| Dayett Mills, pronounced locally as Die-ett, is located in Pencader Hundred near the intersection of Old Baltimore Pike and Rt. 72, not far from Cooch’s Bridge. The land has had surprisingly few owners from the time Sir William Keith, former governor of Delaware, owned it in 1722. Keith purchased 666 acres of land on both sides of the Christina River located south and west of Iron Hill. For a short time he operated an iron-works plantation, which he called Keithsborough. The iron furnace failed and he sold the land to John England in 1726.
John England was an experienced iron furnace manager in Staffordshire, England who bought land in Mill Creek, Pencader and Christiana Hundreds with the idea of operating mills. He also owned land in Maryland and was a proprietor of Principio iron works.
William Cooch, who was also from England, but was a miller, purchased England’s Pencader land, plus other land in the area, in 1746.
To protect the excellent reputation of the quality of Delaware flour abroad, the legislature in 1796 passed an inspection and grading law, “to prevent the exportation of flour not merchantable.”
The area witnessed the growth of four mills in and around the current Dayett Mills. One mill was near the front of the Cooch House but was burnt by British in 1777, and never rebuilt. Another mill was located a short distance east of Cooch’s Bridge; the foundation now supports a barn with a date stone of 1792. Yet another mill was located just a mile south on a stream called Muddy Run; the dam for that mill creates Sunset Lake. The 1868 Beers Atlas reveals a mill and two other buildings owned by A. Dayett, but little
more than traces of the foundations remain today.
The only mill remaining is that which is now called Dayett Mills built in 1838 by William Cooch, Jr. It remained in the Cooch
family until it was sold in 1884 to John W. Dayett. After the death of John Dayett, his wife Mary Emma Dayett sold the mill to
Johnathan Irwin. William and Alberta Johnson along with Charles H. Golt purchased the mill in 1948.
The mill remained in operation until the 1980’s and after the mill went out of operation it was sold to the State of Delaware under the control of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs with Raynor A. Johnson as the site manager. When the mill closed its
operation it was one of two operating mills in Delaware; the other is Hearn’s Mill in Seaford.
The building in which the mill is housed is brick, three and one-half stories, measuring fifty feet square. It was operated by
waterpower, but in 1884 it was remodeled and refitted to include engines for use when water supply was insufficient. Two fires,
one in 1916 and the other in 1933, occurred with minor damage allowing the mill to be restored with the most notable change being
that to the roof. The millrace starts a little more than three-quarters of a mile north of the mill, a site that is also believed to be the
location of the Keith iron furnace. It runs over half that distance parallel to the old Cooch’s Bridge to Newark Road, now closed.