East Berlin grist mill hit by Early’s Division during march into York County

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This old grist mill on the banks of the Big Conewago Creek in extreme southern Washington Township, York County, Pennsylvania, has a long and storied history, including playing a role in feeding Confederate troops in the Gettysburg Campaign during the American Civil War. Known for many years as the “Eisenhart Mill” for a post-war owner, during the War Between the States, the mill was owned and operated by a miller named Emanuel Butt.
On June 28, 1863, Confederate troops of the veteran division of Major General Jubal A. Early marched through Adams County to East Berlin and subsequently camped in nearby York County at the hamlet of Big Mount. Along the way, dozens of residents were victimized by foraging patrols which were seeking supplies, food, and, most of all, fresh horses and mules.


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Confederate patrols, mostly from the 17th Virginia Cavalry which accompanied Early’s long column of infantry and artillery, roved for miles along the route of march. They stopped at nearly every farm, including the old brick farmhouse pictured above on Eisenhart Mill Road. In some cases, they were greeted by fearful residents who set out milk and bread for the passing soldiers in hopes of appeasing them (rumors were flying that the Rebels meant mischief). In other cases, the citizens had fled, taking their horses and livestock to safety. There were few instances in the region where it is known Rebels broke into locked houses, but it did happen a handful of times in York County.
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The mill was constructed in 1749, making it one of the oldest remaining mills in York County, Pennsylvania. It was bought and sold numerous times over the next 250 years, and is currently owned by a friend of mine from P. H. Glatfelter, a global paper company. The present owner has been researching the mill’s storied history, and I was glad to have contributed photocopies of the post-Civil War damage claim filed by miller Emanuel Butt’s son William (Emanuel Butt died shortly after the war before the claims commission met).
Confederate troops stopped by the mill and began to fill their empty supply wagons. They hauled out 38 barrels of freshly ground flour and hefted them into the wagons. They also went after the grain that had not yet been ground into flour and loaded18 bushels of shelled corn and 4 bushels of oats. How long the Rebels remained at Butt’s mill is unknown, but it would have taken a fair amount of time for the Confederates to empty the mill.
The grist mill is currently 3.5 stories, with the bottom two being the original field stone walls and the upper story and a half now being of wooden frame construction. At some point, a fire destroyed part of the mill, and the upper floors and roof were replaced. At 50′x60′ in dimension, this would have been a rather large mill for colonial days when it was constructed.
On April 3, 1824, a wealthy farmer named Conrad Eisenhart acquired the mill from the estate of its previous owner Jacob Welsh and integrated it into his sprawling farm. In 1846, Eisenhart sold the mill, the lands along the creek and the water rights, to Emanuel Butt. Thirteen years later, Eisenhart died, leaving his farm to his son Peter.
Emanuel Butt owned the mill through the Civil War until his death. On April 21, 1887, his son William sold the mill to Peter Eisenhart, who ran it into the 20th century. It saw a succession of subsequent owners, one of which converted it into a private home late in the century.
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Across the street from the old mill is the miller’s house, which has also been beautifully restored and maintained.
A number of farms in the immediate area were raided by the Rebels on the same day as the mill, and, in a few cases, other farms were struck during Jubal Early’s return trip through East Berlin on June 30, 1863, as they were unknowingly en route to the Battle of Gettysburg, which started the next day. Among the nearby victims were farmer Peter J. Smith, who lost a three-year-old bay horse worth $150.
All photographs taken by Scott Mingus on Sunday, March 1, 2009.

This entry was posted in Civilians, Confederates, Gettysburg Campaign, Mills, Other places. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to East Berlin grist mill hit by Early’s Division during march into York County

  1. Jim Fiore says:

    Can you provide the exact location of the mill?
    Thanks,
    Jim

  2. Scott Mingus says:

    The mill is on Eisenhart Mill Road a couple miles north of East Berlin. Head north from town on Route 94. The property also contains a very interesting old stone bridge that is no longer connected to any roads.

  3. Mulina says:

    Greetings Scott,
    Thank you for sharing the “Eisenhart Mill” history with us and others. We feel blessed to be living in this special place in Washington Township!

  4. Scott Mingus says:

    You have did a magnificent job in preserving and maintaining this historic part of East Berlin’s Civil War heritage. The village was visited multiple times by Confederate forces, and just south of town a small skirmish occurred between Jubal Early’s cavalry and that of the vanguard of the Union Army of the Potomac. A Federal soldier was captured and escorted into East Berlin, where General Early interrogated him before ordering the prisoner to be taken under guard with the Louisiana Tigers brigade to Heidlersburg.

  5. Lauren says:

    Thanks for the tidbit of history surrounding our house – the white brick farmhouse you mentioned on Eisenhart Mill. We’ve been here 4 yrs and would love to someday do the research on the property. If you know anything else regarding its history we’d love to hear it. We have heard that it was possibly a hospital during the Civil War but don’t know for sure at this time.
    http://www.laurenrbamberger.com

  6. Scott Mingus says:

    I had not heard that about the house being used as a hospital, but it is widely known that most houses in the immediate Gettysburg area were indeed used for temporary treatment facilities. The main researcher into post-battle temporary hospitals, Greg Coco, unfortunately just lost a battle with cancer recently and passed away. His research pinpointed scores of farms in Adams County that were impressed into army service. He never mentioned any in York County, however.
    Certainly we know of houses in Hanover used for hospitals following that battle, and in York, the Odd Fellows Hall was used for Rebel wounded, as the Chief Surgeon of the formal U.S. Army Hospital on Penn Commons refused to treat the Southerners (he had been a prisoner of war a week earlier when Jubal Early occupied York).
    I will check a little more deeply into East Berlin’s hospital records through the Park Service and some friends of mine to see if I can discover a little more about your house.

  7. Lauren says:

    That’d be great! We’d love to hear whatever you find out. Sorry to hear about Mr. Coco. Thanks for your efforts.

  8. Frank Thompson says:

    My wife and I lived in this mill from 1989-1992. I have nothing but great memories of this amazing place. I went back a few years later and was impressed by how much the then-owners had fixed it up. But personally, I always felt lucky that we got out before the place flooded again, which happened soon after we sold it. But even so, I doubt I’ll ever live in a place so cool again.

  9. Cathy says:

    I was wandering who the current owner is of the mill I am writing a paper on it for college. Any information that u can provide about the history and present would be greatly appreciated, thank you

  10. Mulina says:

    Greetings Cathy,
    I am the current owner of the mill. Please contact me at mill.park@verizon.net.

  11. Robert J. Letson says:

    I can recall to your mind this earlier article about the 200th Aniversary of Eisenhart’s Mill:
    “NEWS COMET, East Berlin, PA, February 28, 1947
    200th Anniversary of Eisenhart’s Mill
    In this rather lengthy article the following information is found:
    “Hess sold the tract to Joseph Latshaw on April 30, 1775. Joseph Latshaw turned the tract over to Isaac Latshaw on Dec 22, 1755. The land was in turn purchased by Abraham Myley (Milly) on April 3, 1762. . . .Between the years of 1755 and 1769 a grist mill and a saw mill were erected on the land. Of the seventeen original mills, along the Big Conewago, only six are at present in operation. The mill property now known as Eisenhart’s Mill still stands. While altered many times in its long history, a close examination of the old walls will show parts of the original structure built nearly two hundred years ago.”
    [The mill was originally built and operated by Joseph Latshaw and operated during the time Isaac Latshaw owned the land, so perhaps it should be referred to as Latshaw's Mill.]
    This Joseph Latshaw is my gr-gr-gr-gr-grandfather on my mother’s line. Her maiden name was Latshaw.
    I have some genealogy on this Latshaw branch.

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