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Grain Mills

Grain elevators and mills were a common industry, especially in Botkins, Anna, Jackson Center, Maplewood, Hardin Station, Pemberton, and Russia, all with direct access to steam railroads. The large Sheets Grain elevator in Botkins was part of an industrial empire which included the Ohio Spoke and Bending Company.

Even before large elevators, the countryside was dotted with mills to produce flour for local use. Jackson Center’s first mill, for example, was built in 1839 by Daniel Davis, and "was a horse mill, there being little or no access to water power in this part of the county" (Memoirs). At Pontiac, now Kirkwood, William Berry built a flour mill in 1812. He reportedly ground meal for Harrison’s soldiers on the march to the northwest (Memoirs).

Whiskey production, reducing a bulky corn crop to a profitable, compact item, was popular at several milling enterprises. The old Maxwell mill on upper Mosquito creek "maintained...a small distillery---or old-fashioned copper still--which produced a moderate amount of whiskey" (Memoirs).

Though Ft. Loramie had no direct access to a large shipping rail company, its steam flouring mill, "the largest mill in Shelby County...specialty is the Daisy O.K. flour," found its market via trucks and the Western Ohio Electric, "a spur of which is Fort Loramie’s only connection with a steam railroad" (Memoirs).

Construction of Maplewood’s grain warehouses meshed with rail construction. "When the D.T. & I. railroad came down from the north, a new lease of life came to the neighborhood, and the village as it now stands has been built almost wholly since 1892..." In Pemberton: "...The looming presence of two big grain elevators at the side of the steel artery of traffic answers the question of what drew population to this spot" (Memoirs).

The basic grain elevator, flour mill, tile-making, and saw-mill industries, coupled with a thriving farming industry, drove the economy of Shelby County’s small villages. In Anna, for example, you could find in 1891, "3 dry goods stores, 3 shoe stores, 2 drug stores, 1 jewelry store, 1 agricultural store, 2 stove and tin stores, 1 paint store, 5 groceries, 2 bakeries, 2 meat markets, 1 furniture and undertaking establishment, 3 millinery and dress making establishments, 1 harness shop, 4 saloons, 1 hotel, 2 livery barns, 2 dray lines, 2 tonsorial shops, 3 grain elevators, 1 flouring mill...2 saw mills, 1 lumber yard, 1 carpet shop, 2 blacksmith shops..." (SCD, Apr. 17, 1891).

Industry segment written in January, 1998 by Rich Wallace


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