Daniel Howell built a wooden grist mill at the juncture of the Wickeckeoke Creek and the Delaware River circa 1720. It prospered under a succession of owners through the 18th century and was sold to John Prall, Jr. in 1794.
The 10-building complex includes a grist mill, linseed oil mill, saw mill and granary, most dating back to the late 1700s. The buildings are considered a significant example of early American industrial architecture. The complex also includes one of the finest 18th century houses in the region and among New Jersey's most significant early dwellings. The house is a late Georgian/early Federal residence that John Prall built for his family. A more utilitarian section of the building housed staff.
Prall launched a development program that included a new stone grist mill to replace the wooden one that Howell had built. He also built a saw mill, several stone houses and a stone structure that served various purposes (including an office and a store.) Prall opened a stone quarry in the area and operated two fisheries in the Delaware River, making the community of Prallsville a major commercial center for the rural countryside.
Throughout the 19th Century, Prallsville remained an important commercial center. When the grist mill caught fire and was severely damaged in 1874, it was rebuilt and reopened for business by 1877.
The present stone mill, the 1877 building, was built on the foundation of Prall’s mill and continued to function into the 1950’s.
In the 1950’s the property, no longer used as a mill, began to deteriorate. It was put up for sale as an attractive site for townhouses. A local resident, Donald Jones, purchased the site in 1969 and held it until the State could afford to purchase it in 1973.
The Prallsville Mills were included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The entire property became part of the D & R Canal State Park in 1974.
In 1976 when the State of New Jersey was unable to fund the restoration of its newly acquired Prallsville Mills, local citizens formed the Delaware River Mill Society and obtained a long-term lease which gives the Mill Society the responsibility to “restore, preserve, operate, maintain and interpret” the site.
The grist mill’s foundation has been rebuilt and new structural posts and beams were installed. Original mill machinery is on display. Recently the upper floors were cleaned and lit. A kitchen, an office and lavatories were built in a former lumber shed in 1994. The old wagon shed was restored to serve as the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission office.
The Linseed Oil mill, thought to be the best preserved oil mill in the Mid-Atlantic region, had major structural repairs. It currently functions as an Art Gallery for local artists.
Grounds were landscaped and the power train was cleared of decades of debris and silt. Fifteen miles of an abandoned railroad line that runs from Lambertville to Frenchtown and passes through the Mill site have been converted into a popular recreations trail.
Delaware River Mill Society’s goals are more than architectural. The Mill has become a place of cultural and environmental events attracting wide spread participation. Concerts, art exhibitions, antique shows, holiday parties, school fund-raiser auctions, meetings, as well as private parties, are a source of income for restoration and maintenance of the site.
All of these projects take time, effort, money and imagination. We invite your interest and help. Each of us has a part to play in saving a segment of our past and making it a part of the future.
MILL COMPLEX FACTS
Built – 1720
Buildings – 10
Design – Daniel Howell
Years in Operation – 1720's-1950's
Art Gallery, Private Parties, Weddings
Concerts, Click for more events.
Public Restrooms, Tow Path Access, Outdoor Covered Patio, Historic Settings
Keith Strunk, a lifelong resident of the Delaware River Valley, collaborated with the Delaware River Mill Society to gather photographs for this book. A portion of the author’s proceeds from the sale of each book will benefit the Delaware River Mill Society.
About the Book
The Delaware River Valley has attracted industrial and political visionaries, thinkers, and artists for more than 300 years. In it taverns, political discourse fanned the flames of revolution, and its beauty has inspired artists, actors, and writers from Edward Hicks to Richard Rodgers to Dorothy Parker. In 1794, John Prall Jr. acquired a property nestled next to the river that included a corn or gristmill and a sawmill. The mills became the heart of Prallsville, a village industrial complex that would continue to function into the early 20th century. Early economic and community needs closely linked Prallsville to neighboring Brookville and Stockton, and in 1898, they incorporated to become Stockton. The vintage images in Prallsville Mills and Stockton provide a glimpse of the tenacious and generous people that survived floods, fires, and industrial mishaps to prosper in their home along the banks of the Delaware.
Detailed History of the Prallsville Mill Complex
The Reading and Howell Family 1660-1750
A Time-Line History of the historic Prallsville Mills complex prior to John Prall Jr.
1657- John Reading born in Pipe Hill, Lichfield, Staffordshire, England
1677- John Reading, at the age 20 years, purchased proprietary share in the new Colony of West Jersey.
1684- John Reading came to West New Jersey with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Elizabeth and settled in the city of Gloucester in Gloucester County, along the Delaware River. This was part of the settlement of Quakers, organized by William Penn. Daughter Elizabeth died in 1692, age 8; a second daughter, Sarah, died the same year, age 1.
1685- John reading elected to the first of several terms in the West Jersey Assembly. He was elected Clerk and Recorder for Gloucester County.
By 1686- Reading was a wealthy and influential man and a member of the Council of Proprietors of West Jersey. He was a captain of the county militia, the first recorder of deeds for West Jersey and a justice on the colonial Supreme Court.
1687- Reading was one of the first commissioners of the Council of Proprietors of West New Jersey. He was elected to the Governor’s Council, and was reelected every year thereafter until his death in 1717.
1693- Reading obtains the ferry rights for both the Delaware River and Gloucester River crossings
1699- John Reading Jr. and his sister Elsie were sent to school in England accompanied by his mother; for seven years. John Reading Jr. would become a governor of New Jersey in 1757 at the age of 73.
1702- Reading made his first purchase of land in Hunterdon. (A section of northern Burlington County was set off and established as Hunterdon County.)
1708- Creation of Amwell Township, probably at the instigation of John Reading.
1709- Reading bought 1440 acres, which was the heart of his plantation called Mount Amwell, after a town in England. He is thought to have left Gloucester and settled on his plantation sometime between 1709 and 1711. A deed of 1709 identified him as “of Mount Amwell” located in what is now known as Stockton. Due to the Ferry operation, this section of the Delaware Valley was referred to as Reading’s Landing, first mentioned in a petition to the PA legislature for a road the begin on the Delaware river opposite of Reading’s Landing, to run to Philadelphia (later know as Old York Road). His ferry operation was at the site of the present day Ferry Street in Stockton Borough.
1710-11- Reading’s daughter, Mary, married Daniel Howell, of Bucks County, PA. He presented his daughter and her husband with a tract of land about a mile square on the south side of the Wicheckeoke Creek and constructed a sawmill and a gristmill for them; the first establishment of that sort in the area.
17111- Reading’s house in Gloucester City was accidentally burned in this year and he eventually establishing his residence at Wichecheoke, a desirable spot on the site of an Indian Village under a fold in the hills, protected from the winter storms.
1713- Reading was appointed o the Governor’s Council, which served as an advisor to New Jersey’s highest court. 1714- Gov. Hunter commissioned John Reading Captain for the militia company of Amwell and the upper part of Hopewell, Hunterdon County. In 1715 Reading was promoted to Lt. Colonel in the regiment of Col. John Hamilton.2 1717- Colonel John Reading dies leaving his land to his son John Reading Jr. and his daughter Mary and her husband Daniel Howell
1719-27 Daniel Howell served on Hunterdon County’s first grand jury. 1721 he was named the first coroner of the county. 1722 he was one of the county’s first assessors. 1725 he was named a Justice of the Peace. 1727 he was named to the Court of Common Pleas for Hunterdon County and named a captain of the Amwell militia under his brother-in- law Col. John Reading.
1733- Captain Daniel Howell bequeathed a grist mill and saw mill, which had been built by his father-in-law, John Reading, and 73 acres of land fronting on the Delaware River and Wickecheoke Creek, to his two eldest sons Daniel Howell, Jr. and John Howell.
1744- A confirmation deed was made to Daniel and John by their mother’s brother John Reading Jr. because it appears that previous deed on the land had not been recorded.
1750- Reading’s grandson, Daniel Howell sold the Mill property to Charles Woolverton.
The Woolverton Family 1714- 1794
A Time-Line History of the historic Prior to John Prall Jr
1714- Charles Woolverton came from Burlington County, New Jersey and purchased a 1665- acre plantation near the present village of Rosemont for 350 pounds. The land crossed the Wichecheoke twice, according to the deed.1.
1730’s- John Woolverton was born in Amwell Township
1731- Charles Woolverton seems to have deeded farms to his sons instead of bequeathing them. From 1731-1733- There are deeds recorded from Charles Sr. to his sons. A plantation of 288 acres north of Rosemont, bordering Isaac and Dennis Woolverton, was conveyed to Charles Woolverton Jr. in 1731.There is no estate recorded for Charles Woolverton Sr., and no death record. He is thought to have died about 1746. His widow Mary Chadwick Woolverton died in 1751. They are both probably buried in the Rosemont Cemetery, although their stones have not survived.
1750- Charles Woolverton purchased the mill property from Daniel Howell Jr. The property was described as “the land on the south side of the Wickecheoke that the gristmill stands on” and totaled 70 acres. Daniel Howell Jr. preferred to stay at the Raritan River Plantation, and John Howell, who was established in Chestnut Hill, PA, sold the mill property to Charles Woolverton1, who owned a large plantation near the present village of Rosemont.
1765- Charles Woolverton died and left personal property to his wife Margaret and ordered she be provided for during her widowhood. His sons, Morris and John Woolverton were given control of their father’s real property holdings and made executors of his estate. Morris received the plantation of 268 acres, which his father had acquired in 1731. John received the 70 acres along the Delaware River and the Wickecheoke Creek where the gristmill was located.
1768- John Woolverton married Elizabeth Wilson and she birthed two children, Charles Jr. and George, both born around 1730.
1773- John Woolverton died leaving his will, in which he described himself as a “miller.” He also mentioned a house, barn, and “the mill” in his will. The inventory of his personal property included lumber, a cross-cut saw, and “saw-mill irons.” This provides strong evidence that he operated a saw mill during his eight years of ownership.
1792- Charles Jr. and George Woolverton bought the mill property from their father’s executors for 1,500 pounds. Their interest in the property was limited as they sold it two years later to John Prall Jr. for the same amount. The Woolverton family operated the grist and saw mills together with the 70 acres until they were sold to John Prall Jr.
1794- Charles Jr. and George Woolverton sell their recently acquired land to a successful Revolutionary War Lieutenant, John Prall Jr. for the exact price of their purchase. A descendant of the Woolverton family, Primrose Woolverton, has written that after John Prall purchased the property, he continued to operate the grist and saw mills and the store the Woolverton family had started. It was located on the recommendations of the native Indians in a place that would not flood.
John Prall’s Ownership c. 1792 – 1831
A Time-Line History of the historic Prallsville Mills complex
1792- John Prall Jr. (1756-1831) purchased the former Reading/ Howell property to the south of the mill tract from the Ely Family. The property totaled 280 acres and included all the land between the Wickecheoke Creek and the present day Ferry St in Stockton.
1794- The Woolverton Brothers sold the mill property to John Prall for the price of 1,500 pounds. Two years prior to this acquisition, Prall had purchased the former Reading/Howell farmstead to the south of the mill tract from the Ely family. The property, which the Ely family had acquired from Joseph Howell, totaled 280 acres, and, with the mill tract, gave John Prall Jr. control of all the land on the Delaware River between the Wickecheoke Creek and the Present day Ferry Street in Stockton. Prall’s newly acquired property was described in the deed as including “a corn or Grist Mill & Sawmill with the Full custom Benefit in Grinding & Sawing” and “Ponds, pools, Dams, Banks Water courses Streams of water Races Sluices flood Gates Bolting Mills Chests & all Implements there unto belonging.” Mr. Prall expanded these mills; remodeled or rebuilt them soon after his purchase in 1794.
1813- William Livingston Prall married Charlotte Parker and she gave birth to John Parker Prall, John Prall’s grandson.
1814- “William Prall & Jacob Lambert were authorized by the legislative enactment to erect a wing dam in the Delaware River at Trenton”1
1819- John Parker Prall is born. He noted in the memoirs that he was born in the dwelling house next to the stone store building and that these structures, called John Prall’s Mill Manor House, were built by his grandfather, John Prall, and “were the work of his hands.” The grandson also tells us his grandfather built the linseed oil mill just opposite across the road from the stone store, a large plantation house on the hill was built, now the Woolverton Inn, and the “Letitia” house was built near by for his daughter.
The stone store building was used as a general country store and a post office and became the focal point in the community. The grandson in the memoir states:
1820- John Prall placed an advertisement in the “True American” Trenton newspaper in which he offered “for rent a saw mill, a plaster mill and an oil mill, in the pleasant village of Prallsville, near Centre Bridge, Amwell, Hunterdon County. Together with a dwelling stone house, port house, two barns, a smoke house and several trick patches.” These properties were still for rent in March of 1821. It appears rental did not take place and the operations were carried on by Mr. Prall’s son-in-law, Jacob Lambert.
1821-Wm. Livingston Prall bought the True American newspaper.
1822- William Livingston Prall is appointed as NJ State Librarian.1 He served for one year.
1826- General Assembly of the State of NJ elects William Livingston Prall Clerk of the House2. He was reappointed the next year3.
1828- William Livingston Prall married Mary Frances Buckner
1830-Jacob Lambert, Letitia’s husband, became the post master in 1830 of the Prallsville Post Office. 1831- John Prall Jr. died and his executors sold the mill property of 73 acres to William Hoppock and John Wilson in 1833. Hoppock absorbed the whole property the next year and occupied the dwelling house next to the stone store. William Hoppock is said to have renovated the stone store into a dwelling house c.1850 and moved the store operation and post office into the linseed oil mill building on the opposite side of the street. 1876- John Prall’s grandson, John Parker Prall, wrote a memoir of the Prall family. In the memoir he tells us his grandfather was a soldier in the American Revolution, that he was a lieutenant and fought in the battles of Millstone, Monmouth and Germantown. His old musket is still preserved in the Prall family.
Post Prall, Railroad Period to Modern Period
A Summary Time Line of the Prallsville Mills from 1833-2008
1833-1834 William L. Hoppock and John S Wilson
1833- Prall’s Estate sold the mill property of 73 acres to William Hoppock and John Wilson. Hoppock lived in the Prall House next to the stone store. About 1848 Hoppock converted the store into a dwelling house and moved the Prall store operation and post office to the Linseed Oil Mill. 1834-1873 William L. Hoppock
1873-1876 Lemuel O. Kessler - Following Hoppock’s ownership, the Mill tract was sold to L.O. Kessler. At this period in 1874, the mill burned. The fire originated from sparks thrown out by a wood powered locomotive crossing a covered bridge spanning Wichecheoke Creek; burning the bridge and the near by Grist Mill.
1877-1883 Stout Stover - At a sheriff sale, I. Stout Stover purchased the mill property and rebuilt the Grist Mill in 1877 and the date stone appears on the façade.
1883-1888 Joseph & John W. Smith - The mill tract was sold by I. Stout Stover to Joseph Smith and his nephew John W. Smith in the year 1883. The Smiths owned and operated an insurance company in Lambertville. John W. Smith added the wooden addition to the stone store building, which William Hoppock had converted into a dwelling c. 1850 and used it as his residence until his death.
1888-1914 John W., Susan B., & Mary I. Smith
1914-1917 John W., Susan B., & Executors of Mary I. Smith
1917-1921 John W., Charles A., Joseph & Stanley W. Smith
1921- 1941 Charles A., Joseph, & Heirs of Stanley W. Smith
1943-1952 Charles A. & Joseph Smith
1952-1954 Charles A. & Elizabeth B. Smith
1954-1966 Edith S. & Elizabeth B. Smith
1966-1967 Edith S & Joseph Smith, Jr. & Eva Graham
1967-1969 Edgar S & Joseph Smith, Jr. & Eva Graham
1969-1973 Donald B. Jones
1973-Present NJ Department of Environmental Protection- Parks & Recreation
1976-1982 Delaware River Mill Society signed 10-year lease of the Mills with NJDEP
1979 Prallsville Complex placed on the National Register of Historic Places
1982-2003 Delaware River Mill Society signed 20-year lease of the Mills with NJDEP
2004- Present - Delaware River Mill Society signed a second 20-year lease of the Mills with NJDEP