In offering for publication father’s History of Mill Creek and Sandy Valley, we can only say that we believe we owe to him and his untiring effort in collecting, compiling and verifying the subject matter of this volume, to do what we can to consummate his purpose to preserve what was possible of the history of the first people to call this section “home”.
This volume we offer as a tribute to him, with the hope that there may be some to whom the information contained may be of interest and value.
Only such additions have been made to the original manuscript as he himself made note of, as further information came to him.
The subject of local pioneer history was very dear to father’s heart, and much in his thoughts. A friend has very aptly expressed it by saying that “he had an historical mind”.
To travel with father through the country was often like taking a trip on a magic carpet back to the days of the pioneer. As we drove along he would people the places passed with those who once lived there, in a very real and fascinating manner. We used to wonder how he could know about them all.
Were it possible, we should like to express thanks to those who gave him the information which assisted in the compiling of this volume, but they are now beyond accepting those thanks.
We do, however, extend thanks to those who have helped us toward the publication of this volume, and in so doing, to consummate his work.
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The valleys of Big Mill Creek and Little Mill Creek, which empties into the Ohio about one half mile below, occupy the lower half of Jackson County, with small portions of Mason and Roane. It lies between eighty-one degrees, twenty-nine minutes and thirteen seconds, and eighty-one degrees, fifty-five minutes and twenty-six seconds, west of Greenwich, and extends from thirty-eight degrees, thirty- nine minutes and twenty-one seconds to thirty-eight degrees, fifty-five minutes and ten seconds, North latitude.
George Washington, in his journal, wrote of this section:
“Six miles below this (a pavement of rocks, or bar, on the east side of the Ohio River) in a kind of sedgy ground, and a ‘mile of a little better’ below the mouth of Big Sandy Creek) comes in a small creek on the west side (Old Town Creek) at the end of a small naked island (Nathan Parr’s), and just above another pavement of rocks, this creek comes through a bottom of fine land, and opposite to it, on the east side of the river, appears to be a large bottom of very fine land also (Warth’s Bottom). At this place begins what they call the “Great Bend”.
Five miles below this, again on the east side, comes in, about two hundred yards above a little stream or run (Little Mill Creek) another creek, (Big Mill Creek) which is just below an island (Goose Island) on the upper point of which are some dead standing trees, and a parcel of white-bodied sycamores.
In the mouth of the creek lies a sycamore blown down by the wind.
From here, an east line may be run three or four miles, thence a north line till it strikes the river, which I apprehend would include about three or four thousand acres of exceedingly valuable land.
At the mouth of this (Big Mill) creek, which is three or four miles above two islands, at the lower end of the last, is a rapid (Letart falls and islands), and the point of the (great) bend is the Warrior’s path to the Cherokee Country. (The Cherokee Path left the Ohio at the mouth of Big Sandy) For two miles and a half below this, the Ohio runs a northeast course, and finishes what they call the “Great Bend”.
Big Mill Creek empties into the Ohio River eleven miles (by railroad) below Ravenswood and thirty_three miles above the mouth of the Great Kanawha River, though the railroad follows the river, the distance by water would be greater.
Four miles above the mouth of Mill Creek, at the Post Office of Willow Grove, commences a fertile bottom land, about a half mile wide, and extending to the mouth of Mill Creek.
This is know for an indefinite distance below Willow Grove as Warth's Bottom.
Mill Creek at the mouth is a sluggish stream with low sloping shores, several rods wide covered with a heavy growth of brush and weeds, willows, elm, river maple and other trees, which carry in their tops driftwood left by floods from the up_country, or backwater at time of freshets in the Ohio River.
Back of this are the real banks of the creek, some sixteen or twenty feet high, and from which stretch away wide and fertile fields of bottom land, reaching up the creek to the "falls", and down the Ohio to the mouth of Little Mill Creek, and probably to the county line.
It was on these bottoms vaguely referred to as "The Mouth of Mill Creek" and "Warth's Bottom", that the first pioneers of Jackson County planted their homes in the unbroken wilderness.
The hills are low, and go up very gradually, bing intersected occasionally by small streams and hollows.
Mill Creek is about thirty miles long, and has two main branches. These were known to the early settlers as Tug and Trace Forks, but the latter is now known as Main Mill Creek.
They rise in the high range of hills which form the watershed, dividing the waters flowing into the Ohio River from those which discharge into the Great and Little Kanawhas. Before uniting, the Tug Fork flows for twenty_two miles through a very mountain like and broken country, for tht most part, though toward the head of its right hand branch lies some of the finest uplands of Jackson County; and the Trace Fork flows sixteen miles through a section with wider bottoms and with hills less precipitous. The two units, as stated above, about thirty miles from the Ohio, making the total longest length fifty_two miles.
The surface of the Mill Creek country is quite diversified, with many wide bottoms along the main watercourses, narrowing as the streams grow smaller.
Some of the hills are low, with gently sloping sides, while others are rugged and lofty. In some places, there are wide stretches of table lands nearly level, or smoothly rolling, and again, the high mountain tops (as they were called by the pioneers) are narrow and rocky, with steep sides, or overhanging cliffs, coming down to the water's edge, cleft and scarred by the deep fissures and gulches. In the early days, there was everywhere a heavy growth of timber, sycamore, water elm, river maple, birch, beech, sugar, poplar, walnut, lynn and white oaf, along the streams, in the bottoms and up the rich, loamy, north and east hillsides, sometimes to the tops of the hills.
Shellbark hickory, wild cherry, buckeye, and red oak also were common, while several varieties of oak and hickory, red maple, black gum, white walnut, ash, locust, and cucumber abounded on hill slopes, banks and flats. In places, the tops of the ridges were crowned with pine forests, or chestnuts of giant girth.
The soil was for the most part fertile, especially in the bottom lands, which were often of sandy loam, in northeast coves, northern and eastern slopes, and the red clay of the hill tops.
Southern and western exposures, oak and hickory flats and white clay summits were less fertile, and chestnuts and pine lands were generally thin.
Three miles from the river, Mill Creek falls from a plateau which extends up the stream about eight miles, and was known as the "Flats of Mill Creek". This plateau had good bottoms along the streams with a sort of second bottom of white clay, in many places apparently sour, crawfish land.
Some places, this section is gently rolling and frequently cut by deep ravines, but commonly it is almost a dead level, sometimes a half mile or more in width.
The principal tributaries of Mill Creek are Cow Run, Parchment, Tug Fork, Elk Fork, and Frozen Camp, on the south side, and Lick Run, Log Lick, Mud Run, Sycamore Station Camp, Joe's Run, Big Run, Little Creek, and Buffalo, from the north. The general course of the stream is northwest.
From the forks of Mill Creek, five miles down the stream, or one mile below the mouth of Sycamore, is probably the best farming land in Jackson County, saving only along the Ohio River bottoms. It has been styled the "Heart of Jackson County".
On the right side of this stretch of bottom, which will probably average more than an quarter of a mile wide, rises a high range of hills, in many places, of abrupt ascent, culminating at the upper end in a towering height, known as Salt Lick Hill, of Reynold's Knob, while across a saddleback depression is a twin peak, scarcely inferior (now known as Reynold's Hill).
The United States Geological Survey places the elevation where the pike crosses it as 947 feet, and the summit of Salt Hill as 1,080, Smith Hill near Garfield 1,180, Stalnaker Hill, North Peak, 1,080, and South Peak 1,120. The same authorities place the altitude of the mouth of Mill Creek at 570 feet, and at Ripley 615 feet.
The lowest point in the valley of Big Mill Creek is at the mouth of the creek, probably the highest point is at a knob at the head of Frozen Camp, a difference of about 630 feet.
Little Mill Creek has its rise in the upper edge of Mason County, and flows north into the Ohio River, perhaps a half mile below the mouth of Mill Creek.
Mill Creek was so named from a water mill built at the falls, now Cottageville, by Benjamin Wright, in 1802.
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PRE-GLACIAL, MILL CREEK VALLEY
From a work on the drainage modifications of the upper Ohio Valley, issued by the United States Geological Survey in 1903, we learn that the conclusion reached by scientific research is that in the pre-glacial era, the Ohio River (called by then Marietta River), was formed by two principal branches, one rising several miles below New Martinsville, and following the present channel of the Ohio, the other was identical with the Little Muskingum River. After uniting, the two streams followed nearly the present course of the Ohio, making cut-offs in the curves at St. Marys and Parkersburg, to the village of Little Hocking, where it left the river, crossing the Hocking River above Coolville, passed Tupper’s Plains and Chester, and reached the present channel of the Ohio again at Hartford. Crossing here, it ran nearly parallel with the Ohio, but several miles east, to the mouth of Champaign Creek, then with the present channel to Gallipolis, up Mill Creek to the head, and northwest to Chillicothe.
Pond Creek crossed the river, flowed southwest through Meigs County, uniting with the Marietta south of Chester.
Big and Little Sandy Creeks united at Ravenswood, followed the Ohio to Pleasant View, and then flowed northwest, joining Mill Creek a mile or so east of Racine.
Mill Creek flowed nearly north from Millwood, till it joined Sandy, then turned west, crossing the Ohio at Clifton, and united with the Marietta River south of Clifton.
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