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A Historic Grist Mill►
The Black River County Park in Morris County, New Jersey stretches 560 acres along the Black River. The 90-mile Patriot’s Path runs through the park, overlapping with the Black River trail and connecting various points of interest like the Willowwood Arboretum and the Nathan Cooper Mill. I walked a short way on the trail, but didn’t have the time to walk the seven miles to the Arboretum.
After visiting the Long Valley Peony Farm, I was heading home when I noticed the signs for the Mill. I pulled into the parking lot by the visitor center but it was closed due to the Covid-19 shutdown. The visitor center was the 19th century home of a Cooper descendant.
Nathan Cooper built the grist mill on the Black River in 1826 to mill flour for the local farms. This mill replaced an earlier one that dated back to the 1760s. Nathan’s nephew, also named Nathan, inherited the mill and passed it on to his son Abram.
A community called Milltown sprang up around the mill. Farmers travelled here from the countryside to process their crops. The town became a hub for trade and industry. The mill operated through the early 1900s.
Reviving Cooper’s Mill►
The mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It was renovated in the 1980s and is operational once again as a living museum. The non-profit friends group completed the restoration in 2006. The park held a dedication ceremony that year during its annual Black River Day celebration.
The museum normally offers tours between April and October. In non-quarantine times, a costumed master miller demonstrates the workings of the 2000 pound mill stones. The Friends of Fosterfields and Cooper Gristmill, a non-profit organization, sells the stone-ground flour and corn meal in the visitor center.
Location: 66 ROUTE 24, CHESTER TOWNSHIP, NJ 07930
Designation: County Park, NRHP
Date established/designated: November 21, 1976
Date of my visit: June 6, 2020
3 thoughts on “Cooper Mill: Black River County Park”
I would love to see an old gristmill in operation. This one looks like a lovely site. Sometimes (or always) we forget how challenging it could be for our ancestors to get the food they needed. Even if they had a good crop, processing it was another big chore.
I think the one at Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains NP still works…I brought home a bag of cornmeal from there. This one normally does demonstrations, but closed for covid.
I don’t recall seeing a mill at work in Cades Cove, but maybe they restored it since I was there.