Old mills have a fascination all their own and one of the greatest – and oldest – built in 1805 is the Red Mill, near Buckhorn in Hemlock Township.
Elisha Barton, a native Virginian, born June 21, 1742, purchased 375 acres of land in this county from Evan Owen, founder of Berwick. The land Barton bought was known as “The Elbow” and extended lengthwise from the mouth of Fishing Creek toward Buckhorn and along Hemlock Creek.
The Barton family lived in their covered wagon until the father could erect a cabin. He then built a long barn and frame mill, which was to become famed as the Red Mill.
The mill was one of the very first to be erected in this region. Barton installed a wheat stone chopper and plaster grinders and did custom work for farmers for many years. He owned and cleared land on the other side of Hemlock Creek and did considerable farming.
Barton gained prominence and for a number of years was justice of the peace. Part of the large track he owned was later found to contain valuable iron ore and his son, Caleb, became quite wealthy from the proceeds. There had been 12 children in the Barton family.
Water from Hemlock Creek powered the mill. It came from a dam a considerable distance from the mill and was contained in an area of three or four acres. A headrace of earth and stone construction carried the water to an overshot waterwheel. The wheel was about 10 feet wide and 100 feet in circumference. Tail race or discharge left the mill on the south side and re-entered Hemlock Creek.
The tax assessment of 1814 was checked and showed Barton had paid $140 for 75 acres of land.
In March 1813 he sold the Red Mill to Lawrence Minegar and in 1828 Minegar sold the property to Peter Phillip Appleman and others. Under this ownership it was operated by Noah Crites and George Dreisbach II. The Hemlock property tax in 1828 had been $50.
More ownership changes came and Isaiah William McKelvy became the owner in 1882. He remodeled the building and added a steam boiler at the west end. He also installed then-modern machinery for roller processing of wheat into flour.
The R.R. Ikeler was the miller until 1896 when George W. Sterner became the owner. Sterner sold the mill to Ira John Davenport in 1897. Davenport operated the mill with improvements such as electric power in the early 1920’s. Lights and single phase motors for continuous milling were installed. The waterpower was long gone and the steam boiler had gone bad. Davenport operated the mill until 1943 and then leased it. He died in 1954.
In 1944 Loren and Eston Hileman leased the mill and produced a fine grade of flour. It was principally sold by local stores and bakeries, in 50-pound bags. In earlier years it had been sold in barrels with 196 pound of flour to the barrel. Thirty-five barrels per day were produced.
Then in 1954, Clinto Kressler had a feed grinding business in the mill, until 1959. The mill was empty for several years, and then a grandson of I.J. Davenport, Donald, held public auctions there.
It was in 1977 that Mr. And Mrs. Fritz, who had been operating an atique business in a building at the rear of their home, beside Bloomsburg’s town hall, purchased the mill. Since then it has become known throughout the east as an outstanding antique shop and attracts visitors from many states.
One gets a new appreciation of the tremendous beams used in early years in this region on touring the mill. For example, support beams 16 by 16 inches and 60 feet long. Can you imagine what something like that would cost today – if such could even be found.