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Bethlehem Roller Flour Mills

 

The Bethlehem Roller Flour Mills

When the first people settled in the Bethlehems a flouring mill was, as a matter of course, one of the requirements, and so it is that ‘the story of the community merges into that of the establishment of D. & A. Luckenbach which is as substantial an exponent of nineteenth century methods as its predecessor was for its day. In June, 1743, the site for a mill was selected on the banks of Monocacy Creek. The nearest mill where grist could be ground prior to this was that of Nathaniel Irish, two miles down the Lehigh River. Gotthard Demuth, of Germantown, was selected to erect the structure, and in due time the machinery was made and set up by Henry Antes, himself a miller and possessed of much mechanical skill. The building was of logs resting on a foundation of masonry, and the first miller was J. George Youngman, who was followed by Adam Shouse and Henry Moeller.

In 1747 a freshet undid the work of the pioneer builders, but by September of the same year it appears that a new structure of heavy stone masonry had been erected on the site of the frame one; its dimensions were 98 by 30 feet. By the close of the year 1751 an annex had been built to the mill which accommodated a fuller, a dyer, and a cloth weaver, the mill furnishing power for these industries. The list of millers who presided over the destiny of this venerable industry has been preserved unbroken until 1830, during which time it remained one of the industries of the so-called Bethlehem “Diacony”, the profits, if any, reverting to the church fund. In this year, however, the mill property was sold to Chas. Augustus Luckenbach who modernized the plant and increased its capacity.

In 1847 he sold the mill to Jacob Luckenbach who managed its affairs wisely and well, establishing firmly the reputation of the Bethlehem Mill which was well maintained by his sons and successors, David O. and Andrew A. Luckenbach, to whom he disposed of the property in 1861. This venerable pile was destined to stand but for seven years longer, however, for the night of January 7, 1869, fire entirely consumed it. From the ashes rose the stately brick structure which the Messrs. Luckenbach erected, and which ground its first grist in August of the same year.

Increasing business demanded better and more reliable motive power than the more or less fickle Monocacy is wont to furnish, and this prompted the proprietors to introduce steam power in addition to the turbine wheels in 1877. The introduction of the Allis roller system was done to the exclusion of the time-honored nether and upper mill-stones in 1882. In 1884 the mill was connected by a siding with the Lehigh & Susquehanna Division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. In 1893 an elevator, having a capacity of 25,000 bushels, was built, and also a large storehouse for flour was added. In 1904 the mill was remodeled by the Allis-Chalmers Co., under the superintendence of the late Daniel Kratz, and the Universal Bolter took the place of the time-honored hexagonal rolls, these together with the increased roll surface, 9 by 24 inch rolls replacing the 9 by 18 inch size raised the capacity of the mill from 175 barreIs to 200 barrels of spring or 240 barrels of winter wheat flour per day. In 1905, on the death of the junior member, Andrew A. Luckenbach, a new partnership was formed, the three sons of David O. Luckenbach — Horace A., Robert M., and Paul J. Luckenbach — taking the place of their deceased uncle. One year later the senior member, David O. Luckenbach, died, and the surviving members continue the business, trading under the old firm name of D. & A. Luckenbach.

 


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W.F. Danzer & Company ad

 

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