If you have ever driven down Route 324 towards the Martic Forge (maybe on your way to complete the Pequea Trolley Adventure), you may have noticed a brick wall with at least five embedded millstones near the intersection of Hilldale Road.
After years of driving past them, I wonder two things.
Why are they there?
Where did they come from?
As it turned out, fellow adventurer, Jared Langevin, had some of the answers. He shared this oral history about the unique Martic Forge property.
While doing tree work for the township, we spoke to the property owner and got a local history lesson. A previous owner’s job involved working at a local grist mill, and he collected all the old stones. When the current homeowner purchased the property in 1989, there were over 300 millstones. Some were so rare that they went to museums.
Bob Lehr from The Conestoga Area Historical Society confirmed the story and added that many of the millstones went to the Smithsonian.
As for the question of where did the millstones come from, Lehr knew that too.
Martic Forge Mill / Flory’s Mill
Just over a mile away at 894 Marticville Road is Flory’s Mill. Not to be confused with the better known Flory’s Mill in East Petersburg on the Little Conestoga Creek, but more on that later. It was here, according to Lehr, that some of the 300 millstones came.
Today, the former grist mill is a beautifully restored 2,268 square foot home with four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. Much of the original hardware is still visible. Pictures on Zillow of the house are stunning.
Two mills have existed in the location. Abraham Keagy built the first in 1770 on land given to his wife by her father, Christian Breneman. Records state that Keagy paid taxes on the 30′ x 40′ 3.5 story stone and timber-framed mill for the next nine years. Starting in 1780, Henry Keagy took over the operation until 1783. The mill switched hands again in 1785 when Richard Keagy acquired the mill.
Keagy sold the mill in 1785 to Rudolph Keagy, who built a new mill (the present-day building) in 1786. The mill was again 3.5 stories, but its footprint was enlarged to 40′ x 55′. The structure now included a cathead, which was used as a sack hoist. Richard Keagy repurchased the mill in 1792. Three years later, in 1795, he sold to Abraham Kendig.
A few years later, in 1800, David Greider took ownership of the mill and operated it until his death in 1814. As a part of Greider’s estate, the mill passed to John Good, who ran it until around 1824. There is a 40-year gap in the records until 1864, which indicated that an A. Groff was the owner, followed by J.B.Good in 1875, and R. Bake in 1899. The mill finally closed in 1923 under the ownership of Benjamin Flory hence the name Flory’s Mill.
Since the mill was closed, it was kept in good condition. In 1999, the structure was remodeled to serve as a private dwelling. The residence was recently resold in August 2017.
What is a Grist Mill?
A grist mill grinds cereal grain into flour. The term can refer to both the grinding mechanism and the building that holds it. Although the term can refer to any mill that grinds grain, the terms were used historically for a local mill where farmers brought their own grain and received back ground meal or flour, minus a percentage called the “miller’s toll.”
Most towns and villages had their own mill so that local farmers could easily transport their grain there to be milled. These communities were dependent on their local mill as bread was a staple part of the diet.
Classical mill designs are usually water-powered, though some are powered by the wind or by livestock. A sluice gate is opened in a watermill to allow water to flow onto or under a water wheel to make it turn. In most watermills, the water wheel was mounted vertically, i.e., edge-on, in the water, but in some cases horizontally.
In most wheel-driven mills, a large gear-wheel called the pit wheel is mounted on the same axle as the water wheel, and this drives a smaller gear-wheel, the wallower, on a central driveshaft running vertically from the bottom to the top of the building. This gearing system ensures that the main shaft turns faster than the water wheel, which rotates at around 10 rpm.
The millstones themselves turn at around 120 rpm. They are laid one on top of the other. The bottom stone, called the bed, is fixed to the floor, while the top stone, the runner, is mounted on a separate spindle, driven by the main shaft. A wheel called the stone nut connects the runner’s spindle to the main shaft, and this can be moved out of the way to disconnect the stone and stop it from turning, leaving the main shaft turning to drive other machinery. This might include driving a mechanical sieve to refine the flour or turning a wooden drum to wind up a chain used to hoist sacks of grain to the top of the mill house. The distance between the stones can be varied to produce the grade of flour required; moving the stones closer together produces finer flour.
The grain is lifted in sacks onto the sack floor at the top of the mill on the hoist. The bags are then emptied into bins, where the grain falls through a hopper to the millstones on the stone floor below. The flow of grain is regulated by shaking it in a gently sloping trough (the slipper) from which it falls into a hole in the center of the runner stone. The milled grain (flour) is collected as it emerges through the grooves in the runner stone from the stones’ outer rim and is fed down a chute to be collected in sacks on the ground or meal floor.
Fun Fact: In order to prevent the vibrations of the mill machinery from shaking the building apart, a grist mill would often have two separate foundations.
Operating Flory’s Mill
Flory’s Mill operated with water from the nearby Climbers Run, which almost had to climb up to the mill. The mill was situated on the side of a hill, and water from a three-foot dam traveled 5,000′ in a headrace to the overshot wheel housed in the mill’s basement. The water returned to Climbers Run, then almost immediately found itself in the Pequea Creek.
The House at Climber’s Run
While you can’t visit Flory’s Mill, you could stay next door at the house built by Abraham Keagy, who also built the original mill. Built in 1770, this gorgeous, original stone house is older than America herself. The home has been tastefully updated while still maintaining the integrity of the old building with its unique and original features.
People who stay at home even get access to many original documents, including deeds, photographs, and stories passed down through the generations. For more information, visit The House at Climber’s Run.
Where Did the Rest of Those Millstones Come From?
Benjamin Flory’s great-granddaughter, Margaret Flory, knows. At one point, there were over a hundred mills here in Lancaster, but, by the early 1900s, mills around the county began to close. Margaret’s grandfather, Paul Flory, bought or salvaged these stones as the various grist mills shut down. He took them back to his home at 10 Hilldale Road. In fact, it was Paul who donated the millstones to the Smithsonian.
Margaret isn’t sure how her grandfather managed to move so many millstones, which could easily weigh hundreds of pounds or more. “Then again, he would toss 100lb bags of flour around like they were 10lb sacks,” said Margaret in an email.
Paul was a resourceful guy who was big into repurposing. Along with being a flour miller, he salvaged fixtures from buildings slated for demolition, such as toilets, sinks, and doors in the 1950s and 1960s.
Paul built the millstone wall visible along Route 324 and a tennis court and swimming pool, both with millstone bordering walls.
Paul Flory had seven children. Margaret’s father—Paul Thomas Flory, went by Tom—and her six aunts who grew up there. Paul also built a small cottage for visiting family members since he had so many children and a full house. The small building is clearly visible on Hilldale Road or can be seen over the millstone wall from Route 324.
Paul and his family lived at 10 Hilldale Road until the 1970s. In the passing decades, the property was neglected. The pool has been filled, and the guest cottage has started to collapse, but the millstone wall along Route 324 is still visible.
East Petersburg Mill / Flory’s Mill
Flory’s Mill outside of Martic Forge wasn’t the only mill the Flory family-owned. The other was the better known Flory Mill in East Petersburg on the Little Conestoga Creek mentioned earlier.
Paul Flory owned both of the Flory mills. The one near the Martic Forge (referred to as the lower mill by the family) and the one in East Petersburg (referred to as the upper mill). Paul’s son, Tom, took over the East Petersburg mill, one of the last mills in production in Lancaster County. He operated the enterprise until it burned in 1984. Tom then renovated the building in the early 1990s dividing it into retail and office spaces. He also converted the attached warehouse into a home and lived there for many years.
Paul gave the lower mill to one of his daughters. She currently lives in a converted barn on the property after selling both the mill and the mill house (the features detailed earlier).
Finding the Millstone Wall
You can see the Millstone Wall near the intersection of Hilldale Road and Route 324 at 1126 Marticville Rd, Pequea, PA 17565. Click here for directions. Please keep in mind that this is a private residence, and sightseeing should be done from the road.
- 10 Hilldale Rd
- 894 Marticville Rd
- Martic Forge Mill / Flory’s Mill
- The House at Climber’s Run
- The Conestoga Area Historical Society
- East Petersburg Mill / Flory’s Mill
- Historic Flory Mill
- The “Swimming At Martic Forge” Story
- East Petersburg Mill / Flory’s Mill
- Direct message conversation with Jared Langevin
- Interview with Bob Lehr
- Direct message conversation with Margaret Flory