An Idea Finally Takes Shape

An Idea Finally Takes Shape

An Idea Finally Takes Shape

Black and white photograph of an older couple, seated next to one another with a scrapbook on their laps.

E. Mortimer and Elizabeth Newlin, c. 1960.

Sixty years ago today on December 27, 1960, E. Mortimer and Elizabeth Newlin hosted the first meeting of the Nicholas Newlin Foundation at “Sunny High,” their home in Wayne, Pennsylvania. The founding six trustees (E. Mortimer and Elizabeth Newlin, Wm. V.P. Newlin, Lucy Bell Newlin Sellers, Peter Sellers, and George Plowman) were joined by four guests (Warren Brown, W. Nelson West, Esq., Mrs. Plowman, and Mrs. Wm. Newlin). The purpose of the gathering was to form a group that would run the Newlin Grist Mill and protect the land and buildings “in perpetuity.”[i]

The story of the foundation had begun three decades earlier. One October Sunday morning in 1930, Elizabeth and Mortimer drove to Concordville in search of “an old Newlin Mill” his parents had told him about.[ii] Elizabeth later wrote that they “found it without difficulty and also found an old rickety ladder up which Mort climbed to read the inscription, ‘Nat’l & Mary Newlin 1704.’ At that moment, although I don’t think he spoke of it at the time, the seed of the desire to acquire it was planted in Mort’s heart.”[iii]

“Sunny High,” the Wayne, PA home of E. Mortimer and Elizabeth Newlin.

The seed grew into “a dream of restoring the Mill which had belonged to his second ancestor in this country and of putting it back in working order so that it could grind corn as it had in 1704. He also had a dream of acquiring land, the same land his ancestors had trod and making of it an open space to be enjoyed by the public at a time when very little open space is left.”[iv]

Mortimer received a call in 1956 from the owner, a Mr. Connely, saying he was ready to sell the Mill if Mortimer was still interested. After purchasing the Mill and four acres, Elizabeth and Mortimer plunged into restoring the mill. With the advice and assistance of L. C. Watkins, an 80-year-old millwright from Virginia, and local carpenters, the mill machinery was put into working order. A permit was acquired for fee fishing, and the first load of trout arrived in March 1959. On December 2, 1960, Mortimer and Elizabeth had an Agreement of Trust drafted, creating the Nicholas Newlin Foundation and transferring ownership to the new organization.

The group that met on December 27th opened a new chapter of service at Newlin Grist Mill that continues today. Over the next six decades, the Nicholas Newlin Foundation acquired a total of 160 acres of open space, preserved a dozen historic structures, and made them available to the public. It provided outdoor recreation with fishing, trails, and a now-removed pool, playgrounds, and tennis court. It has been a gathering place for generations of families and friends. The historic buildings and park became a place for learning for all ages and a place for discovery through public programs, field trips, summer camp, and individual exploration. Mortimer and Elizabeth’s dream of creating a resource for education and enjoyment in the community has matured and continues to flourish with each new generation.

Black and white photograph of what is now the Archive building and the Newlin Grist Mill, with a woman standing in front of the mill and a child in the foreground.

Archival photo of the site in the 20th century, before the restoration of the Grist Mill.

In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to bring you more stories from our organization’s history, the people who contributed to its success, and the successes in serving the public.


[i] Meeting notes Nicholas Newlin Foundation December 27, 1960, Woodfin Archives, Newlin Grist Mill.

[ii] Newlin, Elizabeth Battles, Nathaniel Newlin’s Mill: A Family Chronicle, p. 1.

[iii] Ibid, p. 2.

[iv] Ibid.


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