River made life easier for county’s pioneers

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

The Blanchard River is one of those matters we are apt to take for granted most of the time. Of course when it gets out of its banks and becomes troublesome from that standpoint, it’s a vastly different matter then. But fortunately that only happens once in a long time. And we are now trying to solve that problem permanently.

The river has played a vital role in the life of the local community over the years. Particularly in the pioneer days did it mean much to the early settlers. It was an invaluable help to them in many ways and it eased their rough paths very materially. They would have had a much more difficult time of it, without the river nearby.

The stream connected them with the outside world when there were no roads to speak of, when there were no railroads and no other forms of transportation, in what for a number of years was only a wilderness.

Over the river came their early merchandise via Toledo, Maumee and Defiance over the Maumee and Auglaize rivers to the mouth of the Blanchard in Putnam County. Over the river, they floated their early grain and produce to market via the same route.

Even some of Findlay’s first settlers arrived by river. They were en route here by horse and wagon and encountered difficulties east of here and decided to hollow out a tree and float on down to Findlay on the Blanchard River.

One of the very early uses of the waterway was for the purpose of power for sawmills and gristmills. These were a necessity in the lives of the pioneers and the river was dotted with them along the banks.

Remnants of these early mills can still be seen over the county along the banks of the river. Capt. W. Albert Hogle, deputy county engineer for some years and engineering head of the Civilian Conservation Corps project here in the 1930s, located the sites of a number of these early mills, including the old Misamore mill in northwestern Amanda Township near the Van Horn Cemetery, close to which Tell Taylor lived as a youth and from which he drew his inspiration for his famous song “Down By The Old Mill Stream.”

Other mills located by Capt. Hogle included one situated just north of the Hancock County Home on the north bank of the river on County Road 140 and another south of Mount Blanchard along the river.

Within the city of Findlay there were waterpower mills along the waterway. A combined log and grist mill was built under the supervision of Wilson Vance, who laid out the town in the early 1820s. It was the first manufacturing establishment to be instituted in the county. The date was 1824. The mill stood on the north bank of the river near the present Main Street Bridge. The property changed hands several times until 1837 when Squire and Parlee Carlin bought it. It was rebuilt several times. The Carlins continued its operation for a number of years, producing flour for the village and also sawing timber, utilizing the river’s water for power.

There was what was known as a millrace just north of the present Main Street Bridge, some of the Blanchard’s water coursing through this race, crossing what is now Main Street a couple hundred feet north of the bridge. The Vance-Carlin mill operation was tied in with this millrace, it was understood.

Steam and horsepower supplanted the waterpower mills eventually. Henry Shaw built a horsepower mill on West Front Street in 1832 to supply the community with corn meal when the Vance mill could not function because the water in the river was too low. This happened quite a bit, it is understood.

Since the old mills of the water variety existed so many years ago, only artist drawings of them are to be found today, representing a visualization made possible by memories of old timers. Requests frequently come for pictures of the old Misamore mill, in view of the Tell Taylor association. A recent request came from a Cincinnati woman who was putting together some old time matters.

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