Meant to post this last month, following our visit to the Pioneer Village at Spring Mill State Park in Indiana. Such an awesome place, and so rich in history! The village is well hidden in a narrow valley, tucked between the high limestone hills of the surrounding countryside.
Apparently the village was founded around 1814, and the historic buildings offer great insight into the lives of pioneer settlers in the area. The mill was run by the Hamer family, and their little village became a trading center for commerce in the mid 1800's as a stage stop, and tavern drew in business. Some of the buildings were actually moved here from their original locations as part of a CCC restoration project in the mid 1930's. Most of the buildings are lavishly furnished with antiques from the era. So cool!
Frontier communities often sprang up around mills, as farmers would bring in their grain and corn harvest to be ground and processed. The Hamer family, also ran a distillery, and kept a portion of the local farmer's corn harvest in payment for grinding corn, and used it to produce a fine corn whisky "Old Hamer Whisky", that was transported by a flat bottom riverboat all the way to New Orleans. In addition to Whisky, the distillery at Spring Mill also produced, Apple and Peach Brandy.
The Hamers also ran a mercantile in the village, and Hugh Hamer's compassion was widely known, as he often cut down prices of items for those who were "in need". Whatever they had in their pocket's at the time was fair trade. Unfortunately Hugh Hamer died from Small Pox in the early 1870s. The village began to decline, when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had to bypass the village because the "hilly" terrain made it inaccessible to rail traffic. Additionally, the invention of the portable steam powered grist mill meant that farmer's no longer had to transport their harvest to Spring Mill to be processed. By the 1900's the village of Spring Mill was nothing more than an isolated ghost town.
The following is a pic of Granny White's House. Granny's first husband died in their move to Indiana leaving her with 6 children to care for. Later she married David White who built this home on the original sight of the Leesvillie Indian Massacre of 1813. The large opening in the center of the residence is known as a dogtrot, and was used as a covered area for unloading supplies from carriages and wagons, as well as a cool breezeway (air conditioning) during the hot summer months.
The Sheeks house, built in 1816 by George Sheeks for his large family of 12. Although the building was relocated here for preservation from its original location on Lick Creek ( 3 miles north of the mill. ), It contains a large loom that he built as a wedding gift for his wife.
The stream that runs by the wooden flume originates from one of several caves that can be found in the area! The flume, supported by hand cut limestone piers runs for 1/4 of a mile from the mill pond and its source at Hamer Cave. In addition to the gristmill, the stream was also used as power for a lumber mill and distillery!
The 3-story limestone gristmill with its large waterwheel was originally built in 1817!
View of the Upper Residence, originally built around 1818 by the Bullitt brothers, early owners of the gristmill. It would later become the home of Hugh Hamer and his family after he bought the mill.
The Lower Residence, which was originally occupied by Uriah Glover, the Mill's Supervisor, and later became the home of Thomas Hamer, the brother of mill owner, Hugh Hamer. The small cabin in the foreground may have been a summer kitchen.
The following is a pic of The Munson House, home to Amzi Munson, a humble cobbler who worked in leather goods and made shoes, boots, and horse harnesses!
The Garden House, which was originally used as a dye shop for the coloration of linens and cloth!
After spending the morning walking around soaking in the historic atmosphere of the village, imagining the hard lives of the settlers who tamed this wild country, the answer to one question eluded me - Where did they bury their dead? I kept looking for and had expected to find a cemetery in the area. but didn't see any sign of one in the little valley. I wondered if perhaps, it was located on one of the many hills surrounding the village. I told Don, I wanted to at least drive around the area before we left, as there had to be an old pioneer cemetery somewhere nearby! More to come in part II.