OLD STONER’S MILL
Published in the Sunday Journal Gazette
CEDAR CREEK OLD STONER’S MILL
By Forest J. McComb
For 130 years Stoner’s Mill site has been famous as one of the most important of the 35 old mills along the major streams of Allen County.
Like most of the other 34 mill sites, the physical evidence of these landmarks of the early pioneers have vanished but the memories linger in the minds of many Allen County senior citizens.
Such was the case Saturday as winter’s immaculate carpet covered the site of the old mill on and near the property of Dr. Frederick O. Mackel, R.R. 1, Huntertown, an orthopedic surgeon on the staffs of Lutheran and Parkview Memorial Hospitals.
Earlier in the week Forest J. McComb, living along the McComb Road, north of Huntertown, a long-time farmer and home builder informed The Journal Gazette that much of the lore of these old mills has gone unpublished and that people are living who can give first-hand information. But in time this chance will be lost, he added.
Among the senior citizens visited Saturday were ARTHUR BLEEKMAN and MRS. CORA MYER, along with the young suburban couple DR. and MRS. MACKEL and their four youngsters.
Many of the mills were constructed along the Cedar Creek in the Huntertown-Cedarville area – an area today that many motorists pass through swiftly, traveling Ind. 427 and U. S. 27, little realizing the significance of these streams to the pioneers. Water power and timber were the main reliance of these first settlers.
When Indiana was young, and the deer, the otter and beaver were more plentiful the building of these water-powered mills began – with the entire 35 constructed in the period 1827 to 1885 according to a booklet on the Water-powered Mills of Allen County, Indiana, compiled by Roy M. Bates in February of 1942.
Stoner’s Mill had the longest service record of these mills, operating continually from 1834 to 1910. Its history has gone down in the records of Perry Township. When the settlement was new in 1834, a sawmill was built on Cedar Creek by Blair and Wines. Later on a corn-cracker was added.
The stones needed for cracking corn were about 18 inches in diameter and worked in an upright position, grinding the meal coarsely. The process was a very primitive affair and of little use to the proprietor.
On the other hand, the sawmill was a good investment, yielding a fair revenue.
In 1835 SAMUEL SHRYOCK bought the mill and sent to Dayton, Ohio, for a run and buhrs after which he did custom grinding.
(A “run” and “buhr” are a part of the terminology of the old-time millwrights, the men who designed these water-powered mill wheels. The “run” referred to that channel where the race water entered the mill, just before the current flowed over or under the wheel. The “buhr or burr” was the round stone that ground the grain and cracked the corn.)
Since money was largely non-existent in these early times, the mill operators received an eighth of a share of each load of grain or timber processed.
SHRYOCK operated the mill until 1851 when JOHN STONER became the proprietor and after a number of years operation by this man, who was to give his name to the mill, GEORGE KELL assumed ownership and installed the “roller-process” for milling flour.
After KELL came JACOB SNYDER and a partner, whose name is unknown. The last operator of the mill was WILLIAM FREESE, brother of CHARLES FREESE, a prominent Fort Wayne businessman.
Author Bates described the mill building as being very large – 125 feet in length and 50 feet wide. It was of frame construction, two and a half stories in height. The mill sat astride the race which was almost a mile in length. Water was impounded by a dam, located to the north, in DeKalb County. This dam was 100 feet in length and six feet high, constructed of timber, rock and debris. A reservoir was built near the dam to insure a good supply of water.
Before the installation of the roller-process, the mill was equipped with two four-foot stone buhrs, one used for grinding wheat and the other for cracking corn.
The building stood for many years after its abandonment in 1910, eventually dismantled in the 1920’s. The channel of the Big Cedar Creek was deepened by dredging in 1916 and the following year the old dam was inundated and destroyed by spring freshets.
The country around Stoner’s Mill is scenic, and the area became a popular picnic ground. Many persons came from throughout north-eastern Indiana to spend a Sunday or holiday among the beauties of the Cedar Creek hills, which in another generation had gain the name “Switzerland of Allen County.”
At one point in 1933 a group of Fort Wayne businessmen sought to purchase the site for a recreation grounds, which was to be known as “Old Farm Gardens,” but the project failed to materialize.
Today Dr. Mackel and his family live in the old farmhouse that adjoined the mill, having bought it from a Garrett doctor who modernized the dwelling. The orthopedist and his family have continued beautifying the home and property. Mrs. Mackel reports that many persons drive by, linger at the driveway and stop to chat with her, telling of once living nearby or visiting the old mill site in an earlier day.
Other mill sites in Allen County are found along the Eel River, St. Joseph’s River, St. Mary’s River and Maumee River.
The still lush timber growths near many of these sites and the swift-flowing currents that mirror spring and new birth to our land could tell quite a story if only they could talk.
Find a photo of Stoner’s Mill on our photo page. The photo in the Journal Gazette had this caption and wording:
It Looked Like This – The old Stoner’s Mill Building which was 125 feet in length and 50 feet wide is shown here with the old mill race entering the building in the center of the picture. The mill race was an artificial channel that carried water from the creek to the mill wheel, where the water power was utilized. Old-timers used to say, “If water had ripples in it the power was lost, so keep a strong current coming on the mill wheel.”