PHOTO BY: WILLIAM W. TETLOW (around 1910)
ONE OF THE BUILDINGS FROM THE OLD VAN NEST’S MILLS WAS LOCATED RIGHT AFTER THE WILBUR SMITH BRIDGE HEADING OUT OF TOWN ON THE MANVILLE WESTON CAUSEWAY ON THE LEFT… IT’S PICTURED ABOVE, ALTHOUGH THE ACTUALLY BUILDING THAT WAS ROBBED BY THE BRITISH ARMY MAY HAVE BEEN SLIGHTLY UPSTREAM.
In the pre-Manville Weston days the most important event that probably ever happened was the ever famous “Battle of Millstone” or “Battle for Van Nest’s Mills” Actually in my travels amongst the the information superhighway the name Van Nest or Van Neste has popped up quite a bit. When I started to understand that Van Nest Mills was along the Millstone, memory beckoned and I thought EUREKA! I HAVE BEEN THERE! When I was a young kid my grandfather used to fish off of the old Millstone bridge, the mill was still there in the early 80’s (or what was left of it) he used to explain to me the importance of the area and as a young guy I don’t think I really got it. However, I do remember the old water turbine in the building after it collapsed… when you’re a kid the prospect of creating power by water is like mindblowing. At the time I had never seen anything like it. When the building collapsed in 1982 I remember being bummed because i loved the place, if I had only realized what a blow it really was for history. The Van Nest Mills was believed to have been built around 1740. On January 20th 1777 it was the site of the famous Battle of Van Nest’s Mills” in which the British, being low on rations, tried to rob the mill of flour to feed their troops. Much to the dismay of the British the Continental army of 450 men including 50 Pennsylvania Riflemen were wading across the freezing January water of the Millstone to avoid the defense cannons the british had set up on the bridge and intercept the goods, which they eventually did. Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson reported that the Patriots captured “107 horses, 49 wagons, 115 cattle, 70 sheep, 40 barrels of flour – 106 bags and many other things.” They also took 49 prisoners. General Washington reported to John Hancock that the British removed “a good many dead and wounded in light Waggons,” estimated to be 24 or 25 in total compared to the 4 or 5 losses sustained by the Patriots. From what i can gather from random articles on the actual Mill, it was later known as “Bayards Mill” and then””Rodger’s Mill” named after each of the owners. Beginning in the 1920’s it was owned by Wilbur Smith, in 1982 it collapsed, and in 1983 a fire burned the remanants to it’s foundation.