By: Judge John L. Kiener
(Editor’s Note: On July 30, 1980, Dr. Donald F. Tarr of Mountain City was notified that Bashor Mill in Johnson City, Washington County, had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service of the United States Department of the Interior. Notification was made by Herbert L. Harper, Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer. The application for inclusion on the National Register together with related materials forms the bulk of today’s article on Bashor Mill. The initial article on the mill was published by the Herald & Tribune on September 25th of this year so today’s article is denominated Part II. – J. L. Kiener)
In a press release on August 6, 1980, the Tennessee Historical Commission in Nashvilleannounced that the Bashor Mill on Knob Creek in Johnson City had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The text of the announcement provided in part:
“The Bashor Mill was built around 1830 by Henry Bashor, and it stayed in the Bashor family for many of its some 120 years of operation. Of nine Bashors found in Washington County records, five either owned or had direct association with operation of the mill.
“Bashor’s Mill was never converted to mechanical power as most mills were. It used the water-powered overshot wooden wheel until it ceased operation in the early
1950s. The present owners plan to restore the mill into operating condition. They also intend to make the mill energy efficient by producing their own electricity.”
NATIONAL REGISTER DOCUMENTS
Stating that the property was in good condition on its original site, the description for inclusion on the National Register provided that the Bashor Mill was in a rural area on Knob Creek. This is no longer the situation as Johnson City has grown with the construction of the State of Franklin Roadand shopping centers that adjoin the property. An illustration of the growth of the city is illustrated by the reference in the 1980 letter that Bashor Mill is located approximately 3 miles northwest of Johnson City and 1 mile southwest of Highway 23 in a rural area on Knob Creek.
The text continues: The Knob Creek Valley consists of a series of low rolling hills intersected by numerous spring fed branches. In operation for over a century, this three story mill rests on a solid foundation of native limestone. The exterior was originally sided with weather boards; however, the southwest (facade) and southeast elevations have been replaced by stamped tin sheathing. The northwest and northeast elevation retain the weather boarded siding. The simple metal gable roof originally contained two gabled dormers on the northeast elevation, but these dormers have since been removed. The entire structure follows very functional lines. No elaborate architectural designs are exhibited on the Bashor Mill. However, the simple architectural style underlies the functionalism typical of nineteenth century industries of this region.
The facade is dominated by a large stone and brick chimney. This chimney, an unusual feature for a mill, was used in the small office in the western corner of the mill. A large wooden Dutch door serves as the main entrance. This front porch consisted of a simple shed roof supported by three small squared wooden columns. This porch was removed several years ago. The original double hung 6 over 6 windows are still present on the second story.
The northwest and northeast elevations remain quite simplistic and unchanged through time. The overshot wheel was attached to the southeast elevation. Supported by a large limestone pier, the wheel was approximately 14 feet in diameter. Steel components of the wheel and shaft are present but the original wheel deteriorated about 1954.
Used as both a grist and flour mill, all of the mill’s machinery remains inside. At the lowest level, massive yellow poplar logs 18 inches square and 52 feet long support the machinery and main floor. A series of gears, fly wheels and belts travel from the basement to accompanying gears and wheels on the second and third floors. These in turn supply power necessary to run a variety of machinery. The mill contains two stone wheels for the grinding of corn and a roller mill used in the production of flour. The machinery remains in excellent state of preservation and the manufacturers’ names appear stenciled on several pieces of equipment (i.e. George T. Smith Middlings Purifier Co., Jackson, Michigan, S. Hardware Co., Silver Creek, N.Y.; and W. J. Savage Co., Knoxville, TN).
The Bashor Mill has been vacant since about 1954. The current owners have begun a program that will enable the mill to become operational once again. Negotiation for the construction of a new wooden overshot wheel has begun and reconstruction of the head race is under consideration.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MILL
The Bashor Mill is the second oldest mill still standing in WashingtonCounty, according to the National Register application. (Editor’s Note: Dugan-St. John Mill is the oldest mill in the county, built as early as 1778. The original gristmill was rebuilt by Henry Bashor – see pages 662-663 of the HISTORY OF WASHINGTON COUNTY TENNESSEE: Johnson City — Washington County Historical Association, 2001. The gristmill was Tennessee’s oldest business, now known as the St. John Milling Company, but no longer in operation.)
In continuous operation for over 120 years, the Bashor Mill has been closely associated with the Bashor family. The milling business has a long and significant history in the Bashor family. Born in Pennsylvania in 1805, Henry Bashor moved to the Knob Creek area by 1827. Bashor purchased a 17 acre tract of land from the heirs of Charles Duncan in 1829 and documents reveal the mill in operation by 1832. (Local tradition pushes the establishment of the mill back to about 1790. However, historical documents have not verified this contention.)
Through the next two decades Henry Bashor’s mill proved a successful business enterprise as he continued to acquire land and increase the scope of his business. In 1846 Bashor purchased property on nearby Brush Creek and started construction of a second mill. The 1850 Manufacturer’s Census showed the Bashor Mill was valued at $4,000. One laborer, Jackson Manning, was employed at the mill and received an average monthly wage of $15.00. The mill annually processed 2400 bushels of wheat valued at $1600 and 500 bushels of corn and oats valued at $500.
In 1854 ownership of the mill was transferred to Peter Bashor. Born in Virginia in 1824, Peter Bashor is either a younger brother or nephew to Henry. By 1860, Peter had expanded the operations of the mill to process 8000 bushels of wheat valued at $5000. During the Civil War years ownership of the mill is somewhat uncertain, but by 1867 John Jenkins sells the mill back to Peter Bashor and his new partner Isaac A. Branscromb.
Bashor and Branscromb continued to operate the prosperous mill until 1880 when James W. Osburn and J. Clark took over. From this point on the mill passed through several owners and was known by a variety of names, (i.e. Hobbs Mills and Knob Creek Roller Mills). Unlike most mills, the Bashor Mill was never converted to mechanical power but used the water powered overshot wooden wheel until the mill closed down in the early 1950s. Records for the Knob Creek Roller Mill in the l930s are in the possession of the present owners.
These records include daily ledgers showing names of customers and the prices paid and charged for various services. Production of flour was emphasized at this point and the mill produced both bleached and phosphated flour.
Mildred Kozsuch, former Washington County Historian, received the following letter on June 25, 1991 from Janice G. Weissgerber, a resident of Huntington Beach, California whose great, great grandfather was Henry Bashor. “I have enclosed an edited version of what I currently have (concerning the family genealogy). I have also included the information that I have on each of his children. All twelve of them were born in Washington County, and most likely in the house at the mill. My great grandfather, Joseph Bowman Bashor, was Henry’s oldest son and was listed as a miller in the 1860 census. He is also listed as residing with his father. Don’t know if you would be interested in including this information in your publication, but I included it just in case.
I realize that there is a lot of information enclosed, so I will condense it —
Henry was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 1803, son of Benjamin and Barbara (Frantz) Bashor. He was the ninth of fifteen children. In 1813, the Bashor’s left Pennsylvania and moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Henry then moved, apparently as a single man, to WashingtonCounty about 1830. Eventually six of his brothers Benjamin, Christopher, John, Michael, Isaac and Martin, and
a sister Anna, who married David Garst, also lived there. Henry and John, at different times, also owned the Pleasant Valley Mill, that I understand was purchased by Larry and Debbie Bennett.
Four of the brothers, Henry, John, Isaac and Martin all left Tennessee. Martin went first in 1859 and settled in Andrew County, Missouri. He was joined in that county by Henry sometime around 1865/1866. John settled in the adjoining DeKalb County at about the same time. Benjamin, Michael and Anna (Bashor) Garst remained in Washington County and are buried there. I have never been able to
find out where Isaac went, but I do know he left the county prior to 1860. Some of his children eventually lived in DeKalb County, Illinois.
Elizabeth (Bowman) Bashor died in 1866 in Missouri. Henry remarried, and eventually died 13 April 1888 in Andrew County, Missouri. John, who married Elizabeth Shipley, died in Boulder County, Colorado in 1893. Martin, who
married Susannah Sherfey, died in 1910 also in Boulder County, Colorado. They are buried in the same church cemetery there.
I intend to publish my book (about the Bashor families) sometime around the end of this year. I would be happy to send a copy but would prefer to either trade a copy or at least borrow a copy of your pending publication of speeches. I am still researching and might be able to locate some additional information.”
If Weissgerber published her book on the genealogy of the Bashor families, perhaps a reader of the Herald & Tribune would allow “Digging For Your Roots” to borrow the publication. The book would provide valuable follow-up information about this pioneer Washington County family that could be included in another installment of “Digging For Your Roots.”