Jackson Township Page
 
Red Mill, the Blacklick Valley's good news 
By Jon Kennedy
 
he prophecy that the last shall be first seems especially appropriate for Red Mill. The last outpost in its part of the county to get a paved road, the deepest ravine or—as it would be called in the west—the severest “canyon” on the northern branch of the Blacklick Creek, an end-of-the-world kind of place by all counts, has emerged as Blacklick Valley's first resort in both literal and metaphorical senses of the word. 

Even the last hamlet (till now, though plans are to go farthThe 'new' trailhead at Rexis, toward Red Mill.er in years to come) to be reached by the Ghost Town Trail, Red Mill has become the first Cambria County site on the trail to have overnight accommodations ranging from a fully furnished cottage rented at very reasonable rates to free primitive camping on the grounds of its former quarry. 

Its remote location is not the only attribute that conjures up a bibilical image applicable to Red Mill; old-timers in the area recall when colorful semi-reclusive religious figures lived a half-century ago at the top of either side of the ravine, one reputed to possess a healing touch and powers of divination, the other visited by religious visions. 

Though last in some ways, Red Mill has become one of the first places on the Blacklick Creek to have its once-rust-red waterway restored to fishing and swimming quality. Feeding the fish from the bridge on the trail over the Blacklick at Red Mill is one of the special joys of hikers, cross-country skiers, and bikers, and I recently saw a pair of boyish anglers pull fish out of the creek at the historic motor vehicle iron bridge. And a refreshing swim under the trail bridge during a sweaty bike or foot hike is not out of the question (though diving or jumping from it is proscribed). 

The trail bridge extended the trail to Red Mill in 1999.Boys in the Blacklick with no trace of red-orange pollution
Red Mill was one of the area's first 
major sources of hardwood lumber in the 1800s, when lumbering operations in Rexis and Vintondale, two to two-and-a-half miles south, exploited its primeval forest. A few decades later Vintondale coal companies undermined the canyon floor, and there was a surface entrance to the catacomb of mining rooms at Red Mill for a time. The original Red Mill was built in 1828 by John Duncan and operated until about 1912. 

The Ebensburg Sand, Clay, and Stone Company operated a quarry in Red Mill from 1920 to 1926, and built 10 houses that constituted the community, three of which still stand, one of them restored as the resort cottage. The quarry operation provides the one genuine “ghost town” remains on the trail, if you apply the 
The one genuine ghost town remains on trail.
traditional definition of “abandoned but still-standing” buildings to ghost town. The stone office, shown here as seen from the trail, stands partially in ruins and partially restored for primitive camping. A bring-your-own-tent campground with a fire ring adjoins it in the woods, which local Scout troops have used. Nearby still standing are large bins used to store or convey minerals (some still containing sand), and stone railroad ties from the operation are now used as curbs in the Red Mill trail access parking area. “Living history” continues here in the use of the c. 1890 100-foot iron one-lane bridge still conveying motor vehicles over the Blacklick. Once commonly seen, this one, made by the “Variety Steel Works” in Cleveland, is one of the few still in use in Cambria County. 

The trail ends 1.5 miles beyond Red Mill, at White MillIf Red Mill's history is mineral extraction and lumbering, its future is tourism and outdoor recreation. Providing excellent hunting for deer, small game, and bears in the adjoining state game lands #79, fishing, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing (not to mention that Red Mill Hill has always been one of the best—if not one of the safest—places for sledding) and camping. Pursuing that dream is a local couple, Joe and Karen (Kinter) Gordon who've made Red Mill their home and their project as its developers and proprietors. Joe recalls hiking to Red Mill with childhood buddies from his native Belsano over 40 years ago, and falling in love with the fascinating ruins and reminders of former industrial glory. Now a teacher of special-needs children in a privately run program, Red Mill remains his vision and avocation. On that we can only say, “Godspeed, Joe and Karen, and all best wishes for success.” 

Webmaster-author Jon Kennedy, who now resides in San Jose, California, grew up on the Red Mill Road in the 1950's and is one of the area's oldtimers.

Red Mill Resort  |  Red Mill Resort Cottage

 
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© Jon Kennedy 2000