Mill Photo

The Mills of Newfield

The town of Newfield started off as many other small rural towns did in the early 19th century. As an agricultural based village that was dependent on the survival of its crops and resources. This was the primary reason for the building of mills in Newfield. Its small streams and abundance of lumber and waterpower left it susceptible for the mass production of mills. The first mill in Newfield was a sawmill that was developed in 1809 by a Mr. Eliakim Dean. Two years later he proceeded to build yet another mill but of a different kind. This mill was known as a gristmill and was developed in 1811. A gristmill grinds down raw grains into different kinds of flour. These two mills would kick off the production of mills in Newfield. In 1815 Samuel R. Rogers built a carding mill in the town. The Newfield Flouring Mills, also known as the Tompkins County Mills, were built in 1830. These were a series of mills that were used to grind down flour by the use of steam and stream power. Nicholas, Luce and Dudley developed them. Afterwards Luce and Dudley left and Nicholas became the sole owner and operator of these mills. These mills produced 2500 bushels of merchant flour per year and an average of 40,000 bushels of custom flour. These mills were later acquired back by Dudley. By the year 1836 there were 5 gristmills (Two in the village) and 21 sawmills (Three in the village) in the relatively small town.

John Dean erected two more mills called the lower mills in 1850. P.S. Dudley became a part owner in these mills in 1856. And in the year 1859 he bought out the other partner in the mills and became the sole proprietor. These mills turned out 30,000 bushels of custom flour per year. By the 1860's Dudley controlled both mills and ran them, grinding over 70,000 bushels of flour per year. Dudley sold the mills in 1875.

lower mill Lower Mill was located on Depot Road.
Upper Mill was located on Main Street. It burned down in 1918.


Mills not only provided Newfield with a way to refine their crops, but it also created many badly needed jobs. For example, a miller was needed to take care of the mill and mill the grain for the people. Much of the miller's time was paid for in flour. He claimed one bushel for every ten bushels that was milled. It required a wagone,r to transport the goods to the market. It also required a cooper in order to make barrels to store the flour in. By 1894 only two flounnills remained in Newfield owned by William VanOstrand and William Wetherell. The Cayuga Inlet which was the main source of power for the'mills was dammed just six years earlier in order to run a sawmill, cider mill, a woolen mill, and a express wagon manufacturer. As the tirnber became scarcer and new forms of marketing, such as hay, were developed mills especially the sawmills gradually began disappearing. Newfield's population sprang up around the mills that developed on the Cayuga, Inlet early in the 19th century. Its people were dependent on the mills for a source of food income and jobs. The small town of Newfield and it's people were made possible by the small streams that originally attracted people to the land and the intuition it took to build these pieces of history.

      Another photo of the remains of Upper Mill
      (photo by G. Emerson)


Content provided by Luke Rumsey
(black & white photos courtesy of Newfield Historical Society)


Finley, George M., et. al. Newfield- 150 Years, (1822-1972). Ithaca: Ithaca Arts and Crafts, 1972). This booklet is available at the Newfield Historical Society and Newfield Public Library.

Marsh, Jane. A Short History of Tompkins County. Ithaca, NY: Dewitt Historical Society of Tompkins County, 1986.

Pierce, Henry B. History of Tompkins County, New York: 1817- 1879. Ovid, NY: W. F. Morrison & Co., 1976.