Often we assume that occupations are a family thing, passed from generation to generation. To a certain extent it is true. There are families of teachers, construction workers, even musicians. But the economics of the time and the needs of those inhabitants living in that time play a large role in determining how a family makes a living. I say family because, in the time of Andrew Croy, family usually worked together in the same livelihood. For this family, from at least 1830 to 1869, the profession of wood and mill worker was dominant.
In the early days of our nation, especially on the frontier edge, the inhabitants primary needed housing, food, and a means of transport. Those needs required, first, mills to cut lumber and grind grain (among other things, a nice overview here). Secondly, carpenters and wagon makers skilled in building were in demand. Our family served those needs.
Andrew Croy ran saw and gristmills. He purchased land for a mill on 22 April 1829 in Stark (later Carroll) County, Ohio. He ran that mill until between 20 January 1838 (when he sold 20 acres of that land to Akey Worley) and 27 July 1839 (when he sold the rest to the same).
By 20 December 1829, he had moved to White Eyes Township, Coshocton County and purchased a mill from John Gardner, original land grant to John Graham. On 25 March 1856, likely in poor health, he sold the land to David Reed.
Here is a newspaper account of the mill’s history.
“All three (3) mills stood along the creek banks in White Eyes Township and there was a bustle of rural community activity for weeks out of each year.
The first was located on the Ed Steiner farm, one mile north of Avondale, now Fresno. It was built in 1832 by Thomas Diehl and had an undershot wheel sixteen (16) feet in diameter and about three (3) feet wide.
Two runs of burrs, elevators, a bolting chest and other necessary appliances completed the mechanical equipment for the picturesque affair.
Its two stories towered above the wooded slopes of historic White Eyes creek and stood on a foundation 32 x 40 feet. It was enclosed by lap siding and shaved oak shingles and its capacity was seven to eight bushels of wheat an hour.
The mill was purchased by Andy Croy, father of the late David Croy in 1839 and operated by him for 16 years. [until 1855] Thomas Moore then ran the mill for several years after which David took possession. Two years later David Reed acquired it. [Does not jive with deed date of sale.] When Mr. Reed fell at the battle of Winchester in the Civil War, the mill’s years of service came to an end.”
David Croy lived in Coshocton until his death and continued in the occupation his father taught him.
“Several decades ago, the second mill was still in operation. It stood at Boyd’s mills and it was operated for years by its builders, brothers William and Journal Boyd. Today the site is part of Rev. C.D. Firster’s farm.
Later the mill was sold to Robert Doak, who sold it to Robert Boyd, who in turn sold it to Adam Gardner in 1864. Mr. Gardner died in 1872 and the property was sold to Thomas Elliot and he later sold it to J.P. Benjamin in 1881. In 1883 it was again sold, this time to Mr. [David] Croy.
A third mill had stood along White Eyes Creek one mile up stream, it was operated successively by Mr. Headley, Wm Frazy,[Andrew’s sons David and Michael married Frazy/Frazee’s] Andrew Croy and David Reed. It suspended operation in 1860.”
Meanwhile, Andrew’s son Jacob who joined him in Coshocton became a wagon maker, wagons being in demand during the canal days of Coshocton County. Jacob brought his family to Washington County, perhaps floating down the Muskingum River canal improvement where he continued to work as a wagon maker. Jacob’s son, William, briefly owned a sawmill bought in 1869, and son Robert worked as a carpenter.
But times were changing. The steam engine and the movement of civilization into the far west, impacted the needs of the nation and its people. Small local mills slowly faded away. Water as an energy source was replaced by coal. The war spread families apart. We were a nation transformed.
The “good old days” were gone. When I visited David Croy’s gravesite, I met the man who lived there and maintained the cemetery. He told tales of how the lumbermen lived in tents on the Tuscarawas River a small distance south where a dance hall entertained. Across from the gravesite was a small church that had “socials” for the men. The men working lumber might have their “fun” down on the Tuscarawas but usually found their wives at the church socials. Here is how the article explained it.
“Settlers in Coshocton county nearly a century ago [now a century and a half] came many miles to patronize the grist mills, at first on horseback and later in wagons. Each customer waited his turn. During the interval many would unlimber their fishing equipment and combine business with pleasure.
Others spent the time in games and many told of the stories that were related. Evening parties were arranged and old time songs mingled with the beat of dancing feet on the broad beamed floors of the Grist Mill.”
Article printed in the Cemetery History: White Eyes Township Vol XV by the Coshocton County Chapter OGS, pg 174: from an aged newspaper clipping owned by Ed Norris of Fresno, Ohio.
Additional documentation available upon request: Census, Marriage, Land Records