This is part of an occasional series on the history of Chagrin Falls.
Grinding corn and other grains was an important part of early life in the Village of Chagrin Falls. Millstones were a valuable commodity. There are four millstones throughout the village that speak to our heritage. If only they could talk.
The millstone in Bell Street Park came from the mill that used to be next to the Popcorn Shop. We are not sure where the small one in Riverside Park came from. The millstone at the southeast corner of Triangle Park has an interesting story. It is one of a pair of stones that were hewn out of a single piece of granite around 1820 by a man named John Hutchins. They were special ordered by Capt. Luce for a mill that he had on his farm in Orange Township. When the mill fell into disrepair, the stones were placed into another mill run by Ed Burnett near where the Cleveland Metroparks Polo Field is today in Moreland Hills. Around 1835 the stones were hauled by teams of oxen over the hills and placed in a mill about one-half mile downstream from the High Falls in Chagrin. The dam that provided the water-power to the grist mill was washed out after a heavy rain and not rebuilt. The stones were then purchased by Adamson Bentley, who was trying to start a village in the area near Miles and Chagrin River roads. Mr. Bentley’s beautiful home was located right where the high level bridge on Miles Road is today. In the 1950s, the Cuyahoga County engineer decided it was necessary to straighten the road, and Bentley’s house had to go.
Eventually, the grist mill, which was north of where the bridge is today, was destroyed. For many years the stones laid in the river. At some point in the late 1870s or early 1880s, C.T. Blakeslee, Henry Church, Jr., William Upham, John Armour and Delos Goddard went down to Bentleyville, pulled the stones out of the river and brought them back to Chagrin and put them in Triangle Park. The park commissioner at the time, J. W. Williams did not like the idea. Henry Church, Jr., took one of the stones and placed it by his blacksmith shop, which was at the corner of South Franklin and West Washington streets where the Masonic Temple is today. When Mr. Church’s blacksmith shop was torn down in the early 1920s to make way for the Masonic Temple, the stone was moved to the southeast corner of Triangle Park in downtown Chagrin Falls where it is today.
The second stone was taken by C. T. Blakeslee to his property at the northwest corner of Water and West Washington streets. Mr. Blakeslee’s large home sat on what is now 8 Water St. and 14 Water St. Mr. Blakeslee was an important person in early Chagrin. During the Civil War he worked in Washington, D.C. and became a friend of Abraham Lincoln. Once on a trip with Mr. Lincoln to a battlefield in Virginia, the cane he was using broke and he fashioned a makeshift one from a tree branch. When they returned to Washington, Mr. Lincoln asked Mr. Blakeslee for the makeshift cane. A few weeks later he returned the cane to him. Mr. Lincoln had fashioned a silver handle for the cane that commemorated their trip and their friendship. The cane has been passed down through the family to the first male in each generation. Mr. Blakeslee also wrote the first history of Chagrin Falls in 1874.
For many years the stone laid on the north side of the property at 8 Water St. Recently, the new owner has fashioned a landscape that shows the stone beautifully.
The history of these millstones came partially from Mr. Blakeslee’s account of the early years of Chagrin Falls and from accounts written by Austin H. Church, Henry’s son, and Gladys Foster who was the village Clerk for many years.
Mr. Bourisseau is president of the Chagrin Falls Historical Society Board of Trustees.