Industry in Old town

By Joan Baxter

Old Town is a small community in Greene County with several houses, a church, fire department and a motel. There are also a number of monuments which tell the story of the Shawnee who at one time made this area their home, Daniel Boone and the Salt makers as well as history of the Bullskin Trace.

At the time that the markers were erected, the Old Town School was located on the site. The intention was for the students to see the history of the area each day as they went into the building in order for them to recall it in later years.

Originally the town was the site of one of the largest Shawnee settlements in Ohio. Tecumseh was born near the village and members of the Shawnee nation gathered here for conferences. It was when Tecumseh’s parents were on their way to such a conference that he was born near the present Fish Hatchery.

When the Shawnee were driven away and moved to other areas, the settlers came into the area and called the village Old Town, which was the English name for the Shawnee settlement Old Chillicothe.

Water power was abundant with Oldtown Run, Massie’s Creek and the Little Miami River nearby. This provided the power to run the mills which produced a variety of products.

The first home was built in 1812. Other settlers followed suit. One of the earliest industrialists was Amassa Reed who built his home at Old Town in 1815.

The first industries included a blacksmith shop and a wagon-making shop.

The town grew slowly. In 1855 the Greene County atlas lists 9 or 10 houses, a wagon shop, store, blacksmith and school house. However by 1870 the town had grown so that there were about 200 residents. Businesses included a shoemaker and a blacksmith, a distillery, a grocery, along with two wagon-makers and a dealer in flour.

The Old Town Mill was a grist mill began operation in the 1840’s. The mill continued to grind wheat into flour until it was destroyed by a fire in 1925. The remaining portion of the mill was used for several years as a barn, but in 1965, it was determined that the structure could not be renovated adequately for any purpose and was taken down.

During the hey-day 0f this particular mill, farmers came from miles around to have their wheat and corn ground. Of course, there was a fee for the service of the miller. The usual method was Instead of paying the miller with cash, he would be given a portion of the flour which he had ground. That flour could then be sold to other local residents, or placed on a barge and transported to Cincinnati and other cities south of here. The flour ground at the Old Town Mill was very much in demand because it was so fine.

A ledger of the business in 1840-41 showed a great number of local residents who brought their products to the mill for grinding. At that time, flour could be purchased for 33 1/3 cents a barrel.

The grist mill, the distillery and the wagon shop were not the only industries at Old Town. A woolen factory, also known as the Xenia Factory was located there.

By 1920, the mill was known as the DeWine Milling Company. The newspaper dated December 6 reported that yeggs had blown the safe at the business.

In 1825 the building was described as being 80 feet long and three stories high with machinery sufficient to manufacture 14,000 pounds of wool a year. The mill was moved by never failing water power. The woolen fabric produced was said to be very fine.

Abner Read moved to Oldtown in order to help his twin brother Amasa build the business. In addition to the woolen mill, the brothers had a saw mill where they manufactured furniture and cabinets. This proved to be a good venture and provided employment for local talented craftsmen. Whether any of the furniture they manufactured has survived is unknown.

The brother’s real claim to fame, however, was the manufacture of clocks. They built the cases for the clocks as well as the clock works which were very well made and kept excellent time. Reed clocks were very much in demand and some survive today.

Abner and Amasa entered into an agreement with Stephen M. Frothingham to further their enterprise at the Xenia Woolen factory. Unfortunately, this partnership did not work out and so notice of dissolution was printed in the newspaper on Dec. 7, 1825.

The partnership of Reads, Frothingham and Co. also known as Reads and Frothingham is this day dissolved by mutual consent. Anyone owing money to the firm was urged to settle the debt. The business in the future was to be carried on by Stephen Frothingham and Ezra Read.

In order to close the establishment in an orderly fashion, another advertisement appeared on December 22, 1825 telling of a public sale on the 2nd of January 1826 at or near the residence of Amasa Reed.

By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a long-time historical writer and resident.

Joan Baxter is a long-time historical writer and resident.