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«HAER No. NY-134 Windmill at Water Mill Village of Water Mill Town of Southampton Suffolk Gounty New York PHOTOGRAPHS REDUCED COPIES OF MEASURED ...»

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We know that a shaft, probably the original, was replaced in 1854, but we have no description of the replacement other than a statement that it was cut from a solid piece of white oak


I cut a white oak tree in Long Spring clost for Mr. James Corwith for a mill shaft £.J Sold it for $15 £.J It stood on the north side of the flag ho3e. and meshered £BXQJ 10 ft round the butt/*./ | | The afore mentioned a. 18*J9 photograph shows the neck journal of a windshaft lying on the ground next to the mill; if this is the 1854 replacement, it apparently had what Rex Wailes called the "usual" neckwear in New England, iron strips set.

longitudinally into the wood of the shaft, separated by strips of wood. The iron strips prevented /wear on the wooden windshaft at the neck. This neckwear often reinforced wooden windshafts in English mills before the advent of iron neck and tailpieces and iron shafts. Some New England mills constructed between 1746 and 1810 display the same iron fillets on their windshafts and this neckwear was also found on the Hook (1806) mill, which has other Cape Cod features including the boat-shaped cap. Given the 1800 construction date of the Windmill at Water Mill, it is quite likely that


HAER No. NY-134 (page 34) the 1854 neck journal, on a solid timber shaft, duplicated the original.

The origins of the present windshaft are even more obscure. In 1918, Edward P. Buffet's article on Long Island

windmills described the Gorwith mill's shaft:

... four rough logs bolted together with short filling pieces at the journali but this may be only a makeshift, thrust through the loose and toppling driving gear /brake wheel7 to support the wings. The pillow block /heck bearing/ is generally wooden but here it is of iron and for that small mill, is cast 1to receive a shaft about 20 in. in diameter.- "0

In 1932, Rex Wailes described a similar windshaft:

The neck and tail are of cast iron with a wooden "poll" fix^d in front of the neck to hold the sail stocks, and in between the two

iron castings andl bolted up to them are four rough:

saplings from 6 in. "to 9 in. diameter and none too straightt01 * Although Buffet does not specify the material employed in the "short filling pieces at the journal," it seems probable that it was cast iron and that the shaft Wailes described in 1932 was the same as that of 1918. Wailes does not say that it is "recent," as he does the tailpole and shingles. We do not know with certainty when this windshaft was installed, but it may have been c. 1889, as the photograph suggests, replacing the 1854 windshaft.

The a. 1889 windshaft may never have been intended to drive the mill. By this date Samuel Corwith had sold the mill and it had apparently ceased to operate; no written evidence


HAER No. NY-134 (page 35) suggests that its new owners, Lombard and Ayres, planned to operate the mill. But structural evidence is conflictingit... seemed to represent the absolute reversal of everything that was correct in millwright work /and it/ seemed lamentable that a man should take the trouble to make iron castings and to put them on to a primitive form of shaft, made of four rough saplings, and,then to pass the sails through a big block of wood.

In addition to the iron neck and tail pieces the mill also had a cast iron neck bearing, perhaps installed at the same time. However, these apparently more advanced elements were joined to the "primitive ^.. rough saplings" and the whole assembly terminated! in a wooden, rather than cast iron, "poll." Retaining the square wooden "poll" conformed to local eastern Long Island practice, but the juxtaposition of the other elements is more difficult to explain. Perhaps the owner of the mill intended that the shaft be capable of operating and therefore considered iron neck and tail pieces, and a cast iron neck bearing, worth the "trouble." Why the central section of the shaft was then constructed with "four rough saplings" is a mystery. One possibility is that the use of iron neck and tail pieces to take most of the stress rendered a solid timber shaft superfluous. Since there are at least three other examples of similar "gerry-built"shafts in eastern Long Island windmills, in the Hook (1806), Beebe (1820) and Hayground (1801) mills, all dating from the late nineteenth


HAER No. NY-134 (page 36) century or later, it is also possible that bolting four timbers together was common local practice in reconstructing windshafts in an area where windmills no longer served any real economic or technological function. ^ The particular form of the shaft of the Windmill at Water Mill, with the timbers passing through the brake wheel, is unique and was probably, as Buffet suggests, an effort to support the "toppling" brake wheel.105 In the 1938 restoration, the carpenter apparently replaced the "saplings" with six-inch square pine timbers and the cast iron neck and tailpieces with wood, but the cast iron bearing remains. The origins of the oak tailpiece, obviously much older than the pine timbers and perhaps a nineteenth century piece previously in that mill or another, are not known.


HAER No. NY-134 (page 37) IV. Conclusion The Windmill at Water Mill remains today on the site it has occupied for 165 years. Although it ceased grinding ninety years ag°* it has made the transition from economic and technological utility, to decorative object to community symbol. The exterior of the structure is in good condition and is maintained as part of a village park; the interior is deteriorated and in need of considerable repair and restoration. The third floor is extremely weak and its western carrying beam has failed. Much of the mill's machinery, including the brake wheel, the great spur wheel and the wallower, are severely damaged by dry rot.

The Water Mill Village: Improvement Association, Inc., which currently owns the mill, has expressed interest in restoring it, but lacks adequate funds. The mill's recent listing on the National Register of Historic Places has refocused attention to its needs and makes it eligible for matching grants and loans for restoration. This may enable the critical work to be done in order to assure the preservation of this importanr example of American vernacular and utilitarian architecture, Which occupies a unique place among Long Island windmills.


HAER No. NY-134 (page 38)


1. Marion Nichol Rawson, Little Old Mills (New York, 1935), 123; Russella J. Hazard, Early Sag Harbor: The Windmills (Sag Harbor, 1957), 3; Elizabeth H. White, "Notes on Various Windmills," typescript, folder LL 104, East Hampton Free Library (hereafter EHFL); William D. Halsey, Sketches from,Local History (Southampton, 1966), 29.

2. Town Trustees Records of Southampton, Part II, 1741Sag Harbor, 1931) 48-49, 54, 349.

3. On site inspection, July 14, 1977; Rose E. Heatley, North Haven's 300 Years, 1665-1965 (North Haven, 1965), 12, also states that the Mitchel mill is the Windmill at Water Mill. However, Hazard, Early Sag Harbor, n.p. has a map which shows the Mitchell /sic/ mill and the Corwith mill as two distinct windmills, with several other mills located nearby.

4. James Mitchel is identified as a shipowner in 1816 in a newspaper clipping in^the Southampton Colonial Society Scrapbook, 172; John Jermafn ran another mill until 1803 according to Hazard, Early? Sag Harbor, 1; Samuel Corwithe Account Book, 1795-1835, n^p.., manuscript MV-214, Queens Boro Public Library*

5. Heatley, North Haven, 12.

6. Pardon T. Tabor Account Book, 1807-1829, 101, manur script MV-115, Queens Boro Public Library.

7. Rex Wailes/'Windmills of Eastern Long Island," in Cornell Jaray, ed. The Mills of Long Island (Port Washington, N.Y,, 1962), 8; "Address of Carlton Corwith at dedication of tablet placed on the old Windmill at Water Mill, Sept, 3, 1934," 1, typescript, in the possession of Mrs. Evelyn C.

Hansen, Southampton, N.Y. ; interview, Dr. Arthur Corwith, Bridgehampton, N.Y., May 19, 1977; "L.I, Windmill of 1800 Accepted for Museum," Newr York Herald Tribune (September 5, 1933), n.p., clipping in folder JJ 7, EHFL.

8. Robert J. Hefner,"Gardiner's Island Windmill," Historic American Engineering Record-Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities Report, August, 1977, 4; James Truslow Adams, Memorials of Old Bridgehampton (Bridgehampton, N.Y., 1916), 23; Sullivan Cook Account Book, 1808-1868, 32, manuscript #5, Suffolk County Historical Society; Dean F. Failey, Long Island Is My Nation: The Decorative Arts and Craftsmen, 1640-1830 (Setauket, N.Y., 1976), 273.

9. Deed, Jeremiah and Rebecca Ludlam to James Corwithe, February 29, 1810, unrecorded, in the possession of Miss Eleanor Corwith, Water Mill, N.Y. (hereafter Corwith collection).


HAER No. NY-134 (page 39) Notes (cont.) Perhaps this is the Ludlum whose name became identified in some local sources with the windmill. However, the Ludlam family operated the water mill from which the village re-, ceived its name, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; see Halsey, Sketches, 27.

10. George Rogers Howell, The Early History of Southampton, L.I.,_ New York (Albany, 1887), 227; also an incription on an unacknowledged deed, Stephen and Sarah Sayre and Mehetabel Sayre to Nathaniel Griffing, April 8, 1811, Corwith collection, gives the same date.

11. Wailes,"Windmills," 8; Halsey, Sketches, 29.

12. Deed, Trustees of the Proprieters /siq7 of the Common and undivided lands and marshes of the Town of Southampton to James Corwith, August 14, 1860, recorded April 25, 1898, Liber 469 of Deeds, 7-9, Suffolk County Clerk's Office (hereafter SCCO).

13. Gregory B. Paxtorf and Robert J. Hefner, "Hayground Windmill," National Register of Historic Places Inventory— Nomination Form, August, 1^977, item 8, p. 1, SPLIA; Jeannette Edwards Rattray, The Old Hook Mill (East Hampton, N.Y., 1966), 11? Robert J. Hefner and Gregory B. Paxton,"Beebe Windmill," HAER-SPLIA Report, August, 1977, 4.

14. Advertisement, Suffolk Gazette (June 24, 1805), n.p. ;

Halsey, Sketches, 27; Kenneth Crews, "Old Water Mill at Water Mill," HAER-SPLIA inventory report, August, 1975; Charles A.

Jagger, "The old Mill Hill Mill and Other Old Mills," The Southampton Magazine, vol. 1, no. 2 (Summer, 1912), 18, states that "At Watermill a windmill was erected to supplement the water mill, which could be used only when the bay was out," but since Jagger is refering to the 1800 Corwith mill here, the statement is probably incorrect, in 1814 the water mill no longer served as a grist mill and the two milla apparently had different functions.

15. Bond, James Corwithee to Stephen Howell, April 22, 1818, states that Corwith is a miller; deed, Howell Goodale to James Corwithee, October 15, 1818, unrecorded and unacknowledged, identifies him as a yeoman; both documents Corwith collection.

16. U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States, Schedule 1: Population, 1850, Suffolk County, Town of Southampton, 385; U.S. Census Office, Eiqhth Census of the United States, Schedule Is Population, 1860, Suffolk County, Town of Southampton, 132; interview, Eric P. Corwith, April 27, 1977.


HAER No. NY-134 (page 40) Notes (cont.)

17. Ralph Henry Gabriel, The Evolution of Long Island:

A Story of Land and Sea ( Port Washington, N.Y., 1960), Chapter VI,

18. U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States, Schedule 4: Productions of Agriculture in the Town of Southampton, Suffolk County, 1850, 657; U.S. Census, Schedule 1, 1850, 385? assessment rolls, Town of Southampton, 1851, Southampton Town Assessor's Office, lists twelve acres worth $1,000; assessment rolls. Town of Southampton, 1353-1857, 1859-1864 and 1866-1872 list twenty-four acres valued at $1,500, while the federal census of agriculture for 1850 lists thirty improved acres and fifteen unimproved acres and for 1860 lists thirty-six acres.

19. On-going research into mid-nineteenth century Huntington, Long Island, about sixty miles further west than Southampton, indicates that the lowest 40% of propertyowners held real assets valued at $1,200 or less, and these people held only 4.2% of all the real assets held in the town, whereas the wealthiest 10% held 33.2% of the town's real property, at least as: indicated on the 1850 federal census. However, only about 20% of the adult population held any property at all. ^Southampton may have differed somewhat, but scanning the census schedules gives the impression of a similar distribution of property.

20. Bill, B,H. Foster, Southampton, to James Corwith, February 13, 1846; bill, Samuel A. Sealy to James Corwith, n.d. ; bill, Geo. and Chas. Brown and Co., Sag Harbor, to James Corwithe, January 1, 1849; bill, Samuel A. Sealy to James Corwith, n.d.? bill, Geo, B. Brown, Sag Harbor, to James Corwithe, February 11, 1846; all bills, Corwith collection; Daniel Hildreth Account Book, 1822-1854, 18 in the possession of Mr. and Mrs. Albert J. Halsey, Southampton, N.Y. (hereafter Halsey collection)

21. Bill, James Corwith to Daniel Fordham ^month illegiblej7 2nd, 1841, Corwith collection,

22. Bond, James Corwithee to Stephen Howell, April 22, 1818, Corwith collection; mortgage, James Corwithee to Stephen Howell, April 22, 1818, recorded April 24, 1818, Liber F of Mortgages, 256-258, SCCO; assignment of bond, Stephen Howell to Silas, Mary and Abigail Corwithe, April 22, 1822, Corwith collection; assignment of mortgage, Stephen Howell to Silas, Mary and Abigail Corwithe, April22, 1822, recorded May 7, 1825, Liber J of Mortgages, 147-148, SCCO;


HAER No. NY-134 (page 41) Notes (cont.) deed, Silas, Mary and Abigail Corwithe to Jeremiah Hains, September 13, 1824, unrecorded, Corwith collection; deed, James and Harmony Zsiq7 Corwithe to Jeremiah Haines, September 13, 1824, recorded May 7, 1825, Liber B of Deeds, 230SCCO; the land sold to Haines may have been that Corwith purchased from Howe 11 Goodale, October 15, 1818, for $175, unrecorded and unacknowledged deed, Corwith collection.

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