Mills in Dover

In the early days of any settlement, food and shelter are of course imperatives and priorities. So it won’t surprise anyone that two of the first as well most prolific industries in Dover were mills. Mills of the Grist and Saw variety to be exact. Grist mills harnessed water (or later steam) to turn grind stones that would smash grain such as wheat into flour that was used to bake bread. Saw mills also used water to move cut trees down a channel where saws would cut the timber into wood that had been measured and finished and could be used for building.
In the early 1800s, before steam had been harnessed, these mills would have to be built near water sources such as streams and rivers. That’s why, in 1813, Joseph Cahoon built his grist mill at the mouth of Cahoon Creek. This was the first gristmill in Dover and according to Reign Hadsell and Hazel Rutherford in their book, “A History and Civics of Dover Village” this mill produced enough flour for the entire village of Dover until 1854, when the village became too large and a second mill was built at “the Center” (the intersection of Dover Center Road and Center Ridge Road) on the South side of Center Ridge where the old Porter Public Library used to stand (before the Library moved to its present location in 1985). This mill was built over the same creek and was owned by two men named Millard and Smith who also owned a store in Dover. We are told by Ruben Hall in his book, “Reminiscences of Dover Pioneer Life” that the mill passed by sale to a number of owners over the next 50 years till it burned to the ground in 1890. It was replaced by another gristmill, this time powered by steam, in 1892 by William Glasgow. This new mill in turn burned down in 1911 and was not replaced. This was the last grist mill in Dover.
Hadsell and Rutherford note that there were at least nine sawmills in Dover. The first of these was again built by Joseph Cahoon, just south of his gristmill. Other mills in the immediate area were owned by Mr. Oviatt, Mr. Eli Clemans, and Mr. Porter Smith. All of these ran on water and probably competed for water pressure as well as business. Although there definitely wasn’t a problem with a lack of business, as Dover was a heavily wooded area in the early period of its history. Much of its timber was consumed by the Cleveland ship yards, especially the white ash from the Northern part of town. More of it was cleared to make room for farms, with the timber being turned to potash which is a mineral called potassium carbonate, a highly prized commodity in the 19th century as it was used in the making of glass and soup as well as a fertilizer. In fact it was the only thing that farmers could sell for cash back in those days when money was in short supply.
As the years passed, timber became less and less important as an industry, and eventually all of the Dover saw mills closed. But not before much of the timber in Dover Township had been felled for use in industry. It is the idea of a much more wooded Dover that moves me to quote Hadsell and Rutherford’s book as I close. When discussing the mills of Dover, the authors add, “…and they long ago almost consumed all of Dover’s virgin timber. The only such timber existing in the village, known to the authors, is a five-acre patch on the Clague Park property, and as one looks up in admiration at these giant Oaks and Beeches, (one) cannot help but be impressed by the beauty that must have been for all of Dover.”

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