History of Browns Mills

Pemberton, Burlington County, New Jersey

Browns Mills lies just south of the Fort Dix Military Reservation and is a service and residential center for the military base..


Browns Mills lies along Rancocas Creek 11 miles east of Mt. Holly.


Late 1770s – Abraham Brown had a spare room he rented out to those traveling on horseback from Trenton to the Jersey shore.

1797 – Charles Newbold (1764-1835) invented a farmer’s plow. He cast the plow at Hanover Furnace near Browns Mills.

1820 – a hotel, the "Old Hotel," was in operation. It was located along Mirror Lake and later became the site of Sycamore Hall (and today is a bank).

1861 – an advertisement for the Browns Mills Boarding house touted the wonders of the healing spring water.

1868 – New York railroad tycoon James Fisk meets beautiful Bostonian Helen Josephine Mansfield, the singer. (She had married Frank Lawler in 1866 and divorced him in 1867).

1869 – Col. James Fisk Jr. and his partner Jay Gould precipitated "Black Friday" in the world's financial exchanges when they tried to corner the gold market.

before 1872 – Col. James Fisk spent many vacations secluded in a Browns Mills hotel with his paramour Josephine Mansfield, a famous actress of the day. One of the oldest buildings in Browns Mills is Sycamore Hall which started as an elite hotel and served many other purposes over the years. (Today it is a bank.)

1872 (January 6) Col. James Fisk in a New York City hotel was shot dead by his business associate Edward S. Stokes, a jealous co-suitor for the attention of the glamorous Josephine Mansfield. This, of course, exposed the scandal.

1872 – the Pemberton and New York Railroad reached Browns Mills.

1880 – the Newell and Ridgeway Hotel had a dining room that seated 300.

1889 – the five-story Forest Springs Hotel built. It was the grandest hotel ever built in Browns Mills. (The hotel was in the rear of where today’s Mill Village Shopping Center stands.) A drawing of the area on Mirror Lake shows the wooden dam on Mirror Lake, the John Bye grocery store and home, the Brown’s Gristmill (that succeeded Biddle’s Mill), the Forest Springs Hotel, and the Old Hotel.

1890-1938 – Browns Mills Railroad Station, a local railway station, built. It now houses a museum and a town information center.

1895 – the Forest Springs Hotel burned down. Its owners were George Pfieffer, E. A. Armstrong, A. G. Cattell, and Dr. J. C. White.

1895 – the Birmingham Inn built on a 7-acre island in the Rancocas Creek. (Today its locations is near Sybron Chemical where the ballfield stands.)

1905 – Pig ‘n Whistle Inn built.

1910 – real estate developer James B. Reilly rebuilt Sycamore Hall.

1912 – Dr. Newcomb and his wife came to town from Burlington when they both were suffering from tuberculosis.

1913 – Dr. Newcomb opened the first licensed sanatorium in New Jersey. Later he sold the sanatorium to the Deborah Consumptive Relief Society.

1916 – the Philadelphia Press ran a newspaper subscription drive that, for a subscription, promised a lot in Browns Mills for just $39.20. This act spelled the end of the grand hotel era in Browns Mills as it brought in many land and home owners.

by 1920 – James B. Reilly erected a new dam on Mirror Lake.

1920s – renovation of the Birmingham Inn revitalized its popularity.

1920s – there were trails (with many footbridges) leading from the grand hotels to one of three "springhouses": Cold, Iron and Sulfur Springs.

Early 1920s – the club house for the Canoe Club was a popular site for many social events.

1924 – the Pig ‘n Whistle was home to the 55th Annual American Cranberry Growers Association Convention.

1930s – Fred Wenzel had a bus station, ice cream stand and snack parlor. Rosie and Alex Duglaski ran the Log Cabin Restaurant and Mirror Lake Inn that was the town’s center.

1937 – the Birmingham Inn had fallen so low that it was now being used as housing for the indigent population.

1939 – a new municipal building dedicated.

1972 – the Pig ‘n Whistle burned down.

Imagination Kingdom, an interactive park for kids.


Marie F. Reynolds. Images of America: Browns Mills. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.