Cottrel: Fascination with Rebert Pike in Clark County keeps yielding new details

A large colored drawing by W.A. Rebert in 1887 still hangs in the house built by Andrew Rebert. PAM COTTREL/CONTRIBUTED
A large colored drawing by W.A. Rebert in 1887 still hangs in the house built by Andrew Rebert. PAM COTTREL/CONTRIBUTED

Words mean something, and names have even more meaning. Ever since we moved here, I’ve been asking questions and trying to find out how Rebert Pike got its name.

Somewhere along Rebert Pike I felt that there had to be an old Rebert homestead, but over these last few years I’ve found that Rebert Pike has a much bigger story to tell.

I got my first clue five years ago when Springfield resident Ron Perry found a token in his yard southwest of Springfield. It was for a loaf of bread from Rebert’s Mill.

Pre-1900 maps of Springfield Twp. ownship gave me a location for the mill, but a quick drive-by revealed that there was nothing left of the mill which would have been around the corner of Rebert Pike and Possum Road.

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It surprised me that the Heritage Center of Clark County didn’t have an image of it on file, but then when you have a county with scores of huge mills on its waterways like Clark County did, a small country grist mill doesn’t merit much attention.

Springfield was full of mills on just about every waterway that had the correct slope to build a dam for a millpond or to set up a mill race. Clark County had the perfect geography and constantly flowing water for constructing mills.

Each mill was different; designed by a millwright to take the best advantage of the moving water. The mill converted the energy of the flowing water to mechanical energy that moved the grind stones and ground the wheat into flour. Later at other mills, the mill wheel was adapted to turned shafts that drove all sorts of equipment.

A few years ago after writing about the token, I asked you all for help and the emails I received filled in some blanks.

That was when Mackenzie Taylor contacted me. He had lived for the last 21 years in the Andrew Rebert House on a hill above the former mill site.

And his family had a framed drawing of the mill and homestead.

Last week I visited with his mother Jane Taylor and she graciously allowed me to take photos.

The mill was quite big. It had three stories and it did stand on a flat area next to Possum Road where it dead ends into Rebert Pike.

Possum Road used to cross over Mill Creek just a bit to the north of the site of the mill but a few years ago the road was straightened and the new bridge was constructed exactly over the site of the mill.

Mackenzie remembers that when the new bridge was constructed the equipment dug up a number of large limestone blocks. His family moved them up to the house which is now painted white. It was red brick in the drawing.

Jane Taylor showed me an iron gear that they found during bridge construction, but she did not see any millstones or wood associated with the site.

She had an old article about the mill which I’ve added to my findings.

The mill was built in 1838 on the site of an earlier more primitive mill. The building was 40 feet long on each side and had 3 stories.

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There were a series of short term owners - Samuel Todd, Ed Swope, John Reach, Henry Baker. In 1852 Andrew Rebert and his wife Elizabeth Landis Rebert bought it. He ran the mill for 20 years. On average it could process 30 barrels of flour per day.

The illustration only shows half of the mill and not the wheel. There is reference to a 17-foot overshoot in literature, but no drawings. Somewhere I hope old photos will be found.

One of the nearby mills was owned and run by the famous James Leffel who was one of the first inventors to bring fame to Springfield when he patented the Leffel Water Turbine.

Evidently the two millers knew each other.

Rebert’s Mill was the scene of one of the big promotional presentations by Leffel in 1868. A publication by the Leffel company described a contest between a wheel designed by James Leffel and one produced by the Wyncoop company, one of his biggest competitors.

On May 4, 1868 Andrew Rebert allowed two waterwheels to be place side by side in his mill in a way that both would get the same amount of water. There were rumors that bets were placed, according to the article in the Leffel Story.

It was reported that The Wynkoop Wheel ground 149 lbs of wheat and the Leffel Wheel ground 283 lbs of wheat. The Leffel company was awarded the $5,000 wager. That was no small sum in 1868.

What a production this must have been in 1868. I imagine red, white, and blue bunting, ladies in full skirts sitting on the hillside, horses and carriages, gentlemen in top hats and boys watching from trees.

Later Andrew Rebert would write a detailed testimonial in the Leffel catalog singing the praises of the Leffel Wheel.

The Rebert Mill ended up with a Leffel turbine with two burh races. It was indeed an impressive mill and something for the community to be proud of. Later in his life Rebert rented the mill to Aaron Reasor, Frederick Cramer and Samuel Louk.

According to Mrs. Taylor, Rebert used to hold festive community gatherings at the mill that brought in scores of neighbors.

There is one more bit of information that was sent to me from a Rebert descendant. Don Rebert said that the road was called a pike because Rebert did improvements on the dirt road. There was actually a posting of that in the Springfield Globe-Republic on Apr. 2, 1885. There was a listing of improvements that Andrew Rebert was making on the road.

Now today that mill is gone, but the pike with the name remains to remind us of a time when inventions and innovations and hard work made this community great.

At the other end of Rebert Pike a new school is being built in Enon. I hope that students who travel on Rebert Pike learn how it got its name and push to contribute to the community as the Rebert family did.

There are still some questions that need to be answered about the Rebert Mill. When did the mill work stop and when was the building destroyed?

There is more to learn about the dairy that also operated from the farm. I’d love to hear from anyone who has stories or photos related to the Rebert family. My email address is pamcottrel@gmail.com Remember there is only one “L” at the end of Cottrel. We could not afford two.