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This Changing World

The Columns of Will Ball

Logansport Press, Feb. 6, Feb. 13, Feb. 20, March 6, and March 13, 1949


Williamson Wright, one of the Logansport early settlers, said in an address at the Old Settlers’ Picnic held on the south side August 21, 1875, that the nearest mill first was at Terre Haute, which was likely reached by way of the Wabash, although it is not likely that anyone from the Mouth of the Eel ever went that far for grist; later a mill was erected at Lafayette, then one at Delphi.

 It was not long, though, until mills were set up on the streams nearer at hand; first the sawmills to which, in a short time, were added burhs for grinding wheat.

 The first mill of any sort to be erected in the boundary of Cass County, according to Thomas B. Helm, who came to Logansport in 1836 and whose history of the county is generally acknowledged to be authoritative, and to Williamson Wright, another pioneer who arrived in 1835, was a sawmill or rather two sawmills, one on either side of the Eel River, both built by the same man at about the same time and both drawing power from the same dam, which was located above what was then called the “Falls of Eel River” in the neighborhood of 10th Street.

 These mills and the dam were constructed by Andrew Waymire for General John Tipton, who had moved the Indian Agency from Ft. Wayne to Logansport just months before.

 Before General Tipton brought the agency to the “Mouth of the Eel”, the place was a small group of cabins in the dense forest.  The first, according to reputable sources, was a trading post on the north side of the Wabash, where the first George Seybold later built a pretentious home.  This was erected by Edward McCartney, a trader who had been outfitted by the firm of Walker and Davis at Ft. Wayne.  He remained only a short time, perhaps not more than a year, going to Kosciusko County shortly after the Treaty of 1826.  The next cabin to be built, although usually regarded as the first, was the tavern put up by Alexander Chamberlain, on the south side of the Wabash on the ground now occupied by Judge Wild’s home at 505 Cliff Drive.  These were the only ones of which the writer has direct knowledge.

 After Tipton came, the little settlement began to grow.  Chauncey Carter, who had known Tipton in Ft. Wayne, acquired the title to that part of the Cicott Reserve lying between the rivers, upon which he laid out the little town in April of 1828; Tipton bought the Chamberlain place to establish the Agency and also started construction of his mills and the dam.

 On Feb. 23, 1832, Waymire wrote to Tipton, who was then U.S. Senator, of the troubles they were having.  The Wabash had “dammed up” below Mr. Mure’s mill and up to the door latch in his house and that he had to move to the hills for a week.  This is the only mention the writer ever saw regarding Mure’s Mill.  The mills were damaged, according to the letter, and presumably they were put into serves as soon as the dam was repaired.

 In a letter a little later, Tiption mentions a grist mill, so he had evidently added a “corn cracker” to one or both of his sawmills.  Still later he mentions something about “cards” being installed so presumably a woolen mill had been or was about to be, set up, as cards were used to comb out the fleece preparatory to spinning.

 The Forest (not Forrest) Mill which for so long was a landmark at the south end of the 6th Street bridge, was undoubtedly the first mill erected in what is now the city of Logansport and very likely the first in the present boundary of Cass County.  As related above, it was erected in 1828 by Andrew Waymire for General John Tipton.  At that time, the city of Logansport did not exist.  Tipton saw the coming of white settlers and made ready to collect his share of gain.  Barred by law from directly dealing with his wards, he arranged to make his dealing with those who could deal with them.  Hence, his mills located on ground purchased from Chauncey Carter adjoining the new town site on the east, for the town ended at 5th Street.   Carter sold to Tipton all that part of Cicott Reserve at the Mouth of the Eel not including the town site, perhaps 600 acres.

 Tipton located the Forest Mill near the boundary of the new town.  That meant digging a race nearly 1/3 of a mile long, for the dam, the Falls of Eel was where 10th Street would intersect each other to the river bank.  The other mill, crossing the river, seems to have been a little further upstream.

 Andrew Waymire, who built the mills, seems to have been a very prominent citizen in the early days.  He was married to Almida Mellon (Melton?) on July 4, 1829, that being the third marriage solemnized in the community.  His name does not appear in any other documents later than 1832, examined by the writer.

 The Forest Mill was first operated for Tipton by Samuel Ward; the other, across the river, by Joseph Sellers.  Ward remained in the community for a long time.  Sellers remained in the community until the 70’s.  He became the father of a large family—one daughter and about ten sons.  He was a Revolutionary War veteran.  He was buried in Spring Creek Cemetery.

 Forest Mill passed into the hands of Hamilton and Taber after Tipton’s death in 1839.  They operated it themselves or leased it to others.  One of those lessees, John Forest, gave the mill its name.  About 1846 it came into the hands of Beach and Cecil.  Beach sold his interest and the firm was known as George Cecil and Company; later James Watson, a clerk for Cecil, bought an interest and the firm became Cecil and Watson, under whose name it continued to operate the mill even after it was sold to the city of Logansport which wanted the water power for its new water works and after Cecil moved to New York to become the sales agent for the product known as “Belmont Brand”.  For quite a long time, the output of the mill was 125 barrels a day.

 After Wilson’s retirement, Edmund Bucher, who had been head miller, took it over and ran it successfully until 1895 when it was torn down, the race filled in to 8th Street, Bringhurst Street laid out and the lots sold for residences.

 According to Helm’s History of Cass County, there were, from about 1830 to 1845 or 1850, more than sixty mills in the county.  Many of these were both sawmills and grist mills; many of them derived their power from the many small streams tributary to the Eel or Wabash.  There were at least three on Twelve Mile Creek in Adams Township; Tick Creek in Clay had several and Deer Creek, to the south, a much larger stream than the other two, had perhaps six or eight.  Jefferson Township had ten, several of them built by Andrew Waymire, who had built the two mills in Logansport for John Tipton. 

 It has been stated that power for the mills was drawn from the canal but that could not have been very satisfactory.  In order to get the necessary “head” or fall, would necessarily be located near a lock and the passage of boats there must have interfered with the operation of the mill.  Such was the “Lock Mill” built on the canal about where 7th Street would intersect it if it were carried down the hill where the Hendricks property is now located.  It was built about 1849 by John W. Wright and had a rather checkered career for 25 or 30 years.  It was abandoned about 1877.

In the early 1880’s a new company was formed by J.N. Booth, a brother of Mrs. W.T. Giffe; John T. Obenchain, father of Don Obenchain of the Standard Auto Parts; and S.B. Boyer, father of Mrs. Frank Parker and Mrs. Tom Flanigan.  They fitted up the old mill with the latest of modern roller mill equipment, installed steam power, and did a thriving business, mostly local, for 20 years or so.  Mr. Booth withdrew soon after the business started, leaving the other two to carry on.  They had two brands, “potent” and “automatic”, “potent” being the better grade.

 When this writer, in conversation with an old time resident recently, mentioned the  mill race that used to flow down the street, he said “oh, you are mistaken, the race was on the other side of the river”.  True, there was a race on the other side of the river, reaching from the old Uhl dam 100 yards or so west into the 3rd Street Bridge to Uhl’s Empire Mills, just south of the Pennsylvania tracks.  Hundreds of local residents remember that.  It was filled in and a row of houses built on the site when another dam was constructed further down in the last century.

 However, there was also a race east of the river which followed the general course of the present street, extending from the same dam to a point a little south of Market Street whence it returned to the river through the water wheels of a saw mill operated for a time by Joseph Uhl and James Cheney, grandfather of Mrs. Alice Keller and Allen Nelson.  Mr. Cheney came to Logansport from Ft. Wayne in 1856 to establish a branch of the Indiana State Bank and was its first cashier.

 Joseph Uhl came to Cass County in 1852 and settled in Washington Township about two miles east of Logansport where he built a flour mill which he operated until 1858 when he sold it and moved to town.  In 1859 he formed a partnership with Mr. Cheney, erecting or taking over from former owners, the sawmill on the east side.  Mr. Uhl personally managed the flour mill, leaving the direction of the sawmill to others, his son William among the others.  This son was killed in the mill by a log rolling over him.

 In 1863 Dennis Uhl, son of Joseph and father of the late Walter Uhl and Misses Florence and Genevra Uhl and Mrs. A.P. Flynn, became a partner.  The firm then became Uhl, Cheney and Company.  Mr. Cheney withdrew in a year or two, later moving to New York where he became a prominent figure in banking circles.  He later settled in Ft. Wayne and died there in 1903.  He is buried in Mt. Hope.

 Dr. Powell makes the statement that the mill was erected in the early 1840’s by T.H. Bringhurst and Richard Gormley and that the machinery was shipped by sea from Philadelphia to New Orleans; up the Mississippi and Ohio to Cincinnati; thence by canal to Toledo, then also by canal to Logansport. 

 Uhl and Cheney were in charge of the place from 1859 until the mid 1860’s when the partnership was dissolved.  Cheney took the property east of the river as his share.  He disposed of the mill, plotted the ground on which the race had run, which became known as Cheney’s Third Addition to Logansport.  He built for himself the house at 128 Eel River Avenue, occupied today by W.H. Porter.

 Dr. Powell is the authority for the statement that J.B. Messinger took over the mill from Mr. Cheney but E.S. Messinger, 305 West Market St., son of J.B. Messinger, says that Charles T. Messinger, his uncle, was the man who operated the mill until he sold it several years later.  It burned in 1875, according to Dr. Powell.

 After Cheney’s retirement, a younger son of Joseph Charles Uhl, father of Mrs. Frank Clary and Mrs. Harry Wright, entered the firm, which was called J. & D. Uhl and Company; under this name the business continued until 1878, when the father decided to become a silent partner.  The name of the firm was changed again, this time to D. & C. Uhl and Company.  When Joseph died in 1897, Charles retired and C. Harry Uhl, son of Dennis, became a partner and the firm name became Dennis Uhl and Company.

 Elmore Uhl, son of Joseph by a second marriage, was never concerned with the management of the Empire Mill.  He did operate a mill at Delphi, however.  Joseph and Robert Uhlare his sons.

 After the death of Dennis in 1913, the business was continued by the son until December of 1914 when the mill and elevator were destroyed by fire.  Since then, the site has been unoccupied.

Uhl’s Empire Mill was the last of the 24 or more grist mills that furnished flour made from Cass County wheat; it was also the largest.

Transcribed by Christine Spencer, April, 2009

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