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Watermills of Camden County - By William Farr - Chapter R









Enoch Roberts married Ann Matlack 3 March 1809, and died 5 November 1843, while Ann survived until 3 March 1878. Enoch died intestate and a division of his lands among his several surviving children, by court-appointed commissioners, dated 16 April 1844, (Camden County Surrogate, Divisions and Dower Book, p. 10), shows that Enoch’s sizable homestead plantation was split by the South Branch of Pennsauken Creek as well as by Church Road. Clement provides an additional drawing of the division in Maps and Drafts, Vol. 4, pp. 3-4.

Enoch owned a sawmill and a gristmill, located about 300 yards apart, both on the Camden County side of the creek. Today, Route 38 traverses and obliterates the site of the grist mill. The mill site was visible from Route 38 until the office park complex was competed., and the sawmill would have been just east of where Columbia Boulevard crosses the creek after having crossed Route 38.

The sawmill was run by the power provided by a pond on the creek, created by a dam at that point. In the 1844 division, the sawmill and an adjacent 71 acres on the south side of the creek, were assigned by the 1844 division to son Enoch Jr. [who survived until 1891], and was listed in Kirkbride’s 1850 New Jersey Business Directory as “near Spread Eagle,” [in Waterfordville, east of Merchantville]. The 1877 Hopkins’s Atlas, “Map of Delaware Township” shows him owning the property [and presumably the sawmill]. Old Mills (p. 22) states that this sawmill was built by Samuel Roberts in the early part of the nineteenth century, was probably Enoch’s father of that name, to whom he was born 26 August 1787. Waterford Township ratables show a sawmill assessed to Samuel Roberts for 1785, 1786, 1789-1797, and 1802.

The gristmill, still owned by Enoch when he died in 1843 (15000 C), was assigned to son Reuben (1811-1855) (T. Chalkley Matlack, Matlack Family, Vol. 1, p. 118) along with 55 acres of land. The mill, although located at the creek, was powered by a pond created by damming Willis Run at Church Road, from where a race extended down to the mill and creek. Prowell (p. 717) is probably the source of statement in Old Mills that the grist mill was built by Reuben Roberts in 1838. The dam and millpond are still there;The pond is still there; the millrace provides small attractive ponds in a business office complex. The water system is known as Columbia Lakes., now a Cherry Hill Township park.

On 15 March 1848 Reuben sold the mill, the race and the millpond to Richard Leconey (Camden, J-357), and the mill was thereafter known as Leconey’s Gristmill. Later, on 21 June 1864 (Camden, 28-73) Leconey acquired 57 acres adjoining on the south side of Church Road from Joseph H. Coles, being part of the inheritance of Enoch Roberts and part of a tract Reuben sold to Enoch (Camden, E-600), from whom Coles bought on 22 March 1862 (Camden, 28-7). Leconey’s Gristmill is pictured on the frontispiece of Old Mills.

Enoch the father had a private road running north from Church Road and east of the mill race which, after a jog to the east, continued north over the creek. Columbia Boulevard is the approximate crossing point. The lower part of the road is gone, but Coles Road, from the creek to Maple Shade, preserves the north end. On application of Leconey and others the lower part became a public road in 1870, meeting an already public road on the Burlington County side (Cam RR 176).

Richard Leconey died intestate in 1889 (2707 D), and title to his two tracts passed to three brothers and a sister as his only heirs. The sister, Martha Ann Vance, and brother William Leconey signed off to the other two brothers, James M. and Chalkley Leconey, 18 March 1892 (Camden, 175-475). A lurid murder story involving Chalkley Leconey and the mill is included in CCHS Auto Tours III, mileage 2.7. The Roberts genealogy in this account is partly based on T. Chalkley Matlack Collection, Vol. l.

ROBERT’S GRIST AND SAWMILL’S (at Colestown on Crooked Lane in Cherry Hill) see COLE’S GRIST, SAW and FULLING MILLS

ROBERT’S SAW, FULLING & GRISTMILLS (at Colestown on Church Road)
“About a mile south of Colestown...stood a sawmill and fulling mill. They were owned and operated by Joseph Roberts during his life, but after his decease they were not much used, and but little remains to mark the place where they once stood.” (Woodwards and Hageman’s 1883 History of Burlington County, p. 248). This was where Church Road crosses Pennsauken Creek. A sawmill [presumably the same one] can be dated back into the eighteenth century, with Samuel Roberts assessed for it, at least for 1785-1786, 1789-1797, and 1802 (Waterford township ratables). It was listed in Kirkbride’s 1850 New Jersey Business Directory.

Clement provides a survey of 30 acres on the south side of Church Road (Glo RR B-116 [1812]) on both sides of the South Branch of Pennsauken Creek (Maps and Drafts, Vol. 4, p, 9). The real estate of Joseph Roberts, deceased (probably the son of the first millowner) had been sold by court order to obviate the necessity of an impracticable division among his heirs. The Master in Chancery, Richard W. Howell, advertised the sale in West Jerseyman, 31 October 1855, including “the small farm...called the ‘Fulling Mill Property’ upon which are erected a saw mill and fulling mill....the mills are in good order and in operation; the water power is ample;....” He sold and deeded the 30-acre tract to Joshua Roberts, a son of the decedent, 24 March 1856 (Mt. Holly, H6-208). Clement shows the millpond, with the sawmill at its foot, on the Burlington County side. He also shows on the south side of the road, in that county, an “old mill,” which must have been the fulling mill. Sidney’s [1850] Map of the Township of Delaware (CCHS, M.83.90.427) shows the sawmill, a “factory” where the fulling mill was situated, and Joseph Roberts’ residence near the latter. The 1851 Map of the Vicinity of Philadelphia (CCHS, M.2001.74) shows only a gristmill off Church Road.

The fulling mill was in existence as early as 1812 since the map annexed to Burl Co RR B-320 [extending Church Road from Colestown Church into Burlington County] shows a fulling mill at the creek.

The only references this writer has found to this Henry Roe sawmill are freeholder assessments for 1738, 1739 and 1750 [the year he died] (Gloucester County Freeholders Minutes 1701-1797). He left a will proved 13 March 1750 (468 H). Henry (b. 1705 [Cheesman Family, p. 50]) acquired property along both sides of the South Branch of Timber Creek in the vicinity of the Cheesman-Prosser mills. When Robert Engle advertised for sale 1,400 acres “at the head of Timber Creek,” he stated it was near Henry Roe’s house (NJA, XII, p. 238).


The Rowand brothers, Hillman and John, had separate charcoal pulverizing enterprises in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth, Hillman’s being at Overbrook, on Gravelly Run, and John’s near Clementon, on Thornes Mill Branch, which product they sold to the makers of whiskey (History of Lindenwold, pp. 44, 78; Clementon: A Historical Outline, p. 18).

John’s initial purchase of land seems to have been from Thomas Loring, 5 May 1881 (Camden, 101-95), of the 15.32 acre “Bozorth’s Mill Tract” on Thorns Mill Branch [the lower stream] (see BOZORTH’S TURNING MILL). He also bought two adjoining tracts to the east, along the old road to Longacoming (Berlin), in 1889 (Camden, 147-280) and in 1895 (Camden, 225-323).

The long straight stretch of the road to Longacoming through East Clementon, laid out in 1813 by Glo RR B-146, eliminated a number of bends in the old road, but rejoined the latter not far east of Higgins Avenue. The first two courses of the old road going east from the junction are shown by dotted lines on the Clementon tax map (Plate 10, revised to 1974). Further east the old road has been replaced by First Avenue. Apparently those two courses served for years as access to the coal works, and in the 1889 deed that part of the old road was called Coal Mill Road.

This area was an ancient site for coaling operations since, in a 1776 mortgage by John Thorn on his sawmill tract (see THORN’S SAWMILL), mention is made of a coal kiln (Gloucester County Loan Commissioners Mortgage Book, 25 March 1776, p. 73 [GCHS]).

The process of producing pulverized charcoal required crushing, which Hillman provided by steam power (Prowell, p. 680) and John by water power (History of Lindenwold, p. 78). A small millpond, used by John, came to be known as Rowand Lake. It was the subject of a story on restoring the dam and pond, both of which had been down for 18 years (Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 September 1998, BR 12). An article on charcoal production, and a photograph of John’s mill, were published in Camden County History Journal, Vol. 1, Nos. 2 and 3.



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