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Watermills of Camden County - By William Farr - Chapter I





Inskeeps is an old landmark, the nearest other named place being the Blue Anchor Tavern, several miles to the northwest. It was a specific location, where the old Indian trail from Shamong to Tuckahoe crossed Great Egg Harbor River (Clement, p. 264; and his article “Atlantic County ‘In Ye Olden Time’—and Now,” reprinted in Leah Blackman’s History of Little Egg Harbor Township, p. 408), just below the point where the river is joined by Inskeeps Branch (Big Bridge Branch). Gordon’s History of New Jersey, p. 162 of the gazetteer section, incorrectly locates it where Squankum Branch empties into the river, but that is almost a mile up the river, on the Gloucester County side. The river here, being little more than a stream, was originally a fording place (“Inskeepsford,” Prowell, p. 342; Clement’s article, above cited). On an October day in 1991, it was only twenty feet wide and one foot deep. But on a day in March of 2000 it was wider and deeper. The site is reachable by car from Piney Hollow Road.

Clement’s Maps and Drafts, Vol 3, p. 17, shows the sawmill on the east (Camden County) side of the river. The only other indication of a building (also on the east side) is on a 1791 survey of 60 acres to Thomas Coles (CCHS, M.83.90.215). A small group of local historians visited the site in March of 2000 (Messrs. Demitroff, Farr, Fox, Munn and Schopp) and thought it possible that the mill was built out over the stream.

Some of the dam embankment or re-embankment remained in 1991 and again in 2000 on the west side of the river, just north of the path remnant of the “road” coming to the bridge from the west. As time is measured with respect to the mill and the site, the bridge, of which only slight evidence remains, would have been built not too long ago, since earlier the dam itself may have supported the way across. The most recent bridge must have been substantial, since there is a one-foot square beam about fifteen feet long remaining in place on the east side.

John Inskeep (1727-1810) built this sawmill about 1765 on the river, below where Inskeeps Branch empties into it (surveyor George W Sykes’s “Remarks” on an 1865 lawsuit of Haines & Inskeep v. R. V. M. Cooper [CCHS, Morgan Collection ]), and above where Piney Hollow Road crosses the river. The father’s 1810 will (l2456 C) gave the pine lands and sawmill to his sons, John and Thomas. Thomas died in 1813, his will (12652 C) directing a sale of his “outlands.”

The mill and surrounding timber lands were formally divided in 1814 among John’s son of the same name and the heirs of John’s son Thomas (Glo Co Surr Div Bk 1, p. 191; Maps and Drafts, Vol. 3, pp. 17, 51), with the mill and millseat (Lot No. 7) being allotted to all in common, which suggests that the mill may still have been in use. A map of the division is included in the Surrogate’s records at page 196. The mill probably went into disuse about the middle of the nineteenth century. The “Remarks” state that the mill was 8 to 10 chains below the mouth of the Inskeep’s Branch.

The mill was assessed to John Inskeep for 1774, 1779, 1780, 1781 and 1783. The township ratables for Gloucester Township are available for 1773, 1782 and 1796, but there are no mill assessments for an Inskeep. But John’s son Thomas was assessed for 1797 and 1802.

In 1817 a public road to cross east at that point “to Inskeep’s Saw Mill” (again placing the mill on the east side) was authorized (Glo RR B-210) but apparently was not built. Nearby Piney Hollow Road was eventually laid out in 1855 to provide a convenient river crossing (Cam RR 75) for ordinary traffic.

The locale became a place of resort for picnicking and swimming. An additional attraction was the “Blue Hole,” a small pond on the Gloucester County side, a few feet below the dam and the path, apparently spring fed and emptying into the river not far below the crossing. Recent information points to the “Blue Hole” and many similar water places are a remnant of the time South Jersey was a frozen waterland 100,000 years ago. Legend had it that it could not be plumbed. It turns out that it is not more than a few feet deep, and its near bottom exhibits white sand. It was perhaps man made, dug to provide fill for the dam or its repair. South Jersey has many gravel holes which have filled up with “blue” water. See “Blue Hole” in Waterways, p. 18.

Kathryn H. Chalmers (Down the Long-a-coming, p. 84) believed that it was “into this depression that the overflow from the dammed up river was directed by the wheel that ran John Inskeep’s Saw Mill.” That would be a strange tailrace, and would ignore Clement’s and others’ placing the mill on the other side of the river. Chalmers (ibid.) wrote that the John Inskeep who surveyed the place in 1762 built his home on the knoll near the river, but today there is no physical evidence of such a building, and his will states he was living in Evesham Township, where he apparently lived all his life. He may well have had some sort of rough dwelling at the mill for himself and his workmen for those occasions when the mill was being worked. There were always a number of these habitations, called “cabins, ” at various places in cedar swamp logging operations.
There is an 1858 map found in the Cooper Collection at Rutgers University of a winding road going south from the head of Prossers Pond Branch (see article of that name in Waterways, p. 134) for a distance of 81 chains (about a mile). It contains this legend: “This is a road of old times used to haul lumber from Inskeeps Mill to Chews Landing [crossed out, a mistake I think] and was then called Inskeeps Road and still known by that name;” also “See Samuel Clements field notes...1771....” The head of Prosser’s Pond Branch is near the intersection of Berlin-Cross Keys Road and Blenheim-Erial-Brooklyn Road. That point is about 10 miles, as the crow flies, from Inskeeps Mill, although the winding road would measure perhaps 15 miles. But a commercial sawmill had to have a way to get its lumber to a landing for transporting to market. This particular Inskeep’s Road appears to have been a predecessor of the Blenheim-Erial-Brooklyn Road, which was formally laid out in 1802 (Glo RR B-2) and somewhat lengthened in 1809 (Glo RR B-68).

The account of Inskeeps Sawmill in Old Mills (p. 63) injects an element of confusion by introducing the name of James Inskeep, who had a sawmill on Little Egg Harbor (Mullica) River (See GOSHEN MILLS), and was not in any way connected with the subject sawmill.

Additional sources of information: Clement, p. 165; Maps and Drafts, Vol. 1, p. 80; Vol. 3, p. 19; Vol. 4, pp. 18, 19, 84; Glo RR B-210; Prowell, p. 697; GCHS, Map A-341.

John Inskeep was assessed in 1780 for a sawmill (but no land) in Waterford Township (1780 Waterford Township ratables). No other information concerning this mill has been found. This would have been the John who was born ca. 1727. See GOSHEN MILLS

A Sarah Inskeep was also assessed in February of 1780 for a sawmill (no land, but a horse and two horned cattle) in Waterford Township. Abraham Inskeep, of Waterford Township, died 16 January 1780, leaving a widow, Sarah. His will was proved 27 January 1780 (1303 H). No other information about such a mill has been found. See GOSHEN MILLS


IRON MILL (Richards Sawmill)
Samuel Richards’s New Sawmill is mentioned in the 1838 laying out a road from Bobbys Causeway southwest to Winslow, commonly known as Fleming Turnpike (Glo RR D-28), which took a jog across the sawmill dam. That road was apparently intended to be continued from Bobbys Causeway northeast to Atsion and is sometimes referred to as Atsion Turnpike. It would appear that the tract on which the sawmill was located was itself part of the Atsion “estate,” i.e., the many acres attached to that establishment. Samuel Richards bought Atsion in 1828 and died in 1842 (Family Empire in Jersey Iron, p. 39). The mill was two miles east of White Horse Pike (above Elm), which had recently (1828) been extended from Atco down that far and beyond (Glo RR C-130). There is little information as to the operation of the mill, which was given the name Iron Mill. It has been speculated (Old Mills, p. 61) that the basis of the name was the earlier involvement of the Richards family in the production of iron at Atsion (see Family Empire in Jersey Iron). It might also be that the mill was built mostly of ironstone. On an inspection trip in March of 2000 a new bridge over the stream was seen, and ironstone was found in what would have been part of the former dam on which one end of the bridge rested.

The mill was not far below the confluence of Blue Anchor Branch with Albertsons (Bates Mill) Branch, and the resulting stream is given the alternative name Iron Mill Branch on the Waterford Township Tax Map. Iron Mill is listed under “Saw Mills” in Kirkbride’s 1850 New Jersey Business Directory. The 1860 Lake & Beers Map of the Vicinity of Philadelphia (CCHS, M.83.90.572) shows Landros & Burns Saw Mill but they must have leased it. It is also shown and named Iron Mill on a large undated map of Richards family holdings (CCHS, M.83.90.14). A cedar swamp conveyed by William C. Lippincott to Freedom W. Lippincott, 27 January 1859 (Camden, 34-511) was located on Albertsons Branch “below what is called the Iron Saw Mill.” Wharton Avenue (Spring Garden to Iron Mill), laid out in 1878 (Cam RR 214), had earlier been called Iron Mill Road as the southern portion of Pestletown Road (Cam RR 180 [1871]).

Maps and Drafts, Vol. 5, p. 61 shows the mill on the north side of the race, about 600 feet below the dam, with the mill race going off to the left just below the dam. The race was traceable on the 2000 visit, with its return to the main stream under the railroad track, but no evidence of the mill itself was found.

The construction of the single track of Central Railroad of New Jersey (route of the famed Blue Comet) came very close to the mill (which would by then have been abandoned), and may have destroyed it. The wide and substantial railroad bridge over the main stream would make a visit worthwhile, especially to a railroad buff.
The sawmill, with several dwellings and 175 acres, was advertised for sale by Charles D. Matlack, with the suggestion that the pond could be drained and converted to a cranberry meadow (West Jersey Press, 28 March 1866). The road from the bridge back along the millrace gives evidence of several house cellars. Clement provides a map of his surveys, made about that time, of the 34-acre pond (Maps and Drafts Vol. 5, p. 61), and two small adjacent tracts (Vol. 5, p. 93).

The pond was sold by Matlack to Charles S. Elwood and Isaac Braddock, 2 June 1866 (Camden, 51-124), in the deed for which Fleming Turnpike is called Iron Mill Road. The other two tracts were sold to Elwood and Braddock, 19 August 1867 (Camden, 56-270). These conveyances were probably out of 500 acres Matlack bought of Sarah Dickson, 3 August 1864 (Camden, 43-620).


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