The Millstone Project
Some years ago, Great Parks was fortunate to acquire four millstones that date back to the 1800s. Of the four, one was received from Historic Southwest Ohio, which operates Heritage Village Museum in Sharon Woods, and the other is from the old Mount Healthy Flour Mill that was located in Mount Healthy, Ohio. Once used to grind grains into flour, these pieces of local history sat unassembled next to a warehouse in Winton Woods … that is until 2013. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a Great Parks volunteer, these stones are came back to life with what was called “The Millstone Project.”
All four of the millstones are equally interesting and historically important, but the stone from the Mount Healthy Flour Mill is what makes this project so interesting. Thanks to extensive work and research done by a former Great Parks operations superintendent, and documentation from the Mid-Atlantic Region National Park Service (1986), information was pieced together to help understand the historical connection that Great Parks has to the old mill.
History of the Mount Healthy Flour Mill
The Mount Healthy Flour Mill was built around 1820–1830 as a saw mill that operated for nearly 100 years. It was converted to a grist (flour) mill around 1887, when timber became scarce. In 1911, Ralph Groff bought the mill and operated it until the 1950s. Around that time, the property was purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for construction and operation of the West Fork Lake flood control project, which resulted in the creation of Winton Lake. The Corps removed all of the milling equipment out of the structures and Great Parks (Hamilton County Park District at the time) leased the mill and nearby pole buildings as storage areas.
The U.S Army Corps of Engineers planned to demolish the site in the 1980s, and at one time, Great Parks took an interest in restoring the mill. Unfortunately, before any restoration could have started, the structure was destroyed by arson in 1981. The case was never solved, and the only remaining structure on the site is a two-story wooden barn.
Memories of the Mill Live On
Although the mill itself is gone, its historical imprint remains. In anticipation of renovating the Winton Woods Golf Course and clubhouse in 1993, a great deal of thought was given to renaming the course with a flour mill-theme. This resulted in the new names The Mill Course and Mill Race Lodge.
Much of the exterior and some interior designs for Mill Race Lodge were chosen to look like an old mill, including a moving mill wheel featured in front. Attention was given to reproducing and displaying items that would have been found at the mill, including framed replicas of the milled flour bags used by former owners, the Groff family.
The Mill Course and Mill Race Lodge are examples of the historical connection that Winton Woods has to the old mill, and to have a millstone from its days of operation makes that connection much more sentimental.
Grinding the Millstone
Great Parks obtained the original Mount Healthy Flour Mill millstone from the yard of the “Covered Bridge House” in 2009, which is still located next to the former mill site. The millstone, along with the other stones, were all in separated segments, very aged and in need of some TLC.
Fortunately, Great Parks volunteer Greg Voorhies graciously took on the task of reassembling these historic pieces in 2013. Three of the millstones he worked with are the French Buhr stone type, which are composed of many individual, interlocking pieces of quartz and bound together into a circle by an iron strap. The fourth is from a single, monumental stone still attached to a metal pulley. Greg was able to pressure wash the individual pieces and assemble them by hand, defining the striations on the face of the stones that would have directed the ground wheat to the outer edge. Many thanks to Greg for his hard work and dedication in starting the process of piecing together these great historical artifacts.
Today, the millstones remain stored away at a warehouse in Winton Woods. The next steps will be to fabricate replacements for any missing stones, create a reinforced concrete base for the stones to be set into with a temporary band, infill the spaces between the stones with tinted mortar, then make a permanent steel band. The hope is for the millstones to be displayed as landscape elements at The Mill Course, Mill Race Lodge and the Meadow Links & Golf Academy in Winton Woods.
To learn more about the history of the mill and its impact on the community, check out the book “Pride of the Valley, Sifting through the History of the Mount Healthy Mill” at greatparks.org.
This blog was updated from the original post in February 2013.