Piece of Delmont History Rebuilt in 1893 Remains Intact

Article excerpt

Although the business is now known as Delmont Agway, or Delmont Ag, longtime Delmont residents remember it as Shuster's Mill.

Covered by red aluminum siding is a sturdy 115-year-old wood- frame building. It housed an old steam-powered flour mill, fueled with coal that was dug from a mine just a short distance away. There was an entrance to the mine in the basement of the mill.

The original flour mill, belonging to Mathew Jack and David Rankin, was destroyed by fire Sept. 2, 1842. In 1843, it was rebuilt by Matthew Jack and John Brown, who operated it until 1847 when Brown sold his interest to John Hugus. Upon the death of Jack a few years later, Hugus became the sole owner and continued in that capacity until 1881. During the term of Hugus' ownership, three Blose brothers learned the trade: A.L., Jeremiah, and Benjamin M. Blose.

On April 1, 1881, the business was purchased by Daniel Shuster. The building was destroyed by fire again in 1892. A few months later, the flour mill was rebuilt by Shuster on a larger scale. It was also known as a "roller mill" because steel rollers were used to crush the grain. After Shuster's death, his son, Cyrus Jacob Shuster (C J.), became the owner in 1901.

C.J. Shuster was born in 1856. His wife, the former Maggie L. Rowe, died in 1933, shortly after they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Their daughters, Alice and Florence, were both teachers, and their son, Joseph R. Shuster, was pastor at the St. John's, Pa. Evangelical Lutheran Church from 1927 to 1962. C.J. Shuster was also president of People's National Bank of Delmont, and was very active in the Salem Lutheran Church.

Shuster's Mill was the place generations of Delmont area farmers took their wheat, corn and oats to be ground. They also bought seeds, livestock feed, farm implements and other supplies; even a grave stone could be purchased there. The business remained in the Shuster family for 64 years.

The Westmoreland Farm Bureau Cooperative Association's Delmont Branch was opened around 1945 when the association purchased the flour mill from C.J. Shuster. The Farm Bureau's main office was located in Greensburg. In 1954, it had branches in Delmont, West Newton and Ligonier. Employees at the Delmont branch then were manager Lucille Fennell, John McQuaide, James Stine and Paul Johnston.

In 1958, the building barely escaped being torn down as the new four-lane Route 66 was constructed just to the west, requiring the demolition or relocation of nearby structures.

During the 1960s, the Delmont Farm Bureau became an Agway store and remained as such until 1986 when a decision was made to close it. Marshall Hoffman came to the rescue and purchased it from Agway. Hoffman, a longtime Agway employee, had been manager of Agway's Greensburg store.

In 1986, agriculture easily accounted for the largest volume of business; fertilizer was the big seller. But by 1999, sales of suburban products had surpassed farm products. For example, Hoffman was then selling 200 tons of bird seed per year.

Hoffman operated the independent Delmont Agway for 20 years until his retirement in 2006. He sold the business to North Washington resident Mark McKown, who has managed the establishment since then.

A trip to Delmont Agway today is like taking a step back in time to the days of Shuster's Mill. With a wide variety of bird seed, pet food, fertilizer, grass seed, garden tools, straw, lawn and garden supplies, vegetable plants and flowers, the store still provides a viable alternative to the big-box lawn and garden stores. …