(Muscoot River - Mahopac Falls - Carmel - Putnam County)
The outlet of Lake Mahopac, combined with that of Kirk Lake, furnishes a water power unequaled in the county. It was used at a very early date and here were doubtless located "Kirkham's Mills" mentioned in the laying out of roads in 1745. These were probably a small affair and were soon replaced by a much larger and more durable building which lasted more than a century.
This mill, which is remembered by the present generation, was built in 1756. It was built with massive timbers and covered with cedar and from the color which it was painted it was known to all the country round as "Red Mills".
On Erskine's military map they are put down as "Robinson's Mills." Although they were located on Lot 5 of Philipse Patent owned by Roger Morris, yet in the deed given by the commissioners of forfeitures they are mentioned as having "become forfeited by the attainder of Roger Morris and Beverly Robinson"; from which it is probable they were built by these men in partnership and it must have been a very expensive building in its day. Like all the rest of the property of Roger Morris these mills with the hind around them were confiscated. On the 16th of May, 1781, Samuel Dodge, John Hathorn and Daniel Graham, commissioners of forfeiture, sold to William Smith "All that certain tract or parcel of land called the Mill Farms, containing 188 acres more or less. Together with all and singular the advantages and privileges heretobefore derived to the mills on the farm by the water issuing out of the two ponds with their outlets and several streams thereof and including the large island in the large pond called Hustins Pond". The price was $2.750. The deed to John Le Clare conveys to him 89 acres, "excepting the waters with their courses as they run from the great pond through this farm for the use of William Smith's saw and grist mills".
Another still larger tract was also sold to William Smith lying between Mahopac and Kirk Lakes. The mills and the lands adjoining were sold by William Smith to Robert Johnston, about 1799.
In the "Country and Poughkeepsie Advertiser", January 9th, 1788, appeared the following advertisement: "William M. Smith No 7 Old Slip, New York, has for sale exceeding cheap, his Capital Mills, now let at $200 per year, with several farms near the same, in Fredericksburg Precinct".
It seems that the original deed to William Smith had been destroyed by fire and on the 28th of March, 1800, the Legislature passed an act for the "Relief of Robert Johnston", by which the abstract on record in the clerk's office of Dutchess county should be held as legal evidence of the existence of the deed. Judge Robert Johnston remained in possession of the mills till the time of his death, when they descended to his son, William H. Johnston, who died in 1823, leaving a will by which he authorized his executors, Ward B. Howard, Abraham Smith and Theodorus Van Wyck to sell his real estate. In accordance with this they conveyed to Cornelius J. Tompkins, May 1st, 1829, one hundred and twenty-two acres of land "together with all the water privileges of the great and little ponds as heretofore belonged to Robert Johnston, deceased". January 1st, 1835, Cornelius Tompkins sold the same to John Haff and Ira Dean for $12.000. October 4th, 1837, they were sold by John Haff and his assignees to Amzi L. Dean and Isaac Lounsbury. Lounsbury bought the share of Amzi Dean in 1840 and he sold the mills to Amzi Slawson March 31st, 1855.
Amzi Slawson kept the mill property till October 1st, 1858, when he sold it to Seeley Slawson and he conveyed it to William and Charles Theill April 28th, 1862.
William Theill sold his share to Charles Theill August 30, 1864 and he conveyed it to George Juengst of New York Febrnary 1st, 1865. He purchased it for the manufacturing firm of Thomas J. McArthur and others to whom he gave a deed January 2, 1866.
T. J. McArthur and his associates organized the Empire Sewing Machine Company and the premises were sold to this company May 1st, 1866. It was intended by this company to establish a large manufactory at this place, an intention which was frustrated by subsequent events and the entire premises and water rights were sold to the Mahopac Manufacturing Company, January 10th, 1869. This company had already established a large manufactory on the Muscoot River, in Westchester County.
In September, 1870, the Board of Water Commissioners of the city of New York took possession of the water privileges and from that time the occupation of the famous "Red Mills", like Othello's, was "gone".
In 1871, when the Aqueduct Commission claimed the waters of the Muscoot River, the Juengsts no longer had enough water to power their mills. George Juengst Sr. then founded, with his sons George Jr. and Charles, a machine shop in a building he leased from Joel Purdy in Croton Falls (Somers).
Originally called Owenville, for early mill owner John Owen, the hamlet was renamed Croton Falls when the railroad came in 1846.
The Putnam and Dutchess Turnpike Company was incorporated by an act of the Legislature passed April 11, 1827, by which act Edward Smith, Alvin Chase, Herman R., Stephen and Elizer Baldwin and such persons as should associate with them, were incorporated to build a good and sufficient turnpike road, to commence at a point on the Croton Turnpike in the town of Somers in Westchester County, between the house of Isaac Brown and the bridge over the east branch of Croton River, a few rods northeast of the mill of John Owen, to run from thence the most eligible route through the County of Putnam, to, or near, the house occupied by Sylvanus Merritt, in the town of Pawlings, in the County of Dutchess, passing on this route on the west side of the Court House in the town of Carmel, Putnam County and near the house of Edward Smith, in the town of Kent and near the house of Sewell White in the town of Pawlings.
For several years the city paid an annual rent for the privilege of drawing water from the lakes but under the act of 1879 for enlarging the powers of the commissioners the premises were taken for the use of the city and on June 14th, 1881, Hubert O. Thompson, chief of the Department of Public Works, offered for sale at auction the "superstructure wood work and machinery of the Red Mills" and they were purchased by Lewis Baker for $227.
The buildings were torn down and the ponderous beams and timber with the cedar covering, sold in small parcels and the place that had known it for a century and a quarter knew it no more forever. The site of this building was on the north side of the road and on the east side of the outlet of the two lakes. Kirk Lake, which is the "little pond" mentioned in the deed to William Smith, is 591 feet above the sea and covers 101 acres. From Lake Mahopac to the Red Mills there is a fall of 126 feet and from the water flowing over the dam at the mill the locality gained the name of Mahopac Falls. The removal of the dam when the old mill was destroyed has rendered this name no longer significant. In addition to the grist mill, which did a large business for the early times, there were also saw mills and a fulling mill. It is said that the first carding mill in the country was brought here by an Englishman named Ellinworth about 1800. He first set it up in Peekskill where it remained two years and he then brought it up to the Red Mills. Previous to the Revolution it is stated that Col. Roger Morris had a log mansion near the mill, to which he and his wife, as lord and lady of the manor, came, during the summer months, to visit their highland estate and their tenants. The residence of Mrs. Augustus Odell, a short distance west of the old mill site, encloses a portion of the original log house thus occupied by the former owners of all this section of country. The story that Major Andre stopped at this house while being taken to the Robinson House after his capture has no foundation in fact.
William S. Pelletreau, A.M.
History of Putnam County (1886)