Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Mills of Daniel Cooper

Dayton's industrial start was small, via a collection of water mills were 5th/3rd Field is today.

The mills were mostly built during the 1st decade of the 19th century (1809), though there was a small tub mill here in the 1790s.

This map shows the mills in the 1820s. The gristmill here was new, replacing one that burned in 1820. By this time a nail mill was added, run by water power.

There was a saw mill, too. Originally on the "Coopers Race" this was turned into a "chopping mill" also called "turning laths", after a new sawmill was opened at what's now the intersection of 5th and Wyandotte.

The millrace was built by troops stationed here during the War of 1812. The tailrace roughly follows the route of the later canal. This was a natural slough or floodway between the Mad River and the Great Miami.

The "Washington Cotton Mill" (replacing the nail mill) & machine shop was on the race in 1824 and a foundry in 1828.

A description of the mills before the canal came (from a court case):

"...a merchant mill with three runs of stones, a waste wheel to drive two to four grindstones, a fulling mill with two water wheels driving two sets of fulling hammers, a carding machine , with one water wheel, driving two carding machines and one wool picker. A cotton factory, number of spindles not known, and a saw mill with two saws”.

The canal came in 1829, and a hydraulic was built in 1837 or so, so these old Cooper Race mills were becoming obsolete.

In 1830 a second cotton mill located on side race to the basin. In 1833 the Washington Mill relocated to canal at 5th.

Here is the situation in 1838-39. I think this map might omit some things, like a foundry. Supposedly a foundry was built here (between Foundry and Sears steets) in 1828, the first in Dayton.
What's interesting is one starts to see the extension of the city beyond the original town plat. This land was platted by the Cooper estate, and includes a market square (rectangle) between Sears and Webster Street.

But what did it all look like?

Fortunatly we have the Wharton view from the 1830s, which is close enough to the Van Cleve map of 1838-39 to permit correlation:
The workshops shown here might include the first foundry.
This image shows a building that might also be a foundry (based on a later image in the city directory). What makes this view usefull is one can see one of the old Cooper mills in the background, perhaps the gristmill of 1820 or the fulling mill.
The Miami Cotton Mill was one of the first true factories, producing goods for export, and also having a associated machine shop. This mill had around 1,000 spindles, employed 20 hands, expanding to 60 later in the 1830. Production started started at 60,000 lbs/year of yarn but expanded to 175,000 lbs /year. About half was exported to Cincinnati during the first year.

The machine shop aslo apparently produced goods for export (one year it exported $8,000 worth of parts to S America)($150K in today’s money). The shop employed 30-45 hands, and had an annual sales of $40K to $50K (in 1830's dollars).

The cotton mill part was out of business in 1839 due to the hard times of the later Jacksonian era

In the early days of textile manufacturing machine shops were attached to the plants to make mill machines and spare parts. In Dayton's case these shops started to do contract and job work , including some of the early ag implements trade.

Platting Webster Station.

After the Cooper Hydraulic and Oregon Race were built in the late 1830s there wasn't need for the old Cooper Race, so in the 1840s the race and mill pond were filled in, the Mad River relocated, the Basin Extension Canal built, and the land sudvided...usng in some cases the same lot module in the 1830s Cooper plat.

On can see the old saw mill race traced out by lot lines and plats.

Today nothing is left but lot lines and street names (Pond Street after the old mill pond, Race Street after the old head race to the Miami Cotton Mill). think there is this ghost landscape of head races and mill ponds under Webster Station, and that early foundries and factories and mills are at the site of 5th/3rd Field. A foundry at the pitchers mound?

Only for history buffs: A much more detailed look at the "Head of the Basin", considering the canal trade and taking this area throught the 19th Century to modern times (including Delco) can be found at this link


Greg Hunter said...

Jeffery, Thank you so much for this history!

Jefferey said...

Thanks, but the real good in-depthh stuff is at the hyperlink: just too much to post in a blog.

I think a neat thing about this is such an odd business (for Dayton),cotton spinning, may have lead to the start of metalworking in Dayton, via those machine shops.

That would be a good example of spin-offs into another line of business,

I wonder if it was that pre-canal flatboat trade to New Orlenas that led to the idea of cotton mills as there was trade connections south to New Orleans.

Or the locals could have been copying New England.

I will be posting more about early industry at the Cooper Hydraulic. Oregon, and Front Street later in the month.

Anonymous said...

This (and the hyperlinked material) is great work---its not easy to dig this stuff out, and even harder to put it together in a way that makes sense.

Let me question a detail (that only a history lover could care about)---I think there is an argument that Wharton was standing further south when he did his drawing than you think--and that today's Third Street was actually in the gap between the two closest buildings on the right. The building with the clerestory sure looks like the Gebhardt mill that was on the south side of Third--it was apparently built by Pease (not sure of a precise year) and it is generally referred to as one of the "pioneer" mills of Dayton.

It could be a coincidence, but it seems odd that this building (if located where you indicate) would have been torn down before the days of photography, and another very similar styled building (and unusual, since most mills were then being built with gambrel roofs to maximize the machinery that could go in the "attic" floor) built a block further south.

I also think that I have seen the "soda" building at the head of the basin referred to as one of the Cooper mills---it surely is the similarly styled and located building that shows up in the Wharton drawing.

Keep up the great work.

A Dayton canal buff and Daytonology fan.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I think I found an answer to my own question (and yes, that building with the clerestory on the right of the Wharton view was located on the south side of Third). Beers history of Montgomery County has the following entry:

Gebhart Pope & Company

The business of this firm was established in 1832, by Parrott & Clegg . . . They have always occupied the same building on the canal, between Third and Fourth streets. It is a three story brick, 57x72, and was formerly used as a cotton mill. They employ twelve men . . and produce annually about 200,000 gallons of linseed oil.

So, this was built as a cotton mill (as you label it), which accounts for the clerestory rather than a gambrel roof (grain mills had need of a big third floor to accommodate Oliver Evans' "automated" grain processing system & a cotton mill did not have the same need, but did have a need for lots of light), but was located on the south side of Third, and fairly quickly was shifted from processing cotton to milling linseed oil from flax. Power must have originally been from the Cooper race, but this became the northermost mill on the Cooper hydraulic, when that system was built. Incidentally, right next door was the Buckeye Brass works, which was famous for its steam whistles.

Jefferey said...

I was thinking Miami Cotton Mill as I would expect to see a bridge (for 3rd) between the Pease/Gebhardt mill the backround buildings.

But it does have the same form as the pix of the Gebhardt mill in the Lutzenberger Collection.

On a related issue, do you have any intel on what kind of machinery was used to crush linseed for oil? This was apparently a big business here, & I want to understand the process they used.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, there is still a company in Piqua that is a significant manufacturer of (modern) flax and other oilseed presses (French Oil Machinery).

As you have pointed out, there were a number of manufacturers in Dayton, particularly on the Cooper hydraulic.

Here is a site with some information about the process: