The 1885 Mill
This oil and hemp mill, located on Lititz Run Creek, was built by Johannes Hess ca. 1769, while he was living in the log farmhouse with wife Susanna. The mill produced flaxseed oil and hempseed oil until 1790, when it began operation as a gristmill to grind grain to flour.
A sawmill was added during this time, in an adjoining shed. The gristmill burned in an 1884 fire, but the stone first floor survived. One year later a frame mill was constructed on the mill's original stone walls, as it now stands. Milling ceased ca. 1900, and the building was used as a pretzel bakery by the Sturgis family. During that same era, the mill was also used for storing whiskey distilled at the Rome Distillery, located a short distance upstream. The mill was later used as a tobacco warehouse.
Above: Rear view, as seen from the log farmhouse.
Above: Site of the former millpond.
Above: Ca. 1900 photo of the mill and the log farmstead. This photo shows the log farmhouse's story-and-a-half addition which was built ca. 1830 and demolished ca. 1909.
Timeline of Mill History
- 1730: Hans Herr and Martin Kendig survey 200 acres in Warwick Township for the use of John [Hans] Hess (died 1733).
- 1735: Jacob Hess (ca. 1706-1741) receives a patent from the Penn for 200 acres in Warwick Township. This land had been surveyed to his father Hans Hess.
- 1761: The heirs of Jacob Hess deed 200 acres to his eldest son Johannes (John) Hess (ca. 1728-1778).
- c. 1769: Johannes Hess constructs a stone hempmill along the Lititz Run. Hemp plants were crushed using a large conical millstone, in order to extract their fibers for making rope and for weaving. The seeds were crushed to produce an oil used in paint and ink.
- 1778: Johannes Hess dies without a will. His inventory includes money that was due from "the young womans at Lititz". Apparently he was supplying the Moravian sisters with either oil or hemp, etc.
- 1780: Susanna (Landis) Hess, Johannes' widow, is taxed for "an oyl and hemp mill."
- 1784: The heirs of Johannes Hess deed 178 acres, including the mill, to the eldest son Christian Hess (1757-1816).
- 1790: Christian Hess advertises that his grist mill is in operation with new machinery. Apparently the mill was converted from milling hemp to milling grain in the late 1780s. A sawmill was also added about this time. The sawmill would have been located in a separate, shed-like structure.
- 1792: Christian Hess sells a four-acre tract, including the "grist, merchant, and saw mill" to his younger brother, Rev. John Hess (1768-1830), and Christian's brother-in-law Martin Metzler (1767-1807) for 900 pounds. The deed gives them the right "with privilege of damming and swelling the water so high and so far into the said Christian Hess' other land as the same as now and has been occupied here fore and no higher."
- 1794: John and Esther Hess sell their half interest in the mill to miller Martin Metzler for 700 pounds. They sell an additional 7.75 acres of land to Metzler for 245 pounds and 16 shillings.
- 1807: Death of the miller Martin Metzler
- By 1809: The mill has been purchased by Erhart Yeager.
- 1813: Ehrhart Yeager sues John Keller, the owner of the Compass Mill. The mill was located a half mile downstream. Keller had raised the height of his mill's dam, causing water to back into the tailrace at Yeager's mill. The court orders Keller to bear half the expense for "removing the mud and moss out of the channel of the creek". Keller was also ordered to pay Yeager $60.
- 1829: Ehrhart Yeager dies without a will.
- 1840s: The mill is owned by Jacob Hess (1815-1850). Jacob operates the mill, and lives in the two-story, brick house across the street.
- 1850: Jacob Hess dies. His widow, Ann (Becker) Hess, and two children, Elias and Susanna, occupy the property.
- 1853: Heirs of Jacob Hess, deceased, insure the mill property with the Northern Mutual Insurance Company. The mill is described as "two story grist mill and merchant mill 31 by 37 feet, with tow run of stones, has one chimney and one stove, is about 40 yards from the house."
- 1860: Jacob Hess' daughter Susanna (Hess) Franck (1839-1899) wife of Henry S. Franck, acquires the mill.
- 1866: Henry S. and Susanna B. Franck sell seven acres and 22 perches, including tenement and stone gristmill to Daniel D. Burkholder and Abraham Bruckhart for $1, 960. Burkholder owns the nearby distillery, located upstream from the mill.
- 1867: Burkholder sells his half interest in the mill property to Bruckhart for $2,200.
- 1868: Abraham N. and Elizabeth Bruckhart sell the mill property to Christian Habecker for $7,000.
- 1869: Christian and Mary Habecker sell the property to Jacob Dohner for $7,150.
- 1877: Cyrus R. and Benjamin R. Dohner, administrators of Jacob Dohner, deceased, sell the mill property to Daniel B. Huber of Manheim Township for $7,300.
- 1884: The mill burns in a fire. The first floor survives. A new frame mill is constructed on the original stone walls in 1885.
- 1885: David B. and Caroline Huber, of Manheim Township, sell the mill to Abram B. Huber of Manheim Township for $4,600. They keep ca. five acres of land. Abraham Huber rebuilds the mill.
- 1885 - ca. 1900: The mill is operated by John K. Huber, son of Abraham B. Huber of Neffsville. The milling operation ceases about 1900.
- 1903: Abram B. and Esther Huber, of Manheim Township, sell the mill to John K. Huber of Warwick Township for $5,000.
- 1905: Lizzie B. Huber, administrator of John K. Huber, deceased, sells the mill for $3,000.
- ca. 1902 - 1910: Sturgis family operates a pretzel bakery at the mill. During this era, the mill is also used for storing whiskey distilled at the adjoining Rome Distillery, located upstream.
- 1923: John C. Horting deeds the mill property to Helen Brobst Grosh of Lititz. The same year, Grosh also buys the adjoining Hess farm, site of the log farmhouse.
- 1939: Benjamin F. Grosh and Helen Brobst Grosh deed .245 containing a three-and-a-half-story tobacco warehouse, of stone and frame, to Charles B. and Martha Wisner for $1.00.
- 1944: Charles B. and Martha H. Wisner deed two tracts, including a brick house, frame bungalow, and a two-and-a-half-story tobacco warehouse to Ethel M. Landis of East Hempfield Township for $1.00.
- The mill is later owned by Adam Newswanger, and later by Larry and Cheryl McCowan.
Above: Hess Mill, 1851 Lancaster County Map. (Map courtesy of Martin Keen)