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Church Road Mill

 

The mill on Valley Creek next to Church Road first appears in the records in 1739 when Samuel Lilly leased half an acre of land next to the Fulling Mill property. It sounds as if the mill pond when it was filled unexpectedly extended beyond his property hence the need to purchase the extra piece of land! It is surprising that a Fulling Mill appears so early in the township history. It is difficult to imagine that local farmers who were wrestling to cultivate the land would have the time and resources to use a Fulling Mill.

Sometime between 1740 and 1742 Samuel Lilly sold the mill to James Rowland. The Rowland family is normally associated with the Great Valley Mill but they started their milling at Church Road Mill. James Rowland died in 1742 or 3. He must have written a peculiar will as it was challenged by his brother John Rowland and after a court case his will was declared null and void and John inherited the mill. Unfortunately a copy of James’ will does not survive so we can only speculate on what it said!

In 1755 John Rowland purchased a half share in the Great Valley Mill from Jerman Walker. He then seems to have sold Church Road Mill to James and Israel Davis (father and son) around 1758 although no deed exists to document the transaction. David Jones then owned the mill for a few years before selling it to John Showalter. By 1781 John Showalter had converted it from a fulling to a grist mill.

The mill then passed through a number of owners. In 1798 it was owned by John Francis (aka Jonas Frances) occupied by William Jones as a tenant. The buildings consisted of the stone grist mill (25’ x 20’), a 2-story log cabin and a stone stable on 28 acres.

John Francis died c. 1809 and his executors sold the mill. After a number of subsequent owners it passed into the hands of John G. Bull in 1816. A sawmill then appears in addition to the grist mill. John Bull likely moved the sawmill on his plantation to this site due to a more reliable water supply.

In 1834 the mill property was acquired by David Chrisman. The 1822 and 1847 maps (see above) show the mill with the owner named. In 1849 Chrisman advertised the property for sale in the Daily Republican as follows:

Stone Grist (2 runs of burrs) and saw mill on about 30 acres. The improvements consist of a comfortable dwelling house, good stone barn, stone wagon house, stone spring house, and other out buildings. The mill has two runs of burrs, and is substantially built of stone, and is sufficiently large and convenient. It is on the Valley Creek, has a head and fall of 12 feet, and has lately been thoroughly repaired. The saw mill is newly new and substantially built.

A discussion of the history of the miller’s house can be found in “The Church Road Cabin of Tredyffrin Township” by Roger Thorne (Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society Quarterly, Volume 46, Number 4, Fall 2009). Only two photographs of the mill buildings are known to exist which are shown below:

Church Road Mill

Part of a W. R. Jennings 1909 photograph of the Great Valley from the North Valley Hills. View looking south with Valley Creek running across the photograph. In front of the Mill is the bridge taking Church Road across the creek. Courtesy of St. Peter’s Church.

Church Road Mill

Aaron and Dennis Coleman at Church Road Mill, 1922. Courtesy of St. Peter’s Church.

Mueller’s Atlas of 1912 shows the property as being owned by Mrs. H. Smith. Oral history states that the timbers of the mill were sold to Wharton Esherick and were used to build his studio on Diamond Rock Hill.


A detailed timeline for the Mill(s)

  • 1724 Church Road papers – no mention of mill
  • 1737 Tax list – no Samuel Lilly
  • 1739 Samuel Lilly – lease of ½ acre; fulling mill (on Church Road) (deed O2-518)
  • 1739 Samuel Lilly county tax 1s 6d
  • 1740 Samuel Lilly county tax 1s 6d No Lilly – James Rowland deed
  • 1742/3 James Rowland dies
  • 1744 John Rowland wins court case and James Rowland’s will is declared null and void. John inherits James’ land including fulling mill
  • 1744 John Rowland Rector’s warden at St Peter’s Church (Roger Thorne)
  • 1745 John Rowland senior bequest to wife Letitia: 100 acres of land in Tredyffrin with fulling mill, by virtue of bargain and sale from Samuel Lilly.
  • 1747 Letice Rowland county tax 2s 3d
  • 1749 Lettica, John, & William Rowland – fulling mill on 100 acres (deed G-492 mortgage); neighbors James Rowland, Thomas David, Thomas Martin (Detwiler property), Stephen David (SW corner of Tredyffrin)
  • 1749 John Rowland county tax 4s 9d; no Letice Rowland on list
  • 1750 Lettica & John Rowland – fulling mill on 100a (H-80 mortgage)
  • 1750 Lettica & John Rowland county tax 2s 6d
  • 1753 John Rowland, miller (tax)
  • 1755 Jerman Walker to John Rowland– ½ [Great Valley] mill (deed W2-508)
  • 1758 James & Israel Davis Fulling Mill (deed M-77 - covenant)
  • 1760 Israel Davis fulling mill (& 125 acres); James Davis sr. 100 acres; James Davis jr. 350 acres.
  • 1765 James Davis Fulling Mill (Tax)
  • 1767 James Davis Fulling Mill, £10 (Tax)
  • 1767 James & Israel Davis to David Jones (quoted in deed A2-280)
  • 1770 David Jones, fuller to John Showalter (deed A2-280)
  • 1778 John Showalter Mill on 109a (County tax)
  • 1779 Mills: John Showather, 100a (Tax records)
  • 1780s John Rowland Rector’s warden at St Peter’s Church (Roger Thorne)
  • 1781 John Showalder: Grist Mill, 109 acres, £150; (Tax: 2.5% for raising additional supplies etc.)
  • 1783 John Shoewalter junior: 1 Grist Mill, 25 acres, £150; (Tax: 2.75%)
  • 1785 John Showalter to Jacob Gerber 28 acres 19 perches (deed Z-90) mill & messuage
  • 1785 Jacob Carver: Grist Mill on 28 acres; State Tax
  • 1786 Jacob Carver: Grist Mill on 28 acres; Tax
  • 1787 Jacob Carver: Grist Mill on 28 acres; Tax
  • 1788 Christian Caufman Grist Mill on 28 acres (tax)
  • 1789 William Harris Grist Mill on 28 acres; State Tax
  • 1791 Jacob Gerber to Jacob Kurtz 28 acres 19 perches (deed G2-263)
  • 1793 Jacob Kurtz to John Francis 28 acres 19 perches (deed D3-152)
  • 1793 Neither Jacob Kurtz nor John Francis on tax list
  • 1794 John Francis mill shown on road deed
  • 1795 John Francis (tenant Ephraim Buffington on 28 acres): Grist Mill, $800 (& distillery);
  • 1798 Owner Jonas Frances. It was occupied by a tenant, William Jones. The house on the property was a log cabin of 2 stories, 18’ x 15’, and having 2 windows of 12 panes each. There was also a 1 story stone stable 20’ x 15’ having 1 window of 9 panes, and the stone grist mill 25’ x 20’. The property was of 27 acres so they likely also farmed the meadowland. (glass tax)
  • 1799 County Tax - Grist mill – John Francis (occupier: William Jones)
  • 1800 William Jones, Grist mill (tax)
  • 1805 William Jones, miller (tax)
  • 1810 Executor of John Francis to William Reed, Grist Mill and Messuage, sold by public sale 1809 (deed D3-412)
  • 1810 William Reed to Michael Gunkle: Grist Mill and Messuage on 27 acres 114 perches (deed E3-239)
  • 1816 Michael Gunkle to John G. Bull & Abram Phillips, Grist Mill and Messuage(deed Q3-241)
  • 1820 John G. Bull, mill (county tax); Abram Phillips lived in Whiteland
  • 1824 Abram Phillips to John G. Bull,½ moiety (deed X3-480)
  • 1824 Newspaper Advertisement (Village Record 12/22/1824)
  • 1825 John G. Bull, mill (county tax);
    Private Sale

    A Grist and Saw Mill in good repair and a sufficiency of water for both mills in all seasons, no trouble with ice, the buildings middling, with 28 acres of limestone land, situate in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, adjoining lands of Conrad Acre, Davis Showalter, and others.
  • 1826 Similar advertisements to above on 1/26/1825, 1/8/1826 (Village Record) and 12/12/1826 (American Republican).
  • 1827 John G. Bull to William French 27 acres 114 perches (deed B4-444)
  • 1830 William French, mills (County Tax) William French mentioned in road deed
  • 1834 William French to David Christman 27 acres 114 perches &: ½ acre; Grist mill, saw mill, messuage
  • 1835 David Chrisman, mills (County Tax) David Christman miller (Pennsylvania Septennial Census)
  • 1838 David Chrisman Saw & Grist Mill (tax)
  • 1839 David Chrisman Saw & Grist Mill on 28 acre (tax)
  • 1842 David Christman miller (Pennsylvania Septennial Census)
  • 1849 David Christman, Stone Grist (2 runs of burrs) and saw mill on about 30 acres. The improvements consist of a comfortable dwelling house, good stone barn, stone wagon house, stone spring house, and other out buildings. The mill has two runs of burrs, and is substantially built of stone, and is sufficiently large and convenient. It is on the Valley Creek, has a head and fall of 12 feet, and has lately been thoroughly repaired. The saw mill is newly new and substantially built. (sale ad, American Republican 11/27/1849)
  • 1850 David Chrisman Miller 2 runs of burrs, 2 people employed on 28 acres (manufacturing census)
  • 1856 Chrisman’s Saw Mill (Kennedy map of Chester County)
  • 1856 George Peachin miller (Pennsylvania Septennial Census)
  • 1857 George R. Pechin, Grist and saw mill on about 30 acres (sale ad, Village Reporter 12/8/1857)
  • 1858 George R. Pechin, Grist and saw mill on about 30 acres (sale ad)
  • 1860 George R. Pechin, Stone Grist (2 story, 2 pair of burrs) and saw mill on 27 acres 114 perches (Sheriff’s sale ad, Village Report 1/3/1860 and 2/14/1860)
  • 1873 George Fetter’s Grist & Saw Mill (Witmer’s Atlas)
  • 1883 George Fetter on 27 acres, Grist & Saw mill (Breou farm atlas)
  • 1897 George Fetter’s estate on 27 acres (Mueller’s atlas)
  • 1912 Mrs. H Smith; mill buildings & pond (Mueller’s atlas)