Swigart’s Mill (also known as the Beaver Creek Mill) was built in 1794 for Abraham Swigart. At about the age of 29, mason John Nagle (1765-1852) constructed the mill & inscribed his name & date on a large stone tablet on the west side of the mill near the “Martin’s Box” (an overhang from which a pulley & rope hoisted bags of grain from the farmer’s wagon).
The two-story, front-gabled, stone mill measures 45′ long x 43′ wide. The mill was originally powered by Beaver Creek’s water, which turned the interior wooden water wheel to saw lumber, grind feed, corn meal, & flour.
Swigert/Swigart Family History
According to History of Cumberland County and Adams Counties, PA (1886), it’s noted that Abraham Swigert (notice the spelling variation) was born on April 12, 1748 in Alsace, France (now Germany) & died February 24, 1813. Abraham was the son of Jacob Swigert, a French Huguenot. Abraham’s wife Eleanor Housel was born on April 21, 1764 & died August 14, 1828.
“Huguenots were French Protestants in the 16th & 17th centuries who followed the teachings of theologian John Calvin. Persecuted by the French Catholic government during a violent period, Huguenots fled the country in the 17th century, creating Huguenot settlements all over Europe, in the United States, & Africa.” (HISTORY.COM)
It is possible that the Swigert family’s fled France to the United States & the spelling of their name was anglicized to Swigart by clerks who often spelled names phonetically to fit the traditional pronunciation.
Swigart’s Mill in the 1800-1900s
Abraham & Eleanor Swigart sold the mill to Ludwig Schwartz & his son John in 1811 for $5,000 (equivalent to approximately $102,000 now) & the mill has changed hands 26 times during the 225 years since it was built. Since 1849 the mill has been used for a variety of businesses: in 1849 the lower floor was home to Stambaugh’s Carriage Shop, and the second floor was used for numerous traveling shows.
In 1920, operations at the mill were abandoned and it was purchased in 1976 by the East Berlin Historical Preservation Society, which uses the mill to house & display local mill related artifacts. Swigart’s Mill has been restored (mostly by volunteers), and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Historical details in this post were compiled from the East Berlin Historical Preservation Society’s website, Wheels of Time by the East Berlin Bicentennial Commission (1964), & other sources cited within the post.