Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More About Reid's Mill Built in 1739 on Eastchester Creek Adjacent to Pelham


One of the earliest technological developments that contributed to the growth of the region in and around the Manor of Pelham before the area became a Town in 1788 was the construction of a tidal mill along Rattlesnake Brook, a small creek that once emptied into Eastchester Creek (i.e., the Hutchinson River) in an area that is part of today's Co-Op City.  Although efforts to construct a mill along Rattlesnake Brook began in the 1690's, the tidal mill that later became known as "Reid's Mill" seems to have been built in 1739.  

Generations of farmers from Pelham, Eastchester and nearby communities carted their grain to that tidal mill, the remnants of which stood until about 1900 when the remainder of the original mill structure was blown down in a storm.  

The tidal mill eventually came to be known as Reid's Mill, named after the family that took it over and operated it from 1790 until the time of the Civil War.  The mill was such a landmark (and was so famous and well-known throughout the northeast) that it was the subject of a delightfully-quaint short story published in Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly Magazine in August, 1888 entitled "The Miller's Daughter."  The short story was about the owner of the mill during the Revolutionary War, a notorious Tory (and his rebel daughter) who continued to operate the mill in the midst of the Neutral Ground during the war.  See Seton, William, The Miller's Daughter, Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, Vol. 26, No. 2, p. 177 (Aug. 1888). 



Illustration from "The Miller's Daughter" that
Appeared with the Following Caption in August, 1888:
"Again the sentinel bade her give the countersign; and now,
to her surprise and delight she recognized the voice.  'Why,
it's Polly.  Don't you know Polly?' she answered."
Source:  Seton, William, The Miller's Daughter, 
Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, Vol. 26, No. 2, p. 177 (Aug. 1888).

I have written about efforts to construct a mill in this area on a number of occasions.  For examples, see:  

Tue., Aug. 01, 2006:  Reid's Mill Built in 1739 on Eastchester Creek Adjacent to Pelham.

Wed., Sep. 13, 2006:  Early Efforts of the Town of Eastchester To Obtain Cooperation of John Pell For Construction of a Saw Mill.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog provides further information about Reid's Mill, an important early gathering place for local farmers.  Several important images of the remnants of the mill before it was blown down in 1900, as well as images of the Reid home that no longer stands, are included.  In addition, at the end of this posting is a detail from a map published in 1868 showing the location of the mill.



Detail from Photogravure Entitled "OLD MILL-WEST CHESTER"
Showing Remnants of Reid's Mill in About 1894.  Source:  eBay
Listing Describing the Full Item as "Orig 1894 Photogravure 10.5 x
13.5 Old Mill Westchester Lake Boat New York NY" and "Vintage
and Original High-Quality Photogravure Published by Parish in 1894.
Rare. Excellent Condition"  Brought to Author's Attention by Jorge
Santiago of the East Bronx History Forum.



Reid's Mill in an Undated Photograph Taken Prior to 1900.
Source:  Courtesy of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.


Undated Photograph of Remnants of Reid's Mill, Taken from
an Unusual Angle.  Source:  Courtesy of Mike Virgintino Collection /
Bronx Historical Society.  This Image May Be A Detail from the
Image Immediately Below Published in 1913.


"OLD REID'S MILL, EASTCHESTER" in Undated Photograph.
Source:  Cook, Harry T., The Borough of The Bronx 1639 - 1913 Its
Marvelous Development and Historical Surroundings, p. 139
(NY, NY:  Harry T. Cook, 1913).


"Reid's Mill, Eastchester.  From a Water-Color by Mrs. Lascelles."
Source:  Jenkins, ,Stephen, The Story of The Bronx From the Purchase
Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day, 
Opposite p. 424 (G.P. Putnam's Sons, NY and London, The
Knickerbocker Press, 1912).  Note:  The Westchester County
Historical Society Has a Glass Negative with an Image of This
Lascelles Watercolor.

[Watercolor of Reid's Mill.]

This Seems to Be the Photograph Published in The Story of the Bronx
by Stephen Jenkins Shown in the Immediately Preceding Image.
The Image is "Embedded" within this Blog (Not Copied To This Blog),
Directly from the Online Collections of The Museum of the City of
New York and, Thus, Cannot Be Resized.  Source:  "[Watercolor of Reid's Mill]
DATE: ca. 1900 gelatin silver print" and
"X2010.11.14008"



"The Old House Near Reid's Mill, About 1665-1670, Eastchester."
Source:  Jenkins, ,Stephen, The Story of The Bronx From the Purchase
Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day, 
Opposite p. 424 (G.P. Putnam's Sons, NY and London, The
Knickerbocker Press, 1912).

[Eastchester, old house near Reid's Mill.]

This Seems to Be the Photograph Published in The Story of the Bronx
by Stephen Jenkins Shown in the Immediately Preceding Image.
The Image is "Embedded" within this Blog (Not Copied To This Blog),
Directly from the Online Collections of The Museum of the City of
New York and, Thus, Cannot Be Resized.  Source:  "[Eastchester,
Old House Near Reid's Mill]  DATE:  ca. 1900 gelatin silver print" and
"X2010.11.13997"



Undated Photograph Purporting to Show the Reid Homestead
Once Located Near Reid's Mill.  Home Was Said to Include a 
Portion That Dated from 1668, But It No Longer Exists.  
Source:  Office Of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.



Undated Photograph Believed to Show Members of the Reid
Family Who Were the Last Operators of Reid's Mill Before It
Was Abandoned After the Civil War.  Source:  Courtesy of 
Mike Virgintino Collection / Bronx Historical Society.

Below are transcriptions of various resources that touch on the history of Reid's Mill.  Each is followed by a citation to its source.  These research resources are in addition to the ones collected in previous Historic Pelham Blog postings about Reid's Mill and its predecessor(s) (see above).

"But perhaps the greatest advantage obtained in this part of the town was the construction of the mill since called 'Bartow's' and 'Reid's Mill,' at Sanders' Landing, by Thomas Shute and Joseph Stanton, in 1739.  The articles of agreement between these persons represent them as having meadow lying on each side of Rattlesnake Creek, and bind them jointly for the expenses of construction, repair and care of the mill, and guarantee to each an equal share in the profits; and in case of the determination of either party to sell his share, give the other party the first right of purchasing it.  Mr. Shute, in 1742, disposed of his share to Henry Tippitt. [Footnote '1']  [Footnote 1 reads:  '1 Book of Westchester County Deeds, vol. G, p. 388.']  In 1759 the mill and other buildings were the property of Dr. Thomas Wright, who sold them to Adolph Waldron 'Boulter,' who, in 1766, sold to John Bartow, and he, in 1790, to John Reid, [Footnote '2']  [Footnote 2 reads:  'Book of Deeds:  Book H, p. 162 and 166, and L, p. 42.']  father of Robert Reid, the last miller."

Source:  Scharf, J. Thomas, History of Westchester County, New York, Including Morrisania, Kings Bridge, and West Farms, Which Have Been Annexed to New York City, Vol. II, p. 736 (Philadelphia, PA:  L. E. Preston & Co. 1886).  

"The small stream which waters the western part of the village of Eastchester was formerly known as Rattlesnake Brook.  An early town order requires the inhabitants to meet together one day in the spring for the destruction of this dangerous reptile.  As late as 1775 one of them was killed near the brook, measuring some six feet.  Feb. 1st, 1696-7, John Pell, Sen., had the privilege of erecting a mill on this brook.  In 1721 Nathaniel Tomkins was permitted by the town to erect a fish-weir on Rattlesnake Creek, 'to ye advantage of himself to catch ye fish that swimmeth therein, for ye space of ten years from this date, providing he put it up at once.' [Footnote 'c']  [Footnote c reads:  'Town Record.  It appears from the Town Record, that as early as 1708 there existed a mill covenant between the town and Col. Caleb Heathcote.  Town Record, vol. ix, p. 54.']  

Near the mount of the brook, on 'Mill Lane,' is situated the tide mill of the late Robert Reid, Esq.  This gentleman was the son of John Reid, who was born at Dalmellington, Ayreshire, Scotland, in 1752, and bought land of John Bartow.  His grandfather, Robert Reid, was of Ayreshire, Scotland, and descended from the Reids of Loch Hannoch, of the Clan Chatu, settled at Craig-on-Hill, Ayrshhire, 1644.  Robert Reid's mother was Mary Bartow.  He had five maiden sisters; one of whom, Phoebe, still survives and occupies the property which they have held for nearly a century.  The Reid cottage occupies an extensive view of the winding creek and the high grounds of Pelham.  The adjoining property formed a portion of the ancient planting grounds of Eastchester."

Source:  Bolton, Robert, The History of the Several Towns, Manors, and Patents of the County of Westchester, From its First Settlement to the Present Time Carefully Revised by its Author, Vol. 1, pp. 245-46  (NY, NY:  Chas. F. Roper, 1881) (edited by the Rev. C. W. Bolton).

"The Bronx remained divided into various estates and settlements throughout the eighteenth century.  Most of the East Bronx remained undeveloped swampland that had few roadways.  However, farming was the mainstay for many inhabitants of the upland areas (Jenkins 1912:  103).  Manufacturing began only at the onset of the American Revolution, a result of the Non-Importation agreement.  Colonists now had to make items previously imported from England.  Several saw and grist mills opened on local waterways (Jenkins 1912:  103, 104).  Reid's Mill was the first mill to operate on Eastchester Creek (Hutchinson River) (McNamara 1984:  480).  Originally known as Sanders' Landing, the mill dates to the 17th century, operated first by Thomas Shute, followed by Joseph Stanton and later by John Bartow (Ibid.:  208).  John Reid (also spelled Reed) acquired the mill in 1739 and passed it to his son, Robert, in 1790, who operated the mill until the 1850's.  Abandoned after the Civil War, the old mill blew down during a storm in 1900.  Reid's Mill would have been located near the center of the present Co-Op City to the south of the project site (Ibid.:  480).  Reed's Mill Lane, which ran from Boston Post Road to the mill, once traversed the southeast corner of the project site."

Source:  Historical Perspectives, Inc., New York City School Construction Authority Phase 1A Archaeological Assessment P.S. 189 - X Steenwick Avenue and Reeds Mill Lane Bronx, New York, p. 12  (Westport, CT:  June 26, 2001).

"REID'S MILL LANE.  This lane dates back to the 1600's, when it led from Boston Road to a mill on the Hutchinson river.  The mill was operated in succession by Thomas Shute, Joseph Stanton, John Bartow and (in 1790) John Reid.  His son, later, was the miller.  In the ensuing century, the name was rendered 'Reed.'  The mill stood until 1900 when it was blown down".   

Source:  McNamara, John, History in Asphalt:  The Origin of Bronx Street and Place Names, Borough of the Bronx, New York City, p. 191 (Harrison, NY:  Harbor Hill Books, 1978).

"REID'S MILL.  This was the first tidal mill to be erected on Eastchester Creek, or the Hutchinson River.  The year was 1739.  John Reid (sometimes spelled Reed) was the miller in 1790, and his son, Robert, continued on until the 1850's.  After the Civil War, it was abandoned and stood forlornly on the salt meadows for decades, finally to be blown down in a storm in 1900.  Its site would be roughly the center of Co-Op City.

REID'S MILL ROAD.  This is the former name of Provost Avenue from Boston Road to the City line.  It followed the general line of Steenwyck Avenue to Rattlesnake Creek on which the mill was located."

Source:  McNamara, John, History in Asphalt:  The Origin of Bronx Street and Place Names, Borough of the Bronx, New York City, p. 451 (Harrison, NY:  Harbor Hill Books, 1978).

"SANDER'S LANDING.  This was formerly the end of Reid's Mill Lane at Eastchester Creek (Hutchinson River), as noted in 1668.  In 1739, a tidal mill was erected there by Shute and Stanton.  This was run by John Bartow in 1766, and passed into the ownership of John Reid in 1790, and to his son Robert."

Source:  McNamara, John, History in Asphalt:  The Origin of Bronx Street and Place Names, Borough of the Bronx, New York City, p. 460 (Harrison, NY:  Harbor Hill Books, 1978).  



Detail of 1868 Map Showing Portion of East Chester Where
Reid's Mill (Denoted as "G. Mill" Near End of "Mill Lane") Once Stood.
Source:  Beers, F. W., "Town of East Chester, Westchester Co., N.Y.
With Waverly With Lakeville With East Chester With Washingtonville"
in Atlas of New York and Vicinity, p. 32 (NY, NY:  Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1868).


It is important to note that the detail of the 1868 Beers map immediately above shows not only the location of the mill, but also the location of the Reid family home in relation to the location of the mill.  The structure depicted just to the northeast of the mill is labeled "Miss Read" and is likely a reference to Phoebe Reid, the last of the five "maiden" sisters of the Reid family who continued to live in the Reid family home long after the mill was abandoned.  See Bolton, Robert, The History of the Several Towns, Manors, and Patents of the County of Westchester, From its First Settlement to the Present Time Carefully Revised by its Author, Vol. 1, pp. 245-46  (NY, NY:  Chas. F. Roper, 1881) (edited by the Rev. C. W. Bolton).



Detail of 1867 Map Showing Portion of East Chester Where
Reid's Mill (Denoted as "Reed's G. Mill" in Upper Left of
Map Detail) Once Stood.  Source:  Beers, F. W., "Plan of East
Chester, Pelham and New Rochelle, Westchester Co.,
N.Y." in Atlas of New York and Vicinity from Actual Surveys
by and Under the Direction of F.W. Beers, Assisted by Geo.
E. Warner & Others, p. 7 (NY, NY:  Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1867).

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