Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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Spring Mills

source:  Mansfield News, 07 November 1903


Submitted by Jean and Faye



By A. J. Baughman


Spring Mills

Spring Mills is not a village, although it has a place on both state and county maps, and is a station on the Baltimore & Ohio and the Pennsylvania railroads and the Mansfield-Shelby electric line.  It is also a place of historical note.

Spring Mills is in Springfield township on the northwest quarter of section one.  It lies between Mansfield and Shelby, and derives its name from the big springs, which are the source of the Rockyfork of the Mohican.  A settlement was made at Spring Mills at an early day in the history of the county, and mills were built in 1817 by Joseph Welsh.  The grist mills is second only to that of Beam’s mills in historic interest and in years of continuous service.  Longfellow wrote—

            “A millstone and the human heart are driven ever ‘round.”

For eighty-six years the buhrs in the Welch mills were “driven ever ‘round,” but are at last idle, owing to the changes that have taken place in the milling business of the country.

After Joseph Welch had built and operated the mills for some years, he sold the same to the Hon. Mordecai Bartley, one of the many distinguished men for whom Richland county was noted in the grand old past of her history.  Mordecai Bartley was a lawyer by profession; had been a soldier in the war of 1812; was a member of congress from 1823 to 1831, and was elected governor of Ohio in 1844, as a Whig, over David Tod [Todd], the Democratic nominee.

The late John Greiner, of Columbus, was a poet and song-writer, and his campaign songs of 1844 were even more prolific and popular than had been those of the campaign of 1840 when his catchy songs of “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too,” and “Van.  Van is a used up man,” were in great demand.

The Bartley-Tod campaign was a very vigorous one on both sides, in which long processions with flags and emblems, song-singing and displays of all kinds were in vogue.  Reference to this campaign is here made to put on record certain features of that memorable gubernatorial canvass, in which an honored citizen of Richland county—once the owner of the mill-plant at Spring Mills—was the successful standard-bearer.  Gov. Mordecai Bartley succeeded his son, Thomas W. Bartley, as governor of Ohio, the only instance of the kind in American history.  David Tod was elected governor in 1863, and his name has gone into history as one of the war governors of Ohio.

Mr. Welch repurchased the mills and the same has ever since remained in possession of the Welch family and connection.  The property is now owned by Peter Wentz, whose wife was a Welch.

The Spring Mills region in its farm scenes and civic improvements, is of lovely aspect.  The country also had its charms and attractions when it was covered with its primeval forest, and when the feathered songsters warbled their native wood-notes wild.

The fertile land and flowing springs of this region seemed like an earthly paradise to people coming from the east, especially from bleak and sterile New England.  It seemed

“A wilderness of sweets; for Nature here
Wantoned as in her prime, and played at will
Her virgin fancies, pouring forth more sweet,
Wild above rule or Art; the gentle gales
Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense
Native perfumes and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils.”

The pioneers who settled there nearly a century ago are gone, but many of their descendants still cling to the old homesteads, where they were born.  The names of Welch, Barr, Condon, Niman, Cline, Leppo, Curran, Matson, et al. are household words in that locality.

Mrs. Jane C. Barr, whose picture is given with this chapter, is the daughter of pioneer Joseph Welch, who settled at Spring Mills in 1816.  Mrs. Barr is the widow of Judge Alexander Barr.  She was born in Westmoreland county, Pa. April 6, 1802, and, therefore, was ninety-four years old on the 6th of April last, and has been a resident of Richland county over eighty years.  March 1, 1827, June C. Welch and Alexander Barr were married, and a few years later removed to Mansfield, where Mr. Barr taught school in the “Big Spring school house” on East Fourth street, for fifteen years, after which they returned to Spring Mills and located on a farm in Jackson township, a half-mile north of the mills.  Upon this farm Mrs. Barr still resides.  A daughter, Miss Nettie Barr, lives with her mother and cares for her in her advanced years.  Mrs. Barr is a worthy representative of the good old mothers of the pioneer age whose children and children’s children even at this remote period, bless their names.  Mrs. reads the daily papers, has an excellent memory and keeps informed upon passing events.

Peter Wentz was born in Perry county, Pa., and came to Ohio in 1849, stopping in Plymouth, where he obtained employment as a miller.  Two years later, he came to Spring Mills where he has ever since resided.  Peter Wentz married Margaret Bentley Welch, daughter of John Welch, who was a son of pioneer Joseph Welch and a brother of Mrs. Jane C. Barr.  John Welch’s wife was a daughter of General Eli Wilson, one of Shelby’s honored pioneers.  Mrs. and Mrs. Peter Wentz are the parents of five children—four sons and one daughter.  The sons are John, James, Charles and Frank.  The daughter is the wife of the Hon. James P. Seward, of Mansfield.  The late Alex C. Welch was a brother of Mrs. Barr.

There is a tragedy incident in the history of Richland county to which no public reference has been made in the past twenty years, and which was never but little reported in the press.  It was the disappearance of William S. Trimble and the finding of his skeleton in Wentz’s swamp seventeen years later.

William S. Trimble and sister, bachelor and maiden, lived on a farm in the Trimble neighborhood, north of the Leesville road, about a mile west of Casino park, and one day in June 1865, Mr. Trimble came to the house for his dinner, from the field where he had been plowing corn, and after eating, remarked to his sister that while the horse ate, he would take the rifle and go out and try to kill some of the crows that were taking his corn.   With his rifle on his shoulder, he started towards the cornfield and that was the last he was ever seen alive.  The horse stood harnessed in the stall and when evening came and William did not return, Lizzie became alarmed at his absence and got some of the neighbors to institute a search for him, but although the search was continued for weeks, the missing man was not found.  No reason is know why he should leave, or that he had trouble that might lead him to take his life.  Suspicions of foul-play were hinted at, the well and every place else for miles around where a body could be concealed were searched and researched, but still the mystery deepened and remained unsolved.  “The inaudible and noiseless foot of time” kept steadily on, but no tidings of the missing brother came to the waiting sister.  She finally removed to Mansfield and bought property on the east side of North Sugar street, now Franklin avenue, between Fourth and Fifth streets, where she resided until 1881.  The years of trial and awful suspense through which Miss Trimble had passed caused her to become fretful and peculiar.  A disquisition on the influence of suspense and sorrow upon the mind might be given here, but will not be indulged in farther than to state that but few minds, perhaps, are capable of passing through years of  ? ordeals, suspense and sorrow without being somewhat affected thereby.  And so it was with Miss Trimble, whose mind became so unbalanced that on Sept. 14, 1881, she was taken before the probate court on a charge of insanity, and was adjudged insane.  Physicians testified that she doubtless had an hereditary tendency to insanity, as her father had committed suicide; that she had a brother then in an asylum, and that another brother had mysteriously disappeared.  Miss Trimble was taken to an asylum and died some years later.

Six months after Lizzie Trimble had been taken away, the skeleton of her long-missing brother was bound, but, alas!  too late to lift the load of suspense from the sister’s mind.  Too late for her to know that at last evidence was found that fully exculpated her from any suspicion that may have been cast upon her in connection with his disappearance.

On March 28, 1882, a skeleton was found in the swamp on Peter Wentz’s farm, about a mile northwest of Spring Mills.  It was discovered by a tenant, who reported the fact to Mr. Wentz, who, with his son James, proceeded to investigate the case.  Dr. J. B. Hall, coroner at the time, was summoned, who held an inquest, and after examining witnesses, found that the skeleton was that of William S. Trimble, and that he had committed suicide.  Trimble had gone far into the swamp, and upon a slight rise of the ground, at the foot of a tree, had shot himself through the heart, it was thought, as there was no bullet hole in the skull.  The skeleton was in a fair state of preservation.  His rifle was at his side, at an angle, the muzzle being at his breast.  The stock of the gun—like that of Rip Van Winkle’s had rotted away.  The shoes were still upon the skeleton’s feet, the leather not having been much affected by the exposure of the years. There was ample evidence to fully establish the fact that the skeleton was that of William S. Trimble.  One means of identification was that Trimble, some years prior to his disappearance, had sustained a fracture to the upper third femur of his right limb, and that the bones had not been properly set.  The thigh of the skeleton corroborated with this.  His Barlow knife, although rusty, was identified.

Trimble went five miles from his home in Madison township, to an unfrequented swamp in Jackson township, to take his life, and as the search never extended north of the Spring Mill road, the remains were undisturbed for seventeen years.

The Wyandot trail ran through Spring Mills.  Indian trails were useful to the explorers and indispensable to the first armies.  Single men could push their way through pathless forests, but bodies of men hastening to a certain place, carrying arms and supplies of nations, required trails which, if necessary, they could widen into roads.  Colonel Crawford followed the Wyandot trail to the Wyandot country, and camped at Spring Mills on Saturday, June 1, 1782, remained over night and on Sunday morning pressed onward to the west, and to the fate that awaited him.

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