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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Reminiscence Of The Old Stone Burr Grist And Saw Mills On The Banks Of The Little Miami River.

Dallas Bogan on 10 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The following was taken from "The Miami Gazette," Waynesville, Article by A.C. Thompson, April 5, 1933.

"Water was one of the first forces of nature to be harnessed for the service of man. Rivers and lesser streams of water, seeking their common level in response to the stern laws of the universe, not only furnished him with a more adequate means of transportation, with less physical labor involved, but were soon forced to aid with his larger tasks, greatly increasing and enhancing the results obtained long before steam, electricity or gasoline had even been dreamed of as motive power, streams were turning the paddle-wheels of mills furnishing power for the grinding of grain into flour, meal and other foods; the sawing of logs into timber, board and other building materials; the carding, spinning and weaving of wool, flax, and other fibers into cloth, and for myriads of other uses to meet the requirements of mankind.
"Along the banks of our streams, are still to be found eloquent reminders of these small beginnings of our immense manufacturing industries. True, the paddle-wheels have long since ceased to turn; the mills, themselves, have been succeeded by fewer, but much larger mills, where steam or electricity has taken the place of water power and where the operators of yesteryear would scarce recognize the processes of manufacture now being carried forward on such a gigantic scale. But the fact remains that these little water- power mills form the base of our present magnificent system. The paddle-wheels are idle, the wheels have ceased to turn, the very buildings have fallen into decay, or have been torn away completely. In many in- stances, only the old dams remain, and they are fast being carried away by the water on its way to the sea. America industry has outgrown its swaddling clothes and has ever progressed with the times, aided thereto by the inventive genius of man.
"Our own Little Miami River played its full part in these beginnings of industry. Let us trace a few of these mills that, in former days, were to be found along its banks. It is said that the first mill built on the head of the stream was located near Trebeins and was erected by John Paul. For more than a hundred years it was busily engaged with grinding the flour, meal and feed for the inhabitants of the large territory in that vicinity.
"Coming down stream, we next locate the Schnebly mill, located near Spring Valley on Glady, a tributary of the Little Miami.
"Arriving at Spring Valley, we find the I.M. Barrett mill, one of the largest capacity grist mills on the entire stream, and also with one of the longest periods of service. Not until about 1914, did this mill give way before the keen press of centralized competition.
"Returning to Spring Valley, we find a large meat curing plant that conducted an immense business for several years. Here were prepared for market those splendid Spring Valley hams that won renown far and wide. This plant was remodeled and operated in later years by Wm. Hiatt and Son, as a milling and grain-handling center.
"Continuing our journey down stream, we next find the Mt. Holly Mill, built by Pence & Kinney, and operated for years by John M. Marlatt. About a mile below here is found the site of the Lamar Mill.
"This brings us to the mills in Waynesville and its immediate vicinity. The late Squire John W. Keys, father of H.P. Keys, wrote an interesting sketch of these for the History of Warren County, Ohio, published in 1882. We shall draw upon this source for a bit of information.
"The first mill in Wayne Township, he says, was built by Samuel Heighway on Newman's Run, below Waynesville, in the year 1803. The mill was built of logs, and the millstones used were what were called "raccoon burrs." It afterward became the property of Jonathon Newman. He attached a saw-mill and carding machine which were burned down and not rebuilt.
"Mr. Heighway also built a grist-mill and saw-mill on a power site directly back of the Waynesville water pumping station on the river. This mill eventually became the property of Sidwell Taylor, father of the late Mrs. Anna T. Ellis, and for many years was known as the Taylor Mill. Today, only a part of the dam remains to remind one of the busy activities that were carried on there.
"Writing of the Waynesville mills, Mr. Keyes says: About the year 1806, John Haines, from Virginia, built a mill at Waynesville on the power now owned by Mr. Wright (C.M. Robitzer, now). [This writer does not have the exact date this was written.] It was of framed timber and stood about where the saw mill now is. (The saw-mill has since been torn down and cleared away. It stood just south of the present swimming pool.) The dam was a few hundred yards above the mill and abutted the land owned by Abel Satterthwaite (father of Henry Satterthwaite), which has since, by means of a channel on the east side, become an island. Haines failed to secure an abutment on the east side of the river, and the dam causing the frequent overflow of the land, became obnoxious to the owner. He cut round the dam and destroyed the power, about the year 1809. A long litigation ensued and case was finally decided in the Supreme Court against Haines.
"John Jennings came to the township in 1810, and bought the mill and secured an abutment on the east side against the rugged bank, for $200, and contracted with David Brown to extend the race for $300. Brown completed the race, but lost heavily on the contract. The mill was idle about six years, during which time the principal milling of the neighborhood was done at Newman's mill on the Run, and at Heighway's mill on the Miami. A saw-mill and a fulling-mill were there at an early day and carding and fulling done there until about 1850.
"The brick mill was built in 1825 by John Jennings, and about 1832 was sold by him to Stephen Cook and Jason Evans. Evans became the sole owner, and, in 1840, sold the mills with the lands, lots, dwellings, etc., to William Oliphant of New Jersey, for $14,000. It was regarded as a good sale at the time. Oliphant died, and his sons sold out, settled up and returned to New Jersey.
"The mills finally became the property of the Wright family, who operated them for many years. The last member of this family to own and operate them was the late John M. Wright, father of Mrs. Susan W. Payne.
"The present owner, C.M. Robitzer, secured control during the very early years of the present century, and immediately installed extensive improvements. A modern water turbine replaced the old paddle wheel, and the most up-to-date machinery was installed throughout, until the Waynesville Mills gained wide renown as one of the best equipped plants of its kind in the entire state. The saw-mill was discontinued and torn down.
"The mill continued to do a thriving business until after the close of the World War, when the scarcity and high price of wheat forced the management to abandon the struggle against the wealthy large combines. Even yet, however, water power is used to operate the modern ice plant that has replaced the grinding machinery.
"The Telegraph Mill, located two miles below Waynesville on the Little Miami, was built about 1856 and was operated quite extensively during the early years. Later, the ownership changed quite frequently. It was purchased in 1917 by the late Roy Van Tress, and has not been in running operation since that time, although it has not been at any time completely abandoned improvements being made at different times with a view of eventually replacing it in operation. (The author, Mr. Thompson, was the last owner of this mill to operate it on a commercial basis, and himself made many of the improvements he mentions.-Editor)
"An old-time mill was operated at Oregonia for many years, the last of which it was under the management of John K. Spencer. It was burned in 1910, and has never been rebuilt.
"Thus passes the one time very necessary old-time type of stone burr mills. These mills bear the claim of older residents of having produced the most excellent grade of flour and meal ever manufactured."

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This page created 10 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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