Beekman Brothers Mill Waterfall Home

The 1835 St. Johnsville Stone Mill

Opportunity for Green power generation with permits and the turbine running. Waterfall Homes for sale.
 

Historic St. Johnsville stone mill B&B on the market
By Catie O’Toole

From the moment Judith and Ron Hezel saw the towering stone building with secret tunnels and cascading waterfalls in Upstate New York, they knew they had found their new home.
But the Hezels also knew they had a lot of work to do when they purchased the 1830s Stone Mill in St. Johnsville, a four-hour drive from New York City, Boston and Niagara Falls. Twenty-five years after beginning their journey to turn the historical mill into a bed-and-breakfast on the Mohawk River inlet of Timmerman Creek, the Hezels are ready to retire. They are selling the 1835 Stone Grist Mill, along with a carriage house that can fit three cars (or four carriages) and a guest cottage that overlook a private gorge and waterfalls. The four-bedroom 1894 Mill House across the street can be purchased separately.

“It’s time for a new chapter in our lives where we’re not working so hard,” Judith Hezel said. The couple is moving just up the hill, and hopes whoever buys the “INn by the Mill” bed-and-breakfast, at 1679 Mill Road in St. Johnsville, will invite them back from time to time. “We’d love to see a restaurant because then we could continue to come to the mill,” Hezel said. She added, however, the possibilities are endless. “It could make a wonderful yoga retreat because it’s so serene,” she said. “Maybe someone still wants to do the B&B or maybe someone will want to have it as their own private retreat. It can be anything.”

Hezel also suggested the old stone building might lend itself to a microbrewery.

“It’s a neat place to live,” she said. The mill, originally powered by a 30-foot overshot waterwheel that spanned three of the four floors in the building, produced stone-ground flour through the 19th century. The waterwheel was replaced in 1898 with a more efficient water turbine. The turbine and other machinery used as early as 1835 when the mill began operation are still in the Stone Mill building. A tunnel and secret rooms where runaway slaves sought refuge below the basement of the mill also are intact today. A miller who owned the property in the 1800s helped the escaping slaves hide under his tarp when he went to and from the barge to pick up grain along the Mohawk River and Erie Canal.

“Since the millers here knew other millers all the way up (the river toward Canada), they knew who you could trust,” Ron Hezel said. “A bunch of slaves would come here and wait until a barge was going to the next mill further up, to somebody you could trust. It took a big faith on the part of the slaves because you don’t know who you’re talking to. You might be here a day or less, or you might be here a week or so. The (idea) is not to be found out.” Escaping slaves traveled to and from the mill through the underground tunnel that ran 2,000 feet along the creek downstream to another mill, which no longer exists. The rooms below the basement floor kept them safe, and allowed them to rest while they waited for the next barge that led them one step closer to freedom, the Hezels said.

The great-grandson of A.E. Seaman, the miller who helped the escaping slaves, let the Hezels look at and copy a 700-page diary that details life at the mill from 1881 to 1919. The Hezels, who have tried to preserve the history of the mill, say the new owners can have a copy of the diary, if they want. Roller milling machines used to grind buckwheat flour and later, animal feed for local dairy farmers; the driveshaft that used to run the mill; the original willower that separated the grain from the chaff; and all other parts of the mill will stay. A Jacuzzi on the top floor, a piano, and a grandiose baker’s kitchen with double stoves, a 15-foot solid oak counter with a built-in bookcase and rock maple islands will remain. So will a hot tub spa that overlooks the cascading waterfalls and gardens outside.

“You look out the windows and there are waterfalls,” Judith Hezel said. “In all the different seasons, it’s just a spectacular view.” In the winter, the falls can freeze and ice formations hang. But when the temperature rises, the ice breaks and “there’s an incredible explosion of ice,” Ron Hezel said. “It blasts and the water flies all over. It’s very exciting.” As the ice breaks, stones tumble and break apart double-pointed quartz crystals commonly called Herkimer Diamonds. Located near the Adirondack foothills, the Hezels said the 3.74-acre property has plenty of “diamonds” in its park-like setting with more than 20,000 perennials that bloom each spring. One guest found a quartz crystal the size of a duck egg, the Hezels said. “They are incredibly beautiful,” Ron Hezel said. “When you dig, you will find the stones all over the place. At night when you walk out with a flashlight and it’s a little misty, they shine and visitors pick up diamonds on the way back to the house.” When the Hezels first saw the property in 1988, it had been neglected for years. Garbage and broken furniture was stacked to the ceiling in some spots. There was no electricity or plumbing. And there were no bathrooms inside. But they saw its potential.

“The Hardy Boys would have loved it,” Ron Hezel quipped.


Hezel, a retired teacher and school administrator who lived in Downstate New York, was still working at the time so he and his wife drove 150 miles every weekend to slowly restore the old stone mill. He replaced the roof and all 37 windows. He added electricity, and installed bathrooms, the large kitchen and maintenance area – still keeping pencil and chalk writings from the late 1800s intact. Judith Hezel scrubbed the original hardwood floors, and planted, on average, 2,000 perennials each year in the gardens. Today, there are more than 20,000 tulips, daffodils and other perennials planted on the grounds. They also carefully sifted through the junk inside, searching for treasurers – such as one miller’s trademark stencil and milling machinery -- that would help keep the mill’s history alive for years to come.

The Stone Grist Mill complex was named to the State and National Registers of Historic Places in the mid-1990s. Today, it remains an example of the pre-industrial, water-powered grain era.

 

Rendering of Mill in its prime. The waterwheel is an inaccurate depiction.

Pen and Ink drawing by www.GordyArt.com Mill complex based on old prints and photos.

Pen and Ink drawing by www.GordyArt.com Mill complex based on old prints and photos.

We have on hand the Diary of Mr. A.E. Seaman the Miller of the Grist Mill covering the years 1881 - 1919, Copied from the original 700 page ledger.

The Stone Grist Mill construction started around 1830 and was completed in 1835. The Mill opened for business on February 20, 1835 and produced Flour & Animal Feed.

 

The tunnel is three feet square and about 1,000 feet long. It is constructed of large square boulders on the top and sides that sit on the bedrock.

The grounds are set in a park-like setting overlooking cascading waterfalls and extensive gardens. The Mill overlooks private waterfalls and gorge. Views from the Cottages show the deer feeding in the woods across the waterfall gorge.

 

The Sanders' Ferry starting point was on the Mohawk River. It was located at the foot of Mill Street, now west St. Johnsville. Mill Street is now called Mill Road. At one time it crossed the Mohawk Turnpike and ran to the river.

The ferry was probably serviced by someone named Sanders who may have kept a canal grocery on the opposite bank of the river, and fronting the canal. Canal groceries were numerous before the building of the Barge Canal and their owners did a thriving business with the boatman, they furnished hay, wood and groceries as well as whiffle trees and repair parts for harnesses, because horses and mules provided the power for the canal boats.

For years, there was also a canal grocery at Countryman's Lock, one mile east of the village, kept by Joseph Kyser ( not the Kyser House proprietor). There was another at Mindenville Lock, kept by Henry (Buckeye) Winnie. There were several others between here and Little Falls and all along the canal.

Under the date of March 28, 1839, James Klock, Jacob H. Flander and Benjamin Groff being commissioners, an entry reads: "Application by persons residing in said Town of St . Johnsville, and liable to be assessed for highway labor therein, having been made to the Commissioners of Highways of said town, for the laying out of the alteration of the highway leading from Messrs. Leonard & Curran's grist mill to the Mohawk Turnpike, and thence to Sanders' Ferry, across the Mohawk River. " Then follows the surveyor's technical description of the road in which he mentions "a stake and a stone in the ground in the Mohawk Turnpike in front of Daniel Leonard's dwelling house." From this it is clear that Daniel Leonard lived at the four corners and that the grist mill of Messrs. Leonard and Curran was what was later known as Beekman's Mill and then McCrone's Mill. Mr. Curran lived on the farm which now belongs to Stanley Shuster.

The highway records for 1839 definitely establish the partnership of Leonard and Curran in the operation of the old grist mill, but from 1838 to 1841, inclusive, the assessment of highway labor on account of the joint ownership appears to have been against the partners as individuals. In other words, the assessment against each represented the assessment on his home property, plus his tax liability on the mill property. In 1838 Daniel Leonard was assessed 40 days, and James Curran, 26 days. In 1842 and 1843, the partnership is recognized by the commissioners and the property assessed accordingly. In 1844, there is no partnership assessment, and the name of Daniel Leonard disappears from the list, and an assessment against James Curran and Samuel Sadler indicates joint ownership of the mill. That same year, the name of Anthony Beekman (1798-1864) is listed and in 1845 the firm of Anthony Beekman & Co. appears to be in possession of the property. Anthony Beekman was succeeded by his sons, Noah W., Benjamin and John Groff, under the firm name of Beekman Brothers, who also conducted a grocery and feed store in St. Johnsville for many years.

In June, 1884, A. E. Seaman took possession of the old mill and operated it until October 1, 1921 when it passed into the ownership of McCrone Brothers. Mr. Seaman operated the mill for 37 years, the longest period under one management.

On acquiring the property, Mr. Seaman learned the history of the ancient structure, and recalls that it was built by Leonard and Curran, and that a memorandum made by the original owners, or by some workmen, showed that the mill was completed in February, 1835. Mr. Seaman also recalls that Samuel Sadler was the first miller employed and that his home was at Ingham's Mills, to which place he returned when Beekman Brothers entered into possession of the mill after the death of their father. Loami Beekman, another son of Anthony Beekman, but not a member of the firm of Beekman Brothers, was employed as the miller by his brothers, until the property passed into the hands of Mr. Seaman.

The mill, at the time it was built, was regarded as one of the finest and best equipped flouring mills in the State. In the early part of the last century, wheat growing was one of the most important products of agriculture in the Mohawk Valley. Local flour had a fine reputation for its quality and was in great demand.

The milling of wheat was a profitable business. In the early days, when money was scarce, the farmers paid for the grinding of their grain by giving the miller one-tenth part of the grain offered for processing. Each mill had a measure holding exactly one-tenth of a bushel which was used in the tithing process and the portion deducted by the miller was known as "toll."

In Mr. Seaman's day as miller, most of the farmers paid cash for the grinding. During this same period the local farmers stopped growing wheat and became dairy farmers. The shortage of local wheat forced Mr. Seaman to install roller machinery for the grinding of buckwheat flour. Farmers had begun to raise this grain and it was milled in large quantities at the old mill. The shift to dairying also made it necessary to grind other grains for cattle.

One of the outstanding mechanical features of the old mill was the large overshot water wheel that furnished the power for grinding. It was 30 feet in diameter and 8 feet broad, built around a shaft or axis that was a foot and a half thru, all poised on metal bearings. Along the face of the wheel were wooden pockets that filled as water was admitted from the raceway. When the weight of the water was sufficient, the wheel began to revolve and transmit power to turn the heavy "upper and nether millstones" to produce the flour.

Because of the severe winter weather in this section, the wheel was enclosed in a wheel house. Even with this precaution, ice did form on the wheel in very cold weather.

When Mr. Seaman displaced the old mill stones with the roller machinery, he also removed the old mill wheel and installed a modern turbine. This furnished greater and more dependable power.

 

 

Local amenities:

Amish Farms & Markets

Antique Shops & Fairs

Barge-Canal Locks - Including the only Historic Double-Lock left in the state.

Beardslee Castle - Fine Dining

Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame

Farmers’ Museum

Fort Klock & Fort Johnson

General Herkimer’s Home

Glimmerglass Opera

Herkimer Diamond Mines

Howe's Cavern & Others

Indian Castle Church

Memorial Shrines & Spa

Saratoga Race Track

Waterfalls, Gorges, Lakes, Boating & Fishing

Wooded Walks & Trails

 

 

1835 grist Mill in 1936

Mill Complex based on Old Prints & Photos

 

Wagon loaded with Grain 1880's

 

The old Mill looks much the same today as the day it was built. One can just imagine the old horse-drawn wagons loaded with grain, waiting by the door as they unloaded their cargo.

Bolter sifting machine.

 

Buckwheat shuckers.

Steel Roller Mill

Rollers in peak of building used to hoist bags of wheat.

Willowing machine and at center is hollowed beam that is a grain elevator.

 

Drive shaft for turbine. Upper part of turbine room. Window access to bring in axle. Space is where waterwheel used to be. Original belt.

 

Looking into waterwheel pit. Wheel was replaced by this turbine. Flume at left carried water to the turbine.

Turbine was installed in 1898
1898

Adjustment for gate value controlled speed of turbine.

Bearings were made of vitae gum (A very hard hardwood)

Water exits building here.

Hiding area for underground railroad.

 

 

 

Augers that moved grain or flour.

Buckwheat shuckers

 

Willowing machine with original instructions on side.

Reverse view of willowing machine. Have original manuals.

History: 1843 ".. the name of Anthony (William) Beekman (1798-1864) is listed and in 1845 the firm of Anthony Beekman & Co. appears to be in possession of the property. Anthony Beekman was succeeded by his sons, Noah W., Benjamin and John Groff, under the firm name of Beekman Brothers, who also conducted a grocery and feed store in St. Johnsville for many years. In June, 1884, A. E. Seaman took possession of the old mill and operated it until October 1, 1921 when it passed into the ownership of McCrone Brothers. On acquiring the property, Mr. Seaman learned the history of the ancient structure, and recalls that it was built by Leonard and Curran, and that a memorandum made by the original owners, or by some workmen, showed that the mill was completed in February, 1835. Mr. Seaman also recalls that Samuel Sadler was the first miller employed and that his home was at Ingham's Mills, to which place he returned when Beekman Brothers entered into possession of the mill after the death of their father. Loami Beekman, another son of Anthony Beekman, but not a member of the firm of Beekman Brothers, was employed as the miller by his brothers, until the property passed into the hands of Mr. Seaman." From the Book, "Town of Saint Johnsville Sesquicentennial History 1838 - 1988". Research has indicated that there is no relation between the Beekman Brothers and the Noteworthy Beekman's of near-by Sharon Springs popularized by Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Dr. Brent Ridge aka the Beekman Boys. www.Beekman1802.com.

 

 

  • Broker: Franklin Ruttan 1406 North State Street Syracuse, NY 13208
    (O) 315.876.2262 E-Mail: info@FranklinRuttan.com

    Broker fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.(c)

    www.FranklinRuttan.com

 

Opportunity for Green power generation with permits and the turbine running. Waterfall Homes for sale.