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 NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 North Manchester, Indiana

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MILLS

 Source: CFH files, May 2, 1940 manuscript

 North Manchester had no flour mill in 1836 when the town was founded, nor does it have one today, but in between, the milling industry in the town had an important part in the growth of the community and of North Manchester as a trading center. Today the only reminder that a once busy business existed in the southwest part of town is the dam in Eel River. Traces of the old mill site and the mill race are almost obliterated. As mentioned in the story of the Stockdale Mill, Peter Ogan had built a dam just below the present covered bridge, dug a channel for a mill race across the neck of land caused by the curve in the river, and operated a grist mill for a number of years. His brother, John Ogan had a corn cracker mill on Pony Creek along Road 113. The mill was south of the present channel of the creek.

Shortly after Joseph Harter and his married son, Eli, came to North Manchester, the elder Mr. Harter bought land from Daniel Stone in what is now the southwest part of North Manchester, the transfer of title being made November 16, 1836, about a year after Mr. Stone obtained the land at the government land office in Fort Wayne. Mr. Harter also bought land from George W. Hatch in the same vicinity, owning in all about 200 acres.

In 1839, Mr. Harter and his son, Eli, built a dam across Eel River and started in the milling business. The dam was constructed of stone, brush, and earth and was several rods below the present dam. In 1843, Mr. Harter built a larger mill with three runs of buhrs. Eli in the meantime had bought a farm west of North Manchester and ceased to be a factor in the development of North Manchester.

The 1843 mill was able to grind a superior grade of flour and the business flourished. In the water power mills, the water wheel was in a perpendicular position. The shaft extended upward through the lower mill stone and was fastened to the upper stone. The stones were circular and of a peculiar quality with some corrugation. The lower stone revolved, the upper stone was stationary. The grain was ground between the stones and by successive grinding by the different runs of buhrs, the finer portion of the grain became flour, while the coarser portions were classed as bran and middlings. The lower part of the shaft, which was down in the water, revolved on a hard wood bearing known as lignum vitae, one of the most durable woods known. As the water flowed from above the dam through the mill race, it turned the mill wheel and then returned to the river below the mill.

Joseph Harter, Sr., operated the mill until 1851 when he turned it to his sons, Jacob and Joseph B. Harter, who were familiarly known as J. and J.B. Harter, in their long association together in business. The Harter brothers only operated the mill a short time and sold it to Peter King, February 12, 1852. King only owned the mill two years and then sold it to Isaac Thorn who operated it until 1872. He then sold it to Conner and Jacob Tilman for $7,000.

It was while the Harters owned the mill that Peter Ogan brought a damage suit, charging that his water power was endangered because the Harter dam was backing water up to his dam. The suit dragged through the courts for a number of years while the case dragged in the court. Peter Ogan disposed of his interest in the mill site to his brother, John. The Harters had sold their interest and by the time the case reached the supreme court on appeal, John Ogan had died during the Civil War years. The administrator of his estate also went into the Union Army and in the end, Mrs. Ogan sold her interest in the mill site to the Harter mill owners.

The Harter mill was bought in 1879 by Henry Arnold and Daniel Strauss, the latter the grandfather of Arden Strauss. Two brothers, Daniel and Jacob Struass, came to Laketon after the Civil War. They and another brother, Adam, learned the miller’s trade in Chicago. Jacob Strauss was active in the milling business at Laketon, and Adam was in the milling business at Huntington. Jacob later changed the spelling of his name to “Strouse.”

Arnold and Strauss immediately started construction of a new mill building and a new dam several rods upstream from the Harter dam. Later this dam was rebuilt and is the one existing today. The mill building served until it was destroyed by fire in 1928.

Successive firms operated the mill in the later years. Daniel Strauss sold his interest to two sons, J.W. and Ervin Strauss in 1888, and Ervin sold his interest to his brother in 1893. Isaac Shock and Charles M. Rudy had an interest in the mill for several years and they sold to Samuel Hamilton in 1884. Apparently this was a one-third interest. Other part owners in succeeding years were Jesse J. Tyler, David Hamilton, A.D. and I.E. Gingerick, and others. During those years the milling firm also maintained an uptown feed store.

In 1906, David Hamilton sold his interest to John Isenbarger and about that time J.W. Strauss disposed of his interest and opened a new feed store and feed mill uptown. This business is now operated by the son, Arden, and a grandson, Donald. The Strauss competition eventually caused the milling firm to close its uptown store.

Later part owners were Noah Garber and Allen Dohner, who had been connected with the Laketon mill prior to coming to North Manchester. In 1920, a stock company was organized and incorporated. Stockholders included Paul and Bland Isenbarger, A.B. Palmer, W.S. Humke, Daniel Sheller, Henry Reiff, William Jennings, George Allen, Dr. George L. Shoemaker, J.K. Lautzenhiser & Company, F.P. Kircher, Frank Reelhorn, Cora M. Reelhorn, W.C. West, J.H. Miller, H.B. Lautzenhiser, A.P. Bolinger, E.W. Gresso, and Hugh L. Kennedy.

In 1922, Cade King bought the business and the mill burned June 2, 1923. A receivership action brought by some of the former stockholders was halted when Mr. King paid his indebtedness to them, and he reorganized a company including himself, Mrs. King, Hugh Miller and Samuel F. Bowen. The mill building was rebuilt, but unable to meet obligations, it passed into the control of a Warsaw bank in 1927, and in 1929, was bought by the Northern Indiana Poser Company. The mill building was dismantled and moved away. The Power Company bought it to prevent the site from being used to generate electricity, as was being done on a limited scale at Liberty Mills and Collamer.

After possession of several years, the Electric Company gave the mill site, which includes about four acres of land, to the Town of North Manchester with the condition it could never be used as a site to generate electricity. Part of this land is now occupied by the Heinold Hog Market by lease, and it may become the site of a sewage disposal plant if and when North Manchester builds one.

 **************************************

SESQUICENTENNIAL HISTORICAL REPORT, The News-Journal, Monday, June 17, 1985

[Photo of The Grist Mill]

From the early 1840’s, the mill was operated by the Harters, later by Daniel Strauss. At the time of the picture (1917), the mill was operated by Cade Ring.

The early stones and water wheel were replaced by a cast iron turbine in 1863 which later was replaced by an improved model. The mill burned in 1923.

The shadow in the picture is of the railroad bridge across the river. The roadway is marked “Hoosier Dixie” and is said to be the first marked highway in America reaching from Detroit to Miami, Florida. Later named Wabash Road, it brought a stream of travelers through North Manchester.

 ***************************************

The News-Journal, Monday, June 24, 1985.

THE DAM AT THE MILLSITE ON WABASH ROAD

Photo of Dam Site.

About 1840 the Harters moved their grain grinding operation from Peter Ogan’s mill at the foot of Mill Street to a new location on the Eel River. The present dam is the second here. It was built by first digging a race to divert the water. Next trees were felled into the river. Logs, brush, stones, and dirt made a solid barrier over which the water flowed. Much later cement facings and aprons were guilt. The race gates were opened or shut to control the flow of water operating the water wheel and grinding stones, and later the turbines in the mill. When the river caught fire after a train wreck, the dam kept the conflagration from extending into the town.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In anticipation of North Manchester’s Sesquicentennial Celebration during 1986, the News-Journal, in cooperation with the North Manchester Historical Society, is presenting vignettes from the community’s past. All of the pictures are original postcards of the town.



Mill Dam circa 1920:

Mill Dam circa 1920




Mill Dam