It's interesting and a little ironic that the iconic business in Penn Yan is Birkett's Mill, but the Birketts got their start in Dresden.

Three Birkett brothers came from Cumberland in northern England in the 1850s. Of these, Thomas and William went farther west and built mills in Michigan; but Henry Birkett instead bought the old Bogert mill in Dresden. Henry was born in Cumberland in 1827, married Matilda Deisher about 1860 and died in 1884 in Dresden. The couple had five children, several of whom were involved in the milling business in Penn Yan:

Calvin Russell Sr. was born at Franklinton in Schoharie County, N.Y., in 1831. He came to Yates County in 1868 and bought the distillery on Keuka Lake Outlet that had replaced an old grain mill at a place now usually called Milo Mills, about two miles downstream from Penn Yan. Three years later he converted the distillery to the manufacture of paper, emulating William H. Fox who had done the same at Fox's Mills in 1865; Fox also came from Schoharie County, and was about Russell's age, having lost an arm in the Civil War.

In 1882 Russell sold a half-interest in his paper mill to John T. Andrews, another Civil War veteran who had come to Yates County and become prosperous from industry and business. The two men bought an interest in the mills in Penn Yan and were instrumental in getting the railroad built on the old canal towpath between Dresden and Penn Yan. Dresden rose and fell with the Crooked Lake Canal and merchant milling. Once the mills burned in the 1860s (all but Henry Birkett's) and the canal failed in the 1870s, Dresden was in a backwater; and the building of the railroad was simply the coup-de-grace. By the time Russell died in 1900 Penn Yan had a quarter of the County's population and was experiencing a new boom, from growing and shipping fresh and dried fruit to national and international markets.

Russell and his wife had 10 children, all born in Franklinton, some after Russell himself got involved in Yates County. Three were significant figures in Yates County and Penn Yan history:


 The Birketts and the Russells