History From America's Most Famous Valleys
INn by the Mill
From the Book, Town of St. Johnsville
Under the date of March 28, 1839, James Klock, Jacob H. Flander and Benjamin Groff being commissioners, an entry reads: "Application by persons residing in said Town of St . Johnsville, and liable to be assessed for highway labor therein, having been made to the Commissioners of Highways of said town, for the laying out of the alteration of the highway leading from Messrs. Leonard & Curran's grist mill to the Mohawk Turnpike, and thence to Sanders' Ferry, across the Mohawk River. " Then follows the surveyor's technical description of the road in which he mentions "a stake and a stone in the ground in the Mohawk Turnpike in front of Daniel Leonard's dwelling house." From this it is clear that Daniel Leonard lived at the four corners and that the grist mill of Messrs. Leonard and Curran was what was later known as Beekman's Mill and then McCrones Mill. Mr. Curran lived on the farm which now belongs to Stanley Shuster.
The highway records for 1839 definitely establish the partnership of Leonard and Curran in the operation of the old grist mill, but from 1838 to 1841, inclusive, the assessment of highway labor on account of the joint ownership appears to have been against the partners as individuals. In other words, the assessment against each represented the assessment on his home property, plus his tax liability on the mill property. In 1838 Daniel Leonard was assessed 40 days, and James Curran, 26 days. In 1842 and 1843, the partnership is recognized by the commissioners and the property assessed accordingly. In 1844, there is no partnership assessment, and the name of Daniel Leonard disappears from the list, and an assessment against James Curran and Samuel Sadler indicates joint ownership of the mill. That same year, the name of Anthony Beekman (1798-1864) is listed and in 1845 the firm of Anthony Beekman & Co. appears to be in possession of the property. Anthony Beekman was succeeded by his sons, Noah W., Benjamin and John Groff, under the firm name of Beekman Brothers, who also conducted a grocery and feed store in St. Johnsville for many years.
In June, 1884, A. E. Seaman took possession of the old mill and operated it until October 1, 1921 when it passed into the ownership of McCrone Brothers. Mr. Seaman operated the mill for 37 years, the longest period under one management.
On acquiring the property, Mr. Seaman learned the history of the ancient structure, and recalls that it was built by Leonard and Curran, and that a memorandum made by the original owners, or by some workmen, showed that the mill was completed in February, 1835. Mr. Seaman also recalls that Samuel Sadler was the first miller employed and that his home was at Ingham's Mills, to which place he returned when Beekman Brothers entered into possession of the mill after the death of their father. Loami Beekman, another son of Anthony but not a member of the firm of Beekman Brothers, was employed as the miller by his brothers, until the property passed into the hands of Mr. Seaman.
The mill, at the time it was built, was regarded as me of the finest and best equipped flouring mills in the State. In the early part of the last century, wheat growing was one of the most important products of agriculture in the Mohawk Valley. Local flour had a fine reputation for its quality and was in great demand.
The milling of wheat was a profitable business. In the early days, when money was scarce, the farmers paid for the grinding of their grain by giving the miller one-tenth part of the grain offered for processing. Each mill had a measure holding exactly one-tenth of a bushel which was used in the tithing process and the portion deducted by the miller Was known as "toll."
In Mr. Seaman's day as miller, most of the farmers paid cash for the grinding. During this same period the local farmers stopped growing wheat and became dairy farmers. The shortage of local wheat forced Mr. Seaman to install roller machinery for the grinding of buckwheat flour . Farmers had begun to raise this grain and it was milled in large quantities at the old mill. The shift to dairying also made it necessary to grind other grains for cattle.
The Old Water Wheel
One of the outstanding mechanical features of the old mill was the large overshot water wheel that furnished the power for grinding. It was 30 feet in diameter and 8 feet broad, built around a shaft or axis that was a foot and a half through, all poised on metal bearings. Along the face of the wheel were wooden pockets that filled as water was admitted from the raceway. When the weight of the water was sufficient, the wheel began to revolve and transmit power to turn the heavy "upper and nether millstones" to produce the flour.
Because of the severe winter weather in this section, the wheel was enclosed in a wheel house. Even with this precaution, ice did form on the wheel in very cold weather.
When Mr. Seaman displaced the old mill stones with the roller machinery, he also removed the old mill wheel and installed a modern turbine. This furnished greater and more dependable power.
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