Cloister Lower Mill

Aka Wenger’s Mill

The first mill on this lower location along the Cocalico creek was built by Andreas Kropf sometime after 1736 when 175 acres were patented to him from the Penn family. The Cloister Brotherhood purchased the mill in 1741. This group expanded the grist mill into a grouping of connected mills that shared a common power source. In addition to the grist mill there was a sawmill, a paper mill, a flaxseed oil mill, and a barley mill all under one roof. The mills were operated by the Cloister throughout the middle 18th century.

The Cloister community broke up in 1814 and its remaining members reorganized as the German Seventh Day Baptists of Ephrata. The ownership for both Ephrata mills was transferred to this group. The Lower Mill was refurbished in 1814 and the dam rebuilt. The mill was leased to Jacob Konigmacher who operated it until 1827. The mill was remodeled again more extensively in 1828 after which it was leased to Benedict Bucher. Benedict Bucher continued to lease the mill from the society until he purchased his own mill near Reamstown in 1853. Then, in 1859, the mill property was listed for public auction. Samuel Royer submitted the winning bid.

Built1785
Structure3.5 Story Stone
Water SourceCocalico Creek
TownshipEphrata Borough
TypeGrist
Headrace300 feet
Tailrace150 feet
Dam Height5 feet
Power4 Turbines +
Undershot Wheel
Capacity10 bbl / day

The mill was deeded to Samuel K. Royer on March 30, 1860. Royer was a trustee of the Seventh Day Baptists. Samuel died in 1864 and ownership of the mill transferred to his widow, Catherine, and to his son, Phares W. Royer and his daughter, Harriet (Royer) Dohner. They, in turn, sold the mill to John Messner and Jacob Zeiley in 1868. Included in the terms was a widow’s dower that would pay interest to Catherine Royer for as long as she lived.

John Messner, who operated the Hinkletown mill for a few years, tore down the old mill and built a new, four and a half-story stone mill. This is the building that is standing today. The new mill had four run of stone and an attached sawmill. Messner and Zeiley owned the mill for five years and sold it to Benjamin E. Wenger in April of 1873. Wenger held the mill for only three years and sold the property at a loss to John Graver in 1876.

John Graver, who was also the owner of the Akron Mill on the Cocalico, operated the mill for thirteen years. Catherine Royer died of cancer in 1885, making the principle of her dowry due and payable to her estate. This forced Graver to sell the mill. He sold it to Jacob Horst in 1889. Horst held the mill for just a short time and transferred ownership to Jacob Buch in 1891. Jacob Buch died in 1900 and the mill was sold to Samuel Metzler in 1901.

Samuel Metzler was a deacon at Metzler’s Mennonite Congregation. Metzler operated the mill under the name of “White Stone Mills” serving the local farming community. Metzler ran the mill for fourteen years until he closed operations in 1915. Metzler then split up the property, separating the mill from the house and barn. He sold the mill portion to Walter W. Moyer who operated the knitting mill at the site of the former Cloister Paper mill. Moyer used the Lower Mill for a while to generate electricity to power the knitting mill. Metzler lived in the house until his death in 1940. His widow, Ann Metzler sold the house and barn property to Eugene and June Haller in 1942.

After Walter Moyer’s death, the Walter W. Moyer Company used the lower mill for storage for about twenty-five years. In 1973, they deeded the mill property to June Haller and the properties were once again held in joint ownership. Finally, the Ephrata Borough re-acquired the mill property and Metzler farm in 1993 with the understanding that the property would remain private for Mrs. Haller’s lifetime after which it would become a public park. The mill building is maintained through funds from a non-profit organized in the year 2000 as the Wenger Grist Mill Foundation.

The mill is located at 198 Old Mill Road, Ephrata, PA.