Modeling grist mills


I am fortunate to live in York County, Pennsylvania, an area replete with scores of 19th century flour mills, many of which were prominent during the Civil War. For example, the above grist mill along the banks of the Codorus Creek in Spring Garden Township was owned in 1863 by Josiah E. Myers. Typical of millers of the era, he grew or purchased oats, rye, corn, and or wheat to make flour and other products for commercial sale. He also did consignment work for other farmers. In other words, area farmers could bring in a few bushels of their own grain, and Myers would mill it for them for free, with his compensation being a percentage of the ground flour.

From June 28 until the morning hours of June 30, 1863, Myers’ mill was in between two major Confederate campsites of two brigades of Jubal A. Early’s division of the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. To the northwest near Emigsville, Pennsylvania, were the Virginians of Early’s old brigade, now under the command of William “Extra Billy” Smith. To the south, near Pleasureville and York were the feared Louisiana Tigers of Harry T. Hays. Guards were posted at the several mills along the Codorus, but the tempation was too great. After the guards were withdrawn, a group of Tigers broke into Josiah Myers’ mill and ransacked the place, taking all the flour they could haul away, as well as consignment grain and Myers’ inventory. He later filed a claim with the state government for compensation.

Mills were a feature of several Civil War battlefields, perhaps the most notable being the Battle of Gaines Mill and the Battle of Pickett’s Mill. Lee & Gordon’s Mill was a landmark of any Georgia engagement, and there were mills on or near many other battles, expecially those fought in semi-rural areas with good sources of water.


I had a nice 15mm model of Gaines Mill (shown in the above diagram courtesy of JR miniatures) in my collection of miniature structures and houses, but when I switched to 10mm, for some reason I did not pick up a mill model. I’ll have to rectify that in the future.

For now, please send me photographs of YOUR finished, painted model grist mills (any scale), or of any Civil War diorama or other model of flour mills. Did you model the mill race? The huge mill race at the Second Battle of Winchester played a key role in Union defensive preparations.


The Conrad H. Myers mill along the South Branch of the Codorus Creek (near Jefferson, Pennsylvania) was visited by J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry as they rode across southern York County following the Battle of Hanover on June 30. As with a dozen other mills in York County, the miller would file an extensive damage claim to recover his loss at the Rebels’ hands.


The David Bentzel mill in Manchester Township, York County, Pennsylvania is situated along the Little Conewago Creek. The old stone mill was raided during the Gettysburg Campaign by the “Night Hawks” – the 17th Virginia Cavalry under Col. William French, a part of the wildcat brigade of Albert G. Jenkins. They were on detached duty with Jubal Early’s division. For much of the latter half of the 20th century, this was a popular tavern.


What has been known in the 20th and 21st centuries as Detters Mill was the George B. Emig mill in 1863. Nearby was a long covered bridge over the Big Conewago Creek; Fitzhugh Lee’s and John Chambliss’s brigades of Stuart’s cavalry clattered by the mill and across the bridge on July 1, 1863, en route to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A few troopers stopped to raid this mill, which is now a series of apartments. This old flour mill is in northwestern Dover Township. Traces of the mill race may be seen nearby.


The rebuilt and expanded York Flour Mills was in 1863 the P.A. & S. Small mill (which was located to the rear of the present brick structure). This was one of the largest mills in York County, and Jubal Early paid special attention to it, surrounding it with armed guards. However, he ransomed York for $100,000 in cash and huge quantities of flour, meat, shoes, and supplies, and the Small brothers emptied the mill to help comply with Early’s demands. They were later compensated by a special collection from the taxpayers of York. This mill is along the west bank of the Codorus Creek north of York, Pennsylvania, in Manchester Township.

Categories: Buildings and structures, Civil War dioramas, Civil War sites, Civil War wargaming | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Modeling grist mills

  1. Ray Kinard

    I do not know how you do it. Just keep on doing what you do so well.

  2. Thanks Ray! I love documenting the history of York County, and plan to work on a photo book in the future with pictures of the Top 100 Civil War sites in this area. It would be a coffee-table book, with color photographs and descriptive text.

  3. Jim K.

    I think your work on grist mills in York County is the kind of research that can do a lot towards fleshing out those areas of the Gettysburg campaign–and others– which don’t often get coverage in the history books. It’s sort of like rehabilitating the infrastructure of 19th C. rural culture and the components that would be of importance to armies on the move… not something readily known to us suburbanites.

  4. Scott,

    Your post sparked my imagination. I’ve been vaguely wanting to continue my series of re-modeled BMC/American buildings and I think that the Gettysburg Lee’s Headquarters, or at least three of them combined, could make a pretty convincing mill of the type found here in the Cumberland Valley.

    I’m looking forward to spring and a delighful 16 weeks off from classes to give this, and other projects, some attention.

    Thanks for the great entry.


  5. Jonathan C. O'Connor

    I am in love with a woman who hails from just over the border of PA in DE. Her parents own a property that has a grist mill on it from well before the turn of the century. I want to model the mill and the machinery in it and give it to her parents the Christmas after next. Can you provide me with references to 1. building techniques from that era and examples of how thise techniques would be employed. i.e. main structural members, floor joists and roofing. 2. references to the machinery of that era; the mill had a water chase running under it and my guess is that that power was harnessed, internally to the structure somehow, to provide the power necessary to mill the produce introduced to it. Any help would be much appreciated.


    Jonathan O’Connor

  6. Jonathan, I suggest you contact the Agricultural and Industrial Museum in York PA. Their docent might be able to help you. I am not an expert in the interior design of old mills. Also, check out the old mills preservation society.

  7. Merle Ilgenfritz

    FYI – The David Bentzel mill in Manchester Township, York County, Pennsylvania was originally built by Georg Ilgenfritz and was the mustering point for the York County Militia during the revolutionary war. It is a recognized historic landmark in York County, PA

    My 6th great grandfather built it.


  8. June R. Grove

    My paternal great-great-grandmother was Sarah Meyer, sister of Conrad H. Myers, who married John Runkle and moved to Chanceford Township. I wrote “A History of Chanceford Township 1747-1997” and “The Runkle Family of York County, PA.” Was also President of Mammy Ruggles Tent 50, Daughters of Union Veterans of York. Very interesting information.

  9. Wanda Ogden

    Searching for information on Brooks Mills In Hopewell Township, York County. It was owned by Jacob

    Grove, my great grandfather.

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