"We need more people to know we are here," said Will Caverly of Elverson, the new executive director of the Mill at Anselma, when describing the site's need for visitors, as well as volunteers.
The Mill at Anselma, located at 1730 Conestoga Road, Chester Springs, is a Colonial-era custom grist mill that served its local agricultural community for around 250 years.
The site features a 16-foot steel water wheel, which is powered by Colonial-era wooden gears and was used to produce cornmeal and flour. The site, which was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 2005, is maintained by the Mill at Anselma Preservation and Educational Trust, a nonprofit organization that formed in 1998.
The mill is open from April to mid-December on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Demonstration Days are held on the second Saturday of the month. "That's when we get the mill going," Caverly explained. "We put some grain through the mill, the water wheel will start up and the gears will be turning."
The next scheduled Demonstration Day will be on Aug. 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Special technology tours will be available that day and will focus on how different parts of the mill work. Visitors will also be able to meet Dave Rollenhagen, the site's miller, and hear him talk about how the gears work and what they do. There will also be hands-on, interactive activities for children, including the opportunity to sift flour.
Visitors are offered guided tours on the weekends and on Demonstration Days. "We could always use more tour guides and docents," Caverly said. He noted that while most tour guides are local senior citizens, people age 18 and up are welcome. "You don't have to have a background in history, but you have to have a sense of why it is important to preserve something.
"We would be willing to take volunteers under age 18 for other jobs," he added. "We have all kinds of things around here that we need help with, like cleaning up the grounds."
Volunteer tour guides get a one-on-one training session and are provided documents containing background information about the history of the mill. "We have a mentorship program. (New volunteers) can shadow (seasoned) tour guides," Caverly noted. "The mill itself is an interesting engineering piece of history. I can see people who are interested in physics (volunteering) or people interested in farming because this is part of agricultural history and (deals with) how we make our food."
For those who visit the mill on weekdays, there are a series of informational panels that provide a history of the mill, which was constructed in 1747 by Samuel Lightfoot. The mill changed ownership through the years, and its last owner through 1982, Oliver Collins, ran a grist mill, a saw mill, a cider press, a metal working shop, a barbershop and a lawnmower repair shop at the location, all powered by the same water wheel. The family also operated the Anselma Post Office.
"The boards are in progression from the original Lightfoot family, who built the mill, all the way up to the Collins family," said Rollenhagen. "If someone comes and there are no tour guides available, it is a pretty decent self-guided tour."
The Mill at Anselma is located on Route 401, near its intersection with Route 113. For more information, including details about upcoming events, readers may visit http://www.anselmamill.org or search for "The Mill at Anselma Preservation & Educational Trust" on Facebook. Caverly can be contacted at 610-827-1906 or Executive.Director@Anselmamill.org.