HISTORY OF INGHAMS MILLS
HERKIMER COUNTY, NY
Reprinted from the Herkimer Evening Telegram
Written by Grace Dobrovolc
Contributed by William McKerrow
Inghams Mills was once a bustling community
The Evening Telegram, in cooperation with the Herkimer County Historical Society, continues its monthly series focusing on the county's rich heritage.
By Grace Dobrovolc
Inghams Mills, a quaint hamlet situated on the outskirts of Little Falls, was once a flourishing manufacturing community. It was a haven for blacksmiths, farmers, mill workers, among others. Inghams Mills housed hotels, mills, dance halls, among other things that casually faded away over the years.
Inghams Mills was founded by Col. William Feeter in 1802. He constructed a saw and grist mill that was maintained later on by his son, Adam. Alonzo Ingham's family, from Connecticut, came in 1808 to Manheim. They constructed a cloth-dressing and carding room, near to Col. Feeter's grist mill.
Inghams Mills began to be called just that around 1820. Numerous Inghams have traveled through this place such as Dr. Stephen Amber Ingham. He arrived at Inghams Mills in 1819, and maintained a flour mill, and also a farm.
Various mills have been established in Inghams Mills, and have gradually faded away with time. Flax seeds were transported to Inghams Mills and turned into linseed oil at the linseed oil mill, opened in 1842 by Howard and Ezra Sampson. Wool from various farmers was attained for carding at the carding mill. Samuel Sadler brought the Ingham family mills and turned the carding mill into a cider mill in 1842. The saw mill in Inghams Mills eventually changed into James D. Sadler's cheese box factory, which was sold to N.E. Snell. The grist mill that Sadler initiated was well-known as the "Red Mill" by the community. Tea and corn meal were ground there, and boxing matches were also held there on occasion.
Inghams Mills dam and power plant
Inghams Mills is extensively recognized for its dam. The discussion of the dam began in 1906 when James Craigue and Emmerline LaDue passed on the rights to construct the dam, as well did Jeremiah Mohoney the following year. Construction of the dam began in 1908. Countless Irish and Italian immigrants worked on constructing the dam, and a good m lost their lives to the project. During construction, Harry Pfeiffer served as chief engineer. To build such a cumbersome object, numerous supplies, such as steam shovels and turbines had to be brought to the site. Besides the typical horse and wagon, a spur line of the Little Falls-Dolgeville railroad was built to make these transportations easier. Also, the machinery was moved chiefly during the months with cold weather because the ground was more solid, which meant easier transportation. Construction of the dam was also made simpler by building a saw mill at the site of the project. Motor-operated flood gates were set up during the construction of the project. Dilemmas soon arose because of debris. The dam produced a three mile lake which led to camps on Keyser Lake.
Along with the dam, a power plant was constructed of steel and brick, on a solid-rock foundation. The General Electric Co. produced all electric equipment in the plant, which has been upgraded, etc. throughout time. The cost of the two projects was an estimated $1 million, which would be around $38 million in today's terms. Wheels at the plant released water through a tail-race canal which was cut through solid rock. The canal carried the water back to the creek once again. Once called "Adirondack Power and Light Corp.," it has changed to "Niagara Mohawk Power Co."
From the limestone quarry to the Baptist Church
The limestone quarry in Inghams Mills was situated behind the dam. The quarry was owned and operated by John Bunker, an Irish immigrant. Stone from the quarry was utilized to construct the Daniel Green Factory in Dolgeville, and Inghams Mills Baptist Church, among other places. Construction of the Baptist Church cost about $2,500 and was constructed roughly 1841. The original Baptist society was established in 1818 with the Rev. Augustus Beach as pastor. Until the church was constructed, meetings of the society were held in Oppenheim, and also at a school house nearby. The church was dedicated by the Baptist denomination on Dec. 2, 1841, and its society was properly incorporated on Jan. 10, 1842. The Baptist Church has seen numerous improvements throughout time. In 1900, electric lights and stained glass windows were added; in 1922 oak seats were installed to the auditorium; in 1930, a rose stained glass window was put over the pulpit platform.
The chapel was dedicated and constructed at a cost of $6,500 in the year 1931. Other improvements occurred after this time, such as the drilling of a new well in 1941, and a heating system boiler was added in 1967. Baptisms took place at Keyser Lake, until 1966, in which time the baptistery was donated to the church.
The first store in Inghams Mills was organized in 1818, owned by Mcallister and Thompson. There were three grocery stores during one period in Inghams Mills. They were owned by Frank Sweeney, Guile and the Sadlers. Guile had chicken food and horse feed. Coffee was ground at the grocery stores, and did not come pre-ground. Sadlers store also served as the Post Office in Inghams Mills. It was maintained until 1918, when rural free delivery displaced it. It was initiated in 1862, with the first postmaster being Erastus Inghams. The only telephone, a one-wire linkage between Little Falls and Dolgeville in 1901 was at Sadler's store. Sadler's store was also significant because it was used as an office for the project's paymaster during the dam construction.
During these prosperous times, entertainment was a substantial aspect of everyday life. Kyser's and Horton's halls, as well as the small hall above Sweeney's store all put together dances. Dances or "fuddles" as they were called were held in people's homes also. James Sadler established the "Citizen Band No. 1." Inghams Mills had three brass bands before they started fading out. There were countless activities to participate in.
Inghams Mills has seen dramatic changes throughout the decades. Over time, the mills and stores, among other places that once helped Inghams Mills to flourish into the lively hamlet that it was have gradually disappeared into history. Although these establishments have disappeared, Inghams Mills, with its beautiful country landscape is still a lively place. There are numerous opportunities for recreation in the area from swimming in the creek, hiking, among other activities during the summer months to snowmobiling on the various trails in the winter.
"Creek's Water played important role in Inghams," Guy Schaff, Little Falls Evening Times, July 14, 1997
"The power plant at Inghams Mills has seen many changes," Guy Schaff, Little Falls Evening Times, July 15, 1997
"Inghams Mills was once a thriving manufacturing hamlet," Guy Schaff, Little Falls Evening Times, July 5th, 1997
"Church plays a prominent role in the community of Inghams Mills," Guy Schaff, Little Falls Evening Times, July 7, 1997
"Inghams Mills: a turn-of-the-century hamlet," Guy Schaff, Little Falls Evening Times, July 9, 1997.
Grace Dobrovolc is a student intern at the Herkimer County Historical Society and a resident of Inghams Mills.