Archive Sleuth

Carl’s Mill

After work on Monday 3/28/2011 I drove over to the site of Carl’s Mill on the Pocantico River in Sleepy Hollow. Here’s an engraving of Carl’s Mill as it appeared on the cover of Gleason’s Pictorial on June 11, 1853. I wanted to try and compare the features of the waterfall and waterwheel in the engraving with whatever was there now.

Carl’s Mill had also been know as “Hart’s Mills” and is marked on the 1867 map below:

So here’s is a photo of what I found:

Now compare the outlined areas in the engraving with the same areas in 2011:

The water level is a little higher in the photo, but it looks like a pretty good match. Next, I went over to the right of the big boulder where the waterwheel should have been and began looking around on the ground. I found several strips of rusted metal:

There was also a lot of fine sand and gravel on the ground underneath where the waterwheel had stood. I suppose that the waterwheel dumped sand and small rocks that had travelled down the wooden flume leading to the waterwheel, and was deposited here. Also notice the large piece of sheet metal half-buried in the gravel.

But the real find was the millstone! A millstone is a large flat stone wheel used for grinding grains. Millstones have characteristic grooves cut into the surface of the wheel, and fan outward from the center. (The photo with my foot is for scale).

But thats not all:  Washington Irving, in his short essay “Sleepy Hollow”, which first appeared in The Knickerbocker Magazine of May 1839 (not to be confused with the short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” published  20 years earlier) describes his alter-ego Diedrich Knickerbocker visiting “an old goblin-looking mill, situated amoung rocks and waterfalls, with clanking wheels, and rushing streams, and all kinds of uncouth noises” on the Pocantico River in Sleepy Hollow.

“As we approached it, an old negro thrust his head, all dabbled with flour, out of a hole above the water-wheel, and grinned, and rolled his eyes, and looked like the very hobgoblin of the place. The illustrious Diedrich fixed upon him, at once, as the very one to give him that invaluable kind of information never to be acquired from books. He beckoned him from his nest, sat with him by the hour on a broken mill-stone, by the side of the waterfall, heedless of the noise of the water, and the clatter of the mill; and I verily believe it was to his conference with this African sage, and the precious revelations of the good dame of the spinning-wheel, that we are indebted for the surprising though true history of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman, which has since astounded and edified the world”.

In other words, the black mill-worker told Washington Irving the legend of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman while sitting on a broken millstone next to the waterwheel.

Its probably just a tall-tale. But if not, this may be the same millstone Irving and the mill-worker sat on and traded stories.

10 comments on “Carl’s Mill

    March 30, 2011

    My interest is a good mystery and search for clues. Sleepy Hollow and its story is one of my favorites. Have fun being a sleuth of history.

  2. sarah acheson
    March 30, 2011

    I’m liking this already!

  3. Becky
    March 30, 2011

    I’m hooked. Keep ’em coming.

  4. Courtney
    March 31, 2011

    Awesome detective work! Can’t wait to see where you’re off to next! 🙂

  5. Jackie
    March 31, 2011

    Great stuff, Lucas! I love the connection with Washington Irving, possible origin of an American classic. This is my favorite kind of story. Are you going south to check out Huckleberry Finn?

  6. David
    April 3, 2011

    Ha! That’s a great match with the rocks. Good find.

  7. Jennifer
    April 7, 2011

    Looks like so much fun!

  8. Katrina
    April 28, 2011

    Cool find!

  9. Gareth
    August 11, 2015

    Awesome find! I can’t quite figure out where it was though. Could you email me directions? I’d love to go to the site.
    Thank you

  10. Clifton Jamison
    October 1, 2016

    Awesome account of the mill and Washington Irving’s observations. I used to play around that area in1959 between the ages 7-10, but mostly the old cemetery and Tarrytown. I lived in the old Robert E. Hill apartments on Broadway across from the
    Catholic church on Prospect Ave.I’d love to go back there someday.

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This entry was posted on March 29, 2011 by in Historic sites, Pocantico Hills.


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