New Hope Mills
Half way through 9th grade, my family moved from suburbia to the rural countryside here in the Finger Lakes region of upstate new York. The old farmhouse we bought was about 1/4 mile down the road from New Hope Mills, which is pictured above.
Shortly after moving into the neighborhood, David Weed, son of Lee Weed, owner of the mill, stopped in to welcome us and he gave us a bag of the mill’s famous buckwheat pancake mix. He also invited us to visit the little church he and his family attended. The church was in an old one room schoolhouse and I’ve written about it here.
When I was 17, my father worked at the mill half days. One day he came home with his fingers bleeding. He had accidentally run his hand through a machine that was used to sew a lock stitch into the folded-over top of the bags of pancake mix. He was not seriously injured but it was the end of packing pancake mix for him and I got his job. I worked there much of one summer, then every day after school, and on Saturdays.
In the years since then, Lee Weed passed away, his son David died of cancer, and the mill is now owned by another son, Dale, who happens to be the pastor of the church my family attends. New Hope Mills has also outgrown it’s wonderful old building. It has moved it’s operation to a much more modern location on the outskirts of Auburn, NY. The mill sets idle. But once a year they have a little festival of sorts. They have a pancake breakfast and vendors and games and open the mill up for tours.
Marlene was there today under her canopy selling her homemade soaps. Here is a picture of Marlene.
And here is a close-up of soap bars in the holders I designed.
James was disappointed that he had nothing to sell. So, this morning, I outfitted him with some of my books and a basket of stiffneck garlic. Then he harvested some big round onions from his garden bed and put them in a basket to sell. I did not realize he had grown such beautiful onions and I wish I had taken a close-up photo of them to show you here. We priced the onions at $1.00 each and the garlic bulbs were $1.50 each or 4 for $5.00. Here’s a picture of James interacting with customers—something he is particularly good at. The man is looking at my chicken plucker book. I wonder if he has ever plucked a chicken?
here is a shot of my son Robert. Behind him is a covered bridge. In front of him is the muddy mill pond.
One of the neat things at the event was a dunking booth. For a buck, you could get three small bags of flour that you threw at a dunking mechanism. Here it is...
The picture below is of a fellow on the dunking platform out in the mill pond.
And here is what happens when the bag of flour connects with the arm of the dunker mechanism...
Even though I worked at the mill many years ago, I decided to take a tour today. Pastor Dale told a group of us “tourists” about how the mill was built in 1823 by a man named Charles Kellogg. It turns out that Mr. Kellogg was a relation to the Kelloggs of cereal fame in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Back in the 1850’s, there were 15 water powered industries along one mile of the stream the mill sets on. The water comes out of Bear Swamp and flows into Skaneateles Lake, which is cold and clear and clean and beautiful.
Millard Fillmore, 13th president of the U.S. was born in Summer Hill, a few miles from the little crossroads town of New Hope. But when he was a boy his family moved to New Hope and, according to local lore, he worked in a carding mill not far from Kellogg’s mill.
The water wheel on the outside of the mill is a 26 foot overshot. It looks like it has always been there, but Lee Weed installed it in the 1970’s. Power to run the mill comes from a water turbine way down in the bottom of the structure. The turbine delivers 70 horsepower and runs an assortment of shafts and pulleys that convey grain to old grinders (shown in the next photo), and sifters, way up on the top floor. When the mill is working, and I remember it working when I was younger, the whole building creaked and rocked. But the framework of massive hand-hewn beams, held together with wood pegs, will accommodate the movement just fine.
The Weed family has cared for New Hope Mills for over half a century. Even though their business has outgrown the old mill, they still cherish it and are taking steps to preserve this wonderful relic of the past. You can learn more of the history of the mill and the Mill’s many products by going to The New Hope Mills web site.
Posted by Herrick Kimball