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., KnoxvilleTN).

     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  CountyIllinois.

     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  CountyColorado. 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.”