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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Gov. Morrow's Old Mill

Dallas Bogan on 6 September 2004
The following is taken from Dallas Bogan's, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow"
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Most Famous of Early Water-Power Grist
and Saw Mills on The Little Miami.

The Owner, a Farmer, Built His Mill on His Own Land While a U.S. Senator and Made His Home Near It in His Old Age--
Incidents in His Life at the Mill--
Labors With His Own Hands.

June 23, 1910

In a list of automobile routes out from Cincinnati it is said that the tourist on the Montgomery pike, before crossing the Little Miami at Fosters, will see Governor Morrow's old mill. This is an error. The mill near Fosters is Hoppe's and was never owned by Governor Morrow. Morrow's mill is not now in existence having been torn down a few years ago. Its site was on the west side of the river, half a mile below the mill still standing near Fosters. The place where it stood can not be seen from the Montgomery pike. Its site was a little above a point opposite Butterworth's station on the railroad.
The fact that Governor Morrow built a mill before he was elected chief magistrate of Ohio, and that he continued to own it and in his last years made his home in a house near it, had given the impression that he was a miller. This is erroneous. In his youth he learned the business of a farmer and land surveyor, and these occupations he continued to follow after his emigration to the Miami country except when in public life. Altho he took much interest in his mill and spent time when at home in keeping it in repair, he was never a miller by occupation.
When a pioneer Mr. Morrow purchased a considerable tract of land which bordered on the Little Miami and his mill was built on his own land. Morrow's mill was by no means the first one built on the Little Miami in Warren county. The first mill on the Little Miami within the limits of this county was built by William Wood about 1799 or 1800 where Kings Mills now is.
Jabish Phillips built a mill about 1802 between the sites of Morrow and South Lebanon, afterward long known as Zimri Stubb's mill.
In 1806 Brazzilia Clark commenced the construction of a mill just below the site of Fosters, which was afterward owned by Percy Kitchell.
Before 1805 there were probably a dozen mills in the county on the Little Miami or streams flowing into that river.

When Built.

Mr. Morrow commenced the construction of his mill during the war of 1812. He was a United States senator at the time and as congress held an extra session each year of the war, he was absent from home much of the time during its construction. It was completed in 1815, the last year of the war.
The grist mill was a large frame building with three pairs of stones and had a saw mill adjoining it. The mill dam was at first constructed of stone and brush. Both grist and saw mill were long run by the old time large undershot water wheels, rude, ponderous and wasteful of water. These were replaced before the death of the owner by improved turbine wheels.
The steep hills along the river where it was built rendered the mill rather difficult of access, but it became the most famous of the mills on the Little Miami more from the name of its owner than from it superiority. It was an important factor in the industrial progress of the region in which it was built. For a number of years after its construction farmers in the expensive and fertile region north of Cincinnati, extending from Lockland to Sharon, came many miles to Morrow's mill to get their grists ground, especially in the dry season when the mills on Millcreek were unable to run on account of low water. The construction of the Miami canal in 1827 furnished a more constant water power in that region for the mills on the canal.
The canal also gave the mills in the valleys of Millcreek and the Great Miami a great advantage over those on the Little Miami in the means of getting merchant flour to market. Prof. O.M. Mitchel, in his first report of the survey for the Little Miami railroad made in 1837, reports Governor Morrow as saying that while he had at his mill all the power and machinery necessary for the manufacture of merchant flour, he found the business unprofitable on account of the extreme difficulty of getting the flour to market.

Some Mill Incidents

His mill was ever an object of interest to Mr. Morrow from the time he planned it until his death. It was less than half a mile from his farm residence and when living on his farm he visited it almost daily. He took pleasure in directing and with his own hands assisting in the labor necessary to keep the mill, its dam and machinery in good repair. Sometimes he would work with an ox-team hauling lumber and stone, sometimes he would be seen in a flat boat with a single assistant conveying materials to stop a leak in the dam; sometimes he would go up in his middle in the water under the mill to remove an obstruction.
When he was first elected governor in October, 1822, a number of citizens of Lebanon formed themselves into a cavalry company to ride to his farm some ten miles distant to congratulate him. On reaching the farm they were informed that he was at his mill, and thither they went. Here the governor elect was found in deep water of the forebay removing an obstruction to the water-gate. He came up to meet his visitors, all wet, without coat or hat, and in that condition he received the congratulations of the cavalcade.
A gentleman came from the state capital to see him on business and was told that he was in the sawmill. The stranger found that the sawmill was not running and no one was in it, but he saw a man at work in the wheel pit below trying to dislodge a piece of ice and cried to him:
"Hello there man, can you tell me where I can see Governor Morrow?"
The reply came up: "Yes Sir, I'll be up in a minute."
"I am in a hurry," said the stranger impatiently; "I have no time to wait on you; can't you tell me where I can find the governor?"
"In a moment sir" was the mild response, and the governor himself came up to the no small mortification of the visitor.

Last Years at His Mill.

At the age of seventy-two Mr. Morrow retired from congress and then bade a final adieu to political life. He never consented to be a candidate for public office again.
In his old age he divided by deeds of gifts nearly all his farming among his children and retained for himself his mill and tract of wood land on the river hills. His last years were passed in the quiet retreat of a plain dwelling house at his mill. It was a rural home at the foot of a steep hill covered with the native forest and with romantic surroundings, only half a mile from the spot where he had built his pioneer cabin. The picturesque beauty of the place attracted the attention of Godfrey N. Frankenstein, the artist, and after his return from Europe in 1869, he painted two views of the old mill, one looking up and the other down the river.
Here the venerable statesman passed his last years in the same simplicity that had always characterized his life. Altho he lived in retirement he did not become a recluse. He continued to serve as president of the Little Miami railroad until it was completed to Springfield and placed on a solid and sure financial basis when he retired. He served as president of the board of trustees of Miami University and regularly attended the meetings of the board. He attended a river and harbor convention at Chicago in 1847, traveling by railroad and stagecoach across Ohio to Sandusky and thence by lake steamer by the long route via Mackinac.
His books were placed in a large apartment which he used as a library, parlor and living room. His library was probably the largest and best in the county of Warren at that time. Durbin Ward when a young lawyer visited the governor at this place, and tho familiar with the best private libraries in Lebanon, he said he looked with amazement over the long rows of solid literature in this rural home, yet at this time the venerable owner had already placed a considerable portion of his books in a circulating library at Twenty Mile Stand.
Governor Morrow died March 22, 1852, in the 81st year of his age. He retained the full possession of his mental faculties and his senses until his last brief illness. From the room in which he died he could hear the rumbling of the millstones in the mill in which he had long taken a great interest, and could see the cars across the river on the first railroad running out of Cincinnati in the construction of which he was the most conspicuous figure.

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This page created 6 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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