4072 Quaker Rd
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Mabee, Warner, Failing,
Continuous flour grist and
saw mills — 1812-1965
Upper and lower ponds
By the Royalton Historical Society — Date unkown
What was there
Early mills of the town of Royalton. Although they may not have been the first, and certainly not the only mills in the town, the mill ponds built on this site formed a reliable waterway to power several mills for over a century. One of the first mills built along this stretch of Eighteenmile Creek, was a grist mill, by Col. Jonathan Mabee presumably around 1812. He then built a sawmill nearby, prior to 1820. The Mabee family continued to open mills along this creek (4 total), including the large stone “Mabee Mills,” a gristmill built in 1872 (to replace the former, which they had sold). This four-story mill lasted until 1880, when it was destroyed by fire. It was been a crumbling ruin since then. J. M. Ritchie and Sons bought and operated the original Mabee grist mill (Ritchie Mills) on the lower pond (north west of the marker) presumably around the time the stone grist mill was built.
Another prominent mill was built in 1895 by Gottlieb Otto (of Germany), upstream from here on the east side of the dam that forms Mill Pond Falls. The dam was constructed prior to 1849 (and restored in 1990). Otto’s grist mill (known as Gottlieb Otto Mills) lasted until 1965, when Slayton Settlement Rd was rebuilt.
Between 1820 and 1880, a total of 5 mills operated on these two ponds.
What is there now
The two ponds and their dams still exist, as do the crumbling ruins of the large Mabee grist mill, although it is in rough shape. The property is well kept, but in recent years, due to frequent falling stone from the decaying wall, no-trespassing signs have been put up to keep people out of the mill. Upstream, water pours over the 12 ft tall dam, and down about 8 more feet of natural stone to create a beautiful, but difficult-to-see waterfall. Catch a glimpse of it from Slayton Settlement Rd.
Gottlieb Otto Mills no longer exists and there are no apparent remnants of it.
The locations of the other former mills are now private residential property.
- Colonel Johnathan Mabee and his sons Johnathan and Marcus operated 2 saw mills and two grist mills along this creek.
- The Mabee sawmills saw great business when construction of the Erie Canal reached this area during the 1910-1914 expansion. Lumber was carted to the mills, cut, and then pulled on barges to the front lines of construction.
- Up until the 1960s, a road circled the lower pond servicing the mills, homes, and storehouses in the mill district. The dead end McNair Road is all that is left of it.
- The Lockport Daily Journal reported in June 26, 1856:
Workmen engaged upon the enlargement just west of the Waste Weir at Mabee’s have been for a day or two plowing into a knoll or mound of earth, and have thrown up a large number of human bones. No less than 20 skulls were lowed out on Tuesday with the other bones of the body in proportionate numbers. They are all found about 4 feet below the original surface of the earth, and occupy an area of about 20 feet square. The general presumption is (the oldest inhabitant knows nothing of them) that the spot was formerly an Indian burying ground and is now for the first time discovered to civilization. No implement of warfare or trinkets could be discovered among the relics or about the place.
- The Town of Royalton was formed from part of the Town of Hartland on April 5, 1817.
- Samuel Hitchcock built the first house in Gasport around 1824.
- Gasport gets its name from natural gas springs that existed here until the canal was built and those springs were destroyed.
- Town of Royalton history
- Waterfalls in Genesee County
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