Site hosted by Build your free website today!

The Page Begins Here

F. A. Drake's Mill, near Cambridge Springs, Pa.

Drake's Mill, near Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.

Theodore R. Hazen

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 in 1854.

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 feed mill.

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.

The 1856 New Mill, a.k.a. Keystone Mill, built by James Reeder and Isaac Taylor,
on the site of Culbertson's Mill. It was in the same year 1856, which Reeder and Taylor's Pump Factory burned down. The factory was located some distance down stream from the mill.
In 1801 William Culbertson had John him a log tub mill on the site.
The original mill dam was located up the creek above were Mill Street
once continued straight across at Zortman'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.

The Washington Township Planning Mill, a.k.a. the Lewis Mill or Darrow Mill.
The dam that broke is to the left of the photo just at the upstream corner of the mill.

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 business.

A 1915 colored post card view of the old dam and saw mill on the opposite side of the creek. Drake's Mill, the cider mill, the wagon shop and the box factory are out view to the right.
The furniture factory was down stream to the left of view. Mount Pleasent is in the background.

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.

Interior of a Small Country Mill*

Another Interior of a Small Country Mill*

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 9.

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 on slides.

History 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!

Return to Home Page

Copyright 1996 by T. R. Hazen