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Grover's Mill

Grover's Mill circa 1960

Located in the West Windsor township of New Jersey, and not far from the state capital of Trenton and the prestigious university of Princeton, the village of Grover's Mill is famously remembered as the beachhead of Orson Welles' Martian Invasion, but there is far more to the story of the village than it's enshrinement in the history of radio drama.

Not surprisingly, the village grew around its Mill. This was almost certainly constructed toward the middle of the 18th century, although there is no record of the builder and no positive date available. The first recorded name to be associated with it was one Daniel Wolsey, whereupon it passed through a succession of owners until March 31st 1868, when it was bought by Joseph H Grover.

I can uncover no indication if the community was sufficiently established prior to this date to rate a name of any sort, but it is hardly surprising that the Grover's would come to stamp their presence on the village. At one time or another, all the properties in the village were owned by the Grover family, and certainly in the case of the Mill Pond, their dominance erased an old name. In fact the pond had undergone several name changes over the years, from Bergen's Pond in 1776, to Bear Pond (at this time the mill was also known as Bear Mill), Schwengers Mill Pond, and finally Grover's Mill Pond.

Grover's Mill from across the pond, circa 1910

As well as assisting to power the mill wheel, the pond has always been a focus of recreational activities such as swimming and ice skating. Ice was also cut from the pond until 1934. Presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson are said to have fished there, both of whom were friends of Walter Grover.

During the 1930's, the Mill handled work for farms within a 10 mile radius, and supplied the thousands of cows at the Walker-Gordon farms in Plainsboro with grain. The mill was of the type known as a "full roller mill" and took eight employees to run. By this time water and electricity were used to power the mill.

429 Clarksville Road, Grover's Mill

The houses of Grover's Mill are as historically interesting as the Mill itself. Take for instance 429 Clarksville Road, which was home to one of the first families to settle in the area, predating by a good many years the Grover's. The Schwenger family are recorded as having bought a plot of land from an Indian woman known only as "Ida", and the farmhouse and attendant barn they built are still in existence, standing just across the millstream behind the mill. The original one bedroom house was subsequently extended a number of times, with the middle rooms added in the mid 1700's, followed by a third section in the early to mid 1800's.

160 Cranbury Road, Grover's Mill

Equally interesting is 160 Cranbury Road. Built in the mid 18th century, it boasted two stories with approximately five rooms and a large front porch, though this latter feature was pulled down and replaced in the 1960's. This was house where Walter S Grover was born, and it is said that Hessian soldiers hid in a carriage house that was once located to the rear of the building.

148 Cranbury Road, Grover's Mill

Another home worthy of note in Grover's Mill is 148 Cranbury Road, known by some long-time residents of the area as the "old Snedeker place", a rather charming reference to the family who were resident there between the 1920's and 1970's. This house is first mentioned in tax records dating to 1879, and may have been built as a tenant house for mill workers.

As you can see then, Grover's Mill is very much a real place and there is more to tell about more recent events. If you want to find out about recent work to restore Grover's Mill Pond then click for page 2.

Correct punctuation

You will note that throughout this site, I have punctuated Grover's Mill with an apostrophe. At present, you will find the road signs outside Grover's Mill do not use an apostrophe; hence it is just Grovers Mill. However, the fact that mill was owned by a person named Grover, not Grovers (which anyway would require punctuation of Grovers' Mill) leads me to believe that the historically accurate punctuation is Grover's Mill. As further evidence, the monument in the park has the name Grover's Mill, as do the official posters for the 50th anniversary celebrations. In addition to this, histories in my possession also use the punctuation Grover's Mill, though it is interesting to note that later written accounts begin to drop the apostrophe. I therefore conclude that the name Grover's Mill is in the process of naturally changing to Grovers Mill, even if it is historically and grammatically wrong.

Pond history

37-acre man-made lake in northern West Windsor Township.Originally impounded in Colonial times to power grist-mill. (Original part of mill building constructed mid-eighteenth century; still standing)

Pond formed by earthen dam across Big Bear Brook, a tributary of Millstone River. Present earthern dam 400ft long and 11ft high; forms base for Clarksville Road, a county right of way.

Water level and flow controlled by concrete spillway and county-owned roadway bridge build in 1931.

Mill ceased operation in 1940's.

Pond and spillway privately owned until taken over by West Windsor Township in 1987. Ownership of earthen dam uncertain.

Pond is the only one of ten aging lakes in or near Mercer County that has never been restored. The dam is one of 1445 in the state that are monitored by the DEP and is under order to be repaired and upgraded. Present condition fails Federal dam safety standards.

Map of Grover's Mill pond
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Grover's Mill pond map

Detail Grover's Mill pond
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Grover's Mill pond map detailed

Grovers Mill prints for sale

Only a limited number left. This wonderful print depicts a Grovers Mill War of the Worlds image inspired from the 1938 broadcast. Order your Grovers Mill print direct from the artist Robert Hummel.

A consise history of Grover's Mill

1759. Daniel Wolsey recorded as mill operator.

c 1760's. Bought by Mahlon Wright.

1771. Sold to Jacob G. Bergen, the son of a local farmer.

1774. Mill put up for sale and sold September 30th 1775 to Joseph Skelton, John Imley, Archabald Mercer and John P. Schenck.

1776. 25 acres sold on March 1st to George Bergen Jr for 600 pounds. Mill is not included in any account of sale, however, Bergen Jr said to have operated Mill during revolutionary war.

Sold by the Bergens on unknown date to Richard Thomas. At time, mill was known as Bear Mill (as possibly was the area) and operated as both a grist and saw mill.

1837-1839. Gottlieb Schwinger (aka Schwenger) makes numerous land purchases in the area, including 24 acres from Thomas and 16 acres from one Barzillai Grover. Unknown if this person was related to the eventual mill owner.

1868. Sold by Schwinger widow, Sarah, to Joseph H.Grover on March 31st.

1868 onwards. Though Grover was the mill owner, various companies operate the mill, such as "Mahaney, Grover and Co". Grover opens a flour and feed store on Hullfish St in Princeton, serving many prominent citizens, including ex-president Grover Cleveland.

1904. Joseph Grover dies and property passes to his son, Walter S. Grover.

1929. Walter S. Grover dies and property passes to Charles L. Dey. Dey buys the mill, five houses and approximately 40 acres of land. With his brother-in-law, William T Denison, he founds The Grover's Mill Company.

1939-1963. Denison acquires full ownership and runs feed mill with his son.

1974. Jay and Robert Schwartz buy mill from W Denison. Mill is renovated into accommodation and office for their graphic arts company. Art Gallery added in 1975.

1976. Grover's Mill Pond donated by the Dey Family in order that the historic site would be available for future generations. Subsequently, a group called the New Jersey Conservation Foundation announced that the site would be officially preserved.

1994. Mill bought as home by Elizabeth & Mark Schulman.

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