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Rancocas Creek served as the home to several mills during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, including on the Morris Mansion and Mill site. Though it is currently attached to the Morris family, who purchased it in 1864, the mill and home emerged around 1750 when Patrick Reynolds and his three associates built mills on the property and called themselves "The Company." They created a town they referred to as "New Mills," which evolved into Pemberton Mills and now Pemberton. The mill and mansion stayed in the family for four generations. Patrick's' son, Thomas, served as a Colonel in the Revolutionary war and was captured by British troops, only to be freed during a prisoner (officer) exchange. Thomas's daughter, Anastasia, took over the mill and home. She was married to General John Lacey who at a young age served as the head of a Pennsylvania militia group and regularly communicated with George Washington.

Morris Mansion of Pemberton (a.k.a Reynold's Mansion and Mill)

Morris Mansion of Pemberton (a.k.a Reynold's Mansion and Mill)

The Morris Mansion (built in the late 1740s or early 1750s) stands as a lasting example of a thriving mill property, of which many operated along Rancocas Creek during the eighteen and early-nineteenth centuries. The mills (the last of which was torn down in 2011) helped New Jersey develop into one of the nation's first industrialized states. The large, imposing mansion demonstrates a middle- and late-eighteenth-century architectural trend when Greek Revival details became weaved into the Federal House form. Though the mill and mansion site are attached to the mill family, who purchased it in 1864, the mill site originated with the Reynolds family, two of whom enjoyed ties to two men with notable Revolutionary War stories; four generations of the Reynolds family owned the property. 

Thomas Budd of London arrived in Burlington in 1688 and obtained a substantial share of land in West Jersey. His brothers, including William Budd, came ten years later and added to the Budd family's land acquisition in southern New Jersey. In 1752, William's grandson, David Budd, conveyed to Robert Smith, Daniel Smith, and Patrick Reynolds each one-quarter interest in the land sufficient for the erection of a grist mill, sawmill, and forge. Patrick Reynolds (son of Lord Mayor of Dublin, a wealthy Irish linen manufacturer) and his three associates operated the mills and called themselves "The Company," and they created a town they referred to as "New Mills," which evolved into Pemberton Mills.

Thomas Reynolds, Patrick's son, acquired the bulk of the land just prior to the Revolutionary War. Thomas Reynolds helped found the Bridgetown Library (now Mount Holly Library) and served on the vestry of St. Andrews Church, both of which received their charter from King George III in 1765. Thomas was also a member of the Provincial Congress of Burlington. Thomas received a Colonel's appointment in the Continental Army. On December 26, 1776, the British arrested Thomas, took him from the house and imprisoned him on a ship in the New York Harbor only to be released as part of a prisoner exchange with a British officer; he continued to serve in the Continental Army until 1782. 

Thomas's daughter (Patrick Reynolds' granddaughter), Anastasia, took possession of the mansion and mill while her husband, General John Lacey, owned and operated the forge. Lacey, a Quaker, was disowned by his meeting for Revolutionary activities. (Quakers declared themselves pacifists and took no sides in the war). During the Revolution, Lacey served as a Pennsylvania militia general and achieved distinction at the Battle of Crooked Billet. (Although, his success as a General has been noted as been a mixed success, and often criticized.) In 1810, Anastasia and General Lacey passed the property down to the fourth generation of the family, their son Thomas Reynolds Lacey. 

The mill site mainly profited from its production of flour, gaining the family significant wealth and success for generations. However, economic depression during the late 1830s, a town fire in 1847, and the eventual development of larger, steam-powered mills in bigger cities all took their toll on the mill operation. After passing hands a few times, another family took ownership of the mansion and again passed it from generation to generation -- the Morris Family; Anthony Morris purchased the property in 1864. Still, the town, now known as Pemberton, transitioned from a mill town to one that profited from agricultural products, notably its blueberry and cranberry industries, rendering the mill site obsolete. 

By the early 1900s, the mill site converted into a feed and grain store, supporting the growing agricultural community, which it did with modest success through the 1950s. The site changed again during the 1970s, becoming the home to the French Quarter restaurant. In 1994, the Grist Mill Antiques Center (an antique cooperative comprised of more than 125 dealers) opened on a parcel of land where the grist mill once operated. The home still stands as a reminder of the thriving mill operations that dotted the river during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the Reynolds family's connection to the Revolutionary War.  

"Grist Mill Antiques Center: Then & Now." Grist Mill Antiques Center. 2018.

"History: About Colonel Thomas Reynolds." Colonel Thomas Reynolds Chapter of the National Society of Daughter of the American Revolution in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. Accessed February 26, 2021.

New Jersey Historic Sites Staff. "Nomination Form: Morris Mansion and Mill." National Register of Historic Places. 1977. 

Zanine, Louis J. "Brigadier General John Lacey and the Pennsylvania Militia in 1778." Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 48, no. 2 (1981): 129-42. Accessed February 26, 2021.

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By Apc106 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,