The local Mills were an important part of the 18th , 19th and even 20th century commerce of our surrounding area. They ground corn and wheat to make the flour that made our bread and cut the planks from trees that made our houses. These products were also an important export from Sodus Bay to Canada, Oswego and Rochester.
Information about our Mills come from the book “Great Sodus Bay History, Reminiscences, Anecdotes and Legends” by Walter Henry Green (Sodus, N.Y. 1947) pp301-310.
A gristmill was built on Second Creek for which two dates have been given: 1794 and 1805. It was built by Timothy Axtell (who fought at the Battle of Sodus Point) for Judge Nicholas. After the Shakers bought the tract of land in 1823, it became known as Shaker mill.
In 1832 there was a gristmill in Christian Holler owned and operated by Stephen Hopkins. There was also a furniture factory and a cider mill, owners unknown. Here James Sergeant and later George Sergeant, owned and operated a sawmill. (editor’s note: James Sergeant, by the way, is the religious leader who convinced a group of people that the world was coming to an end and when it didn’t “you could hear the Christians holler” thus giving that area its name to this day.
In 1812 Dr. William Nixon Lummis migrated from Philadelphia and settled in Troupville. He built the finest dwelling in all this region but it was destroyed when the British burned the village the day after the Battle of Sodus Point. In 1812 just before the beginning of the war, he moved to Salmon Creek. The historians all agree that in that year he built the gristmill that half a century later became known as Preston’s mill. True enough, it was built in 1812, but Captain John Maxwell built it and the following year sold it to his son-in-law, Dr. Lummis. The millstones were brought from France, James H. Reeves was the millright and Isaac Davidson the first miller. The night of the Battle of Sodus Point, accidentally, Davidson was locked in the mill, but he managed to break out in time to take part in the battle, which took place at midnight.
Dr. Lummis built a sawmill and a forge on the east side of the pond near the site of the Williamson mills that were destroyed in the freshet. He also erected several dwellings. To quite an extent the hamlet was populated by Negroes, some of whom, at least, were of those given their freedom by Col. Peregrine Fitzhugh. Out of respect for his father-in-law, regard for his wife, or both, Dr. Lummis named the place Maxwell.
Preston’s Mill was east of the creek about one hundred feet north of the Lake Road directly opposite the north end of Mill Road. This mill as before stated, was built in 1812, stood for more than one hundred years and except the last few years (1947) was in operation almost constantly. During the last years it did not utilize the water power but was run by steam. During the 1870s and early 80s George Preston was the miller. In later years Edward Beeton did the milling.
About 1910 the foundation wall at the northwest corner caved away leaving the water-wheel in full view. In 1920 the century-old mill was torn down and is now a fast fading memory. When John Preston, Sr., was managing the mill it became famous as making the best wheat flour of any mill in this region. The outlet of the creek was kept open and schooners of light draft came from Canada and sailed up the creek to the mill where they exchanged Canada wheat for Preston’s famous flour.
In the late 1870’s the writer went with the farm hands with a load of grist to this old mill. It was taken in by round faced jolly George Preston. After she commenced using Preston’s flour (my) mother had no trouble with her bread. It was always white.
The building that once was Sentell’s sawmill is still there (1945) but every one of the shops and factories have vanished, leaving not a trace to show that long ago this was a busy, prosperous and promising hamlet; the industrial center of the region. In all countries and all ages it seems to become dry-runs-mills go to decay, waterwheels broken and moss-covered.