Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community

Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 1)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 1)


[page 1]

[corresponds to unnumbered page 1]

Compiled by Carlton Burrer June, 1983 [hand written on right]

Early Delaware County -- Sunbury and Community


As we pause to remember the 175th anniversary of the establishment

of Delaware County as a separate political subdivision of the State

of Ohio, consideration should be given as to the conditions which

existed in 1804 and to the life style of the people and the hardships

the people endured in those early days.

First of all, as we travel about the towns and countryside, observation

should be made as to the contour of the land and try to visualize how

it must have been before the roads were laid out and improved. Consider

how it was possible to cross the various streams of water, on foot or

by horse and buggy before bridges were built and the roadways graded

to make the approaches gradual and easy to maneuver. Notice that the

Public Square and the bordering streets, Columbus, Cherry,Vernon and

Granville occupy nearly all the naturally level land in the Village

of Sunbury. As originally laid out by the Myers brothers in 1816,

Morning, North, Evening and South streets formed the boundaries of

the Village. Even these close-in streets, while the plat looked good

on paper, [word crossed out] parts of the streets could not be used because of the

irregularities in the land surface. It is to be noted that South St.

was never [underlined] used.

During the early years there was on open stream and valley extending

from north of what is now Harrison St. east of its junction with Otis

St. which ran in a southwesterly direction, past the north side of the

Masonic Temple, under the Veterinary Clinic at N. Vernon St., past the

north side of Dr. Livingstons house, under the intersection of Morning

and N. Columbus Sts., through the front yard of Ronald Wilson, under

the house adjacent thereto; on underneath the new Cemetery Entrance

and West Cherry St., where it discharged into Prarie Run. When N. Vernon

St. was first extended to Harrison St. a stone culvert had to be

constructed to permit the water to flow under the new extention. As

recently as 1939 an open stream and ravine went, north east to south

west, through the center of the field where the Sunbury Playground

was constructed. The waterway originated northeast of East Cherry

St. continued SW under Granville St., through the low ground south of

the Telephone Equipment building, under S. Vernon St., on under S.

Columbus St near Frakes garage, through the Nestle Co. property where

it emptied into Prarie Run.

Considerable grading had to be done when the Railroad was built in

1873 and Letts Ave. did not connect with South Columbus St until the

underpass was installed several years later. The Granville St underpass

was not installed untill the late 1920s and all the traffic had to

cross over [underlined] the railroad tracks for quite a number of years.

The early expansion of the Village took place when there were nothing

but dry dusty streets in the summer, and icy, rutted and muddy streets

during the rest of each year. Certain areas in the Public Square were

soft and swampy during parts of the year. Of course there were no

telephones until the late 1800s -- communication along the railroad was

by telegraph -- there was no electricity until about 1906. In the late

1800s a group of private citizens, among them John Longwell, Elias

Kimball, Al Williams, Nelson Ramsey and Dr. Gerhardt had a large gas
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 2)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 2)


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[corresponds to page 2]

well drilled in Nelson Ramsey's pasture field (Sunbury Playground)

found some gas and had lines laid to their homes and to the Blakely-

Williams Department Store at Cherry and Vernon Sts. The supply only

lasted a short time and the pocket filled with water. Small quantities

would bubble up through the water and build up pressure enough in the

large (8 or 9 inch) well pipe so that light could be had for skating

parties held on the pond in the wintertime. By the 1920s even that

small quantity failed. Another, smaller well was drilled just east of

N. Columbus St. on the north side of North St. hoping to find gas to

fuel the engines at the Mill. That venture was also un-successful.

Internal combustion engines fueled by natural gas, kerosene or light

oil have been available only since the early 1900s so that except for

[word crossed out] large and ponderous steam equipment all work to get jobs done had

to be by man-power, or by the use of horses, mules or oxen. Earth and

gravel or stone had to be moved by hand-shovel or by horse drawn, man

controlled, slip-scrapers. Any material moved more than a few feet had

to be shoveled into horse or mule drawn, iron-tired wagons. Dump-wagons

were developed so that the sides or bottom could be released and then

would have to be chained or clamped back into place for each load.

Considering all the physical labor involved it is easy to understand

why it took so many years to get large projects completed, particularly

the extensive grading needed to lay the large tile and move the earth

from the high spots to cover the tile and fill the ravines. By 1911

the finish grading had been done and most of the streets paved. This

writer can remember heavy paving bricks laid by hand on the old 3C

highway between Sunbury and Galena and in areas within Sunbury. It

involved teams of men,down on their knees laying two, three or even

four courses of the brick from one side of the roadway to the other

on a piece-work basis; back and forth all day, with few pauses between

courses to rest. Just imagine anyone being willing, or able, to do

such work today.---With all the power tools and equipment we now have

is is difficult for us to imagine how hard it must have been to fell

the trees, cut them, and finish them into suitable boards, planks

timbers and lath, to erect the structures which were so well put

together; all by hand, so many years ago. Even the foundation stones

had to be/quarried, moved by wagon or sled to the site, then cut to the

desired shapes and laid; all by hand hammers and chisels. Even the

bricks which were used to build houses and chimneys were often formed,

dried, and baked from native clay found at the building site. Iron nails

to hold the planks and boards in place in those old, but solid, frame

houses, were forged by hand, sometimes locally.

When the Farmers Bank building was erected in Sunbury in 1872, all

the stone was quarried along Big Walnut Creek. Large blocks were

hauled and deposited on the north side of the Public Square. A crew

of Italian stone cutters was brought in to cut and shape the stone

into the various sizes, shapes an designs; even to the round columns,

fluted pilasters and finials as called for in the architects plans.

A decorative pedestal for the peak of the frontal design was even

sculpted from a single, [word crossed out] large piece of stone and hoisted to

the top of the finished structure. Just recently when trenches were

dug to lay wires for new lights along the walks on the Square, a

quantity of the spalls and stone chips from this project were thrown

along the north walk
up to the top of the ground ^ . Several of the these were picked up and

compared with stone saved from the original building. They matched

exactly. Trenching in other areas of the Square failed to expose

any similar stone.
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 3)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 3)


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The Villages and country side have always been fortunate in having

good palatable water. Big and Little Walnut Creeks and Prarie [Prairie] Run

are fed with many springs, as were the streams which ran through the

town of Sunbury. Private wells could usually be dug or drilled and

clear, sweet water found near the surface. This good water is one of

the elements responsible for the growth of the area from its earliest

days. In recent years it must be acknowledged and credit given to the

assistance The Nestle Company has presented; financially, as well as

by providing use of its tools, personnel and equipment; when needed, in

the development of the Sunbury water programs. Many will remember the

very long dry spell experienced in 1953 when the water table dropped

so far that the Water Plant wells gave out, springs dried up and all

the little pools of water. above the dam in Big Walnut were channeled

by men with hand shovels to permit as much to drain into the pumping

station inlets as could possibly be coaxed into the system.

Being about to give up with no rain in sight, it was noticed that

water was flowing in Little Walnut [underlined] Creek from just above the

Cheshire road on south. Local farm tank truck haulers were recruited, the new

Fire Department Pumper and some small portable units were pressed into

service and The Nestle Co, which was using raw milk at the time, diverted

their large tankers, as they could be spared, and the water brigade began.

A conveniently accessible pool in the creek was located and the crisis

was at once averted until the rains came. Believe it or not, we pumped

and hauled water from that one pool for several days and were unable

to pump it dry. The story has been told that, at one time, one of the

farms along Little Walnut Creek had an artesian well which flowed

continuously the year around. From our experience there must have been

several of them working at the time.

Two other elements which helped in the growth of the community, were

the many perches of good stone along Big Walnut Creek and the fine

stands of trees of many varieties suitable for building purposes and

for firewood.

Another favorable feature in the development of Sunbury was that it

was laid out at the intersection of two expanding trade routes and

was sited far enough away from other large centers so that it became

a convenient overnight stop-over point, back in the stage coach era.

The surrounding land was mostly fertile for farming and for the grazing

of livestock. With the influx of many industrious people:-tradesmen,

farmers, dairymen, growers of livestock, builders and merchants, the

future of the villages and community was assured.

***The Beginning, Development and Growth of the Mill & Light Plant***

There is one necessity common to all living creatures---everyone and

every thing must eat [underlined] on a regular basis...The more primitive the environ-

ment the more difficult it was, and the more time had to be spent,

to find and prepare food for existence. Basic requirements have always

been--food and shelter[underlined]. As new settlers began to arrive and virgin

territory was opened, people began to band together to pool their

efforts and assets, to secure easier and more comfortable living. With

flowing streams at hand, those individuals mechanically inclined, set

about harnessing the available water-power to perform the onerous

tasks of sawing wood and grinding grain.
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 4)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 4)


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Mills began to be installed at locations where satisfactory flow

could be obtained, by building dams to impound the water or where

there was sufficient natural fall created by a bend in the stream,

to divert part of the flow into a man-made new channel where the

speed or pressure of the water could be made to turn a wheel and

thus create plentiful and cheap power.

Mills began to be constructed along Alum creek and Big and Little

Walnut. One enterprising family in Galena, the Carpenters, secured

land for a mill-race just north of the juncture of Big Walnut and

Little Walnut Creeks. Since the flow and level of Big Walnut was

higher than that of Little Walnut a wonderfully fast and reliable

race was created for use. The Carpenters had built and operated mills

in the Wyoming Valley area of Pennsylvania before coming here.

Business must have prospered for the John Jacob Burrer family in

the stone cutting profession and in the family tavern and store.

He had brought his family from Germany on a sailing vessel to

Sunbury via New York,with a stop-over to visit a brother who lived

in Medina County Ohio and a short period in Delaware, where a son,

John Edward was born. In 1857 he had purchased a log cabin in Sunbury,

located on E. Cherry St. near the new Cemetery entrance. It is now

designated as #44 and has been shingled on the outside so that the

logs do not show. The house is still standing and is occupied. Court

House records indicate that it was built in 1802 [underlined]---before Delaware

County was formed or the Village of Sunbury laid out. The last three

of John Jacobs children were born there in 1857, '59 & '63. The old

cabin and family home on lot #19 was transferred out of the family

name to A.D. Gammill in September 1901.

In August 1857 John Jacob ^ purchased a plot of land along Big Walnut

creek from John Knox as a 'Stone Purchase' and later he became a

partner with Henry Fleckner in the operation of a Stone Quarry. John

J's. oldest daughter married Mr. Fleckner and they lived in what is

now #10 N. Walnut St. which is on the Sunbury-Licking Township line

at the end of East Cherry St. At that time it was far outside the

corporation limits of Sunbury. The house and barn are still standing

and the property forms the west bank of the Big Walnut Valley.

About ten years after purchasing the log cabin as a home for his

young family, he purchased lot #44 from Cornelius Wilcox. This was

(and is) the first lot north of the Hopkins House on the west side

of the Public Square in Sunbury. On it he built a stone building

with a stone-walled and roofed cellar underneath for use as a tavern

and store. It is understood that light lunch and other refreshments

were available there for travellers and those attending the livestock

sales being conducted periodically on the Public Square in the early

days. No doubt the bidding became more spirited after refreshments.

By 1871, John Jacob's eldest son was 23 years of age (he was 7 when

they came from Germany) and the father and son, Gottlieb Jacob,

purchased from Henry and Sarah Boyd the old 'Bailey' water-powered

flour and 'grist' mill, which had been built in 1848, and was located

down in the creek valley bottom-land behind Harry Fleckners barn.

The flow in the creek had been diverted further upstream into a

pond and there was a 'right-of-way' through John Knox land for a
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 5)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 5)


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'tail-race' to carry the run*off from the water wheel back into the

creek further down stream. This Mill Property contained a little over

26 acres of land, in addition to the right-of-way, and $3500.00 was

paid for it, the buildings and machinery. Mr. Boyd had previously

purchased the 'Van Sickle' mill from his brother Jacob Boyd and had

moved the machinery from it to the 'Bailey' mill. The 'Van Sickle' mill

was the first in Trenton Tonship. It was built by John Van Sickle in

1835 and was situated one half mile north-east of Sunbury on Big Walnut.

It had a 'brush' dam for water diversion and it was later replaced with

one built out of planks. He sold it to E.M. Condit who operated it from

1855 to 1862 and then sold it to Jacob Boyd. Judge F.B. Sprague, who

came from Delaware, later bought into the partnership with the Burrer

father and son, he having had experience in in the milling business.

Mr. Sprague had certified the mill purchase agreement as Justice of the

Peace on June 16, 1871.

With business rapidly increasing it soon became evident that the flow

of water in the creek was not sufficient to operate the mill the year

around to take care of the demand. It was determined that the mill and

its machinery should be moved into the Village and steam power be pro-

vided to run it. In 1875 foundations were laid for a new building and

boiler-room to be built. The building was frame construction and the

boiler-room was of stone to be fireproof. The building site was in the

north-east corner of N. Columbus and North Streets. Mr. Samuel Shriver

Gammill had moved his saw-mill from Kingston Township and it occupied

the other one-half of the land between N. Columbus St. and N. Vernon St.

on the north side of North St. Mr. Gammill also operated a Hoop factory

in connection with the saw mill.

Agreement had been reached with Mr. Gammill that he would supply the

wood-slabs/and sawdust to burn in the new boilers, and he would construct

the frame building for the mill. A|very tall and large, round chimney, or

smoke stack had to be erected on a heavy stone base to assure that

burning wood-embers would not spread over nearby structures.

The son, Gottleib Jacob (known to everyone as 'Jakie') had become

enamored of Mr. Gammill's daughter, Amy Ann, and they were getting

married. Mr. Gammill therefore, also agreed to build a house for them

to live in, on the south side of Morning St., on in-lot #4 across from

the mill. All this was accomplished and the mill was moved from the

creek into Sunbury.

At that time the small stream and ravine still existed, down through

the saw-mill property and alongside the new mill. A tile was laid and

covered over with dirt and stone fill but for many years whenever there

was a hard rain, water would exceed the capacity of the tile and flow

into the mill basement and into the bucket-type elevator 'boots' and

plug up the flow of grain in the mill. One can imagine the mess this

[word crossed out] would make, especially if water remained in the basement for an

hour or more. A large steam engine was purchased in Mt. Vernon and

shipped by rail to Sunbury. The new railroad trestle over Big Walnut

creek was then unuseable so the heavy engine had to be unloaded on

the south side of the Croton Road where the stone quarry loading

winches were located, moved down the hill on heavy wagons or sleds,

forded across the creek just north of where the new bridge is now

located, by horse, mule or oxen teams; and on in to the new mill

engine room.
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 6)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 6)


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The father, John Jacob Burrer and his son Heinrich (Henry) both died

in 1874 while the mill was still at the creek. Gottlieb Jacob (Jakie)

now 26 years old was made Executer of John Jacob, leaving the mother,

Barbara Catherine a widow at the age of 54, daughters Frederika and

Nannie, two additional sons John Edward and Frank aged 20 and 12 ^ at

home and unmarried. The move into Sunbury was successful, however, and

with a much more accessible location and reliable power at hand to

drive the mill stones, there was plenty|for everyone to do. The community

began to grow rapidly. The Farmers Bank had been organized in 1872, the

railroad was completed; the Enterprise (first newspaper) started, the

brick school house built, on the hill (corner of Harrison & N. Vernon

Sts), all in 1973. In 1974 the Rome Grange #741 was organized. In 1875

a Protestant Episcopal church was organized in Galena. From 1875 through

1891 many new organizations and associations were formed in the comm-


In 1892 the Sunbury Co-Operative Creamery was formed and a building

was constructed on the east side of S. Columbus St., near the rail-

road and Depot. This meant that the farmers had a convenient cash

market for their milk and cream, and butter could be locally produced

and sold in quantity. Mr. Kimball Sedgwick was named secretary & manager.

By 1886 machinery had become available to process wheat into white

flour, by means of matched sets of steel rollers; and by the use of

proper screens and sifters various parts of the wheat, oats, rye and

barley could be separated out in the grinding process for livestock

feed and other uses. This meant that to be competetive, a major expan-

sion was necessary at the mill. The French mill-stones or 'buhrs' were

retained for cracking corn and making meal but the mill structure had

to be expanded. At the same time 6 large and tall bins were constructed

for the storage of grain for both processing and reshipment. At that

time the engine room was not expanded since the steam engine and boiler

could handle the added load. Anyone familiar with roller mills and the

manufacture of white flour will understand the amount of line shafting,

belts, pulleys, clutches and spouting required in such an undertaking.

The conversion was completed, however, and a new era began in the

milling business in the Sunbury community. An exact accounting of the

sequence of events which followed during the next 15-20 years is not

recorded, but can be summed up as follows;- While associated with the

father and the boys under the name of 'Sprague & Burrer' Mr. Sprague

was a Justice of the Peace, but upon being appointed Probate Judge in

the County, he soon gave up his interest in the milling business and

the enterprise continued for a time as 'Burrer Brothers'.

After white flour became available, the 'tavern' aspect of the store

and tavern on the Public Square was dropped and ovens installed in the

building to operate as a Bakery, thereby promoting the marketing of the

new 'White Loaf Flour,'as the product was named. John Edward, having

learned the milling business, became interested in the bakery. Frank

continued on full time in the mill with his brother Jakie. Frank never

married but Jakie and his wife Amy Ann started to raise a family of

their own in the house across from the mill. Their first born child

(March 7, 1886) was given the name of Sprague, after the early partner,

and the middle name Gammill from his maternal grandfather. Then followed

4 more boys, all within a period of 8 years.
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 7)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 7)


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As this second generation grew and became able to work in the mill,

John E. and Frank began to look for other locations to continue their

profession. In 1893 John Edward married Margaret, the daughter of Remolus

Hyatt who lived in a log cabin just north of Sunbury. (this cabin was

torn down recently to make room for the erection of the DeVore Funeral

Home at that location).

Jakie and John purchased a mill in Centerburg and Uncle John and

Margaret moved there to make 'Tip Top' flour. Uncle Frank secured a

mill in Westerville, moved there and spent the rest of his life there.

Soon thereafter the Sunbury operation name was changed to:- G.J. Burrer

& Sons, a title which continued for many years. Sprague, the eldest boy

was killed in an accident while playing in the mill when he was only

10 years of age. The Townley-Ports Scrap Book, available at the Community

Library, describes this happening in detail, calling it 'A Horrible

Accident', with a date of Aug. 6, 1886. Little Sprague had been reading

a story-book at the time the third child was born on June 6, 1886. The

hero in the book was Paul Parker which became the name of the new-born.

In volume #111, page 73 Delaware Co. Recorders Office, is a Quit Claim

Deed, signed by all living survivors of John Jacob Burrer, transferring

the south 60 ft. of Lot #44 (the Store & Bakery) to J. W. Barker. It had

been used by the family from 1867 to 1899. Uncle Parker Burrer remembered

going there to Uncle John and Aunt Maggie's bakery as a small boy, and

bringing home 6 large loaves of bread for a quarter. Their daughter, Esther

the oldest of five children raised, passed away in Columbus June 6, 1983

at the age of 89 and laid to rest with her mother in Oak Grove Cemetery in

Delaware where they had spent the last years of life.

In volume #74, page 380 Gottlieb Jacob and his wife Amy Ann conveyed

to Louisa Catherine (Mrs. Henry Fleckner), his aunt, the Boyd (Bailey)

mill property on Dec. 1, 1879, the mill machinery having been moved

into Sunbury in 1875.

********The Light Plant********

By 1906 Karl Ormond Burrer had graduated from Denison University and

obtained his masters degree in Electrical Engineering, having spent his

youth working around the mill with his father, uncles, and three brothers.

He had been spending his summers,when not in school or teaching, at the

mill. Jakie and the boys considered that in the evenings when it became

too dark to operate the mill, there would still be 'a head of steam' in

the boiler which could be profitably used to generate electricity.

While at Denison, Karl had helped to 'wire' the new Science Hall and

had therefore, become familiar with method of enclosing the wires and

devices in rigid, iron condit, as was then recommended for use in areas

involving explosive dust.

Accordingly they proceeded to purchase a small generator (or 'Dynamo'),

as they were then called, and connected it with a long drive belt to

the steam engine in a fashion so that the dynamo could be operated

with or without running the mill. At first, lights were installed

only in the mill and Jakie's house across the street. The lights

at night
worked and the new system was a success but was operated only ^ until

pressure went down in the boiler. Soon the people at the Methodist

Church, across from the mill, on N. Columbus St. thought it would

be nice to have the new lights and the 'boys' were glad to accomodate.

From then on, others wanted the service and there was no\turning back....
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 8)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 8)


[page 8]

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So much happened around the mill and light plant during the twenty

years following generation of the first electricity that to try to

describe the events and put them on paper 'boggles the mind'. The

mill business continued to grow with more and more farmers raising

grain as a cash crop. Livestock and fine horses were being raised and

shipped out of the area. Cream stations were set up at strategic

collection points thruout the community and payments were made in gold [underlined]

picked up at the Bank. Butter was made at the creamery and shipped by

railroad in tubs and in 1 pound packages. Ice had to be cut at the

creek and stored in ice houses to keep the butter solid and sweet in

shipment. Even hay[underlined] was purchased from the farmers and stored in a large

barn along the railroad for shipment.

Additional storage bins had to be erected by another addition to the

mill and cleaning and automatic weighing installed so that the various

types of grain could be used or held for shipment when market prices

were most favorable. New buildings had to be built, one called the

'oyster shell house', the 'flour shed', the 'feed shed' the 'dynamo room',

the 'shack' for electrical supplies and the 'barn', first to house the

horses and wagons, with a hay mow overhead, and later to house the

trucks as they came into use. During the harvest season the mill would

be running all day to make flour and commercial feed products and

continue on into late night and early morning to receive the farmer's

crops, clean the grain and haul it, by wagon or truck, on down to the

railroad to be loaded into waiting box cars on the siding. The box cars

had to have a^ small openings sealed with heavy, reinforced paper so

that small grains would not leak out during shipment. Some of the cars

were in such bad shape when received that they could not be used and

were ordered
replacements ^ . They had to be loaded and moved out within a certain time

or 'demurrage' would be charged by the railroad. The same would be true

on incoming shipments of matrials such as oyster shells or winter wheat

sometimes needed for flour making.

Along with all the mill activity, work was progressing to string wires

around over town and poles set, where needed, to distribute the new

'electricity' as fast as the houses could be wired. It is ^ fact that

Mrs. Kimball, the banker's wife wanted the electricity ^ to run her

water pump. She already had the finest gas fixtures available for lights.

Blakely-Williams Store and other places of business had gas lights and

some small heating stoves but most wanted the electricity too. A few

families had washing machines operated by gasoline engines but|wanted

them converted to electric motors. O.W.Whitney had a water pump with

a long handle on it and a large pressure tank in the basement of his

new house across the street from the mill, and it was one of the boy's

jobs to pump up the pressure each day after school. John Longwell who

lived in the big yellow house on Lot #1 (N.Vernon at Morning St.,) in

Sunbury, had a large, open-top, lead, water tank in his attic. It was

enclosed in a wooden box, with sawdust for insulation, to prevent

freezing in winter time. He had a filtered, double cistern for water

supply, and a hand pump in the basement with a gauge to tell when the

attic tank was full. When it was electrified, a float operated switch

had to be installed to make the system automatic and keep the tank

from overflowing. All the early plumbing in that house was lead.

According to most recent information [word crossed out] the tank is still

there but no longer in use, of course. There may be others who had

the same arrangement.
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 9)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 9)


[page 9]

[corresponds to page 9]

It is very obvious that, with all the increased activity, help had

to be recruited to take care of the demand. Some still living can

remember when the mill had to be operated 'around-the-clock', especially

when Herbert Hoover was director of Belgian Relief and small mills

all/around the country were ensisted into making flour to be shipped

overseas. A few years ago, someone who had lived in Sunbury when the

mill was in its heyday, was at Palo Alto California visiting the Hoover

'Peace Tower'. They noticed some colorfully embroidered, linen, flour

sacks and were surprised to find ^ prominently displayed, bearing the

State of Ohio Seal and the legend--Sunbury Mills, The Famous White Loaf

Roller Flour, G. J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio. Request was made to

have a commercial phographer make and send to Sunbury a color negative

of the sack. The curator was kind enough to have this done and sent

along a copy of the letter describing the situation in Belgium at the

time of the relief effort, and how, in appreciation for the food sent,

the Belgian women had chosen some of the must colorful of the thousands

of sacks sent, embroidered the features thereon and sent them to Mr.

Hoover as a memorial to the great national effort.

Hazel M. Davidson came to work in the mill office in 1919 and continued

there until 1945. She then moved with the office to the Sunbury Elevator

after the corporation, G. J. Burrer Mill and Elevator Co. was formed.

In 1949 she then moved to The Galena Brick Co., until retirement. She

has helped this writer to make a listing of those who have worked at the

mill and light plant from time to time. Miss Davidson had been preceeded

by--Grace Domigan and Eleanor Huston, both of whom were teachers and

came to the mill in spare time; Bill Fontanelle, Earl Snow, Robert

Sherbourne, Harry Snow, Rev. Schneider, Jesse Doane Sr., Clarence

Stockwell, Marion Park, Hoyt Whitney, Bill Whitney (Hazel told that Bill

had trouble because of the excessive dust; Bill Fontanelle told him to

try a big chew of tobacco and that would help. It did--(it made him sick

and he never returned), Vada Edwards, Sterling Grove, Dale Bailey,

Wright Wormell, Mr. Schoenlaub, Callie Piper (Hallie Day's father),

Clarence Cross and Lester Cross.

After WW I, before electric lines were extended out into the countryside,

the family became central ohio distributor for the Lalley Light Co of

Detroit Mich. Headquarters was in Sunbury with branch offices and

display rooms on N. Sandusky St. in Delaware, and on the old High St.,

viaduct, north of the Union Station in Columbus. Lalley Light was

in competition with Delco, both of them making 32 Volt, DC systems.

Lines of 32 V appliances were available for use with them; Vacuum

Sweepers, Fans, Washing Machines, Irons and toasters. The Light Plants

were purchased in Car-load lots direct from the factory and many

were sold and installed, ^ as far away as Marysville and Urichsville.

The houses and outbuildings had to be wired with very heavy wire

because of the low voltage, and on laundry and ironing day, the plants

had to be run continuously to supply enough current. Westinghouse came

out with a 110 Volt system about the time lines were being built out

into the country. That killed the farm light plant business. This

writer can recall going ^ the [three letters crossed out] Ohio State Fair for a week each year

holding demonstration of Light Plants and helping in a tent, baking

biscuits and bread, to extoll the quality of White Loaf Flour. Going

to the fair ^ had ceased to be an attraction.

The power plant at the mill was expanded three times to keep up with

addition of milling machinery and electrical generating capacity.
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 10)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 10)


[page 10]

[corresponds to page 10]

When Natural Gas was piped into Sunbury, a 2 cylinder, 25 HP and a

3 Cyl, 35 HP, vertical, stationary gas engines were installed, one on

each end of a main line-shaft, in the enlarged engine room. An open-top

concrete 'pool' was constructed to permit cooling water to be circulated

with a spray system to cool the new engines. They were connected to the

main drive-shaft in such a manner as to permit either or both of them

to power a new generator separate from, or together with, the mill. This

system then permitted electricity to be furnished to midnight, and

later^ , for 24 hour service.

The late Joseph Landon told the story that when he was a boy living

with his father and mother, (Mr. & Mrs. John Landon), he became very sick

late at night. The local doctor was afraid to move him and called a

specialist to come up on the night train from Columbus. The trouble

was diagnosed as acute appendicitis and the appendix could burst at any

time. The specialist said that if a good strong light could be obtained

they would operate right there on the kitchen table. Mrs. Landon told

her husband to call 'Jakie' to see if he would start-up the light plant.

Jakie did, the operation was successful and the boy's life was saved.

After a few more years an additional natural gas engine and belt driven

generator had to be installed. It was a larger two cylinder unit, 60 HP,

made by Westinghouse. Not long after that a 90 HP, semi-diesel, Anderson

Oil engine was installed, together with a direct-connected generator and

a large switchboard so that the outputs of all three generators could be

combined when necessary. Each of these internal combustion engines had

to be started by using compressed air to start them rotating, before the

fuel supply was turned on. There was no[underlined] way to start them by hand.

Whenever a leak would develop in the large ^ storage tank, or in one of

the lines leading to it, a separate small engine driven compressor had

to be started and wait for sufficient pressure to be built up.

This was the last major expansion and by this time a full-fledged

system was in operation, with each customer on a separate meter, with

monthly billings and 24 hr. service. A new Utility Company, The Suburban

Power Co had been formed with headquarters in Utica, Ohio. Their purpose

was to buy up small generating plants across the country, establish

appliance stores and extend electrical service into the rural areas.

An offer was made to the mill ownere which seemed satisfactory and in

1926 all the equipment and the electrical distribution system was

turned over to them. The Columbus & Southern Ohio Elec. Co built a

high tension line from Westerville to Centerburg and the Sunbury

system was soon connected to it. The Westinghouse and the Anderson

engines being no longer needed were dismantled and moved for service


After World War I was out of the way, attention at the mill was given

to the development of ^ line of specialized feeds for poultry, cattle and

hogs. A small laboratory was set up and formulas worked out for products

under the name of Burco Feeds. Feed grinding and mixing equipment was

installed and a new phase of the business was under way. Trucks were

now becoming available and a chain-driven, solid tired 'Republic' was

purchased, the horses and wagons disposed of and the space in the barn

used for the trucks and for storage of commercial feed. With faster

transportation available, flour could now be delivered to stores in

Delaware, Ashley and Mt. Vernon. Soon thereafter a 2 1/2 ton Packard[underlined]

truck was acquired. It was one of the first series without[underlined] chain-drive.

The Columbus Body Works made an alweather cab for it, and even though

it had hard rubber tires, it was a 'jewel' and everyone wanted to drive it.
Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 11)


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community (p. 11)


[page 11]

[corresponds to page 11]

By 1927 a new pancake flour had been developed and was packaged in

small quantities for sale in stores. These new products received

favorable acceptance in the area. Business in the mill continued to

be good until the world-wide depression struck in 1929. In the early

1930s a local farmers co-operative group was formed and they built

the Condit and Sunbury grain elevators. After a short period it was

determined that the community could be better served if the co-operative

and the mill owners joined and formed a corporation. It was called

the G. J. Burrer Mill & Elevator Co with Karl O. Burrer as its President

and Manager. The elevator in Mt. Liberty was acquired. A new office

was set up in the Sunbury Elevator and used as operating headquarters.

The office at the mill was closed, and it was operated as a branch.

This new arrangement proved to be satisfactory for a few years but as

communications began to improve and national advertising by the large

midwest producers took effect, the products/of Pillsbury, Ralston-Purina

and others began to appear in the stores locally. Farmers no longer

brought their 'grists' to the mill to be ground but sold their grain

for cash and purchased flour and allied products in the stores. As this

the large gas engines
trend continued to grow ^ ran less and it became more economical

to use individual electric motors to do occasional specialized jobs.

Finally it was agreed that the mill had become a liability to the stock-

holders and the land, buildings and machinery were sold into other

hands for dismantling and disposal. With the corporation manager

1944 in
having been injured in ^ an accident at the Sunbury elevator, it was

agreed that, since he would be no longer able to continue actively in

the business, the remaining assets were sold to the newly formed Delaware

County Farm Bureau. Mr. Parker Burrer retained the old Centerburg mill

for other use. It had not made 'Tip Top' flour for several years.

Thus the era of the old mill and power plant is ended. Part of the land

is now occupied by the Creme Corner and the balance by the True Value

Hardware/Napa Auto Parts building. The lot which contained the Tavern-

Store-Bakery passed through the hands of J. W. Barker, C. A. Root, R. J.

Gelston & O. K. Baker and Richd Glesencamp,(as service station owners),

to The Lawson Co at this writing. All the activity associated therewith

is now past history.


Credit should be given to the fact that, under the section discussing

early water-power mills along Big Walnut Creek, The Gaylord Mill was

really the first[underlined]; but not[underlined] in Trenton Township. It was built by Nicholas

Manville in 1810 on Big Walnut near its juncture with Rattlesnake Creek.

It was then[underlined] in Sunbury[underlined] Township, as was the Village of Sunbury when it

was laid out by the Myers brothers in 1816. Ownership of this mill

passed to a Major Strong in 1817 and to Eleazor Gaylord. It was known

for many years as the 'Gaylord' mill but,of course, never made white

flour. In 1816 Mr. William Myers (brother of Lawrence Myers) operated

a Tannery, just across the creek and to the north-west of this first


Dublin Core


Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community


Delaware County--Berkshire Township--Ohio
Sunbury--Ohio--19th century--20th century


Carleton Burrer's brief history of early Delaware County and Sunbury was written upon the 175th anniversay of the establishment of Delaware County. The growth and development of the Village of Sunbury, and the evolution of the Burrer's flour mill and light plant are also discussed.


Local Historian Carleton Burrer; Sunbury, Ohio


June 1983












Local Historian Carleton Burrer; Sunbury, Ohio, “Early Delaware County Sunbury and Community,” Delaware County Memory, accessed July 15, 2024, http://delawarecountymemory.org/items/show/14.

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