BENJAMIN MILLS OVER CENTURY OLD (October 8/99)

Shortly after he arrived here from Connecticut in 1761, Obedaiah Benjamin traded part of his Horton Township grant for land near the Gaspereau River, in what eventually became Gaspereau Village. A miller by trade, Benjamin constructed a dam on his property where he first operated a sawmill and later a grist mill. Other mills were later added to the site by Benjamin’s descendants.

From a property case study prepared by Robin H. Wyllie on behalf of the Dept. of Tourism and Culture, it has been determined that mills of various types have occupied the Benjamin site for at least 200 years. As mentioned in last week’s column, the site on the Old Dyke Road is now the property of George McBay. I also mentioned that a history of the mill site existed – the property case study – and Mr. McBay has given me permission to use material from it here.

Before giving a bare bones history of the site, which was once called Benjamin Mills, I should point out that it contains some of the oldest remaining buildings in this area with Planter connections. Thanks to George McBay the mill buildings are in excellent condition. Mr. McBay looked into the possibility of turning the site into a museum – hence the property case study – but the project is currently on hold. Hope has been expressed locally that the mill site will be preserved for future generations and its historical importance can be seen from the following excerpts from the property case study.

Obedaiah Benjamin arrived in Horton Township in 1761 with his wife Mary and two sons. Benjamin received one share in the Township, part of which he traded for land in the Gaspereau Valley. Rather than build on the Gaspereau River, where fluctuating water levels would be hazardous, Benjamin constructed a one-acre pond at the back of his property. First, a sawmill and later a grist-mill (no dates given) were built on the pond.

Benjamin died in 1806, leaving the Mill property to Abel, his fourth son. Between 1806 and 1820, Abel added a fulling-mill “with an oil house and two carding machines” to the site.

In 1821 Abel Benjamin sold the saw mill, fulling mill, oil house and carding machines to his son, Perez. In 1832 Benjamin sold the reminder of the mill property, the grist-mill, to his son Jonathan. In 1836 sole ownership of the mills was transferred to Perez. In July, 1844, Perez M. Benjamin sold the mill site to his son Irad.

In 1862 the mill property was sold to Irad’s son-in-law, Rufus Forsythe. The fulling machinery was obsolete by this time and was replaced by a bone mill and cider mill. The property then passed to Charles Lockhart (1869) and then was sold in 1877 to George Hunter, who was the grandson of Rufus Forsythe. Under Forsythe major alternations were made to the grist-mill. George McBay, the current owner of the mill property along with his son Kenneth, is a grandson of George Hunter.

In George McBay’s hands are various account and day books from 1876 to 1935, the date the grist-mill ceased operation. The property case study lists daily carding account, 1876 to 1882, grist-mill account and day books from 1878 until 1926 and bone mill accounts from 1895 to 1910; all are valuable historical records of the Gaspereau area and undoubtedly copies will be on display if the mill site becomes a museum.

Perez M. Benjamin is mentioned in Eaton’s History of Kings County due to his involvement in politics and Freemasonry. The property case study notes that Perez was elected as “a Reformer (Liberal) to the 15th Assembly 1837-1840 as Member for Horton and again from 1843 to 1847.”

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