The Log Village and Grist Mill (Excerpts from The Log Village and Gristmill by Floyd D. Harwood)
The little town of Hartford, NY, Washington County was still in its infancy when Hezekiah Mann, carpenter, built a Gristmill on the banks of East creek. This hamlet was known as Log Village because nearly every dwelling was made of logs. Local records indicate that he built the mill in about 1810. Little is known about Hezekiah other than the fact that he was a carpenter. His knowledge of hydraulics and mechanics would put him in a class with his contemporary Oliver Evans, a well-known millwright of that time.
The first white settlers came to Log Village, now known as East Hartford, around 1782. By the time the mill was built much of the cropland had been cleared and log homes had been erected. Other needs such as sawmills, tanneries, black smith shops and schools were being provided for the pioneers. Hezekiah’s creation served the community continuously until 1902.
It is interesting to place the building of this mill in history’s calendar of events: Nationally, James Madison, fourth President of the USA, was having considerable difficulty with the English and French who were interfering with American shipping. Such activities culminated in the war of 1812, ‘Mr. Madison’s War’. If newspapers were available they may contain articles about Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, John Calhoun, or John Quincy Adams.
Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Vermont had just been granted statehood adding to the original 13 to make the United States 17 in number. Lewis and Clark had just returned from their expedition. Henry W. Longfellow was three years of age and Abraham Lincoln had just celebrated his first birthday. Fulton had completed his successful steamboat run from New York to Albany. Yet to come were the Erie Canal, Stephenson’s locomotive, Morse telegraph and the discovery of oil.
The year 1799 marked the birth of Hartford with Daniel Mason and Asahel Hodges serving as Town Supervisor and Town Clerk.
Hezekiah selected an ideal site for his mill near the rapids where the creek cuts through the rock ledge. With this narrow gorge less effort was required to build a dam. To increase the power he found it necessary to chip out some of the ledge to accommodate a larger water wheel set to a lower level. Observing size and the accessibility of the wheel pit we can only assume that the wheel was built and then the mill was built around it. Native stones were used to build the foundation walls.
Realizing that during certain times of the year the flow of East Creek was inadequate to drive the mill wheel a back-up water supply was provided about one mile up stream. Matilda Washburn owned the land that was inundated by the construction of the ‘Lily Pond Dam’ – the dam that held the backup water supply. Fifteen dollars was compensation for the loss of use of this land.
Later, to get a greater reserve of water the height of the dam was in creased and the water supply was taken from a higher level. This resulted in water flooding the land of Zadock Harris. The mill owner was required to pay $2.50 to compensate Zadock for flooding his land. Records indicate that the mill was built about 1810 and the deed to the millpond is dated 1820.
Chain of Title, East Hartford Grist Mill
1810-1820 Zadock Harris?
1820-1823 Reuben Ingalls
1823-1828 Daniel and Jacob Bump
1828-1842 Simeon Ingalls
1842-1862 Horace and Sally Ingalls
1862-1865 Elizabeth Bump
1865-1865 Simeon and Horace Ingalls
1865-1866 Robert Adams
1866-1869 Truman Harris
1869-1873 Mary Larkin
1873-1874 Peter, Mary and William Larkin
1874-1914 Sidney B. Weer*
1914-1914 Anna M. Weer
1914-1914 Sara Isabelle Brayton
1914-1931 Norman F. Weer
1931-1947 Betsy Simmons
1947-1967 Warren and Rhoda Wilkins
1967-1969 Robert and Phyllis Carlton Ellsworth
1969-1972 John and Marion Carlton
1972-2009 Floyd and Mildred Harwood**
2009- Bob and Hilary Oreschnick
* Sidney Weer’s wood working tools, patterns and lathe still remain at the Gristmill, as does an original drawing of Norman Weer or Sidney Weer on the back of one of the original doors.
** Floyd Harwood, a retired Vocational Agriculture teacher from Hartford Central School, bought the property in 1972 and started a long process of refurbishment. With much help from the community, family and friends, the mill opened to visitors in 1977. Many items of interest were donated to Floyd and so he and Mildred opened a small museum for the visitors to enjoy.
In the summer of 2009, Bob and Hilary Oreschnick travelled from York, England, to Cambridge, NY to see friends. They stayed in the historic Cambridge Hotel, and as Hilary was in the habit of picking up real estate brochures, she found one of interest in the hotel. Four months later the Gristmill, farmhouse and some 117 acres of surrounding land belonged to them. The Gristmill and museum had long since closed and the various smaller natural inhabitants – mice, chipmunks and woodchucks had moved in. In 2011 Bob and Hilary, two children, dog and cat moved from England to East Hartford, New York, following in the footsteps of the pioneers some 200 years previously, to set up home and business among the friendly people and astounding natural beauty of Upstate New York.
It is now the start of 2013 and the Gristmill remains in need of work. Our intention is to secure some grants and in the coming years open a new interesting, interactive museum where visitors of all ages can once again enjoy it’s interesting historical importance.