This just in: It unlikely that “my” John Clark built this beautiful grain mill along Yellow Breeches Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. It sure would have been nice to say someone in my family was responsible — it was the first grist mill in Cumberland County, Pa. I thought for about a year that the mill might have been built by “my” John Clark. But it seems unlikely. Here’s why.
My great grandmother, Bess Boner (1878-1954), was “a Clark,” according to my mother. It was actually her mother, Sarah Ann (1837-1887), who was the Clark. She was the older sister of the infamous Montana Sen. William Andrews Clark, who bought his first election.
According to Progressive Men of Montana, W.A.’s parents were John Clark (1797-1873) and Mary Andrews (1814-1904). John Clark’s father, it says, was another John Clark (1760-1831), who was born in Country Tyrone, Ireland, and settled in Pennsylvania “after the Revolution.” He married Elizabeth Rogers Reed of Chester, County Pa.
The mill, according to Mills of Cumberland County, was built by a John Clark in about 1774. Unfortunately, That was before the Revolution. My John Clark hadn’t arrived in Pennsylvania yet. It would be had to build the mill from that distance.
I could write a lot more about the mill, though it’s no longer relevant. Think I will anyway, especially since I took a trip to see it. The original mill only measured 30 x 30 feet. The present mill, made of stone and timber, is bigger; it measures 34 in front and 90 feet along the side. “It appears that the front part was the original mill,” according to the book, Mills of Cumberland County.
John passed on the mill to a son, William, who in turn passed it on to his son, James, in his will dated April 14, 1847. James turned it quickly. He placed an ad in the Carlisle Herald beginning on July 14, 1847, that offered his “valuable mill property…possessed of every advantage.” It is situated in a “good country for doing business,” the ad says.
By this time, the mill had four run of stones, including two burrs. The three-story, stone structure, now measured 42 x 84 feet. The property included a two story home, with stables and other outbuildings, together with a “fine young orchard of choice fruit.” The property, the ad said, “offers strong inducements to a practical miller, as it is possessed of every advantage.” Nearly a year later, James sold the mill and 6 acres for $6000 to Benjamin Givler.
That family owned it until 1886. Since then it was had a number of owners, including an electric power company. It was converted into a residence by the current owner, Norman Law and his wife Diane, who don’t live there. The Greek Revival house across the was also built on land warranted to John Clark — the wrong John Clark. The columned porch, for those keeping score, was added later.
Why publish this post? Well, I don’t want subsequent generations jumping to the same conclusion that I almost made. There’s so much bad information out there — especially the family trees on ancestry.com — that would be nice to believe. You have to dig into the sources to make sure it’s accurate.