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The Mill Room was filled with Neighbors who discussed Anything and Everything

Quote by Birdes A. Jacobs (Superimposed in 2014 upon a Wallace-Cross Mill photo by S. H. Smith, 2010)
Quote by Birdes A. Jacobs (Superimposed in 2014 upon a Wallace-Cross Mill photo by S. H. Smith, 2010)

In a previous post, I noted that S. Morgan Smith Company begat four current York County Companies.  This post concludes a lengthy article appearing in the News-Comet of East Berlin, which was published over several weeks during January 1947.  Click here to return to the post containing the first installment of the article (all installments are linked with a ‘continue to next installment’ at the end of the posts).

The quote, in the above illustration, is from Birdes A. Jacobs’ letter to Grant Voadin.  Birdes is writing about his father’s mill, along Beaver Creek in Paradise Township, York County.  “These old landmarks were a focal point for an entire neighborhood.  How well I remember our own mill, especially in winter time, when we had callers all day long, and in the evening the mill room was filled with neighbors who discussed anything and everything.”

In the News-Comet article, through conversations and correspondence with Birdes A. Jacobs, Grant Voaden wrote that S. Morgan Smith delivered his first Turbine Water Wheel to Amos G. Jacobs’ grist mill near East Berlin in 1877.  Jacobs Mill was located about a mile southeast of East Berlin, just inside Paradise Township, York County, near the current crossroads of Jacobs Mill Road and Beaver Creek Road.

Birdes Jacobs knew S. Morgan Smith well and is the son of Amos Jacobs.  Grant Voaden compared Birdes’ recollections to entries in the earliest S. Morgan Smith Order Books to corroborate that S. Morgan Smith’s first experimental Success Runner went to Amos G. Jacobs grist mill.

Click on continue reading, following these related posts, for the concluding installment of the News-Comet article.

Continue reading …  


From the News-Comet, a newspaper published in East Berlin, PA, issue of January 31, 1947; page 5 (CONTINUED from Link).  This concludes Mr. Birdes Jacobs’ own words condensed from six letters to the author, Grant Voadin; followed by Mr. Voadin’s final comments.

“My father at last told Smith to go ahead and make for him an 18” turbine.  Smith had no shop and if I am right the old York Manufacturing Plant on Penn Street (between Market and Philadelphia Street at the alley), the forerunner of the York Corporation present set-up, made it for him, probably on credit.  The wheel was hauled to our mill.  William Feiser, the millwright, made a wooden penstock for it.  It was installed and it worked to perfection and S. Morgan Smith got his patent.  From that time on no ministering, to my father he said Amos and my father called him Morgan.

“This wheel ran for years and became worn and one day when my father and I were at York he said to me, ‘Let’s go over to Smith’s.  I believe I should get a new turbine.’  We went over to the shop (they then were manufacturing much larger wheels and Smith had a real large place).  My father knew the boys, met one and told him he needed a new turbine and what will it cost.  Young Smith thought about $300.  My Dad said he just doesn’t know, wait till I find Morgan.  He found him, they shook hands like old cronies, and then my father told him he needed a new turbine.  Smith replied ‘Amos, bring down the old one for scrap and I will make you a new one for $70.00’.”

(Grant Voadin note—This order is entered in our Order Book No. 11. P 294, ON 395 dated August 23, 1894 “R H 18” No. 1 Success water wheel with shaft 4’-10” long from floor to penstock and upper half coupling bored.  Birdes Jacobs would have been 22 years old and his father 56).

“Now later Smith owned and operated the flour mill at the Western Boundary of East Berlin.  Frequently he would drive in a roundabout way out to our mill and sit on the saw logs and whittle and talk about many things.  My father was well read, and one time I remember Mr. Smith saying ‘Amos, the world is more akin than most people realize or imagine.

“Smith drove matched horses, dressed well, my Dad was in work clothes and one day I asked my father, ‘Why does S. Morgan Smith come to see you so often, and is so chummy and friendly; we are too ordinary for him,’ my Dad replied, ‘I helped him when he needed help, because I thought he was worthy, and he hasn’t forgotten it, Morgan is all right.’

“Jacobs Mill had three water wheels at one time, a wooden overshot to run the carding mill, another wooden overshot to run the saw mill and the 18” Success turbine to run the wheat buhrs and the chopping stones.  The wooden overshot was geared so it could be used to saw, make flour, or run the choppers.

“In 1903 we tore out the wheat buhrs, the carding machines were already removed, tore out all three water wheels, and put in a steel overshot, which we used to saw logs and make feed.

“Today building and all are gone.  The foundations of these old mills are pathetic reminders of a busy and happy past because these mills too were social centers.

“I am glad to try to help you dig up these old landmarks that were a focal point for an entire neighborhood, and how well I remember our own mill (especially in winter time), when we had callers all day long, and in the evening the mill room was filled with neighbors who discussed anything and everything.

“At the mill we always met the customer at the door and called him by name, he never had to hunt us.  You had a toll box which held 1 10 bushel.  For every bushel of grain the customers brought in you took a boxful before the stuff was ground, either wheat or feed.  For corn ears I used the scales, corn ears a vague proposition in a bag.  I also used the scales quite often for shelled grain because the customers tried to fox me.  I ground many a bushel of corn ears for 2 cents.  A bushel was 35 pounds—most of the time got 2-1/2 cents.  Shelled corn, oats, and rye was 6 cents per bushel.  Wheat was always tolled.  We made from $300 to $600 a year in the mill, that was some money in those days and my Dad saved it.  When anyone in your presence yearns for the good old times take him out to the wood shed.  Of course we needed very little money.  In my brief existence I have changed worlds.  In fact old things have passed away and I do not mourn for them.

“Now for a few reminiscences about Morgan Smith.

“When S. Morgan Smith preached to the boys in blue I’m sure he didn’t bother his head much about man made dogmas and creeds.  He was the Chaplain of the 200th Reg. Pennsylvanian Volunteers in which Henry Bentzel, a lifelong friend of our family, was a member.  He told me Morgan compelled them to come to church services every Sunday morning.  During the services they would quietly sneak out and when Morgan finished preaching very few were left.  He did not upbraid them for this breach.  They went away to their pup tents and instead of being at church got busy playing cards.  Morgan kept a lot of scriptural leaflets handy and after services made the rounds of the tent and threw the leaflets on the blanket used for card playing with the remark ‘I play trump.’  The boys thought he was just right.

“I, as a youth, sized up S. Morgan Smith as one of Nature’s Noblemen.  He, in pioneering the turbine water wheel business, walked where, at that time, the technical angels feared to tread and my dad fearlessly walked with him.

“Your friend—


Now this article is a golden opportunity that cannot be passed up to record what information the author has been able to obtain on the other Jacobs Mill on Oil creek in Heidelberg township east of Hanover, Pa.  Knowing that Jacobs Mill was the earliest in western York county and also that one of S. Morgan Smith’s earliest turbines was probably installed there the author hunted down the location of what once was a station on the Pennsylvania Railway called Jacobs Mills.

What he found there was a gas station and small store owned by Roy G. Jacobs.  Upon inquiry of Mr. Jacobs regarding the whereabouts of a mill in that vicinity the author was shown, and eventually loaned, two pictures of the mill, appearing herewith, which had been located just south of the store and had been torn down in 1938.  The remains of the mile long head race and the short tail race may still be seen.

Roy Jacobs does not know the date that the mill was acquired by his grandparents, George and Isabella Jacobs, but they brought it from a man by the name of Hartman and think at one time it was known as an Eichelberger Mill.  It is shown by the latter name on a map made in 1821.

This old mill contained a grist mill and, outside, an up and down saw mill each with an overshot wheel, the first ones wooden, later of steel made by Fitz of Hanover.  There was later a turbine located in the front left corner of the wheel pit—bought July 15, 1878 from S. Morgan Smith by George G. Jacobs for $200.  No doubt this was bought on recommendation of George’s brother Amos who was well pleased with the one he bought a year previous for his own mill on Beaver creek.  In our Order Book No. 2, a drawing of the wooden penstock and plate steel casing accompanies the order entry.  The head was given as 16 ft. from forebay to tailwater and the bottom of the wheel was at tailwater level.

George G. Jacobs, (George IV in the family) often visited his brother Amos’ mill.  His son, John H. Jacobs, who died in 1936, succeeded to the mill and his son Roy G., the present owner, followed him and ran it for 25 years till the machinery was worn out and the building started to fall down.  When Roy G. abandoned the mill, he sold one pair of chopping stones to Menges Mills and they are still in use for making corn meal, etc.  Two others run of stones were sold to a man in Chambersburg for ornamental purposes.

In May 1889, at the time of the Johnstown Flood, York county also experienced severe floods.  At Jacobs Mill a girl, Maggie Straley, was drowned and George Jacobs in a vain endeavor to rescue her was carried downstream a half mile and was marooned on a fence in a dazed condition over night.

It was the information and cooperation of Roy G. Jacobs that eventually led the author to find the remains of the Jacobs Factory on Beaver Creek whence the trail led to Mrs. Harry Baughman of Dover, thence to her brother, Birdes Jacobs, in East Berlin, and eventually to the recording of the above tale of S. Morgan Smith’s first wheel.

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