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Millbrook Village

Mill Brook Days

by Frank Dale

Millbrook School. Photo by Mike Mykowski

Millbrook Village, part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, is a re-created community of the 1800s where aspects of pioneer life are exhibited and occasionally demonstrated by skilled and dedicated docents throughout the village. Although most of the buildings at the site are replications, Millbrook has a real past. A few of the old structures have survived the ravages of Mother Nature, and escaped condemnation to make way for the ill-fated Tocks Island Dam project in the 1960s. Although the project sealed the fate of this and other villages in what is now a National Park, the Millbrook Village Society has worked hard and consistently to bring the village back to life.

Nan Horsfield, one of the area's outstanding historians, has accumulated a large and well-organized collection of books, files, newspaper clippings, photos, and more, telling the story of our area. But in addition to this material, her personal background, especially as it relates to her mother's side of the family, named Spangenberg, and especially to the generations of Spangenberg farmers who lived in and around the Warren County village of Mill Brook, tells a rich and endearing family story.


Millbrook Mill. Photo by Mike Mykowski

Her mother, born Mary Julia but known to everyone as Julia, was Nan's principal source of information, and her most intimate contact with the Spangenberg (earlier spelled Spangenburg) side of the family. Julia was the oldest of seven brothers and sisters born in old Mill Brook. Her birth date was 1903, and she lived an exciting and happy childhood in the little village and in the house owned by her father, Jason. In the same village lived other members of the family including Julia's favorite, Uncle Lester, a confirmed but happy bachelor who remained in the village until he died at a ripe old age in his ripe old house with heirlooms and junk piled to the ceiling. Julia's family home in the village was adjacent to the impressive local Methodist Church. The family didn't attend church often, but the children listened each Sunday to the hymn singing. Christmas was the only church day in this family and the children wore their shoes, sang hymns, and enjoyed the Minister's Christmas candy.

The other institution, the village school, dated back to 1840 when classes were held in the basement of the original church. When church membership outgrew its little home and moved to the present bigger structure in 1868, the school board took over the first floor of the small structure and educated local children here for almost a century.

Father Jason, after a house fire, moved his family from declining Mill Brook to a more promising and modern village called Layton, in nearby Sussex County. Here the family lived on, and Jason's two surviving children, now a little older, are still there. For a while Nan lived in Layton with her mother and clearly remembers Grandpa, who passed away in 1957 at age 87. His first daughter, Julia, Nan Horsfield's mother, reached the age of 92.


Millbrook Village interior. Photo by Dotty Waxman.

That ended the family's life in Mill Brook that had started, probably in the late 1700s. The last family head, Jason, had been born and raised here by his father, Andrew, and mother, Julia Garis. She was a member of one of the area's first families. Andrew, only age 17 when the Civil War began, managed to serve his country during this conflict and got home safely when it was all over. He produced his son, Jason, just 5 years later... and a few more offspring besides. Andrew was a farmer, too.

The Warren County map produced in 1881 as part of the Beers Atlas, identifies the village as a busy place with a grist- mill, a blacksmith shop, the Methodist Church, the school, a hotel, a store, and about a dozen dwellings. It also locates the homesite of Andrew Spangenburg and another home just up the lane from the church, of "Mrs. S. Spangenburg". "Mrs. S." was Sarah, the mother of Andrew and the widow of an earlier Spangenburg in the area, Andrew's father, James. James' birth date is 1808. His parents were Henry and Mary; her maiden name was Shoemaker. Henry and Mary are the earliest family members of record to live in Mill Brook, but little more is known of them. Son James, when he grew to adulthood, farmed the area. He took time off to marry a local aristocrat, Sarah Hill, and raised a fine family. He bargained and traded with his wealthy in-laws and acquired top quality farmland in the area. Perhaps his hard work shortened his life, for he passed away in 1866 at the age of 58. Or perhaps his short life was caused by his extra effort to produce and raise a first-rate family. He succeeded in the latter.

But the life of Mill Brook has not ended. Or, if it has, it's been reborn. The "new" church, built in 1860, still holds services, including those wonderful Christmas meetings, and the old one-room schoolhouse still stands and could reopen for classes tomorrow, if necessary. Even Uncle Lester's house survived. A sign identifies it as "Lester Spangenburg's Cabin"; its been cleaned up. And every year the still large and active Spangenberg family holds its reunion, with Nan Horsfield in the happy crowd. And coming up soon is an annual celebration that shows off the lovely and historically rich village to the general public. This event is called "Mill Brook Days" and it brings to life the family motto; "They Always Had A Happy Life".

It would appear the Nan has had good reason to love the past. The family supported itself with local farming, and Nan remembers as a child helping the family especially with roadside sales of their produce. Her mother and grandfather Jason both lived into their 90s. And Jason's grandfather James must have loved the community, for they all lived here and raised their children here, beginning in the early 1800s. They all raised large families-and healthy ones, with one exception. That exception was Uncle Lester, who never married, although he had a girl friend, once. But he lived in Mill Brook, to a ripe old age, in a ripe old house cluttered and filed with junk.

Millbrook Days are celebrated on the first full weekend in October at Millbrook Village in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, 12 mi north of Rt 80 at Old Mine Road and Rt 602. Admission is free.

For information on this and other events at the Village, contact the Millbrook Village Society.

If you like New Jersey history and anything about the Delaware River, you'll love Frank Dale's book, Delaware Diary.

Comments

Robert A "Bob" Demarest
22 Dec 2013, 14:50
Hello;..I've been involved in Millbrook Village as an active volunteer since 1976..also member of the once very active Millbrook Village Society for 30 plus years and have recently placed two family trees on...."www.ancestry.com.... which have been the most influential families in the Millbrook area since the earliest days of European Settlementin the 1700s. One..the earliest family tree is entitled the "Vancampen Millbrook Family Tree" and the other is the "Hill Millbrook Family Tree"...If your family has ties to Millbrook..they probably are related to, or tied into one or both of these family trees;...happy hunting Bob D
D Bennun
21 Oct 2012, 14:26
Hello there. I was at Millbrook Village a couple of years ago and I purchased a contraption (I think it's a toy) but I can't remember how to use it. \r\nIt is a very simple item made of 2 parts: 1 sqaure flat metal disc slightly curved over on 2 opposite corners (2" square) and 1 semi-circular metal piece with indentations on each end into which the 2 uncurved corners pop into allowing the disc to spin freely. Does anyone know what this is and how to use it?\r\nThank you
Wil Bullivant
01 Sep 2012, 05:56
Hello Fiends,\r\nSummer is passing us by; the days are getting shorter and the nights a little cooler. Thee are so many subtle changes that are in progress to bring is Autumn.\r\nMillbrook Days is on its way too. Millbrook Village will come alive again on the first full week end in October, 10-6 and 7-2012. \r\nMillbrook Days has become a tradition with many families - like the changing leaves and a hint of frost, a visit to Millbrook Village for the event has become a part of Autumn for many. \r\nJoin us this year; take in the sights, smell the fragrances of another era, hear the stories, listen to the music and watch the volunteers portraying a lifestyle as it was lived a century ago.\r\nCheck the website millbrooknj.com for more information.\r\nHope to see you at Millbrook, Wil...
Wil Bullivant
09 Apr 2012, 10:55
Hello Friend,\r\nMillbrook Village is alive and well. Despite last year's problems dealt by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, clean up and repairs have been under way and things are slowly getting back in shape. There is still a significant amount of flood damage in tne lower village caused by the VanCampen Brook. The lower roadway by the Garis Barn is washed out and the new foot bridge in the upper village was significantly damaged. Repairs are currently deferred awaiting funding.\r\nThis year's activities started on schedule with Maple Sugaring in early March. Events are planned for May, June, October and December, as well as the regular summer week end activities from Memorial Day week end through Labor Day week end. Hopefully all of the needed repairs will be completed by October for Millbrook Days.\r\nPlease check the Millbrook Village Society's website millbrooknj.com for information about the Society, Millbrook Village, events, membership and what's going on.\r\nWe're looking forard to seeing you at Millbrook Village.\r\nRegards, Wil...
Kristin Erickson-Ditta
09 Apr 2012, 08:42
Re: Edward Cosgrove's Comment\r\n I am a Great Grand Daughter of Tressa Garris Buntin ! I remember Her, and dear Aunt Sadie very well.....My Grandmother was Marion Buntin Thompson, Tressa's only child. I would love to be in touch with You and any more of my relatives found through Millbrook....Will be visiting NJ the 1st week of may and plan on visiting Millbrook, and also Tranquility Cemetery where "Gramma" and Aunt Sadie are laid to rest, as well as many more relatives from the early days...Feel free to contact me through email. Thank You !!\r\n
arnis buza
29 Sep 2011, 19:26
It is a shame that Hurricane Irene and subsequent rains caused the cancellation of Millbrook Days in 2011. Hopefully we will be back next year. If the rain ever stops.
Wil Bullivant
01 Sep 2010, 14:29
Millbrook Days will be on October 2 and 3, 2010 with a full array of activities on both days.\r\nCheck the Millbrook Village Society website millbrooknj.com for details.\r\nHope to see you at Millbrook Village.
Wil Bullivant
20 Jul 2009, 12:46
Hello Again,\r\nPlease check the MVS website for the schedule of events for 2009.\r\nMillbrook Days 2009 will be held on October 3 and 4, 2009. See you theere!\r\nwww.millbrooknj.com\r\nCheers, Wil...
Edward Cosgrove
16 Jul 2009, 13:42
Garris family in Millbrook. My grat grandmother was Abby Mina Garris and this side of the family always used 2 r's rather than one. Abby's father was Hamilton Polk Garris who was the son of John Garris. John was born in Millbrook to Abraham Garris who, among other things, ran a store as well as the grist mill. Abby's two sisters were Tressa Garris Buntin and Sadie Garris Odell. Both were very active in trying to keep Millbrook alive through the 1940s through the 1960's. They attended many of the summer Millbrook Reunions and I have several pictures of those events. \r\n\r\nI visited Millbrook as a child in the 1950's with my father who would drive us all over Northwest New Jersey showing us our familt heritage and imparting stories. My most recent vistits to Millbrook have been thrilling. About two years ago I was retracing my father's route from Flatbrookville to Millbrook and was expecting to see nothing. I was amazed when I got to Millbrook and saw what has been done to bring the village back to life. Subsequently, I joined to Historical Society and have brought my own son (now 38 years old) to visit.
gail werkheier
15 Jun 2009, 09:17
The old grist mill that was donated by keith pokorny was my grandfathers, and was rebuilt on site at millbrook village. we would like to know what hour you are opened.\r\n
Randy Garis
18 May 2009, 10:00
FYI,\r\nGaris is spelled with one "r", sorry it always irks me when it's spelled wrong. Since my family founded the town I would know.
Virginia Caulfield
23 Mar 2009, 12:47
Hi-\r\n\r\nI'd be very interested in being notified of any events that you'll be holding at Millbrook Village.\r\n\r\nThank you.\r\n\r\nVirginia\r\n
Fred Stine
08 Oct 2008, 07:08
There's 9 of us camping at Dingman's Ferry this weekend. Are there any fall activities planned for Sat., Sun or Monday?\r\n\r\nFred
colleen margaret gulino
16 Jul 2008, 14:01
i want to check out this area for a day trip , i live in cental nj, and i love nature,hiking, what should i see while im there
Harold latourette
31 Mar 2008, 11:06
Notify me of the upcoming events at millbrook I enjoy comine up there.
George r Bross
16 Mar 2008, 00:19
what events? how much? when? I,m coming ferom rt739 in Milford Pa.. how do i get ther?\r\n
Wil Bullivant
11 Feb 2008, 12:41
Hi Folks,\r\n\r\nI have the 2008 schedule of events for Millbrook Village's events for this year.\r\n\r\nThe Millbrook Village Society and the National Park service is planning events in March, May,June,July, September, October, November and December, 2008 with activities for all ages. \r\n\r\nContact me for details and check the Millbrook Village Society website: wwww.millbrooknj.com\r\n\r\nThanks, Wil...

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