We received the following correction notice from Bucks County Herald reporter Kathryn Finegan Clark, regarding a column she wrote with information about Durham Historical Society:
The By the Way column appearing in the Bucks County Herald on May 18 contained an error. A fish-shaped mold was donated to the Durham Historical Society by the William Little family. Les Williams donated a grain level.
The correction I meant to include in my June 2 column did not happen. Mea culpa.
Hopefully, this will be the first in a series of periodic notices highlighting the changes that are occurring at the old mill and the surrounding area. So many people are unaware of the important role that Durham played in national and even world history. We should all take a great deal of pride in the background of our village and the purpose of these notes is to help people remember our history and to make people aware of the efforts being made to preserve the things we have, so future generations will be able to enjoy them as well.
Some significant measures have been taken at the mill during the time of COVID. Most of the windows in both the old and newer portions of the mill have been replaced. Money to finance this undertaking was received from a grant, and not only were the windows thusly replaced but an ADA compliant restroom was installed as well as a new viewing area surrounding the water wheel. With this work completed, the building “envelope” is secured, the restroom facilities will now make things easier for guests when lectures, workshops, and other events are scheduled and young children as well as those folks in wheel chairs will be able to see the water wheel through glass panels that replaced the old wooden wall surrounding the wheel.
Stop by some time and check out how fresh the new windows make the building look. Keep watching for notices publicizing events at the mill. By attending, you’ll get the opportunity to see some of the other work that has been completed. When you have a chance, take a look at our website at www.durhamhistoricalsociety.org, our Instagram presence, or our Facebook page and you’ll be kept up to date on the many happenings here at the mill. All the work being accomplished is done through grants and contributions so tax dollars can be expended on other township priorities. If you’d like to contribute to the cause, instructions on how to do so can be found at our website.
The Durham Historical Society is happy to announce that Mr. Jeff Finegan will give a presentation on George Washington at the Durham Mill on Sunday May 22nd at 2pm. The event is free, although donations for Mill restoration are welcome.
The Durham Historical Society recently came into possession of an original oil painting by the late Berks County artist, Paul “Papa” Horning. Mr. Horning, born late in the 19th Century, was a self-trained artist who expressed his talent basically in oil painting depicting rural and agricultural scenes of Eastern Pennsylvania. Mr. Horning painted from memory, studying the subject area carefully and then returning to his studio, he painted the scene as it had been stored in his mind.
The painting, a gift from Mrs. Ronny Riegel, depicts a team of six horses with a covered wagon standing by the old Durham Grist Mill. The painting shows the mill as it would have looked prior to 1913 (when the warehouse portion of the structure was built. Durham Road and Old Furnace Road are shown as dirt roads and the old Durham General store is proudly displayed as well.
The painting ad originally been owned by Dr. Richard Riegel, Ronny’s late husband. Dr. Riegel was born in Durham and had a father and brother who were both millers at the Durham Mill. Dr. Riegel served in the Korean War in a M.A.S.H. unit and was a scrub nurse for Dr., Richard Hornsberger, who under the pseudonym, Richard Hooker, wrote the original book that the M.A.S.H. TV series and movie were based upon.
The painting will be on loan to Durham Township to be displayed at the township meeting room. The Society sincerely offers their thanks to Mrs. Riegel for her generosity.
The plants you see growing in the large box near the Post Office are corn plants. More specifically, they are originally known as maize and the variety you see displayed here is an interesting one. It is called Painted Mountain corn and is similar to corn that the Native American people planted in colonial times. This particular variety was developed in Montana during the 1970’s. The grower, Dave Christensen collected hundreds of varieties of native heirloom maize and used selective cross breeding to come up with this particular strain. Native Americans were cognizant of the need to find a grain that was resistant to drought, could thrive in warm temperatures with a short growing season, and would taste good as well as be easy to store and prepare. Using these needs as a blueprint, Mr. Christensen centered his attention on varieties that would carry these specific traits and the Painted Mountain corn was his final product.
The corn was originally used for grinding into corn flour but was also used for parching, a process where dried corn kernels were slowly heated in a dry skillet until the skin splits and the kernel softens. This product could be cooled and stored for long periods of time or it could be enjoyed “as is” with a little salt and used for a snack.
Painted Mountain corn has small cobs that are multi-colored (maroon, white, red, purple, yellow and blue) and are slim. The cobs only grow to six or seven inches in length. The corn, when young, can be enjoyed much as we eat “sweet corn” since it does have a sweet corn taste. As the kernels mature however, the grain takes on a much starchier texture and becomes more suitable for grinding into a soft corn meal. Since the dried kernels have a thin seed coating, processing into this meal is very easy. Painted Mountain corn is considered to be one of the most genetically diverse varieties available today.
It is high in protein and carbohydrates and contains, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. The Native Americans were not aware of these details however but through the similar varieties they consumed, they were able to take advantage of these benefits.
Corn was one of the major crops that were processed here at the Durham Mill. Ground into corn meal, it became a staple of the colonial and early Industrial Age pantries and later it became an important ingredient in the animal feed that was processed here. In addition to the grain itself, because of the lack of “woodiness” in the stalks, the plants made a wonderful source of feed for animals.
Although this variety was not used at the mill, we thought because of its interesting and connected background with the Native Americans and the similarities that it shares with the types of maize grown in the 1700’s and 1800’s it would be a good display version. It is an accepted fact that the Lenni Lenape who lived in this area raised maize to supplement their diet and historical documentation speaks about a well-tended Native American corn field in the vicinity of the current Haupt’s Bridge and Funk’s Mill roads back in the 1700’s.
The Native Americans used to plant beans and squash with their corn. The squash would shade out weeds and the corn stalks would support the climbing beans. Perhaps in the future we’ll try to do the same. This year we do have a single old variety bean plant growing for demonstration purposes.