In this edition of Jersey Through History, we’re learning about Millbrook Village as an example of mid-19th century living. Millbrook Village governs the intersection of Old Mine Road and Millbrook Flatbrook Road in Hardwick Township, Warren County. While these roads came many years later, the re-created community still reveals much of the area’s history.
Found in the heart of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Millbrook Village dates back to 1832; and one local farmer, Abram Garris. Garris was a grain producer looking to take advantage of the recently completed Columbia-Walpack Turnpike. As a result, he built a grist mill along the road crossing “Van Campens Mill Brook.”
The Story of Millbrook Village
Once built, local farmers also used the mill to process their own grain, for a fee, of course. In fact, demand led to a village growing rapidly around the grist mill. Soon enough, other tradesmen were opening their own businesses in the village as well. Since the village didn’t have easy access to nearby supplies, it became self-sufficient; meanwhile, thanks to the Delaware River and vast mountain ranges nearby, townsfolk could make their own food, products, and services.
Among those services was a school for children in the basement of the town church. However, after two decades the church could no longer house both a school and the growing number of parishioners; so a larger church was built for the town, while the older building remained in use as a school.
At its peak, Millbrook Village had 19 buildings and roughly 75 residents. In addition to the church and school, it had a blacksmith shop, general store, and about a dozen homes; as well as a hotel. The village thrived until the Civil War and, later, the technological advances of the late 19th century. Once the old grist mill failed to compete with newer mills, local farmers lost much of their business. By the turn of the century, most people left the village and the grist mill shut down entirely.
Something Old, Something New
Over the next few decades, Millbrook Village and its vacant buildings began to deteriorate. Now, the National Parks Service preserves it as part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Millbrook Village Society also aids in moving, renovating, and refurbishing buildings; for example, you can find a replica grist mill in place of the original one. Thanks to the efforts of these organizations, the history of Millbrook Village lives on today.
The village is most active throughout the summer. In particular, many buildings are open to the public every weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Millbrook Village also hosts the “Millbrook Days” festival every fall; this free event teaches guest about life as a villager. You can click here to find future events.
Even when the buildings of Millbrook Village close during the winter and spring months, the village itself remains open. During these times, the trip remains a fun excursion. Which means there is never a bad day to step back in time and discover Millbrook Village.
All Photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ