Welcome to another edition of Mill Monday! Today’s segment features the Mascot Roller Mills. The Mascot Roller Mill is located on the Mill Stream at 2900 Stumptown Road in Upper Leacock Township, Pennsylvania.
This mill figures in the memory of the writer, who grew up in the village of Leola. The mill was an easy bike ride down the Newport Road. I remember wading in the shallow waters below the mill dam. Old Mr. Ressler didn’t seem to mind a few boys snooping around, provided we stayed out of trouble. I especially remember being in the mill as it was running and feeling how the whole building resonated with the rhythm of the wheels and gears. Mr. Ressler is gone now, but he left behind a legacy that can still be enjoyed by the public. You can visit the mill free of charge five days a week from May through September. For more information see the website at www.resslermill.com.
The first mill at this location on the Mill Creek was built by Jacob Bare (Bear) sometime between 1738 and 1740 on property that he bought from a Quaker named John Piggot. This is possibly the same Jacob Bare who built Oregon mill. In fact, this mill was located on a road that ran from Gap to the Oregon Mill, a road that would later become part of the Newport Road that ran from Mount Hope to Newport, Delaware.
Jacob and his wife Barbara deeded the mill tract to their son-in-law, John Leonberger in June of 1740. The mill property was handed down through numerous owners during the next eighty years until it was listed for sale at auction on January 20, 1820. The sale bill described the mill as “an elegant two-story Grist and Merchant mill situate on the Newport Road.” It went on to say, “The mill is in complete order for a country or merchant business, and on a never failing stream of water with three water wheels and three pair of stones, two of which are French burrs…” Daniel and Magdalena Groff gave the winning bid and became the next owner of the mill.
Daniel and Magdalena Groff managed the property for forty years and made numerous improvements. They raised the height of the mill to the present 3.5 stories and added a frame sawmill. They built a large, brick general store and residence on the northwest corner of Stumptown and Newport roads. A post office was opened in the store and the community was known as “Groff’s Store”. In 1849, the mill processed 12,000 bushels of merchant wheat, 4,500 bushels of custom wheat, 1,000 bushels of rye, 4,500 bushels of corn, 3,000 bushels of oats, and 250 bushels of other grains. The sawmill, powered by its own overshot wheel, processed 65,000 feet of lumber. The Groff’s built the brick house next to the mill in 1855. In 1857, they upgraded the equipment and expanded the capacity. The mill was powered by 12-foot overshot wheels, had three burr stones and one chopping stone.
The addition of the house and the expansion of the mill at the same time over-extended the Groff’s finances. Daniel’s health also began to fail about this time. Several liens were placed against the property which forced the Groff’s to auction the mill in 1860. The Groff’s neighbor, Christian Newhouser bought the mill and in the following year, deeded a half-share to another neighbor, Christian Ebersole.
Newhouser and Ebersole sold the mill at private auction to William Ressler on April 1, 1865, for the sum of $20,000. William Ressler was an experienced miller having operated Binkley’s mill on the Conestoga River. This was the first mill that he owned personally. In 1882, William’s son, Jacob K. Ressler took over operation of the mill, leasing it from his father. Prior to this, Jacob had operated another mill on the Conestoga, the Greenbank Mill in Earl Township. Jacob married Annie Martha Groff in December of 1881. William Ressler died in December of 1892.
In addition to milling, Jacob Ressler served as a local banker of sorts by loaning his customers money until their tobacco or milk checks arrived. In fact, Jacob later became a director and president of the First National Bank of Intercourse. Jacob also successfully petitioned the Postmaster General to open a post office at the mill since the post office at Groff’s store had been closed for some time. This provided his neighbors the convenience of picking up their mail at the mill. But they needed a name for the post office, and it could not end in “town” or “burg”. It was Jacob’s wife Annie who suggested that they call the mill and the village around it, “Mascot” after a little dog that she had seen in a Broadway show on their honeymoon. Jacob referred to his business as the “Mascot Roller Mills”.
Jacob and Annie had eight children. Unfortunately, three of them died early, two of them due to illness and the third, Oram, died in an accident at the mill in 1904. Jacob deeded the mill to his oldest son, William, in 1920 for $1.00. However, Jacob continued to operate the mill until his death in 1938 aided by his youngest son, Walter Franklin. Three other children pursued occupations away from home, but W. Franklin Ressler and his sister Anna remained at Mascot the rest of their lives. Franklin served with the Army Air Force in the Pacific during World War II but returned to operate the mill even as demand for its services decreased. After Annie died in 1947, William deeded the mill and the Ressler home to his siblings Anna and Franklin.
Waterpower for the Mascot mill comes from the Mill Stream. A twelve-foot-high dam funnels water into a 300-foot-long headrace. The original mill utilized overshot wheels for power, but they were replaced by turbines in 1906 and the mill stones were replaced by rollers. The water returns to the Mill Stream by way of a 1,300-foot tailrace. The turbines endured nearly continuous service for nearly a hundred years until one of them failed in 1960. It was replaced with a new, 24 horsepower, high-speed turbine manufactured by Fitz Water Wheel Company. Millwright Nathan Eberly performed the installation of the new wheel.
Anna, Franklin, and William Ressler established the non-profit Ressler Mill Foundation in 1975 to preserve the mill and the home property. Anna died in 1978 and Franklin died in 1993.
More information about this mill can be found on my website at https://donaldkautz.com/mills/mascot-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. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.