The first mill at this site was constructed by Bishop Philander Chase in 1826. The construction of the millrace is an interesting story. He dug the millrace across a neck in the river. The procedure was extremely hard work and the process was progressing slowly. Bishop Chase, a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church, prayed for assistance. Subsequently, it rained for several days and a flood inundated the entire area. When the waters receded, the river had carved a deep channel where the millrace was being dug. As a result of the flood, the work was almost completed. Upon completion of the sawmill, Bishop Chase used his new mill to supply the lumber for the construction of Kenyon College. With the immediate demand for lumber satisfied, Bishop Chase built a gristmill. He hired William Oliver as miller.
Abram Baldwin Norton bought the mill in 1846. Norton razed the old mill and replaced it. He incorporated newer milling techniques that included conveyors and elevators to transport the grain more efficiently to the various processes in the mill.
James Thompson purchased the mill when Daniel S. North, Abram's brother, died in 1859. Thomas B. Gaines and Jacob B. Gaines purchased the mill from James Thompson the same day that he had bought it. The Gaines paid $7,000.
Kenyon Mills suffered financially and was sold at a sheriff's sale in 1881 to James Dial. Dial installed a 26" Sampson turbine and a 40" Special turbine in 1888. He also replaced the old wooden flour milling equipment with roller mills built by Bradford Mill Company from Cincinnati. Dial also built a new dam in 1896.
Kenyon Mills experienced a series of calamities that placed the mill in financial jeopardy. In 1908, the bridges that allowed access to the mill were destroyed by a flood and were not replaced until 1912. Consequently, the farmers who patronized the mill were not able to get their grains to the mill when high waters prevented them from fording the Kokosing River. The 2 iron bridges ($20,000 each) were rebuilt in 1912 but the 1913 Flood changed the channel of Dry Creek and diverted the water supply away from the millrace and dam leaving Kenyon Mills high and dry without a power source.
Lee Dial, James Dial's son, sold the mill to Armistead H. and Jane Waight on June 20, 1914. Mertie D. Jacob bought the mill on October 27, 1916. It was December of 1948 when the Jacob Family closed the mill. (Garber).
Today, Gambier Mills is barely standing. The mill is one of the largest in Ohio, measuring 32' X 60'. The 2 1/2-story frame is covered with weathered gray, lap siding with many pieces gone. The roof is rusted tin. The cut sandstone foundation is deteriorating and one corner of the mill has been undermined by the Kokosing River. The interior exhibits huge hewn beams but contains no milling equipment. It presently houses a workshop. Evidence of the millrace is visible at the mill and across the road where Bishop Chase and the flood constructed it. Some of the old Gambier Roller Mill flour bags are lying around, displaying the name of "Geo. B Jacobs."
To visit the mill site is disappointing because it is in such poor condition. The most interesting aspect of the site is the 1826 millrace and the mill site's history.