(Photo courtesy of Abby Beerman)
Little about walking into the mill today gives the impression that it has sat idle for some 60 years. Entering it feels as though the owner momentarily stepped out the back door. The C. J. Homm’s “BB Feeds” sign, that lists prices of turkey starter and ground oyster shells, looks as vibrant today as any modern sign. The workings sit and wait as though their master will soon return to once again make them rumble.
|Karl Jens shows how the grain could be diverted from one|
chute to another. The grain is first elevated to the top floor
and dispersed to the various mills or storage. Chutes and
elevators run throughout the building.
The group was fortunate to have Jens’s hospitality and his detailed tour augmented by Hoppes’s color commentary. Near the steps leading into the first level, within the stone foundation, are two chutes with metal covers. In the working days, hoppers would be attached for farmers to pour their corn or grain into the funneled receptacle below the floor for the main elevator to pick up.
|The group inspects the main elevator and grain hopper |
at the immediate entrance to the Hoppes Mill.
|A brush cleaner.|
Originally the mill was a grist mill that used grist stones. Two stones with a diameter of about 3-4 feet sat flatly on top of the other. The top stone did the turning, driven at the center with an 8-inch square axle. Some of these stones were solid with domed tops while others were made up of pieced together stones held together with a steel band.
|Berlyn describes to Chester how the channels had|
to be re-chiseled. One millstone on the property
was specially designed to channel buckwheat, which
technically wasn't a grain.
But what the group was able to see, still in their place of operation, were various roller and cleaning mills. One all-wood flour mill, complete with wooden auger, was made in Chambersburg Pennsylvania by August Wolfe and Co. Mill Works. Inside, the silk filters remain largely intact.
|The wooden auger of one of the flour mills.|
|The August Wolfe Mill from Chambersburg PA.|
Having all wooden parts is an important feature in a mill to avoid sparks. Dust created in the milling of grains can be highly explosive. (Recall the mini-explosion created when your 5th grade science teacher added a spark to a puff of flour.)
Hoppes recalled the days of the mill’s operation and how the window panes in his house across the stream would rattle.
In fact, vibration in a mill was a problem. We were told that the mounting of the mill stones was done in such a way to keep them independent of the structure of the mill to minimize this ear-numbing, teeth-jarring rattle and grinding.
The sign posted by C. J. Homm on the main beam reads, “If you spit on the floor at home, spit on the floor here, because we want you to feel at home.” Coincidentally, a similar, albeit more concise version of this sentiment, was found on a website picture of the “American Midget Marvel Flour Mill,” of the same type housed here at the Hoppes mill (see pictures).
|Pictured here is an "American Midget Marvel" from another mill that |
coincidentally has a similar warning about spitting in the mill.
("Don't spit on the floor.")
The Hoppes Mill’s “American Midget Marvel Flour Milll” is on the 2nd level. Perhaps not the most politically correct of all names by today’s standards, the “Midget Marvel” was built by the Anglo-American Mill Company in Owensboro, Kentucky. The “Midget Marvel Mill” was invented by an English milling engineer, A. B. Tattersall, of London, England. Mr. Tattersall had written a number of books advertising his mills, such as "The Story of a Wonderful Mill."
|The header beam in the gable end of the 4th level|
shows a rope burn from years of hoisting.
|Mills were dusty places and dust in a mill|
held the potential for explosions. This vintage
air filtering machine was removed from its
|Remains from millstone days: A millstone shroud.|
|Karl explains the American Midget Marvel roller mill and the corresponding|
wooden chutes that direct the grains throughout the mill as Bill Lampert
and Mason Rabenold stand by. Wooden chutes frame the shot.
|Karl explains how to adjust the scales on the |
sack packer to Steve Hlavka.
|Ruminating over the stones: Members of the Mauch Chunk|
Historical Society and Museum Boards
review what they've discovered.
|Karl enjoys sharing the workings of his mill with others. The silk screens|
in this flour mill are still intact. (Photo courtesy of Abby Beerman.)
When Karl and his wife Candy purchased the mill, they fell in love with the property not knowing that the mill went along with it. Ever since, the Jens’ have devoted themselves to its history.
He then ran a successful nursery in New Jersey before retiring to this beautiful section of the Mahoning Valley. The impeccably kept property is located along St. Peter’s Church Road and is replete with a greenhouse of some vintage and exotic plants. He was also so kind to show us his Lehigh Valley Railroad train display.
|The Hoppes Mill is far left and the Karl and Candy Jens|
property as it looked in the Cal Homm days.
|That's Cal Homm in the back left discussing Christmas tree|
practices with the Penn State Cooperative agent below right
along with other Mahoning Valley tree growers.
Just previous to Jens’ purchase, the land was used by the Terry Graver family for growing of Christmas trees, which evolved from Calvin Homm to Fred Johnson. When Fred passed away, Terry Graver continued to take care of the property and the trees until the estate was settled. Much of the original farmland is serparately deeded today.
Cal Homm was a tinkering genius and is said to have several patents to his name. Berlyn says he invented an early 3-wheeled hydraulic tractor that self-leveled itself when cutting between rows on a hillside. (Cal's homestead is the brick home at the "T" of Golf Club Road and St. Peter's Chruch.)
|The birthing chair: |
A leftover from Johnson who
dabbled in medical supplies.
The Berlyn Hoppes Ancestry:
The following is a cursory stab at the Hoppes history. (It sounded correct when I discussed it with Berlyn.) The most reliable piece is the 1860 Census record showing John Hoppes (born circa 1805) married to Elizabeth (b. c. 1813). John was listed as a “miller and farmer.” They would be Berlyn’s great, great grandparents.
Their children and their ages in 1860 were: David 18, Mary 14, Solomon 10, Margaret 22, Sally 6, Rebecca 4, and Catherine 1. According to Berlyn, the Jens/Hoppes/Homm mill was built by his great, great grandfather John who would have been about 40 in 1845 the year the mill was built. The mill then passed on to John’s son David who ran it up to the Great Depression.
According to the “History of Schuylkill County (1881), the “Hopples” built a mill in this vicinity of the Mahoning Valley in 1831 and another in 1835. Whether these mills existed at this site and whether these were indeed predecessors of the John Hoppes family is pure speculation.
Talking to Berlyn and Karl, both pointed to another grist mill on Golf Club Road, just about a mile further west in the Mahoning Valley. Both Berlyn and his wife felt that could have been the mill started by Solomon Hoppes. In that mill, the residence and mill were all contained in the same building. I couldn't imgaine living in a place of constant daytime vibrating rumblings if you were feeling under the weather and had no other place to go.
Solomon Hoppes lived in West Penn and was born on July 3, 1809 (died December 11, 1860). By age comparison, he could have been a brother to John Hoppes (b. 1805). Some accounts claim he was a miller and his son Elias (c. b. 1844) was a miller who later relocated to Heidelberg Township.
In 1880, Elias and Anna Maria were still listed in the Mahoning Valley, Carbon County. He was as a “miller” and she a “milliner.” (Whether indeed she sewed clothing and hats or the census worker erroneously assumed a miller’s wife was a “milliner” is not known, but the word play is interesting to think about.)
Elias was 35 and Anna was 29. Their children were Minnie 7, Albert 6, and Odilen 3. Not unusual for that time, a 19-year-old servant named Ellen Arner and a miller’s apprentice named Moses Snyder, age 23, were living with them. But there were 3 other non-relatives living with them.
Curiously, they had two “scholars” and a “professor” living with them. Scholars Emma Kistler 18 and Frank Klingaman 21 were taught by William H. Raush age 23. Where this mill was and whether it had a relationship to Berlyn Hoppes’ family is only speculative.
Author and historian Wilma Dykeman wrote the following poem about a mill in Tennessee:
"The Blowing Cave Mill"
"Nature determined the rhythm of life at that place. Stones had been a long time forming, trees had been a long time growing, water had been a long time flowing, before they came together shaped into a wall, into grinding stones, into siding and shingles and a great wheel fed by a long, tight trough gathering the streams clear flow to turn the creaking wheel outside, and inside the heavy stone grinding corn into meal, wheat into flour. Food. They came with their bulging sacks from summer's harvest and waited their turn for the miller's time. Nothing could be hurried. The water flowed, the wheel turned, the millstone ground, flour and meal gathered in the bin. Patiently the farmer's talk gathered:
|An early picture from the Cal Homm farm.|
|Berlyn Hoppes' home is far left from the mill.|
|Looking out from the past of the 3rd level: A reminder that these |
historic places need constant attention or they will
fade away from us. (Photo courtesy of Abby Beerman.)