Mount Upton, NY
The Old Mill

Photos/text courtesy of Scott J. Payne, NY
For any use of these photos contact
1. The Old Mill

Old Mill Restaurant. Former site of cotton mill that produced uniforms for Union soldiers
Sullivan Reynolds and his family had been traveling from New Hampshire for several months in the early spring of 1791. He stopped his ox team in the beautiful Unadilla Valley, along modern day New York State Rt 8. While Reynold's family unloaded their cart, Sullivan took a walk to the American Indian encampment. There he introduced himself to the community and they welcomed him. They sent Reynolds off with meat and corn for his hungry family. Sullivan built his cabin near the site of today's Old Mill Restaurant. It soon became evident that a mill would be needed to grind the grain for food. Reynolds and his family ran the stone mill for 50 years, and then Chester Rockwell of East Hartwick came along. Rockwell was a cotton man and wanted a mill for his business. The community where the Old Mill Restaurant stands is now known as Rockwell Mills.
When news of the Civil War increased, the government sought expert help to furnish uniforms for the Union Army of the Potomac. Rockwell was approached and given a big
contract. He was soon milling blue wool uniforms.
At one point, more than 200 men and women were employed at the mill. Rockwell uniforms clothed the Union soldiers at Manassas (Bull Run), Sharpsburg (Antietam), Harper's Ferry, Gettysburg and many other battles. General Ulysses S. Grant wore a uniform that had it's origin in the Unadilla Valley..
After the war ended and Chester Rockwell died, his son Allan took over operations at the mill. On June 25-26, 1876 General George Armstrong Custer and his 175 men died at the hands of the Lakota-Northern Cheyenne coalition at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The uniforms worn by Custer and his men were fashioned at Rockwells.
When not supplying military uniforms the mill made striped prison uniforms. This work would have continued if not for the onset of the Spanish-American War in 1898. When uniforms were needed the government remembered the excellent work done by Rockwell's and awarded them with another contract to make uniforms. Teddy Roosevelt visited the mill to inspect the work being done. Later, Roosevelt and his men the famous Rough Riders, stormed San Juan Hill, wearing the tough uniforms made in Chenango County.
For 40 years after the turn of the 20th century the mill was idle.. The machinery was removed. There was even talk of tearing the mill down. Sometime around the mid 1950's Rockwell McPherson, a grandson of Chester Rockwell, took the property over. He envisioned a roadside hotel for his famous friend to visit. The Old Mill Restaurant was born.
The register at the desk contains familiar names, all friends of the owner. Comedians Jack Benny and Fred Allen; Jack Haley, who portrayed the Tin man in The Wizard of Oz. and many others. The Old Mill Restaurant is still fully operational as a restaurant. If the walls could talk, they would have many amazing stories to tell.


(April 2009)

(April 2009) Enlarge The Old Mill Restaurant

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