RED LION MILL
By Mrs. Lila Collins Crounse [Crounce]
A portion of the road where it crosses the Blue river between sections 9 and 10 in McFadden township is being rerouted, following again the road past the old Red Lion mill site, a road which was abandoned several years ago as being unsatisfactory. This has resulted in a revival of interest in the old mill, which was one of the early institutions in the newly established settlements along the Blue.
Early in the spring of 1878, Chas. Seeley, who had a mill on the Blue in the south edge of York county, conceived the idea of establishing another in what appeared to be a live and growing community. The land was secured from Nick Nye, the first owner, who secured it through a pre-railroad grant.
Securing water rights, etc., the work was soon begun, Henry Rogers, who had a homestead some little distance west of the McFadden homestead, secured the contract for digging the race. This was done in its entirety by oxen and the limited tools, plows, spades, shovels, etc., then available. The activity centered around this project with the hauling of lumber. The hammering and pounding carried on all day was an interesting and exciting thing to the few early settlers in the vicinity.
When the work was nicely going another settler by the name of Nosser or Norser – the name having been partly forgotten – reported that he also had secured water-rights and a mill site a short distance west. He began felling a few trees which he threw across the stream, damming it enough to damage the site further east. This disturbance finally resulted in a law suit. The hearing was postponed a time or two, awaiting further developments. In the meantime Mr. Seeley had secured from another early settler, Noah Martin, the information that he had heard Mr. Nosser or Norser boast that he would "fix" the mill site for Mr. Seeley. Before the case could come to trial again Noah Martin, who was to have been Seeley's main witness, met a tragic death. His team brought him home, lying dead in his wagon with wounds in his head, indicating he had been slain by blows from a hammer or some such instrument. This event in all its ramifications makes another pioneer story still well remembered by a very few of the remaining early day settlers. The murderer was never apprehended and the mystery never solved. However Seeley retained his rights and the mill was built and for years did a thriving business.
Soon after getting his right established Mr. Seeley, who found it impossible to take care of two mills, sent for his brother-in-law, E. O. Wright, in Iowa, who was not a miller but a very diligent man and one on whom he knew he could depend. Late one autumn day Mr. Wright, with his family and worldly possessions in a covered wagon and with his young son, Gene, with a cattle whip driving the family cow, stopped at the farm home of Chris Holoch, who had settled on the Blue in 1866. Charlie Holoch and his sister, Carrie, now Mrs. Saddoris, as small children were husking corn and from them Mr. Wright found out how he could get to the Red Lion mill only a short distance away.
Under Mr. Wright's management the mill did a thriving business. Wheat was hauled long distances to be ground into flour. From a Bohemian settlement in Saline county great loads, often 60 or 65 sacks piled high on wagons, came to be turned into flour. The mill ran day and night. Mr. Wright, who was a very painstaking man, never began his day's work without a complete survey of his machinery and dam. Any small leak or muskrat hole was detected and immediately repaired, so that the work never lagged. "Uncle Sam" Smith, who lived nearby, was employed the year round and spent much time cutting and hauling slabs of sod to help keep the dam in repair.
Mr. Wright never allowed his mill to run on Sunday. Although the whir and pounding lasted until dawn with the time of the passing of the settlers on the way to church the noise ceased and the mill was silent until perhaps midnight when activities again were resumed. Very early a postoffice was established. Then a country store, blacksmith shop and a number of small buildings sprung up and a tiny inland hamlet came in to being. Here also stood the old "Custom Barn" which housed many a team of horses for the settlers during the wait for their "grist" to be ground. The feed for the horses was sure to be brought along.
Mr. Wright sold the mill later to Mr. Stambaugh. Soon the little village was known as a Dunkard settlement, several Dunkard families settling there at that time. The old country store was turned into a church and services held there for several years. The mill passed through several hands in the following years, Case, Price and Ace Martin having owned and operated it for various lengths of time.
During these years the mill was changed from the burr to the newer type roller plan. Never at any time out of running order but shut down at times for reasons such as lack of business, etc. Finally the mill was sold to John Bearss. He did some changing, adding a fifth or finishing roller, a new and better bolting system. But one morning in early summer, 1903, the continued whistling of a steam engine fired and ready for a corn shelling job at a nearby farm house and the ringing of the old dinner bell announced to the farmers nearby that something was amiss and word quickly passed that the old mill was on fire. Help soon gathered, but the old building, dry as tinder and with the accumulated dust and cobwebs of more than a quarter century, was soon a mass of burning embers. The old landmark, the Red Lion mill, so familiar to the settlers for years, with its large picture in red of a bold lion with lashing tail painted on the outside wall above the loading platform, was no more.