GIS Map of Dansville-Area Mills
This GIS map was created to support the Dansville Ever-Green map, itself an experiment to recover historical knowledge for the purposes of envisioning a bioregional economy & culture. Its premise is to draw a 50-mile radius around the town of Dansville, NY and make visible under-appreciated resources. In this case, the interest concerns small-scale hydropower used to grind corn and wheat; saw, plane, and turn lumber; process apples into cider; card wool; and so on. A hyperlink to the map can be found below.
The map of Dansville-area mills was created by using county-level maps from the 1850s (and, in one case, the 1860s). A list of the Western New York counties follows, with the surveyor, publisher, and year in parentheses: Allegany (Bechler/Gillette 1856); Genesee (Otley & Rea/Gillett 1854); Livingston (French/Gillette 1858); Monroe (Brown/Gillette 1858); Ontario (Beers/Dawson 1859); Steuben (Levy/Gillette 1857); Wyoming (Brown/Brown 1853); Yates (Beers/Stone & Stewart 1865). It is comprised of more than 600 individual mill sites.
Mills were identified using map abbreviations of the time, which differentiated among saw mills (“S.M.”), grist mills (“G.M.”), along with spelled-out designations for less common operations. This map does not include steam-saw mills (“S.S.M.”), which used water from creeks to power wood-burning engines—that is, they were not hydropowered mills. The limitations of this procedure are many. Locations sometimes are approximate, due to discrepancies between 19th-century and contemporary maps concerning watercourses. The names of the mills and/or owners sometimes are identified on maps or can be inferred, but usually are not (a question mark indicates a plausible guess). And there are doubtless many milling operations that never made it onto these maps from the 1850s.
From a contemporary standpoint an important caveat is that milling operations are not inevitably sustainable, and that many (or most) of the 19th-century mills created water pollution and disrupted stream communities. A sawmill meant that nearby forests were being logged, usually in an unsustainable manner. Still, it is hoped that this information will be of historical interest and, more importantly, to suggest that resources exist for a post-carbon economy in Western New York.
Online GIS Map