This simple rendition of the Mill speaks to its proud vernacular origins. You can almost hear the voices of the Phillips family members and the farmers who brought their grain to be ground marveling at the beauty of the land upon which the 18th-century structure sits. Just as we still do today.
The history of Phillips’ Mill begins with Rebecca Norton, who married William Kitchen (sometimes spelled “Kitchin”) around 1713. Rebecca and William had five children, including a son named William born in 1721. William Senior died in 1727. Rebecca then married Thomas Phillips. They had two sons, Aaron and Thomas.
Rebecca’s son William married Sarah Ely. In 1754, Kitchen purchased a little over three acres of land from Reuben and Simon Pownall. In 1755 Sarah’s father, Joshua Ely, conveyed to Kitchen a 100 acre-plus portion of the Ely homestead lying next to the Delaware River, “upon which Kitchen erected a Mill for his half-brother Aaron Phillips.”
On April 10, 1756, Aaron Phillips paid William Kitchen 200 pounds for an undivided interest in the land. The indenture states that the property includes a grist Mill.
In 1759, Aaron Phillips became the sole owner of the property. Aaron sold the Mill and slightly more than 105 acres to his son, Thomas, in 1791. Thomas had a son named Aaron and at some point the property passed to him. Aaron died in 1858 and his son, Charles, became the sole proprietor of the Mill.
In 1889, Charles sold the Mill and 27 acres of land to Stephen Betts and his wife. Around that time, Dr. George Marshall of Philadelphia and his family began to spend summers with Mrs. Betts.
Seven years later, on October 7, 1896, Dr. Marshall bought the property from the Betts family. Dr. Marshall and his family lived in the Lentenboden House (the pink house at the corner of Phillips Mill and River Roads). The Mill continued to be operated as needed.
In 1903, Dr. Marshall sold the miller’s house and four acres to his boyhood friend, William Lathrop. The Mill became the playhouse for the Marshall and Lathrop children. The Lathrops’ Sunday afternoon teas, to which local artists and neighbors were invited, were the beginnings of the community association. These early “members” included the artists Rae Sloan Bredin, Fern Coppedge, John Folinsbee, Daniel Garber, Mary Elizabeth Price, Edward Redfield and Walter Schofield.
In 1928, Dr. Marshall became concerned about the future of the Mill. He worried that if it were still his private property at his death, the Mill would be sold to an owner who might end its function as a dynamic community resource. A committee was organized in 1928 to consider the purchase of the Mill. It was chaired by Mr. H. H. Weaver. In October of that year, Mr. William Taylor was appointed to head a subscription committee to raise funds to buy the property. The committee raised $6,815. On November 27, 1929, the Mill was purchased from Dr. Marshall for $5,000. The Phillips’ Mill Community Association was formed.
An Art Committee was quickly established, and the first Art Exhibition was held in 1929. In addition, the Forum was organized for the discussion of civic interests, continuing the long-standing practice at the Mill and the Lathrops’ afternoon teas. The Drama Committee was formed and continues to produce plays for both adults and children — many of them written in house. In 1992 a juried, annual Photography Exhibition was inaugurated.
In 2011 Children’s Theater resumed at the Mill following a few years’ hiatus. Each year, the Special Events Committee hosts a gala event in support of the Preservation Fund.
These and other activities are organized and directed by volunteers from the Mill’s membership.
The Phillips' Mill Community Association supports programming in the visual and performing arts, and hosts social and educational events. It is the broadest-ranging venue for artistic expression in Bucks County.
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