Part of York County’s past goes on the auction block
Dianne Bowders captured this scene at Biesecker Mill. Old millstones are now used as a sidewalk to the mill keeper’s house on the Biesecker Mill property in Jackson Township. The mill will soon be remodeled into a condo project. Background post: Pioneering sisters operated York County grist mill.
York County’s early mills served a lot of uses.
“A history of West Manchester Township, York County” names a few:
They were tied to agriculture, grinding grain into flour or meal.
They were among the county’s earliest businesses.
They served as meeting places.
Towns often formed around or near them.
Roads were routed to and away from them. Today, many county roads bear their names – Hoke or Biesecker mill roads.
The contents of one of these mills – Biesecker’s in Jackson Township – is going on the block… .
The mill building itself will live on as condos.
So the mill will live on.
But will its contents?
A complication: Will those bidding look to preserve the contents or sell them for scrap?
A York Daily Record story on the pending Biesecker Mill’s contents follows:
Bob Sholly remembers going into Biesecker Mill in Jackson Township to buy flour off the shelves of the attached store.
It was probably somewhere around the time the mill converted from water-wheel drive to diesel – thanks in part to Hurricane Agnes severely damaging the water works in 1972.
It’s surprising that such an old setup, dating to the 1740s, was still providing York County with flour-on-water power up until Richard Nixon was president, Sholly said.
Even more surprising for Sholly, of Good Old Boy Country Auction in Manchester Township, as he wandered by dusty wooden mill chutes and a giant sifter supported by hickory rods, is that the mill closed a mere dozen years ago.
Sholly is now in charge of auctioning off the mill’s contents. The mill itself has already been sold and is slated to be remodeled into a condo development by its new owner, Sholly said.
There will be no public auction for any of the items. Sholly said many items get one or maybe two bidders.
“For auction, you need a couple people,” he said.
It was a bittersweet self-guided tour for Sholly and the former owners, C. Frank Biesecker and his son, Lance, on a chilly Tuesday afternoon, one of the last looks any of them would get at the mill with its contents intact.
Sholly said he’s been the auctioneer for a few mills in York County, and this is one of the last ones he knows about that still stands. With his sense of nostalgia, making sure the items
go to good homes is almost a calling.
“I really care about this stuff,” Sholly said. “I hate to see it go to the junkyard.”
It’s an especially worrisome proposition nowadays.
With the price of scrap metal so high, a developer might be inclined to cash out the equipment that way, Sholly said.
C. Frank Biesecker, 74, worked in the mill his entire life. The family operated the mill for 75 years.
He’s hoping to get the old mill grinding stones – originally imported from Europe – with a sealed bid. The stones are now used as a sidewalk to the old mill keeper’s house on the property.
Biesecker said three people could run the mill, although about a dozen people were employed on the site when he worked there.
Four stories plus of pulleys, ropes and gears kept the works going, and if there were still power, it would probably still work today.
Wooden auger pipes take flour and dog-food ingredients – the mainstay of the mill in later years – on a processing trip from the mill’s attic to the basement, like air travels through the pipes of an organ in a great cathedral.
The old water wheel, a 21-foot-by-5-foot monstrosity, was sold and shipped to Rhode Island some years ago.
And some time after the mill shut down, the replacement diesel engine was removed for possible sale.
Biesecker said much of the multiple-ton, cast-iron-and-steel machinery that complemented the wooden backbone of the operation was carried into the facility piece by piece and assembled.
Lance Biesecker, who worked in the mill 15 years, said the mill was allowed to operate with the old wooden equipment – state regulations required stainless steel for years – because of a grandfather clause in the law.
But once the mill stopped operating for a time in 1995, they couldn’t start up again without upgrading.
Bids are being accepted until Monday morning, and Sholly said this time of year is best for removing contents from such an old building.
“There aren’t so many bees,” Sholly said.
Also of interest
Check out this book devoted to York County mills and millers: ‘Millers’ Tales.’