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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Cotton Spinning On The Little Miami In Warren County In 1816.

Dallas Bogan on 29 September 2004
The following is taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The Old Town of Freeport, Now Oregonia, and Its Early Industries--The Miami Manufacturing Co. And Its Factory, the Factory Burned--An Old Account
Book Recently Found in Lebanon.

December 15, 1910.

In his excellent history of Washington township published in the Warren County History, 1882, Esquire Samuel Harris says of the place then called Freeport:
"At what time this place took the name of Freeport is not known, but in 1802 or 1803, Nebo Gaunt settled there and built a mill which passed to the ownership of Judge Ignatius Brown and David Brown, and was known as Gaunt's Mill and Brown's Mill till probably about 1820 when it assumed the name of Freeport. In connection with this mill David Brown built a paint mill for the manufacture of Spanish brown and its kindred shades, the materials for which were procured from some point above the mill.
David Kinsey built a carding mill in 1816, and about the same time a cotton factory was built by a company, the latter being burned in 1818. How long the carding mill was operated after the burning of the cotton mill is not known. James Van Horn had a blacksmith and auger factory and Elijah or Elisha Vance had a pottery about 1820. Mark Armitage, a farmer, had an auger factory near by. A large frame was erected in 1844 for Charles Nixon to be used as a paper mill, but not being used for that purpose, the machinery was operated for some time for a barrel factory."

Freeport Laid Out.

It will thus be seen that some important industries were established at this place in the first half of the last century. According to Esquire Harris, who is good authority, the mill of Nebo Gaunt was the first one in Washington Township. Harris says of Gaunt: "He was an ingenious man, and could work as millwright, carpenter, wagonmaker or black-smith with facility. He afterward built a two-story frame house, and made nearly all the nails used in its construction."
It is probable that the place was first called Freeport in 1816. The land records of Warren county show that the town of Freeport was laid out by Ignatius Brown and Nebo Gaunt and that its plat was recorded November 30, 1816. The surveyor was Allen Wright and the plat was acknowledged before Burwell Goode, J.P., with Hiram Brown and Zimri Gaunt as witnesses.
The town was projected and named probably about the time of the organization of the cotton mill company. The town plat contained 27 lots, each one-fourth of an acre. There were three streets; one running north and south parallel with the river and two short streets running east and west. Mention is made in the description of the "Factory Lot adjoining the town" and it lay between the Main street and the river.

Cotton Spinning On the Little Miami.

It may seem strange that a cotton factory should be built on the Little Miami at so great a distance from the cotton fields and so far from the navigable Ohio river. As wool was grown in Warren county it might be surmised that the mill referred to was a woolen and not a cotton mill, but there is conclusive evidence that there was a cotton factory at Freeport.
In fact, a few years after the close of the war with England, a number of cotton factories were established in Ohio. In Kilbourn's Ohio Gazeteer for 1819, I find mentioned:
At Cincinnati, "One woolen and four cotton factories."
At Chillicothe, "four cotton spinning factories, one of which goes by water and the remainder by horse power."
At Stuebenville, "one woolen and one cotton factory," both run by steam power.
The Little Miami was the best mill stream in Ohio and after the close of the war with England a company was organized to build at Freeport, a cotton factory. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 by Eli Whitney caused one of the greatest industrial revolutions in all history. By its use one man in one day was able to clean for market 1000 pounds of cotton instead of five or six by hand. In 1791 the amount of cotton exported from the country was less than 200,000 pounds, in 1803, owing to the use of the gin it rose to more than forty-one million pounds. Our cotton fields supplied the spindles both of Old and New England.
This cotton mill on the Little Miami was doubtless designed for the spinning of the fiber. Up to the year 1813 the cotton mills were not for weaving but for the production of yarn or twist which was sold to the weavers who made use of hand looms to convert it into cloth. In 1813 there was erected at Waltham, Mass., a factory furnished with both spinning and weaving, and it was probably the first in the world which combined all the processes necessary for converting raw cotton into finished cloth. The first cotton mill at Lowell was not erected until 1822.
While cotton growing became much the most profit-able industry ever introduced into the southern states and had trebled the value of the lands adapted to its growth, the cotton factories in the northern states soon enabled them to derive more benefit from the crop by increased wealth and population than did the states in which it was grown.

An Old Account Book.

There was recently found in the old Matthews residence on Main street in Lebanon, parts of an old account book kept by the Miami Manufacturing Co. The oldest entry in the part of the book found was made at Freeport in May, 1816. While some leaves are missing, it seems probable that the company began the operation of its mill at that date. Only two entries were made in May, and about twenty in June, 1816, but in later months they became numerous. The accounts end abruptly in September, 1819.
The charges against the patrons of the factory during the few years of its operation are generally small sums, few of them amounting to as much as three dollars. The largest item entered is $7.06 opposite the name of Simon Hagerman in July, 1816.
While most of the accounts were paid in cash, many were paid in farm produce, such as wheat, bacon, corn, pork, and butter. Wheat was much more frequently given in settlement of accounts than any other kind of produce. Some accounts were settled by "work" and one by "hauling cotton."
The old account book contains the names of about 400 patrons of the factory who resided chiefly within a distance of ten miles around Freeport. Washington township had not yet been organized and the factory was in Wayne. Most of the patrons came from the two large townships of Wayne and Turtlecreek, not a few residing at or near Lebanon.
Many of the names are of prominent pioneers who were the heads of well-to-do families which were just beginning to substitute factory made articles and fabrics for those of home manufacture. Among the pioneers flax and wool for clothing were largely prepared and spun at home, cotton goods being scarce. Carding wool by hand was common, and weaving, spinning, dyeing and tailoring for the family were all carried in the same household. Cloth made of mixed linen and wool, called linsey or linsey- woolsey was common for men's wear.
After the termination of the account with the patrons another account was commenced which begins thus: "1820--Account Book kept by the Trustees of the Miami Manufacturing Co."
First in the new account is a list of "Notes, receipts, etc., in Burwell Goode's hands, one of the trustees."
These accounts were doubtless placed in Goode's hands in order that the business of the company might be settled up after the destruction of the factory. The name of Joseph Dunham appears as one of the trustees and of Isaac John, as trustee and treasurer.
The last settlement of the trustees with the treasurer was on March 27, 1824.

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This page created 29 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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