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Watermills of Camden County - By William Farr - Chapter P





Jacob Phifer was assessed for a sawmill in Waterford Township for the years 1784, 1785 and 1789 (Waterford Township ratables), and in Gloucester Township for the year 1790 (Gloucester Township ratables). He bought at a Sheriff’s sale against Andrew Newman, on 15 November 1770 (Woodbury, U-582), 131 acres in Gloucester Township. In 1785 or thereabouts, he also bought a 518-acre tract adjoining on the north. The tracts were, for the most part, in present Lindenwold, Voorhees Township, Berlin Borough and Berlin Township. He lost the 518 acres to Benjamin Morgan by a Sheriff’s sale (deed, 16 November 1791 [Woodbury, K-330]).

Phifer, with wife Barbara, sold the 131 acres to Joseph Hillman, 5 May 1794 (Woodbury, U-574). This tract was bisected by the Old Eggharbor Road. Hillman’s will, proved 1815 (3045 H), gave the part north of the road to grandsons Jacob and Hillman Ellis, and the part south of the road to grandsons Henry and James Crawford. These tracts can best be seen in Maps and Drafts, Vol. 1, p. 85; Vol. 2, p. 4; and on Warrants & Surveys Nos. 345 and 355. Phifer died intestate in 1795 (1969 H).

Although several streams (e.g., Bortons Branch) apparently start within these tracts, it is improbable that they could, at that location, provide sufficient power for a sawmill. But since, for several years, Phifer’s lands assessed in Waterford Township exceeded the total acreage of the two tracts, he may have had his sawmill elsewhere.




PORTER’S MILL (Floodgate’s Sawmill, Kinsey’s (Job) Turning Mill)
“Some authorities have contended that Abraham Porter had a sawmill at the Flood Gates near Chews Landing early in the eighteenth century, but no definite information on this point has been produced” (Old Mills, p. 51). But it then states that there was a sawmill there about 1800, operated by Josiah Albertson and Nathan Lippincott, and that both are mentioned in “deed” pertaining to the property. Further, on the basis of a “dam near the bridge opposite Nathan Lippincott’s house,” referred to in an 1803 road return, it was concluded that the sawmill was in existence at that time. It is also stated that in 1790 “Kinsey” (given name Job, see “A Forgotten Road in Gloucester Township,” West Jersey Press, 30 July and 6 August 1936) was operating a turning mill, “probably in connection with the sawmill.”

The late Helen Merkle, with whom this writer was acquainted, wrote a series of interesting articles about old Chews Landing and its people, and the one published in The Civic Press/Black Horse Suburban of 30 May 1968 was about Porters Mill, which she placed in the vicinity of Floodgates near Chews Landing. She did not customarily cite authorities for her statements and conclusions, other than “records” and “anecdotes.” It is not easy to deal with these accounts, most parts of which probably have a factual basis.

Porter died in 1729, at which time there was no Chews Landing, nor any other landing at that location. In fact, the land there was only then being “taken up” or surveyed. The earliest surveys found by the writer for the area we call Chews Landing were two adjoining ones, of 300 acres each, made in 1726, by Thomas Wetherill and Isaac Decow (OSG, M-72). The writer has searched for and studied a number of deeds and surveys for Porter lands, and has found none for land at or near Chews Landing, particularly not at or near Floodgates.

Early road returns create some ambiguity. The road commonly called the “Irish Road,” authorized in 1712 (Rambles, pp. 4 & 99; Stewart’s Notes I, p. 16) began at “Porter’s Mill:” “WHEREAS, there was complaint made unto us the underwritten commissioners that there was need of a road from the head of Timber Creek where the old road to Salem formerly went down to Gloucester. Pursuant to an act of assembly that empowers us in these cases we have layde out a road commonly called the Irish Road as followeth Beginning at Porter’s Mill and from thence falling into the Old Roade that went to Burlington and along the same over Sheeyanees run, from thence to the other [Otter] branch, and thence over the hills to Beaver Branch by John Huggs land and from thence upon a straight course to the little Bridge and from thence along the Kings’ Roade to Gloucester layde out by us the third day of December 1712.” See also Leap, History of Runnemede, pp. 23-26.

That return creates confusion by using the kind of directions you might give someone who lived in the same neighborhood you did, but which would be confusing to someone who lived elsewhere. The 1712 return took the road near the site of the later Floodgates at present Chews Landing. Presumably Porters Mill was at the “head of timber Creek,” and where was that? This writer disagrees with the editor of Rambles (p. 4) who located Porters Mill “a short distance east of the Flood Gate Bridge at Chews Landing” (although that is about the head of the tide), since that does not fit the language of the 1712 return, which describes the route as from east to west.

It might be argued that Floodgates was at the “head” of the creek, but that word had no fixed meaning. And one would not go from Floodgates to Beaver Branch by way of Sheeyanees [Signey’s] Run. Nor is it to be inferred that the floodgates were in place as early a 1712.

The only sensible location for Porters Mill, to fit the rest of the return, would be somewhere upstream from there, probably at the LAUREL MILLS location. This would make the return “beginning at Porter’s Mill” consistent with the preamble “head of Timber Creek.” In 1730 Porter’s executors advertised land for sale (NJA, XI, p. 217), stating that the creek was navigable by a large boat up to the saw mill, which puts the sawmill at the head of navigation [at least by puffing] and does not clearly place the sawmill at Laurel Road, but that is probably what was meant.

A 1739 return (Gloucester Township Minutes) for a road from Wards Mill at Blackwood to Haddonfield goes by “Porter’s Old Mill...thence by Segentus Run...,” which would seemingly place Porters Mill at Chews Landing.

For what it is worth, English & Sparks’s “A History of Chews Landing” states [as usual, without supporting evidence] that Porter built first a sawmill and later a gristmill near Floodgates Bridge, and the old mill was torn down in 1790.

Floodgates were sometimes used on streams to control the tide and provide better meadows above. They were contrived so as to let in some tide and let it and the stream’s natural flow out. Someone [we know not who] constructed floodgates across the North Branch of Timber Creek just below where Somerdale Road [a recent name for an old road] now crosses. These floodgates became a frequent point of reference and gave their name to that portion of the Irish Road running north from there, that is, Floodgates Road.

George Payne lost the Gabriel Davis tavern property, on he north side of the North Branch, to Joshua Lippincott by Sheriff’s sale: deed, 19 August 1783, Woodbury, I-337. Joshua, by deed 27 September 1805, transferred title to his son Nathan, who was already in possession (Woodbury, I-332). On 10 March 1814, Nathan sold the property to John Keen and George Breck (Woodbury, T-272). None of these deeds mentioned a mill.

There was a dam on Otter Branch at Buttonball, a swimming hole close to Floodgates. There had long been a bridge (“Little Bridge” in distinction from the 1768 Chews Bridge over the North Branch) over Otter Branch to carry the Irish Road as it skirted the North Branch of Timber Creek to join the Salem Road, and at some point a dam was built near Little Bridge. It is referred to as “the dam near Nathan Lippincotts house” (1789 Glo RR A-127), and “the dam near the bridge opposite Nathan Lippincotts house” (1803 Glo RR A-271). Did this dam create the water power for the Porter-Floodgates Mill? Or was the dam on the creek located just below the mouth of Otter Branch in order to have the benefit of the latter’s flow? The existence of a dam does not necessary imply a mill, no more than the absence of a dam precludes the existence of one.



Jeremiah Powell, who was assessed just one time, in 1783, for a sawmill (Gloucester Township ratables), was probably the same person who was married to Hope, and who bought 19 acres from Asa Gibbs, 11 April 1799, and sold eight acres to John Thompson 3 January 1807 (Woodbury K-403). He also sold eight acres to Aaron Chew, 23 April 1807 (ibid., K-406). His connection with a sawmill has not been discovered. He died intestate 19 December 1815 (3058 H). His administrator, Aaron Chew, sold to Martin Cox a 1 ½-acre lot (probably Powell’s home) in what was Hillmanton on 10 January 1817 (ibid., BB-227).

In Marmaduke Cooper’s 1795 will (1933 H), he gave to his son Joseph a one-half interest in “my pine land and cedar swamp near Price’s Mill.” Marmaduke had bought a big tract in the lower part of Waterford Township, including the mill which became known as BURNT MILL, on Burnt Mill Road. The millstream for that mill was Wildcat Branch. The next stream below, crossed by the road, was Prices Branch, named for Robert Friend Price, who located cedar swamp land along its banks, and his sawmill would have been powered by its flow, although no pond has been discovered. No other reference to Prices Mill has been found by the writer, nor did Price mention a mill in his 1782 will (1863 H)


PROSSER’S SAWMILL (Collin’s Sawmill, Joseph H. Cheesman’s; Richard Cheesman’s Sawmill, Prosser’s Gristmill)
Upstream from CHEESMAN’S (PETER) GRISTMILL, and above where Smallwoods Branch meets the South Branch of Timber Creek, was a sawmill on the Deptford Township side. The millseat was 40 acres and extended on both sides of the creek, each line across the creek at the north and south ends being ten chains (660 feet) long, with the north to south lines being parallel to the creek. The sawmill has a complex ownership history, not all of which has been located.

Although not without its uncertainties, the back title is given fairly accurately in a deed from Ephraim Cheesman’s executors to David B. Morgan, 4 August 1808 (Woodbury M-229, below): In 1722,John Engle devised 40 acres out of a large tract to his son Samuel, who died intestate without issue and it passed to Robert Engle; he by deed, 7 February 1756, Roe conveyed to Abraham Roe; several days later, on 25 February 1756, conveyed to Edward Hollinshead; who, with Susanna, his wife, sold it to Richard Cheesman, 5 September 1757. The setting off of the 40-acre tract suggests that either John or Samuel Engle built the mill.

This writer’s research shows that the will of John Engle (Ingle) of Evesham Township, proved 1721-22 (937 C), made provision for a possible posthumous son: “I give...unto the child my wife is bigg with...my land...in Gloucester County bounded on Timber Creek as may appear by the return of survey....” Samuel was probably that son. The only other sons mentioned in the will were Robert and John. The above deed’s recital of Samuel’s intestacy and title passing to Robert would require the prior death of John. It is also complicated by the fact that Samuel had a common boundary by virtue of an 860-acre tract on the creek surveyed to him in 1737/8 (OSG, M2-252), when he would still have been a minor. The conveyance to Abraham Roe in 1756 was probably by Robert’s son of the same name. The first Robert’s will, proved 20 August 1744 (9645 C), recites an expectation of deeding real estate to his three sons. On 18 October 1744, Robert (presumably the son) advertised for sale 1,400 acres “at the head of timber creek” near Henry Roe’s, “well timber’d and a good stream runs thro’ it, fit for a sawmill.” (NJA, XII, p. 288) It is not evident who eventually set off the 40-acre sawmill site.

This mill was apparently the one mentioned in a 10 April 1764 deed (Woodbury, I-397) from Samuel Mifflin’s Executors to Richard Smallwood for 400 acres in Gloucester Township, the west line of which was “Richard Cheesman’s land whereon his mill stands.” See VALENTINES SAWMILL for a mill on the Smallwood Tract.
The Cheesman to Morgan deed, below, says that Richard Cheesman devised the sawmill to sons Richard and Ephraim. However, the Richard who bought from Hollinshead [with Richard’s wife, Jemima] gave to his son Richard, by a deed of gift, 15 November 1768 (Woodbury, E-13) a number of tracts, including a one-half interest in the sawmill and 40 acres. Then, by his will dated 9 February 1787 (proved 1789 [1660 H]) he gave the other one-half to his son Ephraim.

Ephraim’s will, proved 1807 (2633 H) appears to give his one-half of the sawmill to his sons, Ephraim S., Richard S. and Joseph, but the executors had a power of sale, and in fact sold it to David Morgan, as above stated, and he sold it to Edmund Brewer three days later, on 11 August 1808 (Woodbury, M-228), suggestive that Morgan was a straw party for Brewer, who also soon sold it to Isaac S. Collins (2 September 1809, Woodbury, BB-213).

As to the other one-half interest, that of Richard the son, he, by his will, proved 1796 (2008 H), gave it to his six daughters: Jemima Warrick, Tamer Morgan, and Martha, Drucilla, Diadema and Deborah Cheesman. Diadema (who married Edmund Brewer) and Martha and Deborah Cheesman all dying intestate, without issue, their interests passed to their surviving sisters and brothers.

Jemima, and her husband, William Warrick, conveyed their interest to Edmund Brewer, l9 February 1800 (Woodbury, ZZ-52). The executors of Richard Cheesman [a surviving brother of the deceased sisters] sold a 1/20 interest to Josiah Clark 4 December 1812 (Woodbury, R-421). Tamer [who was married to Randall Morgan] conveyed her interest in the sawmill “formerly called Cheesman’s Old Mill” to her brother Joseph H. Cheesman, 20 January 1813 (Woodbury, R-109); as did also, apparently, the other two surviving brothers, Hedger and Ephraim. Randall Morgan’s curtest interest, as husband of Tamer, was released to Isaac S. Collins by the 1817 deed hereinafter mentioned.

The Cheesman Story (p. 108) says Joseph H. Cheesman died in 1813, leaving a widow, Mary, and a number of children, all young. This probably accounts for the delay in dividing his real estate, which did not take place until 1833. Division Map E shows the pond and the sawmill (Glo Co Surr Div Bk 2, p. 357). The interest in the mill which decedent had acquired, as above, was allotted to decedent’s daughter, Rebecca Dotterer, wife of James Dotterer (ibid., p. 348). There was a concurrent proceeding to set off the dower of the widow, Mary, who had remarried to one Woodman. GCHS Map A-230(a) shows the sawmill and pond; the legend states that decedent had a right to the sawmill for 70 days [why that number, is not clear], and one-third of that right was assigned to the widow as part of her dower, which right, of course, lasted only for her lifetime. She died in 1845.

William Brewer and others, devisees of Isaac S. Collins, sold a 3/4 interest in the mill to Benjamin Prosser by a 1 January 1842 deed (Woodbury A4-38). Other devisees, for whom the grantors acted, gave a deed of confirmation, 25 December 1846 (Camden F-299), which recited three deeds to Collins: (a) from Randall Morgan, 24 March 1817 (Woodbury BB-212); (b) from Edmund Brewer (by the Sheriff), 4 August 1826 (Woodbury SS-68); and (c) from Joseph Clark’s executors, 17 August 1835 (Woodbury O3-344). Benjamin Prosser bought the other ¼ from James D. Dotterer, 19 September 1846 (Camden E-54). Mary Dotterer and Joseph Dotterer, children of James, quitclaimed to Prosser 1 May 1853 (Camden X-182). “Prosser’s Mill” was listed under sawmills in Kirkbride’s 1850 New Jersey Business Directory.

Benjamin Prosser [whom that directory lists as a house carpenter] died, and commissioners appointed to divide his real estate, finding division not feasible, sold the mill and millseat (then 35 acres) to Joseph S. Prosser, 20 March 1876 (Woodbury, X5-154). The dam [like many others] was breached by heavy rains in September of 1868 (Stewart’s Notes IV, p. 256). It is said that “the pioneer sawmill (that is, at Turnersville) was built by Isaac Collins in 1800 and stood on the site now occupied by the saw-mill of Joseph Prosser.” (Cushing & Sheppard, p. 284b). If this writer has the history correct, the mill was built long before Collins was involved.

Although the mill was on the Deptford Township side, there was a road to it from the County House - Brooklyn Road. The Cheesman Story, (p. 141) asserts that the mill was converted to a gristmill [perhaps based on Old Mills, p. 57] but no confirming evidence has been found.



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