Mills on the Conestoga

In this post I will document the mills that remain on the Conestoga River. Near the close of the 19th century, there were something in the neighborhood of twenty-seven mills along the Conestoga. Today there are only six and none of them are being used as milling operations. The six remaining mills are all on the upper Conestoga. The lower Conestoga has no remaining mills or dams and no covered bridges. The mill dams on the lower section of the river were all removed in the interest in allowing fish to freely swim up and down the stream. I will cover the mills in order of the river flow. They are Spring Mill, Spring Grove Mill, Bitzer’s Mill, Bushong Mill, Brownstown Mill, and Eden Roller Mill.

Spring Mill

Spring Mill (Zug’s Mill / Grube’s Mill) is located along Red School Road south of Route 23 just outside Morgantown. The present mill was built in 1823 by David Zug. It replaced an earlier mill that was built in 1753. The water source was a mountain spring (hence the name “Spring Mill”). The mill used an overshot wheel and the outflow drained into the Conestoga River. Milling operations ceased in 1927. The mill is now used as part of a furniture business.

Spring Grove Mill

The Spring Grove Mill (Oberholtzer’s Mill/ Horst Bros Mill) was built in 1868 by Jacob and Catherine Oberholtzer. The mill is located on Spring Grove Road in East Earl Township. The mill was powered by two turbines and could produce 20 barrels of flour per day. Milling operations continued until about 1987. The dam on the Conestoga is still present. The mill, which is in a state of disrepair, is used for equipment storage.

Bitzer’s Mill

Bitzer’s Mill (Eberly Cider Mill) is on Cider Mill Road right next to the covered bridge. The date of construction of this mill is unclear but John Bitzer owned the mill in 1864. The mill was used variously as a grist mill, flour mill, saw mill, and cider mill. Nathan Eberly owned the mill when it closed in 1933. The mill dam still exists.

Bushong’s Mill

Bushong’s Mill (Zooks Mill) is located on the south side of Quarry Road. Built in 1857 by John and Elizabeth Bushong, the mill operated as a grist and saw mill through 1920. The original mill used an overshot wheel. In 1920, two turbines were installed in place of the overshot wheel and the mill was converted to a roller mill. Elmer Zook took ownership of the mill in the 1930s and operated the mill until 1972 (Hurricane Agnes). Beginning in 1974 and continuing until at least 2006 the mill was used to grind flour for the pretzel industry.

Brownstown Mill

The Brownstown Mill (Wolf’s Mill) was built in 1856 by Jacob and Lavina Wolf. This mill is located on West  Farmersville Road just across the river from the town of Brownstown.  The current mill replaced an earlier stone mill that was built on this site in 1750. A log mill was located on this site as early as 1730. Two turbines drove the mill which had a capacity of 75 barrels per day. Milling operations ended in 1929. Today, the mill is a private residence.

Eden Roller Mill

The Eden Roller Mill (Umble’s Mill) is located on Millcross Road near the town of Eden. The current mill was built circa 1870 on a site that had earlier mills. Two turbines drove the mill. There was a fulling mill on this site in 1812 which was converted to a carding mill in 1824. A paper mill operated on the site in 1864. The current, brick mill was used as a flour/grist mill until it closed sometime in the early 20th century.

Lancaster County’s mills were an extremely important part of the commerce of the county in the early days. An 1840 census showed 383 mills in the county. They were hubs of the local economy. Today they stand as testaments to a bye-gone era. Several of the mills in the county (although none of the ones in this post) are set up as museums and are worth a visit. Most notably is the Mascot Mill on the Mill Stream south of Leola. You can tour the mill and learn about this part of Lancaster’s history.

On a less bright note, the mills with their dams and ponds completely altered the ecology of the county. The dams collected sediment over time that built up in some places as deep as fifteen feet. Later, when the dams were destroyed, all of that sediment began to wash down the river into the Susquehanna and ultimately to the bay. Various methods are being employed to mitigate the flow of sediment from Lancaster County to the bay but much work is still required. One method of note is to create what is called a “riparian buffer”. A riparian buffer is an area of vegetation, often trees, along the stream banks. This helps to improve water quality and reduce pollution and run-off along the stream.

4 thoughts on “Mills on the Conestoga

  1. Very interesting read, Don. I appreciate the time you have taken to research each mill, and then share your knowledge. I am fascinated by old mills, and love to photograph them. A favorite mill of mine is Bushong Mill. I have been there on numerous occasions, and always come home with some great photos. I now have an even greater appreciation for this mill after reading your article. Thankyou for sharing.

    1. Thanks Jackie! Mills are one of my favorite subjects also. If you are interested, I have a spreadsheet with details on all the mills in Lancaster County.
      Don

  2. I really enjoyed your photos and descriptions of the mills, Don. It’s great when our photos can be meaningful in some way to others. Thank you.

  3. Yes, as per those above, a big ” thank you ” for your exposé!
    At the Reset Mill a long the Mill Creek, in the early qoy0’s, two older widows, Resslers, lived there. J worked for Him better Brothers Landscape in Leila, and we trimmed their shrubbery and trees.
    My father, Dr. FLOYD Landis, grew up on a farm nearby, and told me much of the history.
    Today, a friend of mine, Vince Stock, who.lives along the Conestoga near DM Stoltfus Quarry, is the painter at Resslers Mill.

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