Pride of the Valley: Sifting through the History of the Mount Healthy Mill by Tracy Lawson and Steve Hagaman

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Pride of the ValleyA slightly different book for most readers but a very good read and especially if you have any interest in southern Ohio history. Pride of the Valley was actually the name of a brand of flour that was milled at the Mt Healthy mill. That mill was a historic fixture for many years.

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The Mt Healthy mill was built by Jediah Hill in the early 1800’s. Hill had moved to southern Ohio from New York and settled in the Mill Creek valley in what was to become Hamilton County. Hill’s mill was built for “harvesting” lumber originally and due to the tremendous growth in the area lumber was at the time a valued commodity.

However later on Hill realized the greater need for a mill to turn the grain that was being harvested in the area into flour. Originally built to run by water power it moved to steam power and then eventually diesel engine power much later in the 1950’s. From 15,000 pounds a flour a day in the beginning the Mt Healthy mill produced almost 90 times that much before its final days.

The authors tell the story not only of that mill and how it progressed over the many years but they also tell about the people who populated the area. How those people came to be in the area and how they lived is very interesting.
Some detail is given to how Hill and Obed Hussey with several friends developed a mechanical reaper for work in the wheat fields before the McCormick Reaper was born. An interesting side story tells of Abraham Lincoln being one of the attorneys in the battle between McCormick and Hussey for ownership of the true patents.

How the folks of southern Ohio reacted to the period in and around the Civil War is also described in Pride of the Valley. Not only did many of the residents participate in the Underground Railroad but many of them were hard core abolitionists who wanted no part of slavery anywhere but especially not in their valley.

How slaves were hidden under produce in wagons and then moved around and away from trouble is an interesting tale. And also how the parents would instruct their children to hide food in certain spots in the yard while they were out playing so that later on runaway slaves could get nourishment for their journey.

Many pictures and sketches are shown throughout the book to further assist the reader in learning about the southern part of Ohio and those who originally traveled there and help to build it into a very close knit and friendly place for residents.

A lot of research and “digging” went into making Pride of the Valley an excellent entertaining read!