken to a very simple look with his eyes, large mouth and nose and remarkable big lips, and fond of strong drink; his feet are from 13 to 14 inches and thick in proportion. The last account of him was at Mr. Daniel’s mill near Bird-in-Hand in Lancaster County. Any person securing the above described runaway in any jail in this state, so that his master can get him again shall receive the above reward and all reasonable charges if brought home.” The ad ends with this warning, “All persons are forbid harboring him at their peril.” Perhaps Perry Miller had come to Smoketown looking for a ticket on the Underground Railroad that was known to have operated in the area.

The Smoketown mill has a very long, 1,300-foot headrace than begins at a six-foot dam on the Mill Creek. The headrace parallels the mill creek until it reaches the mill. The mill used an overshot wheel that was later replaced by two turbines. Capacity was listed at an amazing 100 bushels per day. Water returned to the Mill Stream by way of a 300-foot tailrace.

It was owned by Edwin Spence in the early twentieth century. It was sold again to Clarence O. Nolt in 1949. Clarence’s son, James Nolt became the owner in 1982 and operated the mill until 2004. John Stevens purchased the mill in 2013 and opened it as an art gallery and antique shop. The website is

More information about this mill can be found on this site here: Smoketown Mill.

See you next week for another Monday Mill!

Mill stories wanted! If you know an interesting story about something that happened in relation to one of the Lancaster County grist mills, I want to hear it. Email your story to me at