F. A. Drake's
Mill, near Cambridge Springs, Pa.
The village of Drake's Mills is an R.D. No. 2 of Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.
It is along PA Route 99, about half way between Edinboro and Cambridge Springs.
Drake's Mills was, at one time, a thriving little community, more prosperous
in the business sense than other neighboring towns.
In the early 1800's, Simeon and Reuben Bishop constructed a dam on the Conneauttee
Creek, at what is now Drake's Mills. They erected a saw mill, a grist mill,
a lath and shingle mill and a carding mill. The grist mill was at one end
of the dam, while the saw mill was at the other end. In the 1820's John
Marvin, who had established a store in Waterford, Pennsylvania, moved to
this area. John Marvin bought the dam and mills from Simeon and Reuben Bishop.
He also purchased from the state 500 areas of land and the water rights,
which included the mill pond, which covered about 100 acres.
After John Marvin came into possession of the mills and the land, he changed
the location of the grist mill from the eastern end of the dam. He relocated
it several rods down stream. Marvin then built a race by which the water
was carried to the mill at its new location. The grist mill is still standing
in the site where John Marvin had built it.
The village and the grist mill were known as Marvin's Mills. Mr. Marvin
also built a general store and a tub and pail factory. As people settled
in the area, other business sprang up. A planning mill was built, a chair
and furniture factory, a wagon shop and a blacksmith's shop were also built.
For reasons unknown, John Marvin sold his land and mills to a Mr. Drake
Frank Andrew Drake, primarily known as F. A. Drake, operated the saw mill
along with running the grist mill. The grist mill changed its name from
Marvin's Mill to Drake's Mill. The village name also became known as Drake's
Mill. The grist mill was also operated by F. A. Drake's son, Frank Andrew
Drake, Jr. The mill's flour bags, besides bearing the name of Drake's Mills,
also were identified with the name "F. A. Drake's Son". The brand
name for the flour produced at Drake's Mill was "Pond Lily Flour".
Some of the flour products produced at Drake's Mills were whole wheat flour,
bread flour, cake and pastry flour, bolted corn meal, graham flour, pancake
mix, but the most popular being their fresh ground buckwheat flour. After
the Drake's came into possession of the grist mill, modern milling machinery
was installed in the mill.
F. A. Drake's Mill on Railroad Street,
Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, which later became Turner's Mill, and
also operated by the G.L.F. (Grange League Federation) primarily as a
Frank Drake also owned another grist mill in Cambridge Springs, also known
as Drake's Mill. Frank Drake, Jr. has three sons; Andrew, to whom he left
his farm, Clarence, to whom he left the Drake's Mill in Drake's Mills, and
Elias to whom he left the Drake's Mill in Cambridge Springs.
After some time Elias sold his mill, the grist mill then became known as
Turner's Mill. The mill still stands on Railroad Street in Cambridge Springs.
Elias Drake went back to work at Drake's Mills, where he spent the last
of his days working at his brother's mill.
About 1900 the old wooden dam at Keystone Mills, in Edinboro broke. As
the rushing waters emptied out the lake, it broke the dam of the Washington
Township Planning Mill or the Lewis Mill (now Hobbs Lumber Co.). Then it
continued to flow down the Conneautte Creek and broke the dam at Skelton's
Saw Mill, but the dam at Drake's Mills held.
Harry Moffatt had married Clarence and Dolly Drake's daughter, Grace.
Clarence Drake still used to dress millstones when Harry came to work for
his father-in-law. A few years afterwards he gave up dressing the two pairs
of millstones and only used the mill's roller mills. Clarence Drake had
given Harry his first job which started Harry's over 50 years in the milling
The dam at Drake's Mills was rebuilt during the 1930's by the W.P.A.
(which Arthur Henry, Sr. and my father worked on) and Clarence Drake gave
$1,000 to rebuild the dam, so the water would flow down the mill race.
About 20 years ago (1957) Harry Moffatt and his son Clarence "Red"
Moffatt came to work one morning and found the mill pond empty. All the
water had flowed down the mill race into the stream below the mill. The
bank walls near the mill had collapsed destroying the sluice gates, during
the night emptying out the mill pond. The mill's tow turbines were sitting
high and dry and haven't been used since. Harry decided that it would cost
too much to rebuild it, even though he wishes he still had water power to
operate the mill. Installing a couple of electric motors that were salvaged
from junk, they continue to operate the mill's old machinery.
When Harry's father-in-law died he left the mill to Harry. Harry is now
eighty-three years old and he continues to be the owner and operator of
Drake's Mill. Before starting to work each morning Harry jogs from his home,
to the mill. Upon reaching the mill he does additional exercises before
starting the days operation. During the cold times of the year Harry heats
the main floor of the mill and the mill's office with an old boiler in the
basement. Harry uses coal and corn cobs to fire up the boiler. Harry enjoys
to reminisce about days gone by when the mill was water powered. The mill
no longer produces flour, but continues to produce animal feed. Harry slipped
on the ice jogging to the mill in the winter and broke his hip. The Doctor
told him, he could no longer throw sacks of grain around in the mill. His
son Clarance took over running the mill, and the mill closed after a short
while in June of 1981. The mill was used for a short while selling wood
stoves, in and around the mill machinery. A nephew of Harry Moffatt began
rebuilding the mill dam, but never compleated the work. However, the mill
stills idle waiting restoration, and contains much of its original machinery.
Note: a version of this article by T. R. Hazen appeared in
OLD MILL NEWS, January 1979, Vol. VII, No. 1, Whole Number 26, page
Note: (*) Photos titled above are not of Drake's Mills: "Interior of
a Small Country Mill," and "Another Interior of a Small Country
Mill." The second photo is an interior view of the Thomas Broomall
Mill, a.k.a Samuel Hickman Grist Mill, Ridley Park (Ridgeway), Pennsylvania.
The photos were used because they have the same similar atmosphere as Drake's
Mills. I have lost a lot of my photosgraphs of Drake's Mill, or they are
of Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, by David L. Woolstrum.
Another Look at F. A. Drake's
Mill, near Cambridge Springs, Pa.
A History of F. A. Drake's
Mill & The Community of Drake's Mills (long version of history).
Also Note: If you wish more information about Drake's Mill and its community
please contact me.
If you are wanting to restore Drake's Mill, and want to work with someone
who knows the mill and has worked there, PLEASE CONTACT ME!
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