Thursday, May 3, 2018

Bixler's Mill by William Grant of Easton, PA


BIXLER'S MILL


An interesting story about life in Easton, during the mid-1800’s, written by Reuben Kolb, was printed in the Easton Free Press in three parts, May 16, 17, and 18, 1911. One paragraph of this lengthy story had to do with the only gristmill in the Easton area that was powered by the Delaware River. 





In 1785, Christian Bixler started a clock and jewelry business in Easton. The Easton store closed in 2009, after 224 years. This business, still in the family today, is America's oldest retail jeweler, and still has a store in Allentown.

Mr. Bixler was also the owner of a gristmill for 25 years, from 1805 until 1829. What was different about this mill is that it obtained its waterpower from the Delaware River through the use of a wing dam. 

Because wing dams could interfere with the navigation of Durham boats transporting goods up and down the river, the state imposed rules about their construction. A survey conducted in 1817 by the Commissioners of the states of PA and NJ showed that from Trenton to Foul Rift, there were 19 wing dams on the Delaware River. Nine of these wing dams were from the Pennsylvania shore. Only one dam was on the Delaware River in Northampton County, Christian Bixler's. It was located a little below the junction of the Lehigh River. The other eight dams were all in Bucks County. Christian Bixler did not build this mill, but acquired it at an auction in 1804. 



Mordecai Piersol came to the Easton area about 1790. He was from Chester County where he was a merchant in grain and owned a gristmill and saw mill. In Easton, he soon owned most of the land bounded by the Lehigh River, Lehigh Street, Pomfret (3rd) Street, and Hamilton (4th) Street. This was the main shipping area of Easton, nicknamed San Domingo. He would purchase grain from the local farmers in the winter, store it in warehouses, and transport the grain to Philadelphia in the spring.




In 1795, Mordecai Piersol built a gristmill, on a three-acre tract of land he purchased from Jacob Keller. The mill was located about one quarter mile south of the Lehigh River junction and powered by a wing dam built into the Delaware River.

Mordecai was married to Rebecca Douglass, of the 'Douglassville' family. By 1798, he over extended his business dealings and needed to pay off debts. A number of his Easton properties, including the gristmill and the San Domingo area, were sold to Andrew Douglass, a brother-in-law. Andrew Douglass died in 1804, and his Easton properties were sold at auction. 

On November 6, 1804, Daniel Wagener, Jacob Mixsell, and Christian Bixler, jointly purchased at the auction of Andrew Douglass, a grist mill, located on the Delaware River about one quarter mile south of the Lehigh River junction. They paid $1120 for this gristmill. Daniel Wagener and Christian Bixler were both married to daughters of Jacob Opp. Jacob Mixsell was married to Daniel Wagener's sister, Elizabeth. 

In the mid 1740’s Anthony Albright became the first owner of a 74-acre tract of land that bordered the Ferry Tract on the South. The Ferry Tract, owned by the Penn brothers, was not sold to the public until 1805, a time when bridges were built across both rivers, and ferries no longer needed.  

The Ferry Tract included Mt. Ida, and later, the canal town known as Snufftown or Williamsport, also a part of South Easton. 



The mill was removed in 1829, when construction of the Delaware Canal began. 

Christian Bixler was compensated $12,000 for the removal of the mill. In today's dollars, that would be about $310,000. He was able to keep the property, minus about one acre where the canal was located. Uhlerstown, PA is located across the river from Frenchtown, NJ. This map of 1868 shows the row of lime kilns built by Michael Uhler on the former mill site of Christian Bixler. An aerial view from about 1930, showing the former limestone quarry of Michael Uhler. The limekilns are long gone. This view, probably taken from the Lehigh Valley Railroad Bridge, shows the row of limekilns built by Michael Uhler. A postcard from the early 1900’s showing in the upper left corner, the quarry of Michael Uhler and the limekilns that have been mostly demolished. Michael Uhler died in 1896. The area of the Delaware Canal which previously contained Michael Uhler’s lime kilns and long before that, Christian Bixler’s grist mill.






































Uhlerstown, PA is located across the river from Frenchtown, NJ.



The Kuebler brewery would have been located within the former Ferry Tract. Piersol’s Mill Tract, of 3 acres 132 perches, was purchased at auction by Christian Bixler and tenants in common, Daniel Wagener and Jacob Mixsell, on November 6, 1804. After becoming the sole owner of the gristmill, Christian Bixler purchased an adjoining 1-acre 139 perch lot from Jacob Keller on April 5, 1813.


This map of 1868 shows the row of lime kilns built by Michael Uhler on the former mill site of Christian Bixler.


An aerial view from about 1930, showing the former limestone quarry of Michael Uhler. The limekilns are long gone.


























This view, probably taken from the Lehigh Valley Railroad Bridge, shows the row of limekilns built by Michael Uhler.


A postcard from the early 1900’s showing in the upper left corner, the quarry of Michael Uhler and the limekilns that have been mostly demolished.  Michael Uhler died in 1896.



The area of the Delaware Canal which previously contained Michael Uhler’s lime kilns and long before that, Christian Bixler’s grist mill.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Roller Skating at Bushkill Park - 1912






The fashions may be from a bygone era
but the fun is still the same!

For those who may have missed it, 
Bushkill Park Skating Rink is OPEN again! 


The skating rink will be open from 8 to 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and from noon until 2 pm on Sundays. Admission is $5 and rentals for skates are $2. Bushkill Park is located at 2100 Bushkill Park Drive in Forks Township, Easton, PA. 






Monday, January 30, 2017

Michael Malarkey's Valley Hotel







  

When you are on the bridge on South Third Street in Easton, heading towards the South Side of Easton, all you can see to your left or right is the Lehigh River. Imagine looking to your left and seeing a hotel wedged in between the railroad tracks and bridges right on the river at the junction of South Third Street and South Delaware Drive.
Michael Malarkey was born in 1849 in Bristol, PA. His parents were William Malarkey and Margaret Downs both Irish immigrants. They later lived in Williams Township.





  

Mr. Malarkey worked for the Lehigh Valley Railroad for about 30 years as both a freight and a passenger conductor. In 1893, there was a railroad strike and Mr. Malarkey retired at the age of 44. Shortly thereafter, he opened the Valley Hotel located, according to a 1910 city directory, at the Lehigh Bridge and Canal Street, South Side, Easton.


The building is described as being four stories high with 27 comfortably furnished rooms being let at $1.50 per day. Special terms were offered for longer stays and to those who were commercial travelers or theater people. The hotel catered to travelers as well as those who worked for the railroad – trainmen, baggage masters, timekeepers and conductors.
Michael and his wife, Margaret (Herron) Malarkey ran the hotel until about 1914. The Malarkeys had three daughters: Helen, Mary (Mame) and Genevieve.



Mrs. Malarkey died Friday, February 13, 1914. Mr. Malarkey gave up the hotel the following year.  By 1920, he was living at the Caffrey Hotel located on Bethlehem’s South Side at the corner of Third and New Streets. His widowed daughter, Genevieve Rodgers was the hotel’s proprietor. Mr. Malarkey died at the home of his daughter Mary at the age of 76 in Easton, PA on Monday, March 29, 1926. Mary lived at 126 East Madison Street not far from the bluff overlooking the South Third Street Bridge where Mr. Malarkey’s hotel once stood.



 1924, the City of Easton wanted to create a new approach to South Delaware Drive. The Lehigh Valley Railroad wanted to widen their east and westbound tracks so that a new passenger station could be built between them. The July 1, 1924 edition of the Easton Express noted that the Lehigh Valley Railroad would be spending $2,000,000 for the new station at Easton. This meant the Valley Hotel would have to be condemned. The City would need to petition for a board of viewers to condemn the hotel. In June 1926, Easton and Northampton County were again petitioning for the appointment of viewers so the Valley Hotel could be demolished. As of July 6, 1926, the City Council and the City Solicitor had authorized advertising for bids to demolish and remove the hotel without a price being established by viewers. At this time, the City had already given the Kueblers, the hotel’s present owners, a $20,000 bond and they had been given notice to vacate the premises. The new Lehigh Valley Railroad terminal opened up on Saturday, February 19, 1927.



NOTE: Thank you to Ken Klabunde for contributing the five views of the Valley Hotel.