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Shafer Mill Ruins - History - Main Page
Shafer's Swan Creek Mill
built by Thomas Hannan in 1803
What a Remarkable Find: 1803 Mill Ruins in Ohio

Written by Brenda Krekler

The above photograph is an amazing depiction of the piers remaining in the Swan Creek. If you look close you can identify 6 piers. Ryan Shafer, owner and antiquarian of these primitive artifacts, indicates that the exposed part of the logs are deteriorated but that the submerged portion of the log piers still appear to be in good condition. After close inspection with all the historical artifacts, the piers were indeed part of a wooden dam that most likely was attached to the mill. Each of the logs were hammered into the creek bed by a pile driver. Fortunately the wood was not exposed to oxygen and therefore does not deteriorate as rapidly. The one magnificent tall pier that you can witness on the Relic Log Piers & Video page, was never damaged by the torrents of high water. Swan Creek experiences fast-rising, high waters as a result of the high elevation of its watershed and its steep, dendritic drainage pattern. The relic pier also might have been drilled into soil at the river bank. Over the 200+ years, the floods may have eroded the riverbank exposing the relic pier. The exposed remnant pylon stands about 6-feet tall and is truly a preserved artifact of the mill's dam structure. The additional 5 piers have been slammed around and broken from large trees and detritus that hit the piers by extreme water pressure over the years. Fortunately, the piers have been established deep into the riverbed. Otherwise they would have been washed away a century ago.

Ryan has researched Ohio Township in The History of Gallia County
Published in 1882 by H. H. Hardesty & Co. Chicago & Toledo

Ryan discovered that this mill was built in 1803 by Thomas Hannan. Hannan was a true pioneer. He traveled with Daniel Boone and worked developing forts which allowed others to come and live along the Ohio River. "Hannan was a skilled Indian fighter as well as a marksman and was well know throughout the region." . . . "In 1803 Thomas Hannan erected a grist mill on Swan Creek, built of logs, and containing one run of stones." We believe the mill was washed out prior to the printing of The History of Gallia County in 1882.

Fourteen grist mills have been identified along the Raccoon Creek which intersects through the middle of Gallia County running north to south and ultimately flows into the Ohio River. (Bob Evans Farm Gristmill Display, Pamphlet, 2010). Swan Creek parallels Raccoon Creek to the west and correspondingly flows into the Ohio River as a tributary. The landscape surrounding Swan Creek is hilly. The creek has dendritic patterns (treelike arrangement) and flows swiftly to the Ohio River. The elevation from the top of the hills above the Ohio River to the water line of the Ohio River is about 250' so there is a strong rush of waters during heavy rains through Swan Creek. I am sure that the floods were the cause of the abandoned mill. Once Hannan saw the continued flood waters hitting the mill that was designed in, and on top of, the Swan Creek, the project was ultimately discarded. None-the-less, Hannan's mill remains imprinted in the creek bottom with log piers as well as carved imprints in the cliff walls of the Swan Creek Gorge.

As you proceed through our Shafer Mill Ruins web pages, you will also witness the hand-carved columns, cores and sculpted artifacts made in 1803 by Thomas Hannan and his crew. Based on the interpretation of the dam and artifacts as well as the location of various objects, we have a satisfactory idea as to where the mill building stood and how it functioned. We suspect that the mill was part of the dam itself. With the first level of the mill building, there was a sluice gate (opening) where the damned waters were able to flow in and then drop onto a flutter waterwheel located within the mill building. After the water hit the flutter waterwheel, the waters flowed into the creek as spent water. View a diagram of a flutter waterwheel on our Diagrams page. Another waterwheel that could have been incorporated in Swan Creek is a stationary structure that would hold a wooden waterwheel with buckets or one with paddles. This particular structure may be the reason for the multiple, small half-round cores that were drilled or tooled against the cliff wall just beyond the mill building. Again, the mill was built against the cliff and the dam was part of the mill. The lowest level of the mill allowed a sluice gate to flow through and with a flume the waters were dropped onto an overshot waterwheel or some other variations. Once the water hit the waterwheel, the waters would just flow down the creek. If there was too much water, they would have had an overflow at some point in the dam. If Swan Creek was flooded either from too much rain or from the inundation of the Ohio River, the waterwheel would be out of commission until the flood waters receded.

Either a wooden waterwheel or a flutter wheel would have done the job. The flutter wheel would have been ideal because the main shaft would have been directly linked to the run of mill stones on the second level of the mill. The power of the flutter wheel would have been determined by the quantity of water released by the flume/headrace/sluice gate.

The wooden waterwheel built on a stationary structure, whether it be with buckets or blades/paddles, would have been a more difficult project. The main shaft would have to be geared into at least two or three different directions to power the mill stones. Based on our interpretation of the multiple small half-round cores, it is likely that at some point they set up a wooden waterwheel to power their mill. The flutter wheel would have been a useful adaptation in this initial primitive setting. Once the success of their mill was productive, they likely decided to implement the larger, more substantial wooden water wheel.

The dam designed at this location was once used successfully throughout the milling industry in the 18th Century. Here at Swan Creek they took sturdy oak logs and by using a pile driver, hammered them into the creek bottom. In order to keep the top of the pile from splitting they secured the top portion of the log with a round iron band. Once the logs/piles/pylons were in place, then they attached horizontal logs or planks against the pylons. Subsequently, they added rocks against the dam to support the weight from the mill pond. Over a short period of time, the dam silted in and became secure. The dam height could have been variable based on their water supply. If Swan Creek had a dam that was 12' tall, the mill pond could have extended a good distance depending on the elevation of the creek bed.

Ryan Shafer discovered this historic mill site in 2012. He and his family had recognized the pylons in the creek years ago but it wasn't until 2012 when Ryan actually discovered the carvings in the cliff wall. It is an exciting find and even more so, because the Shafer Family is willing to share it with other mill enthusiasts as well as inviting archeological studies. As time moves on and we learn more about the old mill, we will include more of Ryan's discoveries on our website. (Ryan Shafer, Interview, Letters, and Photographs, Gallia County Ohio July 2013, Shafer Family Gallia County Ohio July 2013, "Ohio Township" in The History of Gallia County, Published in 1882 by H. H. Hardesty & Co. Chicago & Toledo.)

 

View the newly discovered 1803 Shafer Mill Ruins.
This is a 4-minute, YouTube Video about the unique artifacts found in Gallia County by Ryan Shafer.
Shafer Mill Ruins are Private.
However, if anyone would like to visit the ruins, email your request for a tour.
Know that access to the artifacts means that you have to climb some, walk some and wade some.
Inspecting the unique log relics and the cliff carvings is sensational !


History - Main Page
Shafer Mill Ruins - History - Main Page
Log Relics & Video
Shafer Mill Ruins - Log Relics and Video
Artifacts in Cliff
Shafer Mill Ruins - Artifacts in Cliff
Diagrams
Shafer Mill Ruins - Diagrams
Unique Fractures in Bedrock
Shafer Mill Ruins - Unique Fractures in Bedrock
Swan Creek Gorge
Shafer Mill Ruins - Swan Creek Gorge



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