This mill site was established in 1814-1815 by Hanson Read and Abram Powers. They built a gristmill on the Huron River, near the Phoenix Mills location. William Carkuff rebuilt Read and Power's structure in 1816 with a log building. In 1835 Ezra Smith constructed a frame gristmill at the site.
It was in 1859 that the land was deeded to Barnett Roe. There is a discrepancy as to the Phoenix Mills date of construction and the date the property was entered into Barnett Roe's name. A name stone centered on the front of the mill dates the mill's construction in 1856.
The name "Phoenix Mills" is unique in two ways. First, the plural name "Mills" used in the name of one mill is rare. It appears that Roe was referring to the two sets of stones that he ran. One set of stones was used to grind wheat for flour and another set of stones was used to grind corn. The most interesting feature about the name is that it is not named after its owner. It is named after the mythological Phoenix. This mill was built at the site of a burned mill. And, as the Phoenix rose from the ashes, so did the new mill.
Barnett Roe wanted his mill to be completely fireproof. The Phoenix Mills was constructed with stone walls and a stone roof! Roe quarried the stone from his land and created a spectacular building. The roof consisted of 336 split stone slabs, 168 were placed on each side of the roof. Each slab was about a 36" square and 3" to 4" thick. They were laid with one corner pointing toward the peak and each lapped about 4" just like shingles. Each stone shingle had holes bored into the bottom side. Holes were bored into the rafters. Wooden pegs were fitted into the holes on the bottom side of the stone shingles and secured in the holes bored into the rafters. This held the stone shingles in place. The stone roof was removed and replaced with a tin roof between 1940 and 1950, but it is remarkable that the stone roof served for 90 years.
Although we cannot witness the amazing stone roof, the remnant stone walls of the Phoenix Mills still survive. The architectural design incorporated in the masonry and cutting of the stones for the walls is, at the very least, impressive. The buff-colored sandstone has varying degrees of color. The walls are 2' to 2 1/2' thick at the base. The size of the stones measure as large as 2' X 2' X 3' to as small as 6" X 6" X 12" and many sizes between. Each stone is cut to fit its exact location. Braces that supported the roof, called corbels, are built into the stone structure and are made of marble. There are five on each side of the mill building and eight on each end. There is a full basement, and two full floors above the ground level and an attic. The windows have stone sills and lintels.
The mill received water from the Huron River via a half-mile long millrace that is still identifiable. The overshot wooden waterwheel was 20' in diameter and 3' wide.
The waterwheel was used until 1866 when the mill was purchased by Samuel Aumend and E. C. Bodley who converted to turbine-power. In 1900, a gasoline engine replaced the turbine and Phoenix Mills operated as a feed mill until the 1930's.
Today, Phoenix Mills stands majestically surrounded by woods. The roof is gone but the beautiful stone walls appear as if they had been built yesterday; they look so fresh and new. Some window frames remain, exhibiting 12 over 8 double-hung windows. Only a corner of the existing walls can be seen, or photographed easily due to excessive overgrowth. The photograph illustrates the stone work, but does not do justice to the subject.
If you have the opportunity to visit Phoenix Mills, you will be assured of an exciting experience. If you visit in the summer months, prepare for a mosquito-infested environment. Wear long sleeve shirts, jeans and plenty of insect repellent. Even if you are not prone to mosquito attacks, you will be here. Be prepared! I am itching just thinking about that experience. Also, if you visit during the summer months, follow my instructions carefully, it is difficult to locate. (Get a county map.) If you visit the mill when the leaves are off the trees, I understand that it is visible from S.R. 61.
Phoenix Mills is one of the most exciting remnant mills left in Ohio. Don't miss it! ("Garber; "Phoenix Mills.").
DATES, OWNERS & EVENTS
1815 - Hanson Read & Abram Powers built a gristmill on Huron River.
1816 - William Carkuff rebuilt the mill with a log structure.
1835 - Ezra Smith built a frame mill.
1856 - Barnett Roe built Phoenix Mills.
1866 - Samuel Aumend and E.C. Bodley converted the mill to turbine-power.
1878 - Alonzo S. Simmons invested in Phoenix Mills and hired a miller.
1880 - Charles Martin Griffin, an experienced miller bought the mill. His grandfather, Pat Murphy, an Irish laborer who built the rail lines, was employed by Roe to dig the millrace in 1856.
1894 - Alonzo W. Grandon, an eccentric, talented millwright bought the mill and vehemently changed the mill's name to "Greenfield Mills." The mill remained in the Grandon Family for 60 years reflecting the Greenfield Mills name but the name stone on the mill remained "Phoenix Mills." Like the mythological bird, Phoenix Mills has returned as the mill's accepted name.