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    Posted: 13 Nov 2013 at 7:21pm

The Mills of Madison Twp.

By J. Larry Helton, Jr. – 2013

 

     The necessity of having grain around for food preparation dates to prehistoric times with the task being accomplished with tools of stone.  The Romans developed the idea of using circular milling stones powered by water, thus the first gristmill. 

     Nova Scotia, Canada, had the first gristmill in North America, at the mouth of the LaQuille River in 1607.  The United States built its first gristmill about 1620 in what is now Maine, with others following in the early colonies.  Ohio’s fist gristmill was at Wolfe Creek in Marietta in 1790. 

     Large wooden, paddled wheels turned the gears and millstones inside the mill.  Two large, circular furrowed stones, four to six feet in diameter and weighing as much as a ton each, were turned to grind grain.  Adjustments were made according to the type of grain being milled – corn, rye, and wheat, for example. Dammed streams turned overshot wheels from above and breast wheels at the bottom.  Undershot wheels were used in un-dammed streams with water turning the wheel at the bottom.  The undershot wheel was the least effective due to changes in depth and flow.

     In later years, mills were adapted to assist in many aspects of industry – tobacco, gunpowder, wool, pottery, iron, paper, and wood.  This contrasts with the early mills’ prime roll of grinding grain into flour or meal. 

     Before mills were established in Madison Township, corn was either grated on simple kitchen graters or hand-mills, or pioneers had to travel to a mill the mouth of the Little Miami River on Round Bottom Bill at Columbia in Clermont County to have their corn ground. 

     By 1800, Elijah Mills had dammed the Great Miami River above Poasttown and built a mill there that was later purchased by David Banker.  Banker’s mill packed about 3,000 barrels of flour a year.  A millstone from that mill was at the Poasttown firehouse for many years before being moved to the Madison Community Park; it lies near the Blanton Cabin. 

     In 1801, David and Abner Enoch built a dam across the Great Miami River about two miles north of Middletown and it is assumed they built a mill there as well.

     It is recorded that in 1802, Stephen Vail built a brush dam and mill, north of an older one, on the Great Miami River near present-day Middletown.  From the dam, water was led by raceways down both the east and west sides of the river.  The eastside millrace powered Stephen Vail’s flour and saw mills. The one on the westside powered Aaron Vail’s gristmill that was taken over by John Mumma and Samuel McFall, who later acquired his mill in 1840 and added a sawmill at that time. 

     While others were trying to tame the Great Miami River, Bambo Harris, in 1800, had built the first gristmill in Madison Township on Elk Creek, two miles west of Miltonville in Section 18.  Harris was the first black man to settle in the township and was described as an excellent businessman, millwright, engineer, squatter, and freeman.  The mill, built from memory, ran for more than fifty years, grinding corn or wheat for Johnnycakes, cornbread, or mush.  Payment was in the form of what was called “the miller’s toll”.  Three millstones and a plaque at the Milltonville firehouse tell of Bambo Harris’ fame. Plus, near where the swinging bridge once stood at Sebald Park, the millrace of this mill can still be found.  Harris’ millwright experience was well known in the Wayne Township area as well, where he built a mill between Jacksonburg and West Elkton, with a road from each village leading to the mill.  Bambo Harris’ name for a time lived on with the circa 1942 housing development on Front Street in Hamilton, until it was demolished in 2007. In 1804, just north of Miltonville, possibly at the “head of the island”, Bambo Harris was contracted by Mark Harris to build a sawmill and dam for Blader Achby, to be powered by Harris’ millrace and Elk Creek.

     In 1815, a New Jersey millwright, George Bennett, built a grist or merchant mill and a sawmill at Miltonville in Section 30.  Bennett died in 1847 and Isaac McKinney became the new miller.  One of these millstones is on the working mill at Dayton’s Carillon Park. 

     Benjamin Morrison also ran a mill in Section 19, just north of Milltonville. 

     Astoria, also known as Jacktown, northwest of Miltonville had a sawmill built by Joel Martin in 1801.  An old Quaker, Henry Bennett of Miltonville, who operated it until years after the Civil War, purchased it in 1844.  A sawmill, built at a later date by Jacob Snyder, was located on Upper Elk Creek in Section 18, producing flour as well that was shipped to New Orleans.  The Snyder mill was at one time the largest mill on Elk Creek and producing more flour than any of the others.

     Trenton had a gristmill and sawmill of hand-hewn logs near the confluence of Elk Creek and the Great Miami River, circa 1810, built by a Mr. Gunckel. 

     Other mills, at unknown locations, operated along Elk Creek.  About 1814, there was a second flouring and sawmill.  1819 saw the first manufacturing mill built by George Dickey, where wood flatboats sent the product to New Orleans.  In the 1830s, Steiner operated a woolen mill until the Civil War, and then moved on to Tennessee.

        At one time, John Weaver operated a distillery; Daniel Morkhert a sawmill; John Kelley; Jacob Steiner; and others ran mills along the creek. 

     For more than seventy-five years, Elk Creek was a center for water-powered mills.  With the forest cover gone, so was the even flow of the creek, causing more wheels to sit idle.  Farmers were now turning to bigger gristmills along Middletown’s hydraulic canal for their processing needs. 

     The Brown’s Run area of Madison Township saw moderate mill activity beginning in the 1830s with grist, saw, and woolen mills powered by Brown’s Run.  A woolen mill established by William Emelite, who did country carding, fulling, and manufacturing of cloth. T. Lagget later ran this mill and at some time was purchased by William Thurston.

     Pre-1875, Pete Gebhart operated a gristmill near Thomas Road.  Peter Poast II also had a grist and sawmill on Brown’s Run.  Another miller operated a sorghum and mill and cider press.

     By 1812, Woodsdale had two gristmills at the junctions of Madison, St. Clair, Fairfield, and Liberty Townships.  Flenner’s Mill, operating for nearly forty years, was located on the west bank of the Great Miami River.  Allen’s Mill operated for fourteen years on the east bank.  There was not a bridge until 1856-57, so each mill did well.

     Allen’s Mill was built by George Bennett and John Allen and owned by Henry Allen, then by his son, John.  Located in Section 10 of Fairfield Township, including fifty-six acres in Section 15, John purchased it from Henry for $900,000 in 1817.  Moody Davis was contracted to make improvements or to add a sawmill.  His payment was of two years use of the mill.  Davis then built a mill several miles west of Allen’s Mill. 

     William Dye leased Allen’s Mill in 1831, with John Martin operating it until 1834.  The mill was sold at auction in 1836 to settle the Allen family estate to Peter Springer.  It remained profitable for around another fifteen year.

     Early in Woodsdale’s settlement, Amish settler Christian Augspurger built a grist and sawmill.  Later, his son, Samuel, who eventually would bring three mills to the community, operated a grist and sawmill with his brother in the 1860s.  The mill would be demolished to make way for a paper mill that would be short-lived due to a major fire.

     In 1864, Samuel Augspurger built a brick sawmill to replace his father’s.  Costing $12,000.00, it was washed away by the water of the Flood of 1913, but remained as an outside open-aired sawmill until 1955.

     In 1872, Samuel built a three-story gristmill to replace the former mill that was torn down to make way for the paper mill.  Costing $15,000 to build, the millwheel was on the lower level, with gears being made of solid maple and having three burrs, one for wheat, one for corn, and one for corn and foliage together for livestock.

     The flour, sold under a brand name, was loaded on canal boats and shipped to Cincinnati.  Prosperity soon came to an end for Samuel Augspurger.  He had assumed the responsibility for an entire freight train that was carrying flour and wheat to Montreal, Canada and Europe.  The train crashed and fire consumed the entire shipment, causing Samuel great financial loss and legal problems.

     Finally with the loss of the paper mill and not keeping up with the millrace, both the grist and sawmill closed.  At a later date the mill wheel was removed and the lower level of the mill was filled in with only two levels then being seen.  In recent years, even though it was on the Ohio Historic Inventory and the National Register of Historic Places, the owners decided to raze the last mill of Madison Township and replace it with a modern day storage structure.          

     With bigger and better mills being established in Middletown and Hamilton, the small mills within the area would become idle.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote LHelton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Feb 2014 at 8:21pm
The Great Miami River:

"Stephen Vail had come to Middletown in 1800.  In 1802 he erected a brush dam across the Miami River a mile north of the site of this town.  The brush dam was well built; from it water was led by raceways down both the east and the west sides of the Miami.  On the east side the water ran to Stephen Vail's saw and flour mills.  On the west side of the river, the water turned the wheels of Aaron Vail's grist mill, which in time was taken over by John Mumma."   

"John Mumma, who operated Aaron Vail's old mill on the west side of the river was a leading producer.  Banker's mill on the Miami River packed about 3,000 barrels of flour a year."  "John Mumma owned a warehouse located on the canal, where a person was in constant attendance.  They received all kinds of goods which they shipped to market by the Miami-Erie."

Brown's Run:

"On Brown's Run, a small tributary of the Miami River, a woolen mill was established by William Emelite, who did country carding, fulling, and manufacturing of cloth.  The mill was located between Germantown and Middletown.  William Thurston, who first bought the mill, asked that wool be brought in good order, with one pound of lard to every eight pounds of wool.  He held himself responsible for any wool damaged."

Elk Creek:

"The first such mill, of which there is any record, was a gristmill built on Elk Creek.  A colored man, Bambo Harris, in 1800 began to grind grain for the surrounding farmers."  

"Elk Creek, another tributary of the Miami, also furnished power for manufacturing.  Harris's gristmill, already mentioned, was the first in the area and began operations in 1800.  Daniel Morkhert erected a sawmill on the creek.  This mill was kept in good repair and used widely by the neighborhood.  John Kelley built another mill there."

from: Middletown U.S.A. All-America City, by George C. Crout, c1960.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote LHelton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Feb 2014 at 8:29pm
Starting from the confluence of Elk Creek and the Great Miami River outside of Trenton and traveling north.
 
Section 32: 1810, Gunkel's mill & sawmill, at creek & river confluence.
 
Section 30: c1815, George Bennett's mill & sawmill, at Miltonville, one of Bennett's millstones is being used in the mill at Dayton's Carillon Park.
 
Section 19: Benjamin Morrison's mill.
 
Section 18: c1800, Bambo Harris' mill & sawmill, at Sebald Park, millrace can be seen to the left of present  bridge along the east bank.
 
Section 18: Jacob Snyder's mill & sawmill.
 
Section 7: 1801, Joel Martin's sawmill.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote LHelton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2017 at 3:54pm
* On the 1836 McBride's map, there shows a mill on Elk Creek, just north of the intersection of SR122 & Hursh Rd., on the east side of the creek. There is an indention that runs parallel to the creek, which may be the millrace to what was Snyder's Mill.

* There is an old foundation on Elk Creek behind 6338 Elk Creek Rd., on the hillside, on the west side of the creek. There is a feeder creek that rarely has water in it. When some digging was done, there was what appeared to be laid rock lining the "creek". The millrace appears on old maps and this "creek" was probably the millrace and the foundation from the mill. The owners of the farm at 6150 Elk Creek Rd. owned the land the millrace was on at one time and deeds show they may have leased the land and millrace or sold it. Mentioned in 1830 documents, it would have been a woolen mill built by George Dickey. The mill also processed flax, pressing out the oil to be shipped to New Orleans. This may be the same mill that was later operated on upper Elk Creek by Jacob Snyder as a flour mill. A saw mill was operated there at the same time as the woolen mill. There is in existence a blanket from the woolen mill dated 1850.

* George Dickey - born 1894 and at age 23 sold land (originally owned by deceased father Samuel Dickey) to Garret Schenck (Book I - Page 17 & 18)

Research from Donna Walter    
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