Welcome another edition of Mill Monday! Every Monday morning, I feature a grist mill located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Today’s mill is the Oregon Roller Mill in Manheim Township. The original mill in Oregon, previously known as Catfish, was built when the fur trader Peter Bezaillion was operating his trading post at Paxtang.
Jacob Bear (Bare) built a mill on Carter’s run (now Lititz run) as early as 1717. Carter’s Run was named for Richard Carter of Warwickshire, England. Jacob Bear’s Mill and the village that grew up around it was a factor in the layout and construction of the road from Lancaster to Ephrata and Reading in 1734. In the following year, a road was commissioned to be built from Gap to Jacob Bear’s mill. At the place where this new road crossed the Mill Creek, Jacob Bear built another mill in 1738. The mill on the Mill Creek would many years later become the Mascot Roller Mill.
His son, Samuel Bear, succeeded him in ownership of the mill. Samuel built the tavern in 1735. Samuel Bear sold the mill to Martin Myer in 1767 but continued in the tavern business throughout the Revolutionary War. The tavern was a popular stagecoach stop. Myer named the community around the mill “Catfish” because of the productive fishing spot behind the mill. Major John Andre, a British officer and prisoner of war spent time fishing here and dining at the tavern. Andre was later hanged for his involvement in the Benedict Arnold conspiracy.
Five generations of Bears operated the tavern at Catfish and the mill continued to be known as “Bear’s Mill” even though it was owned by Myer. Myer sold the mill to Jacob Staman in 1810, who soon afterwards replaced it with a current structure in 1814. In 1824 it was sold by the sheriff to the Pennsylvania Bank, then it was Benjamin Landis in 1829. Henry Leman built his rifle factory at nearby Pinetown around 1834. In 1846, a post office was opened in the village, and at the suggestion of Henry Leman, the village of Catfish was renamed Oregon after the recently acquired Oregon Territories.
Jacob Hess owned the mill in 1850, Abraham Shenk in 1864 and he sold it in 1872. Simon Hostetter was owner in 1883. It was owned by H. F. and A. F Hostetter in 1909 when the mill was destroyed by fire. The machinery was destroyed along with 1,600 bushels of wheat and 800 bushels of corn. The mill was rebuilt in 1909 by Harry S. Withers. Withers sold the mill to J. V. Bittner in January of 1920. At that time, the mill was processing 75 barrels of flour per day. The water source for the mill was a twelve-foot-high dam on the Lititz Creek that brought water to the mill through a 40-foot headrace. Water returned to the creek by way of a 300-foot tailrace. The mill operated until 1943. Elmer Zook was the last to operate the mill.
In December of 1946, the Imperial Asphalt Company of Brownstown bought the mill property. The company intended to use the property to manufacture asphalt. The Manheim Township zoning board denied them a permit on the grounds that the property was zoned residential. Imperial Asphalt appealed the ruling of the zoning board to the Pennsylvania Supreme court who ruled that the zoning board could not block them from using the property for manufacturing. However, after strong opposition from property owners in the area, the company did not proceed with their plans.
Then, in 1950, Jerome and Anna Lois Mellon bought the property from Imperial Asphalt. Their plan was to use the property to build prefabricated housing. The township denied that request also setting up another appeal to the Pennsylvania supreme court in September of 1951. It’s not clear what happened next, but the manufacturing plant was never built. The Mellon’s transferred ownership of the mill property to their daughter, Mary Arlene Rose and her husband Thomas W. Rose. In July of 1955, the mill was seized by the county. Elmer L. Zook was a tenant. The Roses deeded the mill to Elmer L. and Jacob L. Zook in August of 1955.
In 1969 the mill stood vacant.
Bradford O’Neal purchased the mill in 1975 intending to convert it into shops and offices. Those plans did not materialize due to a moratorium on sewer hookups at the time. O’Neal used the mill for his business office, Business Systems Lancaster and the Creativity Shop gift store also operated in the building. O’Neal offered the mill for public auction in September of 1984.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. In 1986, it was owned by Patterson. Lynn Patterson opened RE/MAX by the Stream in the mill with room for 29 agents. Finally, in 1989, the Church of the Brethren purchased the mill and opened COBYS Family Services.
The mill is located at 1417 Oregon Road, Leola, PA.
More information about this mill including more photographs can be found on this website at https://donaldkautz.com/mills/oregon-roller-mill/.