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100 Years Ago

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Mills and Their Byproducts

Cultivating and harvesting a crop was critically important to Shelby County, Ohio, pioneers. Larger harvests gave rise to a need to grind the corn for use as food for the settlers or feed for their animals. Mills, usually water driven, were established to provide this service. These grist mills typically created two other products, both important on the frontier, cut lumber and distilled whiskey.

The Maxwell family dominated the milling business in the Sidney area. Headed by their patriarch, 'Grandfather' Maxwell, the family obtained exclusive water rights to Mosquito Creek at an early date and constructed a mill there. Grandfather's son, B. W. Maxwell, substantially advanced the business. He purchased and enlarged a mill site on the east bank of the Miami River (illustration at top) which was originally erected by Cummins and Mathers. This mill, powered by water from the Tawawa Creek, concentrated on wool and grain milling. (According to what was apparently the local custom, whiskey could also be purchased on the premises. In those days, pioneers believed that "immunity from ...sickness and similar plagues was only secured by the aid of a "stout dram.")

The foundations of the old mill are still visible off the west side of Brooklyn Avenue, 50 yards south of the gas station, (located at the corner of Brooklyn and North Street), and just north of the water works building. B. W. Maxwell also operated a large mill in Sidney at the east end of Clinton Street (now known as Adams Street) next to the Great Miami River. Today the site is used by Shelby Manufacturing.

William Fielding established a saw mill on Starrett's run in the village at an early date. The mill was located at the current Water Street location of the county chapter of the American Red Cross.

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In 1883, Historian Sutton listed the Farmers’ Grain and Milling Company as one of the oldest milling businesejgriffis.gif (41240 bytes)ses in existence in Sidney, Ohio. The site first served many years as a warehouse which had the good fortune of being located on the west bank of the feeder canal then in later years, near the railroad when it came to town. Known as the ‘old stone bridge warehouse’, it was initially built by Frazier and Frankenburger in the 1830s, then bought by the Nutt brothers in the late 1840s. The Nutts owned it for forty years, finally selling to E.J. and Warren Griffis. After nearly being destroyed by fire, E.J. (pictured at right) partnered with his father to build a new facility to which they added a milling establishment. Griffis sold this to Captain Nutt in 1904, who ran it until his death in 1911, when the estate administrators sold the property.

Named the Sidney Grain and Milling Company, then The Farmers’ Grain and Milling Company, annual shipments of up to 150,000 bushels of coal, lime, salt, cement, seeds and feed were handled by the business while the ‘milling plant’ had the capacity of producing up to 30 barrels of flour daily. They manufactured the "Triumph Flour" which according to the Sidney Commercial Club was "widely and favorably known and sold in northern and western Ohio, being sold by nearly every grocer and flour man in this territory."

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The stone bridge over the Poplar Street canal can be seen in this ca. 1910 picture of the Sidney Grain and Milling Company. In later years, the downtown canal feeder was ‘filled in’, and the building destroyed. It was located on the west side of the canal feeder, at Poplar Street and West Avenue, where the parking lot for the health department is now located. The structure seen behind it is the Sidney Steel Scraper Company.

Industry segment written in January, 1998 by Rich Wallace


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