THE OLD MILL AT SCIOTA, PA
Brinker’s Mill, a log structure, may have been built as early as 1729, according to a news feature in the Stroudsburg Daily Record for April 16, 1954. Jacob Brinker was listed on the tax rolls of Hamilton Township as early as 1764.
The mill assumed prominence in 1779, when the Sullivan Expedition was dispatched by Congress “to chasten and humble” the Iroquois Indians. The Expedition left Easton on June 18; the mill served as a storehouse and advance post for this unit of some 4,000 men.
From Jacob Brinker the mill passed into the hands of John George Keller about 1790. With the passing of time the log mill had deteriorated. It was replaced in 1800 by the present structure, built by Bernhard Fenner. The mill, with its overshot wheel, was a sophisticated operation for its day, producing various types of flour as well as feed for stock. The services of two separate millers were required.
From the Fenner family the mill passed to a relative by marriage, George Snyder; then to Romanous Snyder; and from him to William Snyder. It ceased active milling operations in 1954.
The mill was next acquired by Eugene Haller, who sold it to Karl Hope. In 1974 Mr. Hope and his wife presented it to Hamilton Township with the stipulation that it should be “held and maintained… for historical, cultural, and/or governmental purposes.” The Hamilton Township Supervisors appointed an advisory body, charging them to make recommendations for restoration and future use of the mill. This body – the Old Mill Restoration Council, PO Box 285, Sciota, PA 18354 – meets on the last Wednesday evening of each month at the township building. Visitors are welcome.
Some salient features of this mill are apparent at a glance – the architectural lines of its stone structure, for instance and the weathered two-part “Dutch” door. The interior is filled with old pulleys and other milling gear, though some of the original works were sold, years ago, for a restoration at the Jenny Mill at Plymouth, Massachusetts. (The office fireplace is a 19th century addition.)
Other features may be less immediately obvious – like the fact that the mill dam is still intact, a condition true of few un-restored mills. Moreover, the flow of water entering the mill is strong enough to activate either an overshot or an undershot wheel.
The mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 1976. To make the grade for such placement, tradition is by no means enough; one by one, hard facts and actual facets of history must be ferreted out, verified, and documented. Original ownership; subsequent chain of title; payment of taxes; the kinds of grain ground (this was both a “flouring” and a feed mill); local, township, and county maps, plus recorded property surveys; all references in early books and newspapers; old pictures -- all these were called for. (The earliest relevant picture discovered in this case is one of Henrich Fenner, born in 1801, a member of the family who rebuilt the mill in 1800.)
State recognition of the historic importance of the mill came in 1975, when placement was granted on the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places. To commemorate the occasion, a flag was presented and raised by the Sciota Minute Men in an appropriate ceremony on August 19, 1975.
In 1989, Hamilton Township received a sizeable contribution from the Robacker Estate for the restoration of the mill. The Hamilton Township Supervisors engaged Gus Roof, a millwright, who restored the millworks to a working 1700’s condition.
Improvements that have taken place for the enjoyment of the public are: plexi-glass viewing windows placed in the main floor; a spiral staircase to the third floor; a walk-way to the basement level for the physically challenged; park benches were placed on the grounds; windows have been replaced; outdoor and indoor lighting was added; some of the stonework was replaced; an iron grate was placed at the archway at water level; the addition of the Clark property; and the donation of land from Anthony Greco and family.