Herrold’s Mill (in Athens, Ohio), now White’s Mill, serves as a local gathering place for farmers and local wags in How Can A Man Die Better. I worked at White’s Mill in the 1980s and learned of some of its history. Southeastern Ohio was filled with active abolitionists in the years before the Civil War, and many local historians say Herrold’s Mill was a frequent stop on the Underground Railroad. I do not know for a fact that these men gathered around a potbellied stove and played checkers while they chewed the fat and debated the affairs of the world, but I suspect that they did. 19th Century mills were a favorite spot for impromptu social gatherings back then, as farmers came to buy and sell grain, get equipment repaired, or even buy and sell livestock.
White’s Mill today sits on the same spot on the Hocking River in Athens, Ohio, where it was established in 1816 when Captain Silas Bingman constructed a huge sandstone foundation, with a 10-foot wooden dam and waterwheel. Joseph Herrold bought the mill in 1840, and his sons operated the mill until Ed White bought it in 1911. Ed installed thousands of dollars in new equipment and his business was thriving until October 2, 1912 when it was destroyed by fire. Determined to run his mill at that location, White purchased the old Nathan Vale flour mill in Meigs County, dismantled it, transported it by barge and ox wagon, and reconstructed it at his location on the Hocking.
In 1961, the dam was washed out and repaired. In 1975, the dam was badly damaged by raging floodwaters. The dam was not able to be repaired again, but the remaining section is one of the last examples of wooden dams in the United States.
Mike and Meg Toomey purchased the Mill, considered a Historic Athens Landmark, in the early 1990s and renovated it, adding crafts, artwork and a garden center. Rodney Dowler and Tyler Schloss purchased the Mill in 2016.
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