Nestled on a hill covered in autumn-colored leaves and right outside the Montgomery village is the Daniel Waring House, otherwise known as Indian Hill. A drive across the Ward’s Bridge and you’re directly next to local history, and it isn’t just the giant white house.
On August 12, 1997, Environmental Engineer Susan Cockburn bought the Indian Hill property after leaving Manhattan where she resided for many years. At the time, she wasn’t aware of the history right across the street, but Cockburn quickly learned that she was a few steps away from ruins of the old Montgomery Paper Mill.
At this time, the house was in the process of receiving landmark status. Because Cockburn purchased the property, she had the opportunity to oppose this, but Cockburn didn’t hesitate to approve it.
“When I originally bought the house, it was just the immediate footprint of the house that was going on landmark status by the town. I increased it to the whole 500-foot pole area,” said Cockburn.
Although a mill was there as early as 1796, it functioned as the Montgomery Paper Mill beginning in 1877. According to an 1885 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, the mill had 24 employees. At the time, the mill was officially called “Montgomery Paper Mills Manilla and Wrapping Paper Manufacturers.” The map reads, “24 employees. Work all time. One night watchman when not running. No clock.”
In 1895, a fire destroyed the mill site and it was never rebuilt. Cockburn has bits and pieces of the old mill all around, including old water wheel parts and sparse bricks.
The main ruins which contain brick walls and even some fireplaces run along the Wallkill River. Though they’ve been around for years and years, the walls are still very much straight and intact. Cockburn goes down often so the plant life doesn’t get too crazy, and even sometimes to paint without hearing people or traffic. Down there, all you hear is the river.
The ruins are a big deal to Cockburn and she thinks the history of them can do great things for Montgomery.
“I’d like to get the mill ruins cleared and illuminated. I think it would be an incredible feature for the town and the village, especially while we’re losing so many really valuable farm structures,” said Cockburn.
The Montgomery Paper Mill has often appeared in journals published by the Library of Congress.
In November of 2021, Cockburn got the ruins listed on the historic register with the help of Town of Montgomery Historian Mary Ellen Matise. Her reasoning for doing this is largely to spread knowledge of the ruins.
“I was inspired to put it on the register because people didn’t even know it was there,” Cockburn said. “There are new people coming into town that are investing in our community with their dollars.”