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Milltown History


Milltown 2.JPG

Tallow Light Vol. 10 page 67 - 71

THE HISTORY OF MILLTOWN, NEWPORT TWP., WASHINGTON COUNTY, OHIO

Editor's notes by O.P.H.:

The following paper was read before the First Literary Society of Milltown in March 1890 by Mrs. K. B. Davis (nee Sarah E. Garrison). Officers of the Society at that time were: Harman A. Bevan, President; Wilbur Davis, Vice-President; Charles Hartwell, Secretary and Thomas A Becker, Treasurer. This article of reminiscences was submitted tot he Tallow Light by Mrs. Herman E. (Eileen Berga) Thomas, WCHS member of Newport, Ohio. Mrs. Thomas added the parenthetical information on the Rea-Greenwood Elm in paragraph 11.

 

As we have before us tonight the talent, beauty and wit of Milltown, we think it must be interesting to give you a brief, though somewhat imperfect, history of our little town -- to all of us present home, if not our native place.

 

Milltown is bounded by green hills. As their towering peaks arise toward the blue dome of heaven, they stand as mighty sentinels guarding our little town, while the sparkling waters of Dana's Run divide us, - our homes on either bank.

 

This hamlet is noted as a sheltered spot, the hills breaking the fury of wind and storm.

 

Milltown, our quiet little home,

Nestled beneath the hills;

In thee life passes on so peacefully,

So secure from ills.

 

We fear no winds, however wild,

Nor storms for us too hard,

With the dear old hills on every side --

Our everlasting guard.

 

I have tried to imagine how Milltown looked before the first tree had fallen -- When it was a trackless wilderness.

 

All Milltown and the Hendersot farm were first owned by WILLIAM DANA, grandfather of Rev. Watson and Fannie Dana.

 

I am not able to tell you in what year the first log house was built in Milltown but I think it was about eighty-two years ago that William Dana built a log house on the lot owned by Henry E. Stephen; also one on the lot now owned by the old Jacob Cook house. Our little town in that early day was not called "Milltown," but on account of the many wild rose-vines, and lovely faces to the sky, our town was first called "Rose Dale,' as a constant reminder of the fragrance and beauty of its native wild rose.

 

Eighty-four years ago the old mill, now used as a packing house, was built by WILLIAM DANA. It was run by water power. Mr. Dana went a half mile above the old mill, built a dam across Dana's Run, cut a race through the Crandall pasture now owned by Aaron Edgell, walling the race with flag stone four feet, leaving here and there an opening on the top as an entrance for examination and cleaning.

 

This mill-race crosses under the Old Summerfield road above the home of our friend Miss Nellie Davis, thence back of the Dana Home and on down to the old mill. The water was let into the race by hoisting a large head gate at the dam, then running through the race and around west of our town; the small gate being hoisted at the mill, the water poured on the great wheel, and by this water power the wheat and corn were ground in the mill.

 

You must know 'twas a happy day for Milltown and Newport when the new mill was completed. From that day our little town dropped the name of "Rose Dale," proudly taking the name "Milltown," and the surrounding country, far and near, came here to mill. Great was the fame of our little village, for she boasted of one among the finest mills in our country

 

Upon this spot where the home of our honorable President, Harmon E. Bevan, now stands and the adjoining field beyond, was the site of the magnificent "Dana Sugar Camp." Where thousands of pounds of sugar were made. Five hundred trees were tapped at one time, and Oh! the fun the young people had gathering in, boiling down the syrup, "sugaring off," roasting eggs, filling the shells with sugar and talking nonsense around the camp-fire.

 

I have been told that to one a little distance away the trees looked as though one could step from top to top, there were so even and close together. Among them was our grand old Elm, now left alone which was bought (June 19, 1879 from Marcellus Rea) by William C. Greenwood, one of the "boys" who gathered sap in the old sugar-camp in the years long gone by. The old Elm lives with us today and spreads forth its green old boughs in memory of the happy past, while the protector has long been sleeping in the quiet grave. Friends, where is there another tree like the old Elm? Can anyone tell how old it is? And can you tell how the "Banjo" got its name?

 

In those days game was plenty in the region of our town. My two uncles, Aaron and William Edgell, then boys living a little above Milltown, coming down through the woods, (for they were all around) whom do you suppose the met one day? Why, no other than Madam Bear taking a morning walk in the quest of breakfast. For company she had with her two baby cubs. The boys halted, so did the bear. My uncle said by the light of her eye, he knew she meant business. She slowly advanced in front of her children, then arose on her hind feet and, with wide open arms and an angry growl, invited the boys to an embrace; but the boys of those days not caring so much for a hug as our boys do, took to their heals and ran home. Getting help and dogs, they treed Mrs. Bear and babies on a leaning tree a few rods above where Mr. David Henry now lives. Mr. James Nichols, the first miller of Milltown, shot the bear and capturing her two cubs took  them home and chained them in his yard (now Mr. Rea's), made pets of them, and many was the romp the boys used to have with the pets.

 


 

The old mill is indeed a historical building. It had stood the storms eighty-four years. Mr. Jacob Cook, when helping to roof it, fell from the top to the ground, and to the surprise of all, was not killed. The mill was dedicated with a "Ball." So you see the founders of our little town believed in a little fun along with their hard work!

 

The miller's family often lived in the mill, occupying the second floor on the east side. So there have been many births, deaths, and weddings in the old mill. John H. D. Templeton, Esq., of Lawrence Township, father of  Drs. A. M. & F. B. Templeton, of Belpre, a little more that a quarter a century ago, was married in the old mill to Miss Mary E. Campbell, whose father was miller at the time. Mrs. Eleanor Cook was the first bride brought to Milltown. She and Mr. Cook lived in the old log house that stood where Mrs. Rea's new house now stands. Shall I tell you of the first reception party given in Milltown? It was about fifty-two years ago, and my Mother was the bride. Grandma Garrison was living at the time near where M. E. Hanna now lives. My Father brought my Mother home to Milltown. The wedding guests were Mr.  & Mrs. Aaron Edgell, brother and sister of the bride. Mr. & Mrs. William Dana, Mr. & Mrs. Jacob Cook and Mr. & Mrs. Ezekiel Slagle, (Mr. Slagle being the miller at that time).

 

 And shall I tell you of the presents? They were of a useful sort. Mr. Slagle and wife brought an old-fashioned hickory broom, --if you want to know how they were made, ask some of the old folks, -- Mr. & Mrs. Dana tried to make my father's and mother's life very sweet by giving them a great loaf of maple sugar, made in a large, old fashioned iron kettle, also five gallons of maple syrup, both syrup and sugar gathered from the grand old trees in the sugar camp. My grandmother's present was an old fashioned China set, -- some of the pieces I have now. Mr. & Mrs. Cook brought a "potato-masher," a rolling-pin and an old fashioned bread board, -- all made by Mr. Cook. There were other presents which I have not time to mention. The dinner consisted in part of chicken, ham, roast beef, and dried venison. A part of the dinner was boiled on a crane over the old fashioned wood fire; the coffee boiled on coals in the corner of the wide hearth. There were two kinds of cake, besides the "doughnuts" and all made with maple sugar. Since that day a great many brides have come to Milltown, --too many for me to mention.

 

William Robinson, I believe, kept the first store in Milltown, living at the time on the H. E. Stephen lot in an old house that was burned some years later. Later still T. M. Gregory built a little store on the Watson Dana lot and sold goods for a time. Years after Captain George Davenport came to Milltown, bought the old mill for a packing house and built a store under the old Elm. That store was burned. Then Mr. Davenport put up a building that was intended for a dwelling house and store together, and for some years he and Mr. P. H.  Hays were partners in business. Then Mr. M. Rea, a young man, came to Milltown, bought out Captain Davenport and the firm was known as "Hays & Rea." After a time Mr. Rea bought Mr. Hays interest and the firm has been ever since been known as the "McRae Co." On account of water undermining this building, Mr. Rea moved the store to the west side of the Run. Mr. Rea followed the business of merchant and tobacco packer successfully until the time of his death. Then his brother Wilbur, with the help of Mrs. M. Rea, continued the business until Wilbur's death some years ago. And I must day just here, no town not community was ever blessed with two nobler Christian men than was "Mac" Rea and his brother Wilbur. After Wilbur's death, Mrs. M. Rea, all honor to her, took up the business and has successfully carried it on, proving to some of our male friends that a woman is capable of doing business as well as a man.

 

Out Town was always noted for loyalty. Milltown has the honor of sending the first soldier from Newport Township. During the dark days of the "sixties," when the call came for men to defend their country, Milltown, although a great deal smaller than now, sent seven soldiers, --James Davis, the first in the township to enlist; Henry Davis, A. G. O'Bleness, John Davis, Carby Jobes, Henry O'Bleness and K. B. Davis. All these brave men returned to their homes, except Henry Davis who sleeps in an unmarked grave in the South.  Well do I remember the Morgan Raid in 1863. There were but four men in our town, and they were all over sixty years of age: Charles Dana, Thomas M Gregory, Jacob Cook and John V. O'Bleness. How the women tucked their best spoons in the "rag bag" for safe keeping! How the old men, boys and women, with the girls turned out to blockade the roads! How we cut trees, piled brush and built fences till the road up Milltown Hill and over toward Bear Run was impassable! Had our friend Mr. "Tom" Becker been with us then and wished to visit his home, he would have been compelled to go by way of Marietta or else have taken a whole week to clean out the road. Women and girls in those days had to take care of themselves, care for the stock, feed and do the chores all winter and so most of the farming. But I do not believe it hurt us; it only gave us health and made us independent.

 

The influence of the early settlers of our town was good, exceptional indeed and the lives of our young people have been blessed by their counsel and example. As the gentle winds of Summer bear of such lives as that of "Aunt Eunice Dana" and others come back to us, and our lives are more perfect, and nearer what they should be, for having been blessed by their counsel and example in the younger days.

 

Milltown, peaceful little home,

Nestled amongst the hills;

The Fragrance of thy roses

Lingers around thee still.