Younts Woolen Mill - History
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Younts Woolen Mill, Crawfordsville, Indiana - History

History of Yount Mill & Weaving Industry in Montgomery County
by B. Brookie White

 

Yount’s Woolen Mill and Boarding House located at 3941 W. Old Mill Rd & SR 32, Crawfordsville, In., Montgomery County was entered on the National Register of Historic Places on January 4, 1989.

Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register of Historic Places is the official inventory of sites with national, state, or local significance in the development of our nation’s historic, architectural, archaeological, or cultural heritage.  Listing on the National Register is official recognition of the significance of the site and provides a measure of protection for the property.

THE YOUNT FAMILY

The Yount family, originally Jundt, brought their knowledge of woolen mills to this country from Germany.  Daniel Yount was born Nov. 3, 1807 in Ohio where, at the age of eleven, he began working in his father’s woolen mill.  In 1828 Daniel’s family moved to Indiana and operated woolen mills on the Wea, southeast of Lafayette. 

   In 1835 Dan and his brother, John, started a mill near the Wabash, at what is now the town of Attica.  The lack of water power there prevented them from expanding so Dan came to the Yountsville area in search of a mill site.  Sugar Creek and it’s tributaries provided the power he wanted. 

   Daniel Yount started the Yount Mills operation near Yountsville in 1840  when he took possession of the Snyder grist mill on the spring fed Spring Creek, about 3/4 of a mile upstream from Sugar Creek. At the time Dan took over the Snyder grist mill there was also a carding mill, located at the mouth of Spring Creek, which was leased by Silas Wright.  In 1843 Daniel Yount and his brother, Allen, bought the land bearing the water right at that location from Abijah O’Neall.  When Wright’s lease expired they started a mill to card and full (pull?) wool nearer the mouth of Spring Creek, using a brush dam.

   In 1849 another larger wooden building was erected about 150 yards southwest of the present brick mill.  Only the foundation of this building remains.  The race was extended to this building and to its overshot wheel of some 30 feet in diameter.  This wheel was the source of power for the looms they installed.

   In 1857, Allen Yount sold his interest in the mills to Arthur Russell and Daniel bought this interest a year later to become the sole proprietor.

   In 1864, Dan expanded the operation by building the three story brick building in the Greek Revival style on Sugar Creek.  This large, 50 ft X 75ft building is the only surviving mill structure.  The mill was powered by a turbine (instead of a water wheel) and the water for it was impounded by a seven foot tall dam across Sugar Creek at the mouth of Spring Creek.  (Parts of the turbine remain at the east end, on Sugar Creek.  One can only surmise the amount of noise generated by the spinning turbine, wheels, shuttles, and gears that were required to drive the weaving equipment).  A three story, 1867 building, 84 ft X 50 ft was added to the south of the Greek Revival mill, connected by wooden bridges and gangways to the older structure, and has since been demolished.

   The production of uniforms for the Union Army, during the Civil War, and the Spanish American War brought prosperity to the business and as many as 300 people were employed to process the wool and sew the clothes.

   Dan Yount died on September 30, 1890 and the Mills were reorganized as Younts Woolen Company. The company was not successful and in 1905 the Mills were closed forever.

THE WEAVING PROCESS

  Wool fleece was delivered to the mill by customers and was first sorted by fleece and weight.  A fleece would usually weigh about four pounds.  It was placed in tanks where it was washed and scoured with lye soap.  After a first rinse it was dyed, usually blue, light blue or black and again rinsed.  It was dried by placing it on screens through which large fans circulated hot air.  These operations were performed in the 1867 building.

  The wool was then moved to the third floor of the present 1864 building where it was picked and carded. Carding is a process which combs the strands of wool into the same direction making rope like forms of about an inch in diameter.  They were wound on large, one foot diameter spools.  Spinning jacks twisted wool from the spools into a thread like yarn and wound it onto bobbins.  The bobbins were taken to the three looms located in the south (1867) building where the yarn was woven into cloth.  A water powered loom could produce twenty to thirty yards of cloth per day.

   This cloth was wound on drums and delivered to the first floor of the North building where it was passed over rollers and inspected.  Tweezers were used to remove any lint.  The cloth was placed on bolts after the inspection and taken to the tailors on the second floor.

   The tailors made the suits of clothing ordered by the customer after which they were pressed and readied for delivery. Any of the customers wool left after making the articles was bought by the Younts and the cloth made from it was sold locally.  A man’s winter overcoat required around thirty pounds of wool. 

   The lint was swept up and processed to make shoddy for weaving into blankets.  The weavers produced patterns in the cloth by reading a draft or dornick which resembled sheet music.  Simpler patterns were woven by memory. ( Numerous notes, records, and names were written on the interior wall of the mill and have been preserved through all these years. )

   The 1867 mill building was removed shortly after WWI.  Some of the foundation walls may be seen along Sugar Creek just south of the existing mill structure. 

   The mill and boarding house, or inn, are all that remain today to remind us of the bustling industry that once filled the area.  The valley would often be filled with wagons bringing wool to the mills to be made into personal clothing or for military uniforms.  Some mills in the area attempted to keep pace with progress by adding steam power to supplement their water power but the coming of the railroads and the competition they brought from the larger and more competitive flour and textile mills soon forced the small commercial operations out of business.

The Yountsville Mill-Inn & Gardens
3941 Old Mill Road
Crawfordsville, IN 47933
http://www.yountsvillemill.com/
Yount's Woolen Mill - Aerial View
Provided by B. Brookie White
Click Here for Google Map of Yount's Woolen Mill



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