The "Red Mill"-even the name sounds interesting. If it were the Blue Mill, or the Gray Mill, or the White Mill it would not be so attractive. It stands on the bank of the North Blacklick, down in the extreme northwestern corner of Cambria County. It stands so near the Indiana line, that a boy might throw a stone from its door beyond the big wild cherry nearby which marks the boundary between Cambria and Indiana counties. John Duncan built the Red Mill in 1828 and, with a few short rests, it has been grinding ever since. In its early days, the stage coaches traveling from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia used to rattle down the hill and ford the creek where the bridge now stands, a few rods above the mill. There were deer then in the hills which surround it. Indian trails could then be pointed out in the valley and the forests were still standing. Things are changing along the Blacklick in these days, and yet the change is not so great. The large timber has disappeared from the hills, and so have the deer, and so have the stages; but the old mill has gone along merrily all these years, and is hale and hearty as ever. As we first saw it on a cool November morning, when the white frost was on the was on the rhododendron leaves and the mill pond was crusted at the edges with thin ice, it looked so hospitable and inviting you could not choose but to stop.
A Sturdy Old Mill.
The men who built the Red Mill must have sung as they worked. Its sturdy oak ribs are tight and firm today and the wooden pegs that hold them are solid in their sockets. Its rafters are not sagged with age or twisted with the many blasts that must have strained against them. The mill is a red cheeked old patriarch, firm on is feet. In an old mill the first thing thought of is the wheel. Painters have painted it, poets have sung about it. It is a climb down into the wheel pit. There is a slippery ladder and the rungs are a long way apart. And there is the old wheel. The splash of the water for years on the stones has covered them with a green moss. The wheel is built of locust and hickory and is twenty feet high and five feet wide. A shaft which runs through its hub transmits the power to the mill above by means of wooden gear wheels. The miller goes up the ladder to turn in the water and let you see the great wheel in motion. And the water comes with a splash and a rush, filling the broad buckets till slowly the old wheel begins to turn. In a moment it is going full tilt with a tremendous splashing and dashing of spray in all directions.
Talk of Wheel and Water.
How many times it has turned in just this fashion: "We have worked together a long time, you and I," says the wheel. "Does it seem like a long time to you, brother," laughs the wheel as it splashes off over the rocks. "Why, I've been running her thousands of years and really it only seems yesterday that you came to work and play with me." "Think of all the mouths we have fed that are closed and gone", says the wheel. "Think of the many summers you have splashed over me and cooled me when I was hot and tired, and think of the long freezing winters when you have chilled me to the hub and clogged me up with ice so that I had to be chopped free." "Ah, yes'" returns the water. "I suppose it does seem long to you, and no doubt I shall be running on here a thousand years after you are gone, and I shall miss you, old friend, and I will often think of all the good times we have had together."
An Interesting Picture.
The massive gear wheels which connect the wheel with the machinery above are made of hickory. They slip and screech as the miller throws the lever that connects them and the hum and roar of the mill upstairs is heard. They are grinding buckwheat flour. The black hulls of grain are flying out a shoot to the creek below the mill, and sacks of the fresh ground grain are piled by the door. Truly, the old mill is a lesson in useful industry, continued on to a good old age. Some of the beams and pillars are carved with various initials - some of them, no doubt, cut by boys while waiting for their grist to be ground. In the earlier days, the thinly settled farmers used to come to the mill with their grain bags thrown across a horse. They would wait while the miller ground their few bushels of grain and took out the toll, and then ride off again to their home in the remote woods.
The Red Mill lies in as pretty a spot as one need wish to see. Thickets of laurel and rhododendrons surround it. During the dry season of last September the forest fires came so close to it the men had to keep the roof wet to save it from the sparks. Outside, the blue-jays are calling in the thickets and a red squirrel jumps from an overhanging hemlock bough and scampers along the eaves. The old mill is worth a visit. It will make you welcome, and treat you kindly, and go right on grinding as it has done for the last eighty years.