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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Assorted Mills On The Little Miami River

Dallas Bogan on 4 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
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In the early days of Ohio The Little Miami was the most important millstream in the state. Cheaper transportation was needed to transport the products from the mills on the river. Besides the numerous gristmills, and flourmills, there were one or two paper mills, a cotton mill at Oregonia and woolen mills on or near the river. It was thought that the town of Gainsboro, laid out in 1815 (the site of Kings Mills), would be an important factory town.
At least three mills were in operation on the Little Miami River at the turn of the 19th century. The first mill, known as Waldsmith's Mill, was located at the present site of Milford; the second and third mills, built in 1793 and 1799, respectively, were located near Xenia and Kings Mills. The county, in 1832, contained 30 gristmills, 44 saw mills, 25 tanneries, 28 distilleries, 6 woolen factories, 3 iron foundries, 3 oil mills, 2 paper mills and 1 brewery. Also in this year, Todd's Fork, in the twenty-five miles of its course, turned 8 saw mills and 4 gristmills. East Fork, which feeds Todd's Fork one mile below Clarksville in the thirteen miles of its course, turned two saw mills and two grist mills. Turtlecreek had two sawmills and two gristmills.
Some of the earliest mills in Warren County were constructed on the small streams, which feed the Little Miami. The reasoning for this was the greater ease and less cost of constructing a dam across a smaller stream.
Directing the water current upon the wheel of the mill consisted of cheap structures of brush and logs. This was done rather than using a reservoir to retain the water. The waterpower was converted into energy in which to turn a huge grinding wheel. During the dry season the mill would be idle. The clearing away of the forests caused the smaller streams to be less constant in their flow.

The following was taken from 1882 Beers History of Montgomery County.
Before the early mills the early pioneers used a type of homemade mill. A rather crude method in the process of getting corn cracked into meal is described as such:
"Every expedient was resorted to get corn cracked into meal. The `hominy-block' was unsatisfactory, and grating by hand was worse. The stump-mortar was made by burning a round hole in the top of a stump; a spring pole was rigged over it, with a stone pestle attached. Hominy was first made by hulling corn, soaking the grains in weak lye, then cracking in the `hominy- block,' or in the improved `stump-mortar.' The hand- mill, although hard, slow work, was a welcome improvement, and soon one stood in the chimney-corner of every cabin. The stones were about four inches thick, and were broken down as nearly round as possible to about twenty inches in diameter. On top of the upper stone, near the edge, one end of a pole was fixed, the other end working in a socket in a piece of timber on the floor overhead. One person turned the stone by hand, while another fed the corn into the eye. It took two hours to grind enough meal to supply one person for a day, the operators often changing places in the work. Before the cabins were all supplied with these hand- mills, neighbors sometimes shouldered a peck or half bushel of corn, and carried it five miles to the cabin of a settler who had one, grind his corn, and return with the meal.
"Flour was very scarce, and, at this time, was all brought from Cincinnati, and, as we have said, was very expensive. Most of the settlers kept a small quantity laid by for use only in case of sickness. Those who could afford it had biscuits for breakfast on Sunday morning, baked in a spider before the fire. Corn-pone, dodgers and flap-jacks, supplied them for the rest of the week. Those who could not afford to buy flour would run the wheat three or four times through these hand- mills.
"The next advance made was when these little mills were rigged to run by horse power, by fastening a pole across the stone, hitching the horse to the end of the pole, and driving him round and round a circle. The next improvement was made in running a single pair of stones by water-power. The wheel was a simple paddle wheel, run by the natural current of the stream, and, although not reliable, was good enough to grind all the wheat and corn that the settlement needed."

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This page created 4 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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