Home | Mission & Goals | Meeting Schedule | Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

Horner's Mill Becomes Barlow

John Geiselman
From his book "Reflections"

This community had its beginning in the 1780's when Robert Black built his grist and saw mills on the bank of Rock Creek. This was about the same time that James Gettys began promoting the sale of lots in his Gettystown, once known as Marsh Creek Settlement, but now Gettysburg. To this day the old mill race is still visible. The dam used for water power for the grist mill was known as Black's Dam. The mile-long race ran an old under-shot water wheel which provided the power for the mill.

The exact date Robert Black erected his mills is not known; however, a close fix was provided by the York County court record, January term 1787 which stated: "Robert Black of Mount Joy Township has built a merchant mill on the waters of Rock Creek and wants a road from the mill to John Little's where it intersects with the Yorktown to Baltimore Road".

In the July 1787 term of court, the road was approved and is the location of the now Barlow-Two Taverns Road which inter-sects with the Baltimore Pike. Robert Black ran the mill from 1787 to 1799. The mill was used by the farmers of the community in order to have their grain ground into feed and also wheat into flour. The mill was also used as a gathering place for the men folks to talk over the affairs of the day.

Robert Black and his wife Ann had two daughters. Sarah married Aaron Deveney, and Rachel married Samuel Linn. They also had two sons, James and Henry. Robert Black's will was probated on June 27, 1799. Henry Black acquired the mill property following his father's death and ran it from 1799 to 1813.

Ann Black, Roberts widow died in 1808. In that same year, January term of the Adams County Court, a petition was read. It asked that a road from the south end of Baltimore Street in the Borough of Gettysburg to intersect the road from Routsough's mill leading to Tawney Town, be constructed. It was approved. This is now known as the Taneytown Road.

The mill property was acquired by Henry's son Robert in 1813. His father Henry died in April 1836 at 84 years of age. Robert managed the mill until 1838. It is recorded that Robert married Sally Hoseck on November 22, 1809. To this union was born Mary, Elizabeth, William, Henry, Robert, and Theodore. Robert Black sold his mill property to George Washington Horner in 1838. The records show that it was appraised at $1,900. This indicated that the mill was still a valuable asset to this section of the county.

George Washington Homer, the new owner, operated the mill for about ten years. Very little information could be found about him. He conveyed the property to Silas Miles Homer in 1849 and at that time the value had dropped to $800. George W. Homer died in Berkeley County, West Virginia on October 26, 1865.

Records show that the new owner, Silas Miles Homer was born in May 1803. He and Elizabeth McAllister were married May 18, 1837, and to this union were born Adeline M., Margaretta, and Silas McAllister. Although he owned the mills, the census listed his primary occupation as a farmer. In 1887, the assessed value of the mills had declined to $300.

There may have been a reluctance on the part of the owner to modernize the mill and convert to steam power to avoid the stoppages due to floods, droughts, and freeze-up of Rock Creek. Silas Homer died on March 6, 1865 at age 53. The estate papers showed that the mills and seven acres of land were sold to Theodore McAllister for $378.54. Around 1890 the mill was tom down and hauled away. One house was moved across the Taneytown Road to a new location.

It was Josephus Mills who opened a general store in part of his home in the year of 1885 not too far from the mill. It was at this time area residents began to feel the need for better postal service that would include those living in Cumberland and Mt. Joy Townships. There had been a post office at Greenmount since April 1, 1847 and a more recent one called Sedgwick on Little Round Top opened June 23, 1886. It had been named to honor Civil War General John Sedgwick. For a while someone would go to Sedgwick, pick up the mail for twenty some people living close to Homer's Mill, and bring it to the mill, where it could be picked up.

In 1890 some local folks talked about having the Post Office in Homer's Mill. Josephus Mills said, "Why not have it at my store and the local people can pick up their mail and other needs while they are here?" A number of the petitioners were veterans of the Civil War. It was decided to call the post office Barlow in memory of General Francis C. Barlow who fought at Gettysburg.

The local veterans recalled that just prior to the Gettysburg Campaign, Union troops, specifically divisions of General Howard's Eleventh Corps, came from Maryland heading north through this area on their way to Gettysburg. Many of the units camped along Rock Creek. One of these divisions were led by Brigadier General Francis C. Barlow of New York.

On July 1, 1863 General Barlow's unit became heavily engaged with Confederate troops led by General John Gordon of Georgia. This took place just north of the town on a small knoll called Blocher's Hill. This was later renamed Barlow's Knoll. General Barlow was shot during the battle and his troops driven from the knoll by General Gordon's men.

Barlow's men believing he is dead leave him. Gordon takes the knoll and perceiving life in General Barlow dismounts and goes to his aid. General Barlow asks General Gordon to inform his wife who is a nurse with the Union forces that he is dying. Under a flag of truce, two runners from General Gordon's staff rode through the Union lines, found Mrs. Barlow, and escorted her to the side of her husband there on the knoll.

Mrs. Barlow saw a faint bit of hope and asked that her husband be removed to the nearby Blocher farm house. Under the tender care of his wife General Barlow recovered and lived. This story does not end here for later General Barlow will hear of the death of General Gordon and he will silently mourn the loss of a man whom he looked upon as a warm friend. General Gordon in turn believed that Barlow had died at Gettysburg.

At the close of the War Brigadier General Barlow rose to prominence and became Attorney General of New York. General Gordon of Georgia became Governor of his home state. Twenty years later there was a banquet of Union and Confederate soldiers held in Washington, D.C. and ironically the two sat down next to one another. General Gordon said to Barlow, "You aren't the Barlow that died at Gettysburg are you. He said, "Yes I am he." General Barlow in return said, "Are you any relation to General Gordon that fought there?" He said, "I am that General." To say the least it was a most touching reunion for the two.

Now some twenty seven years after the war this little hamlet once known as Homer's Mill would be known as Barlow. The request was approved and the post office was installed on December 20, 1890. The storekeeper Josephus Mills was appointed Postmaster. This office was in service until December 31, 1911, after which the duties were supplied by Gettysburg.

My foster mother was two years old when the name "Barlow" came into existence. Mother's parents lived on the Keefauver homestead at that time. They generally went to near-by Harney, Maryland to the doctors, then they would stop at the Mills store and post office. Josephus Mills had a son named Abner Mills. After the son got older, Josephus built a house on top of the hill above the store. He and his wife moved in that home and their son Abner took over the store. This was a little after the turn of the century.

The first telephone line that was run into Barlow was in 1908. It was a six-party line, the subscribers were William G. Durboraw, Sentman Schriver, Franklin Cromer, David Maring, William Cromer, and terminated in the Abner S. Mills store. Each had to pay fifty dollars towards the installation of the pole line. The story is told that one telephone installation was held up because the spinster daughter of a subscriber objected to the noise. She had a point as the bell of each telephone responded to all incoming calls to the six phones on the line. The subscriber was assigned a combination of rings, such as two long, one short rings or one short and three long rings.

My mother would often tell me how the menfolks would come to the Barlow Store when Abner Mills ran it. In the summer, every day when it was hot, the men would sit on the front steps that led into the store and eat some cheese or crackers and talk. This was their entertainment. In that day the road from Gettysburg to Taneytown came through Roundtop, where a blacksmith was, then it came across the covered bridge at Rock Creek, continued on in front of the Barlow Store then up the hill and on to the Maryland line.

The Barlow store was remodeled in 1897 by Josephus Mills. It was pretty much this same way when I saw it on that cold winter day in January, 1923. The next year he added the large coffee mill that stood on the counter, also many of the customer mail bins and shelves. He left the pigeon holes where the mail use to be put at the same place, but moved the desk that was under them on the other side of the store to keep his personal things in. Abner Mills ran this store until 1913, when John Black bought it. He was a school teacher. John Black's wife kept the store in the daytime and he would teach school, then in the evenings he would tend the store. I still have the original straight back chair that Josephus Mills, Abner Mills, John Black, and J. Carnahan Smith sat on in the store.

He would drive a horse and buggy to his school. He had a small shed that he would haul on a wagon to the various schools he taught at to keep his horse in during bad weather. That shed was still in use at the time J. Carnahan Smith had the store. He used it to store wooden boxes in. John W. Black kept the store until 1915.

In the spring of 1915, J. Carnahan Smith bought the store and its contents for a lump sum and moved from his homestead (the Smith homestead where I lived first) along the Barlow - Two Taverns Road to Barlow to run the general store. He and his wife became thrifty store-keepers during World War I. One year they did a twenty thousand dollar business. Good for those days! Daddy Smith also had a trading business. He ran his huckster wagon taking things from the store to trade on things the farmershad such as eggs, butter, calves, and chickens. His covered wagon was pulled by two beautiful horses. I have many happy reflections that are connected to Daddy Smith's Store.

Read other chapters in this book

Read other personal memory historical articles

Have your own memories of life on the farm?  
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net