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Cox's Mill

This home just north of the Whitewater River in Middleboro was once a mill. It was built in 1860 by Joseph Cox, grandson of Jeremiah Cox, a founder of Richmond. It is the second mill on this property. The first, a stone building that still stands closer to the river, was constructed in 1826 by Jeremiah Cox II, son of Richmond's founder.

Photo: Cox's Mill in Middleboro, Indiana in winter

Photo taken January 4, 2008

Richmond 1840 - 1940

Reprinted with permission. Palladium-Item, May 14, 1940

Middleboro Mill 114 Years Old Still in Good Condition

Photo: Original Cox's Mil - built in 1826.Next time you drive up Indiana 227 and cross the bridge at Middleboro, take a glance at your right at the old white stone building setting back several hundred feet from the road, just north of the river.

Everybody around Middleboro knows what it is, but to the average person it's just an old building which most of the time goes unnoticed. Those interested in the early days of Richmond and Wayne county will be interested to learn, however, that it is the sixth mill built in Wayne county and was constructed 114 years ago, in 1826, by Jeremiah Cox II, whose father was one of the first two men to layout the lots of Richmond. John Smith was the other. The elder Jeremiah also built the first mill in Richmond where the Starr Piano company is located, in 1806.

Although the old stone mill at Middleboro has been in disuse since 1860, still it stands, early as firm as the day it was built. Lately it's been used to house cattle and horses. The roof is leaky, and the inside has not been kept up, but it stands as a monument to the skill and thoroughness of the pioneers who put it up. Middleboro, you know, first was called Cox's Mills since it was around the mills that the little settlement was built.

The old stone mill, and the one built directly at the side of the road which replaced it in 1860, now are the property of Leslie Cook, a great-great grandson of Jeremiah Cox I. Mr. Cook's mother Angelina Cox, was married to Harvey Cook. She was a daughter of Robert Cox who was a son of Jeremiah II and a grandson of Jeremiah I.

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Stetler and their twin children now live in the house which has since been built on the place. Mr. Stetler is employed at the International Harvester Company.

Second Mill

This stone mill, by the way, wasn't the first one on that site built by Mr. Cox. The first was put up in 1820 and was nothing but a log cabin with an ordinary roof of clapboards and weight poles. As to its cost, Mr. Cox is quoted as having said afterwards that $500 would have built it and the two others which were built in this county just before it. It was a tub mill for grinding corn, and the builder made his own burrs from greyheads found in the vicinity. Its capacity was about two and a half barrels an hour. It was in 1826 that this mill was replaced by the old stone one which still stands.

This building was 26 x 36 feet, and was built of limestone, so abundant in that vicinity. It had a homemade corn burr and a French burr for grinding wheat. The latter was hauled from Cincinnati. It's capacity was two and a half or three bushes of wheat and four bushels of corn an hour. Mills at Richmond now can handle 350 bushels of wheat daily which makes around 100 barrels of flour.

Mr. Cox was quite a genius and made almost everything about the old stone mill except the French burrs. He made the shafting of poplar. The pulleys and bodies of the cog wheels generally were of oak, but sometimes of poplar. For the cogs, hickory was generally used. All the equipment is gone now, but the hollowed out tree truck which served as a grain bin.

These early mills were all water mills with overshot wheels, and in 1834 Mr. Cox bought the right to make and use what was known as the Scroll wheel. He used this two or three years and then put in a wheel which he devised himself. This was similar to the modern turbine wheel.

Rather interesting is the fact that Jeremiah II often told of his father, while living in Richmond, purchasing some of the first wheat he new of being raised in Wayne county. For this he paid $5 or $6 a bushel. It was ground in a hand mill which he had brought from North Carolina. It was sifted through a sieve made of horse hair.

An old gentleman took dinner with them one day when they had cakes made of this flour. While at the table he broke out "God bless the budding - how I love it." It seems that he had had no wheat bread or cakes for some time.

A subsequent article will deal with the old brick mill, only recently abandoned, which Robert Cox, Jeremiah II's son, erected after purchasing from his father the old stone mill. also there will be more interesting information about Jeremiah II whose ingenuity along other lines was most equal to that of his skill as a miller.

Cox Family Millers in County Since 1806

2nd Cox's Mill - built in 1856.Since 1806 when Jeremiah Cox I, built the first mill in Richmond on the site where the Starr Piano Company now stands, the family has been one which followed chiefly the trade of the miller.

This first mill handled tow bushels of corn an hour. Of this mill his son, Jeremiah II, wrote "It was covered by planting poles in the ground with forks at the upper end to receive poles, on which other poles called ribs were placed, on which were laid clapboards for the roof. On them were laid weight poles to hold the boards to their place, which I believe sheltered the hopper and the meal trough pretty well when the wind did not blow."

Since that time his sons and their sons have built or operated mills in this and surrounding counties. Last of these to cease operations was the one pictured above, which was built at Middleboro by Robert Cox in 1960. Robert was a son of Jeremiah I, and a grandson of Jeremiah II, who with John Smith laid out the first lots of Richmond early in the Nineteenth century.

By his first marriage, Jeremiah I, had two sons, Robert and William, both of whom were millers and had mills on Sugar creek in Henry county.

Earlier articles told about the old stone mill built at Middleboro (then Cox's mills) by Jeremiah II. This Jeremiah Cox had eight children, four boys and four girls. Al the boys were millers and some of the girls married millers. Tow of the sons, Robert and Jeremiah, who was Jeremiah Cox III, also were millwrights. The oldest son, Brandon, had a mill on the Salemonia, near Mount Aetna, in Huntington county. Elihu, the second son, never owned his own mill but managed that of his father at Cox's mills and later had charge of several others. He was a great temperance worker hand was a member of the Lower House of the General Assembly in 1815. Jeremiah III, the youngest son, assisted in his father's mill for some time and later was associated with his brother Robert, and nephew, Joseph, in a mill in Jo Davess county, Illinois.

Born in 1816

Robert, the third son, was born in 1816, and is Leslie Cook, of this city, his grandson, who now owns the old mill properties at Middleboro. When only 21 years old, Robert built a frame mill about a quarter of a mill (i.e. mile) above that of his father at Cox's mills. This since has disappeared. To save gearing, the early mills has as many water-wheels as burrs. This mill has two burrs, a corn burr, and a wheat burr, both French, which were hauled from Cincinnati. It also had a small burr called "rubber stones" for cleaning buckwheat. This small burr was run by a belt from the other burrs and the mill itself had a capacity of three or four bushels of wheat, and eight or 10 bushels of corn an hour.

Later Robert leased this mill to his brother, Jeremiah III, and bought a mill in Randolph county. This later was sold and in 1860 Robert bought the old stone mill at Cox's mills from his father, abandoned it in favor of the present brick mill, which he built, and by using the dam he had built several years before and extending the race, obtained a fall of 18 feet. Modern machinery was added later and the mill was in operation until 10 years ago (1930). Listus Little, who was employed by Leslie Cook as the miller, died, and operation was abandoned although Mr. Cook still uses the building for storage and as a repair shop. Recently he had carpenters there making gates for a farm he owns.

Joseph Cox, the only son of Robert Cox, was another of the family who at tone time managed the brick mill although he also had owned and operated several others in this vicinity. Long dead, he still was regarded one of the oldest active millers in eastern Indiana at that time, and it was said of him he had worked at milling "since he was large enough to get a peck of corn into the hopper."

When he was only 12 years old he was left one afternoon in charge of the mill. A two bushel grist of wheat came in and he ground it and made good flour. When he was eight years of age, his father's miller accidentally fired the bolting cloth from a candle. None was to be had nearer than Cincinnati and Joseph was allowed to go with his father. They started in a buggy before daylight and got back the next evening just after dark. The round trip was 120 miles.

Rush of Business

In the winter of 1859, there was a rush of business and Mr. Cox was caught without a miller. He ran it three weeks, night and day, and had it arranged so that when a four sack was full a bell would ring. He would put on an empty sack, fill the hopper, and lie down for a nap. His naps varied in length from 15 to 45 minutes. Horses were cared for in stables near by and there was a place in the mills for persons to sleep who were waiting for grinding.

Another miller in the Cox family was Clayton, oldest son of Joseph. After operating mills in various parts of the country he had one at Green's Fork, to make the fifth successive generation of millers to operate in Wayne county.

Ingenuity necessarily was apart of the life of those early men. Jeremiah Cox II, himself was gifted along lines other than that of his calling. He made chairs, repaired clocks, did blacksmithing and made his own clothing and shoes. At one time he made a breaking plow with a wooden mould-board which was given to his grandson, Joseph, but which since has disappeared. He also made a wagon which did service for many years, and after he was too old to manage the mill he still made chairs.

When men in those days wanted something they either had to make it themselves or if it could be purchased make a long trip to the then distant city of Cincinnati which might take several days. Now we hop in the car, drive downtown, and come in a few minutes. Or push a button and there it is!

Reprinted with permission. Palladium-Item, May 14, 1940


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Did You Know?

Oliver P. Morton, who served as the 14th Governor of Indiana during the American Civil War, was a Wayne County native. His family home still stands along the National Road on the west side of Centerville.