The Curious Case of the Missing Mill

The Somerset county history books tell us that there were two early grist mills in the immediate vicinity of what is now Wellersburg, Pennsylvania--the Jacob Korn mill that was already built by 1805, and the Jacob Uhl mill that is said to have been built circa 1810. The history books tell us that the Korns mill burned in 1837 while owned by George Weller and was never rebuilt, and ownership of the Uhl mill was eventually transferred to Jacob Uhl's son Charles, and was being run by run by Hertman Reitz circa 1884.

The 1818 Whiteside map of Somerset county shows two mills in the area that is now Wellersburg, but they are designated the Ule mill and Hays mill (see image below). These are, I believe, mis-spellings of the names Uhl and Hay. It is well documented that Jacob Korn moved to Ohio before 1818. These simple pieces of information suggest the following questions:

  • Why isn't the Jacob Korn mill identified on the 1818 Whiteside map?
  • Who was Hay, and why isn't the Hay's mill mentioned in the county history books?
  • Was the Korns mill known as the Hays mill at the time the 1818 Whiteside map was made?

    Mills shown on the 1818 Whiteside map in the area that is now Wellersburg, Somerset County, PA.

    There were two grist mills in the vicinity of what is now Wellersburg
    An 1805 Southampton Township tax list, given on page 578 of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties Pennsylvania", lists Jacob Korn with a "mill and sawmill". The same page also states "The first gristmill in Southampton township was built by Jacob Korns, where Wellersburg now is, about the year 1809.". The 1809 date appears to be wrong, because the tax list documents Jacob as already having a mill in Southampton township in 1805. Although Jacob did own more than one piece of property in Maryland [6], the only reason for his two mills to be mentioned in a Pennsylvania tax list is that they were located in Pennsylvania. "Hay & Countryman" are also listed in the 1805 list; this is almost certainly Simon Hay who lived out his life in Brothersvalley township, and his friend George Countryman who purportedly influenced him to migrate from eastern PA to Somerset county [2]. Simon Hay died in Brothersvalley township in 1842 at the age of 103 years [2].

    The complete Southampton township mill-related text on page 578 of the the 1884 book reads "The first gristmill in Southampton township was built by Jacob Korns, where Wellersburg now is, about the year 1809. In the same building the first carding-mill in the township was placed, and put in operation, by William S. and Daniel DeHaven, in 1830. The entire structure, then owned by George Weller, was destroyed by fire, in 1837, and has never been rebuilt. Jacob Uhl erected the second gristmill in the township, about 1810, on land now owned by Eli Shaffer. This mill is now run by Hertman Reitz. Kennell's gristmill, four miles northeast of Wellersburg, was built by George Leydig, about 1818. It was rebuilt in 1853, by Jonathan Kennel, who still owns it. The old gristmill on the Dennis Comp farm, was converted into a woolenmill in 1873, and is the only one in the township."

    Page 195 of the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania" gives an account that implies, but certainly does not prove, that Jacob Korn's mill was already built in 1797. In an article about a 1797 road committee, the following is stated: "They passed through Brothers Valley township by way of Hay's mill, reaching or crossing Mason and Dixon's line about seventy-five rods west of the one hundred and sixty-fifth milestone, which is not far from what in those days was known as Korn's mill, in Southampton township. This was near where Wellersburg now is.". The Hay's mill reference in the quoted paragraph pertains to the Simon Hay mill in Brothersvalley township.

    Page 683 of the same 1906 book states that "Southampton township was organized in 1801.", and then goes on to state "The first gristmill in Southampton township was built near Wellersburg, by Jacob Korns, in 1809. About 1830 William and Daniel Dehaven operated a carding mill in the same building. In 1837 the entire structure, then owned by George Weller, was destroyed by fire, and was never rebuilt. Jacob Uhl built the second gristmill in the township in 1810. In later years this has been known as the Reitz mill. The Kennell gristmill was built by George Leydig about 1818, and rebuilt in 1853, by Jonathan Kennell. This is where the Gladdens postoffice is. An old gristmill on the Comp farm, a short distance below the Kennell mill, was converted into a woolen factory in 1873. This was operated by M.L. Tauber until about 1894. when he removed from the township. Since that time it has not been operated.".

    Obviously, there are things in these history books that are questionable. For example, if Jacob Korn's mill wasn't built until 1809, then it wouldn't have shown up on the 1805 tax list, and it couldn't have been there in 1797 when the road committee passed through. Likewise, if Southampton township wasn't formed until 1801, then it wouldn't be absolutely correct to say "... Korn's mill, in Southampton township" in a 1797 reference (okay-that is being excessively picky). Never-the-less, what we have from the 1884 and 1906 books is a clearly expressed tradition of four early grist mills in Southampton township, two of them being in the vicinity of what is now known as Kennell's Mills, and two of them (Korn & Uhl) being in the vicinity of what is now Wellersburg.

    Who is the George Weller who later owned the Korns mill?
    Page 579 of the 1884 history book states "Wellersburg was laid out in 1830... George Weller was the founder of the town. He purchased the land on which it is built, from Jacob Korns.". Page 472 indicates that Elizabeth Hay, daughter of Brother's Valley mill owner Simon Hay, married a Weller. Page 539 states "George A. Weller, the founder of the town of Wellersburg, was a member of one of the oldest families in Somerset County. He died in 1867 at the age of seventy-two. His wife was Elizabeth Hay...".

    Pages 446-447 of the 1906 history book indicate that in 1829 a George Weller was appointed by the governor to be a Justice of the Peace for Southampton township and part of Allegheny township. Page 684 states "Wellersburg borough was laid out in 1830, by George Weller... So far as we know, the land on which the town was built was first improved by Jacob Korns, who sold the land to Weller.". Page 208 states that a George Weller was commissioner of the Somerset and Cumberland Turnpike Company when it was chartered in 1832, and states that when built, the road passed through Wellersburg. Page 445 states that a George Weller was elected as county auditor in 1848. Click here to see a web page that indicates that George and Elizabeth Weller are buried at the New Centerville Lutheran & Reformed Cemetery, Milford Twp., Somerset county, Pennsylvania.

    Why isn't the Korns grist mill on the 1818 map?
    The 1818 Whiteside map shows two mills in Wellersburg, identified as the Hay's mill and the Uhl mill. We believe we know the precise location of the Uhl mill. A portion of the Uhl mill is evidently still standing today as part of a stone garage; click here for maps and photographs. We think we also know the location of the Hay mill (see below). Why isn't the Korns mill shown on the 1818 map? Was it known as Hay's mill at the time of the Whiteside map? We don't know the answers yet.

    Why isn't the Korns sawmill on the 1818 map?
    When readers look at the 1818 map, they are likely to say "The Korns sawmill isn't on the 1818 map, so why is it surprising that the Korns gristmill is missing too?". First of all, grist mills were important buildings in the community because they converted grain to much-needed flour for local consumption. Grist mills were significant enough to communities that is not unusual for villages to be known by the name of the grist mill that was once located there. Secondly, the 1818 map even identifies the purportedly then-new Leydig/Kennell mill. Thirdly, it isn't unusual that the Korns sawmill isn't listed on the 1818 Whiteside map, because no sawmills whatsoever are shown on the Southampton township portion of the map (I haven't studied the rest of the map). Fourthly, as noted below, Jacob Korn was no longer living in the area in 1818.

    Jacob Korn left the Southampton township area circa 1810-1817
    Various sources indicate that Jacob Korn emmigrated to Ohio in the 1810 to 1817 time frame. Jacob Korn is listed in a transcription of the 1810 Southampton township census, but no Hay or Weller is listed.

    Chapter XV of the 1949 book "The Genealogy of Michael Korns, Sr. of Somerset County Pennsylvania" states "Jacob Korns and wife Elizabeth, came to Holmes County, Ohio, in 1817, from the state of Maryland.".

    Volume 1, page 936 of the 1898 book "Historical Collections of Ohio" mentions that a Jacob Korn migrated to the Berlin area of Holmes County circa 1810-1811. Page 37 of the Korns book lists Jacob Korns in pre-1812 Somerset County tax assessment lists, indicates that Jacob Korn was not assessed for taxes in Somerset County in 1812, and does not list him in any Somerset County tax assessments after 1811. Here is a Jacob Korn assessment summary, based on the Korns book:

  • 1806 60 acres, 6 clear
  • 1807 60 acres, 6 clear
  • 1808 160 acres, 86 clear
  • 1809 Entire year missing from records
  • 1810 280 acres, 84 clear
  • 1811 80 acres, 20 clear
  • 1812 Not assessed in Somerset County

    The above assessments document acreage, so the fact that Jacob does not appear after 1811 would seem on its face to suggest that had he sold all of his Southampton township property by 1812. The author of the Korns book must have missed one post-1811 assessment, however. Click here to see a website that has a transcription (from Somerset County Deed Book 7, Pages 448 to 450) of an 1815 sale of twenty six acres and fifteen perches, lying on Jennings run in Southampton township. The sale was to Daniel Uhl, and Jacob and Catherine Korn of Allegany county personally appeared in Allegany county Maryland on March 4, 1815 to sign off on the sale. The typed transcription of the deed mentions a "Hoy?" property, which might have actually been intended to read Hay. If Jacob was already living in Ohio in 1815, he came back for this legal transaction. It would be interesting to document when Jacob sold his Maryland property.

    Information on Jacob Korn is also given on page 78 of the book "Holmes County Historical Sketches" by the Holmes County Historical Society. Jacob Korn is described as being one of several German mechanics (as opposed to farmers) who came to the Berlin, Ohio area from Pennsylvania "immediately after" several other people who came in 1812. Jacob Korn is credited with having the first blacksmith shop in the area, and is described as being a "jack-of-all-trades", whose work was in high demand. For example, he is said to have made the metal parts for gristmills.

    Although we don't know exactly when Jacob Korn moved to Ohio, the latest stated date we could find was 1817, and that late date was simply presented as a fact, without documentation, in the Korns book. No source has been found that indicates that Jacob Korn was living in Southampton township or nearby Maryland at the time the 1818 map was made. On the other hand, many sources indicate that Jacob Korn no longer lived in Southampton Township in 1818, even though they do not agree on his migration date. I conclude that if the Jacob Korn mill was being operated at the time of the 1818 Whiteside map, someone else had to be running it, because Jacob Korn was living in Ohio. A summary of Jacob's Ohio tax records would be interesting to review, to determine when he first bought property there. Jacob Korns is enumerated on page 22 of the 1820 Berlin Township, Coshocton County, Ohio Federal Census.

    Where was the Hays mill located?
    The upper part of the 1939 USDA aerial image below shows the general location of a mill site that Richard Witt reported to Mike McKenzie in 2009, when Mike was interviewing Richard about the Uhl mill. Mike didn't mention the Hay mill at all, but as soon as Mike mentioned the Uhl mill down the road, Richard immediately mentioned the mill race that was behind his house, and the mill site that was located in his yard.

    Richard saw the mill foundation and mill race himself, many years ago. At some point he removed at least some of the foundation stones. The foundation was near where a small shed/car port is presently (2009) located on Richard's property. Richard reports that on mornings when there is a frost you can see the outline of the foundation.

    This mill location seems to correspond extremely well to the location of Hay's mill that is identified on the 1818 Whiteside map (i.e. the area just south-east of where the two streams come together). The angular, obviously man-made feature on the 1939 photo is very likely the remains of the mill race. I personally believe that Richard Witt's interview, and the angular feature in the 1939 photo below, confirm the location of the Hay's Mill that appears on the 1818 Whiteside map. In addition to describing the location of the mill site on his property and the corresponding mill race, Richard also described the Uhl mill pond dam and race. Mike has estimated the possible location of the Uhl mill pond dam and race by adding the dashed yellow lines in the photo below. Later, on a return visit to visit Richard, Mike looked around the area of the mill location other than evidence of a mill race, as seen in the 1939 aerial photo.

    When Mike later talked to Donnie Witt (in 2009), Donnie wasn't aware of the Hay's mill. Like Richard Witt, Donnie also indicated that there had been a dam on the creek. Donny said that part of the dam was already gone when he a kid. He and the other kids would dam it back up and swim in it. Mike thinks that the area that Donnie was talking about may be a little north of the area that Mike had identified (based on Richard's description) as the possible dam site in the photo below.

    In the photo below, the building marked "old Witt gas station" isn't the current (2001) brick building that Richard Witt's father "Mutt" built in 1961, and later sold to Audrey Mull. The building may possibly be the old Barrelville ticket office/train station. Richard told Mike that the ticket office/train station was moved from its location in Barrelville, and sat for years at the location where his father eventually built the brick store/gas station in Wellersburg.

    mill race on 1939 aerial photo

    Which Hay ran the Wellersburg Hay's mill?
    Click here to see a website that indicates that Simon Hay's son Jacob [1,4], born March 30, 1777 [5], married Elizabeth Louder, lived where Wellersburg is now, and later moved to Millersburg, Ohio [3]. The website also indicates that Simon's daughter Elizabeth, born April 17, 1792, married George Weller and they lived on the farm where Wellersburg is now. That makes Jacob Hay and George Weller brother-in-laws. The website also indicates that the 1796 Brothersvalley Assessment lists Simon Hay as the owner of a grist mill at the village of Hay's Mill. This information, if true, means that Jacob is a likely candidate to possibly be the individual who ran the Hay's mill that is shown on the 1818 Whiteside map, because Jacob would have probably learned the trade from his father.

    According to this website, Volume 6, Issue No. 3 of "Somerset Past" (Southwest Genealogical Services) the Michael Hay family Bible indicates that George Weller and Elizabeth Hay were married on March 10, 1815. We still have work to do in terms of figuring out the time line for the Korn mill purchase by George Weller, and Jacob Hay's migration to and from what is now the Wellersburg area. The earliest date that I can find Jacob Hay in Ohio so far is in a February 28, 1838 act passed by the Ohio Legislature. In that act, Jacob Hay, William Uhl, Henry Geiger, and John Korns are mentioned in relation to a church in Millersburgh, Holmes County. This tells us that Jacob Hay was in the Millersburg area by 1838. Knowing that it takes time to organize a church with other families and get legislation organized and through the legislature, it probably at a minimum means that Jacob Hay was in the Millersburg area several years before that.

    One interesting item that could be either coincidence or some kind of interesting circumstantial evidence is that Jacob Korn and Jacob Hay both ended up in Holmes County, Ohio. Another interesting circumstance is that Jacob's father Simon showed up in the Southampton township tax assessment in 1805, as described above. The February 1960 issue of the Laurel Messenger indicates that Simon hay "...settled 1779 in Brothersvalley, at location of Hay's Mill which he later built.". As noted above, Simon Hay had a mill in Brothersvalley Township by 1796. I interpret this to mean that Simon Hay was absentee Southampton township land owner in 1805. Even so, he would probably have gotten to know some of the local people. Whatever the exact 1805 circumstance, it may have somehow set the stage for Jacob and his sister to end up living in what is now the Wellersburg area.

    Where was the Korn mill located?
    The Uhl mill is represented by a rectangle, and possibly the word "mill" on the 1841 Johnson map; click here to see a copy of that map. No such rectangular building representation is present for the Hay's map. Since, by the history book accounts, the Korn's mill burned down in 1837, we wouldn't expect it to be represented on an 1841 map if it and what was illustrated as Hay's mill on the 1818 Whiteside map, were actually the same structure.

    We cannot say with certainty where the Korns mill was located, but since George Weller later owned it, a good starting point would be to research to location of the property that Weller bought from Jacob Korn. I can't say for sure which property that was, but it, or part of it, is quite possibly all or part of the 262 acre Weller Tract that is identified on the 1841 Johnson map. Since the history books tell us that Wellersburg was laid out on George Weller's property, it is very curious that the Weller tract seems to possibly extend only to Jenner Run, and doesn't seem to extend to the turnpike (now Route 160). Also, the area labeled "Wellersburg" appears to be located on the Uhl tract. One serious problem with the 1841 map is that not all property boundaries are well defined. For example, there is no boundary illustrated between the Hoyman and Uhl tracts. A similar boundary vagueness problem seems to exist between the Weller and Uhl tracts. That vagueness seems to explain why Wellersburg appears to be on the Uhl tract. If the area lableled Wellersburg was actually on the Weller tract (as the history books tell us), then the Hay mill was also on the Weller tract.

    Until we can figure out the boundaries, I am reluctant to state it as a fact that the Hay's mill was definitely on the Weller tract.

    An non-traditional alternative
    As noted above, the 1884 Somerset County history flat-out states that George Weller bought the land where Wellersburg was eventually built from Jacob Korns. Right or wrong, that tradition has been accepted for a long time.

    The following two sentences about Simon Hay's son Jacob appear in a section about the Hay family on page 283 of the 1912 Fayette County history book "Genealogical and personal history of Fayette county, Pennsylvania", Volume 1: "Jacob, settled on the farm where Wellersburg is now located but later moved to the state of Ohio. ... Elizabeth, married John Waller (sic), and settled on the Jacob Hay farm at Wellersburg, purchasing it when Jacob moved to Ohio." The sentences are from a family history that a family member wrote and evidently paid to have published in the Fayette county history book. It may have been hastily written, and parts may be written from oral traditions. In any case, I assume that "John Waller" is the individual we know as George Weller, and the writer and/or printer simply bungled the name. If true, this information "upsets the apple cart" concerning the early history of Wellersburg, and tentatively explains why one of the two mills in what is now the Wellersburg area was called Hay's mill on the 1818 Whiteside map. Click here to see a genealogy website message that lists George's complete name as "John George Weller". If correct, that helps to explain "John Waller" in the preceding quote.

    More clearly written information is found in an article on the Simon Hay family, in Volumne 3, page 52 of the 1906 Somerset County History. That article provides the following information on siblings Jacob and Elizabeth Hay: "Jacob, who settled on the farm where Wellersburg is now located, but who afterward removed to what is now the state of Ohio. ...Elizabeth married George Weller, grandfather of ex-County Superintendent John Weller, and late a member of the Pennsylvania legislature from Somerset county; they settled on the farm that her brother, Jacob Hay, had settled, which is now occupied by Wellersburg borough; the place got its name from the Weller family. ".

    When read in the context of other quotes that indicate that George Weller's mill and his property that became Wellersburg had previously belonged to Jacob Korns, the above two history book quotes strongly suggest that the Hays mill on the 1818 map was called that because Jacob Hay bought his farm and mill from Jacob Korns, was living there circa 1818, and then later sold the farm and mill to his brother-in-law George Weller (who married Jacob's sister Elizabeth Hay in 1815).

    To help to put this issue to rest for good, we need to do some research in the Somerset County deed books to prove how and when Jacob Korn's farm and mill came to be owned by George Weller. In other words, did George Weller buy the property that became Wellersburg from Jacob Korn or Jacob Hay? I'm betting that Weller bought it from Hay.

    Eventually there were other mills in the area
    Eventually, there were other mills in the general area, beyond those that are mentioned in the Somerset County history books. For example, the 1841 Walter R. Johnson coal and ore exploration report mentions an Emerick Mill that was evidently nearby in Southampton Township, but we don't know what kind of mill it was, or where it was. Mike's Aunt and Uncle had a small millstone at their house in Barrelville that they said came from the Barney Engles farm in Maryland that is on the mountain below, but relatively near Wellersburg. This farm is now (2009) being used by an outdoors club. Click here to see a very large (2530 KB) annotated 1939 aerial photo of the area below Wellersburg that identifies the location of the Barney Engles farm.

    My overlay of the 1787 Veatch map indicates that the Barney Engles farm was lot no. 3355 on Deakin's survey. According to Deakin's list, that lot was possessed by George Cook in 1787. We don't know who owned the place at the time associated with the mill stone (It is even possible that there is a mix-up in the oral tradition, because the Hay mill was once known as the Engle mill).

    Mike reports that at the Veteran's Memorial in Barrelville there are two large millstones (this is beside the small church), but we don't know where they came from.

    L. Dietle, with significant input from Mike McKenzie
    Created Summer 2009
    Updated January, 2010

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    1. Page 472 of the 1884 county history book also indicates that Simon Hay had a son named Jacob.
    2. The source is page 552a of the 1884 county history book.
    3. The May 1984 Laurel Messenger also indicates that Simon Hay's son Jacob was born March 30, 1777, and married Elizabeth Louder. The article also cryptically notes "Millersburg, "Oh.". The article also indicates the Simon Hay's daughter Elizabeth was born April 17, 1792 and married George Weller.
    4. The November 1985 issue of the Laurel Messenger summarizes the will of Simon Hay, filed March 10, 1842, and indicates that son Jacob is named in the will.
    5. The February 1960 issue of the Laurel Messenger indicates that Simon's son Jacob was born at Conococheague in 1777.
    6. In Maryland, Jacob Korn possessed Deakin's list lot 3352, a tract known as "MillStone Hill" and perhaps other real estate. Local area resident Mike McKenzie reports that Mr. Bridges told him that stone for millstones was procured there, and there is a broken millstone there that broke in transit.