CASTLE VALLEY MILL

 

HISTORY

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On a wall in the mill office hangs a sign, "Castle Valley Mill 1730".

No one is certain of a mill being on the property earlier than 1816, as a deed for that sale does mention specifically a "gristmill".

The land the mill is located was once part of 144 acre tract purchased by David William of Philadelphia in 1722 and can be traced to 1720.

A Portion of this property eventually was held by a John Meredith.

"The Meredith’s were early settlers in Doylestown township, and were among the first to take up land on the Neshaminy creek, in the vicinity of Castle Valley bridge. James Meredith came as early as 1730, whose son, Hugh Meredith was a practicing physician in Doylestown."

History of Bucks County 1887.

Thomas Meredith, a decedent of the Meredith family who was mentally challenged, had a whim to build a "Castle" on the right bank of the Neshaminy on land he had inherited. He gathered many stones and timbers, cleared trees, and started to build his castle wall. Reaching a height of about six foot high, he then lost interest, abandoning the project.

When he died the remaining stone and timber was used to construct the first bridge over the creek. Thomas Meredith’s "Castle" gave the name Castle Valley to that area of Doylestown Pennsylvania where the mill is located.

On March 3 1798, 12+ acres of land owned by John Meredith was conveyed to David Grove Sr. adding to the 120 acres he already had purchased from a Mr. Hare in 1783.

This deed makes no mention of a mill on the property, but the price Grove paid for the property, according to real-estate estimates at that time, indicates it may have been developed rather than vacant (1-1794 Deed book 27 pg. 488.)

Mill property Map showing development of 1783 and 1798. The 1798 property purchased by David Grove Sr. is indicated. (Heritage Conservancy of Bucks County)

 

In 1816 David Grove Sr., transferred part of his property to his son-in-law Jonathan Hough, and sons Henry and David Grove for $1720. The deed mentions "a mill thereon" being the first deed to mention a mill on the property, as do tax records. It also mentions the property being a "corner" portion of Meredith’s land. (2-Deed Book 46 pg.525)

Portion of David Grove Sr. 1816 deed selling mill and 11+ acres property To his sons Henry and David Grove Jr., and son-in law, Jonathan Hough.

On May 1, 1827, Jonathan Hough (miller) and wife Susanna sell their one-third interest in "mills and tract" back to the David Grove Sr. for $1500. (3-Deed Book 52 pg.378)

Jonathan Hough’s signature on 1827 deed.

After David Grove Sr.’s death in 1834, his interest in the mill was conveyed to William Swink and John Selsor in April of 1835. This deed held an agreement for an interest payment to Grove’s daughter Susanna, wife of Jonathan Hough. William Swank was David Grove’s son-in law, married to his daughter Mary. This 1835 deed mentions a "grist and oil mill" being on the property. (4-Deed Book 59 pg.645)

   

       1817 date on office wall                                 Name "W. Saul" on Office Wall, 1823

For the next 18 years the mill was known as "Grove’s Mill".

In April of 1852 the Mill was purchased by James and Samuel Reed for $2250. (5- Deed Book 85 pg.217) The Reed brothers made improvements and modifications to the mill. The deed mentions a right to erect a new dam not to exceed "two feet, ten inches" at the fore bay of the mill.

About six months after purchasing the mill in 1852, the Reed brothers ran an ad in the Bucks County Intelligencer advertising the opening of their new Mill:

 

After seven years, in April of 1859, James and Samuel Reed dissolve their partnership and James buys Samuel’s interest in the mill for $3500. (6-Deed Book 107 pg.574)

By 1872 a saw mill and wagon house were added to the south side of the mill.

In 1873 Reed purchased 2.5 additional acres on the northeast, that being the present property line.

A stationary steam engine was added by 1887 to supplement the water power or in times of low water levels. The 1887 "History of Bucks County" states the mill was run on both water and steam power, indicating the annex building was added to house the stationary steam engine boiler, with the engine in the mill basement.

 

Stenciled onto one of the supporting timbers in the Mill is the name "James Reed"

 

"James Reed learned the trade of a millwright, which he followed many
years. While working at different mills, he learned the method of running a mill,
and in 1850 came to Bucks County and purchased the place which he now runs
both by steam and water power. In December, 1850, our subject married Lydia
A. Leidy, who bore him five children, three living: George, Milton and Emma.
Mr. and Mrs. Reed are members of the Presbyterian Church. He is also a member
of the Masonic order. His son, George, is the miller at present, and fully understands
his business. He is married to Mary A. Huhn, by whom he has three children:
Carrie M., Frank L. and Mary E. Mrs. Reed is a member of the Reformed
church."

History of Bucks County 1887.

In a letter written by Emma Reed, James Reed’s daughter, about her memories of the mill, she recalls the rear extension to the mill being added about 1879. She states her father "blasted rock to make a place for a second wheel", then later replaced the two iron water wheels with "a larger one". This would have been in the mid 1880’s when water turbines were the latest technology, and likely the "larger" wheel was a turbine.

From the shape of the concrete race he constructed, it appears a turbine and penstock had been installed.

Note written by Emma Reed, James Reed’s daughter. She writes recalling memories of the mill. Here she recalls her father blasting rock for a second water wheel and adding the rear extension in 1879, and later installing roller mills. Emma was born in 1863 and left the family home on the mill property for the last time, Dec. 2, 1920, 57 years later.

On November 26, 1908, James Reed sold the Mill property to Mary A. Reed for $4280. (7-Deed Book 345 pg.616)

Mary Reed held the property for 22 years selling it to her son-in-law William D. Roger in 1930. (8-Deed Book591 pg.185)

William Roger died in 1942 passing the property to his wife Helen.

In 1948 Helen Roger sold the property to Henry and Jean Fischer. (9-Deed Book 849

pg.473)

Mark Fischer, the present owner of Castle Valley Mill, is the grandson of Henry and Jean Fischer.

Mark intends to restore the Mill once again structurally and install a Leffel water turbine which is waiting in the mill yard.

The Mill has a spirit that you can feel. It has almost two hundred years of history to tell.

Castle Valley Mill-looking southwest down Neshaminy Creek from a covered bridge C-1885-1895

The bridge no longer exists. Note that by the time of this photo, the Annex extension for the stationary engine was in place. The chimney can clearly be seen.

From left: Henry Jr., Robert, and Mark Fischer. Henry helped his father Henry Fischer Sr. restore the mill during the 1950’s. Mark is the present owner, Robert is his father. Photo: First floor rear of Mill.

    

Henry Fischer Jr. helped his father do most of the repair work to the mill during the 1950’s. Henry has a sharp memory and is a great storyteller. He can recall minute details of the early mill renovations and stories of the local citizens. An interesting and colorful character, who by trade is a welder. He was a great help in understanding the last stages of the Mills history.

Henry told me it was his sister who painted the sign in the office bearing the date of 1730. It was painted in the 1950’s!


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