Daughter brings father’s work to all
Gloria Stahl Woodland holds a copy of her recently published book Mills of the Goschenhoppen Region. The book features a collection of the history of more than 90 mills that once thrived on local waterpower.
Cicero once wrote that “History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time.” If the people, places and events of yesterday are not captured in words or images, can we have a past to learn from?
We are taught world, national and state history in school, but where do we go to learn about the past in our own backyard?
One way is to search for accounts, written by respected local residents, of the lives in days-gone-by when things were much different in our hometowns. Through a labor of love, a daughter of one of those respected residents has brought her father’s work to life and shares with us a gift of local history.
Elmer G. Stahl passed away on May 17, 1996, at the age of 98, just three years after he finished documenting the information he collected over most of his adult life on the area’s mills.
From 1935 to 1946, Stahl operated what was known as the Powder Valley Mill. According to his daughter Gloria Stahl Woodland, it was “during this time when he started to collect area mill information and took pictures.” Stahl continued his research into area mills long after he sold the Powder Valley Mill.
Over the past 250 years, more than 100 gristmills, powder mills, oil mills, cider mills, paper mills, sawmills and several other types of mills operated near the banks of the many streams flowing throughout our corner of Berks, Bucks, Lehigh and Montgomery counties.
Mills of the Goschenhoppen Region captures many of those that dotted the Perkiomen, Butter Valley, Hosensack, Indian, West Branch, Macoby and Swamp creeks. The book introduces you to more than 90 of the mills that once thrived on local water-power. It was reported that no stream in Pennsylvania supported more mills than the Perkiomen Creek and its tributaries, the West and East Branch of the Perkiomen.
Stahl’s work was passed on to Gloria, and for the past 20 years, she gathered additional information and combined that with her father’s work. She completed the job to “honor all the work he put into the research.” She notes that 95 percent of the work is her father’s. Now she shares it in Mills of the Goschenhoppen Region.
The 118-page book contains nearly 250 photos and images of area mills, tools, maps and other scenes of the region from the past century.
Some of the mills still stand proudly where they once provided a service to many area farmers and merchants and can be easily recognized in the book’s photos. All that’s left of some is a few piles of stones and remnants of thriving businesses that long ago fell into a memory.
The book presents an evolution of mills in the Commonwealth and an introduction to the business of milling that serves the reader well as the journey into the pages begin.
After viewing the photos and learning the locations of once-functioning mills, readers may get the urge to take a ride in search of those still standing – this writer encourages you to do so.
After learning about the mills, one can better appreciate the contribution they made to the communities that grew up hearing the crunch of the millstones, the buzz of the saws or the water splashing off their giant water-wheels.
Mills of the Goschenhoppen Region can be purchased for $25 at the office of the Town and Country Newspaper, 2508 Kutztown Road., Pennsburg; Valley Star Gift Shop, 553 Main St., Pennsburg; or Morgan Log House, 850 Weikel Road., Kulpsville.