While we were staying in Stroudsburg, PA., I
started looking around for places to visit and write about. The first one I
found was near our park and was called Quiet Valley Farm.
We visited them on August 17. It was a toss up whether we wanted
to go there first or go to Millbrook Village which is located not too far away
in New Jersey. As usual, we had to pay a toll to get back into Pennsylvania from
New Jersey. I think New Jersey is one of the few States in the U.S. that you
have to pay to get out of. I had been in touch with Mr. Earle Post, the President of the
Millbrook Village Society. Although the Village is operated by the U.S. National
Park Service, I feel that it would not be nearly as neat an experience without
Millbrook Village Society. These folks devote hundreds of hours acting as
docents, and doing repairs and maintenance. We have found as we travel across
the U.S. that the people who volunteer their expertise, energy and time, are the
real backbone of our historic areas. Unfortunately these folks become more and
more important as the government agencies have their funding cut back.
In 1832 Abram Garis, a local farmer, built a grain (grist) mill along the newly-built Columbia Walpack Turnpike, where the turnpike crossed a stream known as Van Campens Mill Brook. Van Campen's mill (near today's Depew Recreation Site) was no longer operating by then, and the Garis mill was clearly more convenient for farmers than the one in Flatbrookville. Soon, the area was known as Millbrook, and the name of the stream shortened to Van Campens Brook.
Quickly, Garis had neighbors. A Methodist congregation organized and in i840 built a small church with a school in the basement. That same year, a store opened and a smithy set up shop. The town was on its way. The next generation benefited from a post office, a boarding house for farm workers that served "spirits," a cider mill for the less spirited, and a much expanded Methodist church.
By 1875 Millbrook had reached a peak of 75 inhabitants and about 19 major buildings. The village stretched out in a line along both sides of the Columbia-Walpack Turnpike, once a popular alternate route to Old Mine Road. The approach to the town took a visitor through miles of cultivated fields.
From 1880 onward, however, Millbrook suffered the decline of rural villages that was experienced throughout the country. Land values dropped steeply after the Civil War. Industrialization, especially of farming methods, made competition difficult for the independent small farmer, and isolation from railroad transportation made produce from the Millbrook area particularly difficult to market. In addition, the lure of cash wages for factory jobs in the cities were drawing the young away from the villages of their birth. Garis’ mill closed just after 1900, and by 1950, only the blacksmith remained. Then, in the 1950s, the Columbia-Walack Turnpike was realigned to accommodate stream impoundments at Watergate, and the crossroads at the heart of the village was lost. The roadbed of the turnpike has become the unpaved “street” that still runs through the village from southwest to northeast, and today’s auto traffic now bypasses the village as it follows the paved route now designated Old Mine Road.
By the 1960s, Millbrook had become the quiet home of summer residents and retired persons. Then, the proposed Tocks Island Reservoir threatened to inundate several low- lying valleys on the New Jersey side. To save significant structures, the National Park Service, with assistance from the Millbrook Village Society, moved them to higher ground at Millbrook. Some replaced original buildings that were long gone. In the 1970s, other structures were moved here as outbuildings for the village. Today, Millbrook has the same number of buildings that it had around 1900.
Thus Millbrook today does not replicate the appearance of Millbrook Village in 1832, or in 1900. Rather, it evokes the feeling and folkways of the countryside hamlets in which the majority of this nation's people lived until the end of the 1800s.
One of the more interesting structures we visited was the Sylvester Hill House. It is one of the original buildings which was built there in the 1850s. Inside the house we met Daryl Lancaster and her daughter Brinna. Daryl operated a spinning wheel for us. She also demonstrated bobbin lace that she was doing. It was really beautiful and she managed to make it look rather easy. Remember looks can be deceiving! Brinna was working a loom that would have been used during the era to create cloth of all kinds. They were members of the Frances Irwin Handweavers Guild. It was founded in the mid 1960s to foster the craft of handweaving and related fiber arts. Fortunately for future generations their mission continues today. They began this new century with a great appreciation for those who have kept the craft alive.
As a historic site within Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Millbrook Village is staffed on Saturday and Sundays from May through October. Park rangers in period costume and volunteer craftspersons demonstrate their skills, and several original Millbrook structures are open for visits.