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Shelby Centre Mills / Center Mills / City Mills

There is a bit of a mystery about the early days of Shelby Centre/Center/City Mills. The earliest known newspaper
advertisement for a Shelby mill appears in the Shelby Chronicle.
Shelby Chronicle - March 14, 1867.
David Lowrie, born c. 1823 in Glasgow, Scotland was living in Shelby and listed in the 1860 and 1870 Federal census as "Mill Wright" and "Miller". In the early 1860s, he was the proprietor of the Shelby Centre/ Center Mill which was located on the north side of Main Street, just west of the Blackfork bridge. (This mill location was known by the various names of Centre / Center/ and finally City Mills.)
Not much is known of David and his wife, Agnes Smith Lowrie, who was born in Perth, Scotland.
Agnes and David were the parents of at least the 5 following children:
David Robert Lowrie born Oct. 1855
John Lowrie born c. 1858
Peter William Lowrie born c. 1860
Isabella Lowrie born c. 1863
Adam H. Lowrie born c. 1865
The 1880 Federal Census shows they were located in Rochester Twp., Lorain County, Ohio and David as well as David Robert listed their occupations as "miller". The elder David and wife Agnes have not been located in the 1900 census and it is assumed they had passed away by then. David Robert Lowrie, his new wife Edna and their 4 children, are living in Cleveland, Ohio in 1900. He is employed as a painter.
The mystery surrounding the Centre / Center Mill involves another David Lowrie. This is David L. Lowrie born c. 1845 in England. He first appears in the 1870 census living in Shelby with the occupation of "hardware merchant". This fact coupled with notices and advertisements that appeared in the Shelby newspapers in the late 1860s indicate that this David L. Lowrie was then the proprietor of the Centre Mill.
David L. Lowrie married Elizabeth Meyers who was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1846. He has not been located in a census prior to 1870, however their first child Kattie E. was born c. 1868 in Ohio as well as James born c. 1870 and Lula born c. 1876.
There has been found no evidence that these two David Lowries were related, however it is interesting that they both were tied to Cleveland, Ohio. By 1880, David L. Lowrie and family had moved to the Cleveland area where he was a salesman of "mantles and grates". He died there in 1886. The elder David Lowrie's son, David Robert Lowrie, also moved to Cleveland where he died in 1924.
Shelby Chronicle - Feb. 1868
(The last ad for Shelby Centre Mills with David L. Lowrie proprietor ran July 22, 1869.)
Article in the Shelby Independent News - October 14, 1869
"D. L. Lowrie, in his new business of selling hardware, keeps well up to time in supplying the people with
what they need. He has just procured the Jewett & Root Cook and Parlor Stoves, which we all would do
well to look at, who think of purchasing an article of that kind. He also keeps on hand the Union Churn,
manufactured in Tiffin, Ohio. He advertises Oils and Paints at reduced prices, and now is perhaps the
very best time in the whole year to use these articles on your buildings that need repainting. He also keeps
on hand horse blankets, something every horseman should now have. Also, all kinds of Carriage Trimming.
Call on him when anything is wanted, and he will show you a nice stock."
Notice in the Shelby Independent News - July 22, 1869 reads as follows:
"Mr. D. L. Lowrie has sold one half interest in the Shelby Center Steam Flouring Mill to John Sprague Esq.
for five thousand dollars. The business will be hereafter conducted by Messrs. Lowrie & Sprague."
Notice in the Shelby Independent News - July 29, 1869
"John Sprague , Esq., has purchased the remaining half of the Steam Mill of D. L. Lowrie, and is now the sole owner
of the Shelby Center Mills. Mr. Haffstodt is engaged as his miller, whose work we learn, has given entire satisfaction."
It was about this time that a new mill was going into business at the north edge of Shelby where North Broadway
crosses the C. C, C. & I (Cleveland, Columbus , Cincinnati, and Indianapolis) railroad tracks.
It was called the Junction Mill and David L. Lowrie was a partner in this new enterprise.
Shelby Independent News - starting August 26, 1869
As can be seen in the advertisement reproduced above, by late 1869, the Shelby Center Mills had been sold to
John Sprague who also was born c. 1823 and who continued the milling business for a few more years. John
Sprague married Rebecca Evans in August of 1855. She was a daughter of David and Mary Margaret Evans.
Rebecca was born c. 1827 in Sharon Twp. one of at least 6 children. John and Rebecca were to raise 4 children:
Isabella "Belle" Elizabeth Sprague who in 1872 married Albert O. Bell
George Stewart Sprague who married Alice Emily Crall (d/o David and Maria Mary Stentz Crall) in 1882
Jenny R. Sprague born c 1864
Nelli M. Sprague born c. 1870
Notice in the Shelby Independent News - September 30, 1869:
"John Sprague's new addition to the Center Mills, intended for a feed store, extending South to the sidewalk, is up.
Also, a new pair of Fairbanks Scales near by. The town is still improving."
John Sprague sold the mill to Samuel Haislet and by the 1880 census, John was listed as a farmer living in Springmill Twp., Richland County.
Shelby Independent News - December 29, 1870
Samuel Haislet was born in Ohio in 1818 and married Lois Cooper (d/o Jacob and Lydia Oakley Cooper)
in Richland County in 1845. They were to be the parents of 9 children:
Hannah Haislet born c. 1846
George W. born c. 1847
William Henry born c. 1849
Samuel C. born April, 1852
Mary born c. 1855
James Franklin born February, 1859
Lois Anna born c. 1865
Jacob born c. 1868
Hattie L. born c. 1872
Samuel was a Dry Goods & Grocery Merchant in early Shelby. Samuel and family were living in Shelby and he
listed his occupation as "merchant" and a "Dry Goods Merchant" in both the 1860 and 1870 censuses. After
purchasing the Shelby Center Mills, he continued its operation for several years, evidently with a minimum of
maintenance, because when the property was sold later, it was labeled "dilapidated and run down."
In 1880, having sold the Center Mills property, Samuel and family were living in Springfield Twp,
Samuel gave his occupation as "grocer" and son Samuel Jr. listed his occupation as "thresher".
Samuel passed away in 1890 and wife Lois died in 1902.
Shelby Center Mills was purchased by the Heath brothers c. 1878 and was renamed the Shelby City Mills.
c. 1897
The following article appeared May 20, 1897,
in the Shelby Republican Industrial Edition of Shelby, Ohio:
" 'R. Heath, proprietor of the City Mills, was born in England in 1840, of a family of millers, his father, grandfather, and four uncles, as well as a brother and brother-in-law being millers. At one time his father , grandfather, and four uncles conducted mills on the river Avon in a radius of ten miles. At the age of six years his father died, the business being carried on by his mother for several years. At the age of fourteen Mr. Heath commenced to learn the business with one of his uncles. At the age of twenty-one, and when he had mastered his trade, he started out as a journeyman and took charge of a mill a few days later, after some hesitancy on the part of the proprietor giving him so responsible a position. After two years there he started out to complete his knowledge of the business in gaining a wide and more varied experience, the proprietor telling him when he left, 'You are the best man for your age I ever saw.' and predicting a certain success. He gained a position in the largest and wealthiest milling firm in Great Britain. After ten years of daily stone dressing, he concluded by observations made on fellow employees that it was decidedly unhealthy and came to America in 1872, taking service under Baker Davis, at Akron, Ohio, the father of our esteemed townsman, M. H. Davis, with whom he remained three years.' "
" 'After spending a year in Kent, Ohio, he came to Shelby and went into the mill on his present location in 1877, and in 1878, associated with his brother Henry, bought the place at sheriff's sale. The plant was dilapidated and run down, but Mr. Heath liked the country and the people and decided that it could be built up. He well remembers H. W. Hildebrant telling him years ago to buy that mill and make it look as though somebody owned it. Mr. Heath often asks now, 'Well Hiram, old boy, have I not done it.' The older generation of Shelby people know the answer only too well. It is a model of neatness and repair and has a capacity of 175 barrles per day, five times that of twenty years ago. When he came here not a barrel of flour from the mill could be found outside of town but today it is sold at every accessible point in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York and standing at the head of the procession. His motto has always been, 'Good goods to create a demand for them. Get them there, and keep them there at all hazards. Never sacrifice quality for price.' Under this motto and upon this basis of manufacture his brands have always been winners.' "
" 'His mill is most thoroughly equipped. He is quick to see new and progressive ideas, quick to adopt them, and the plant is recognized by experts as one of the most progressive of the day and under the guidance of one of the best managers. Mr. Heath is also operating an elevator at Chicago (Willard) , O., buying grain for his Shelby mill and selling all grains, seeds, hard and soft coal, lime and salt. He is ably assisted in the mill by a corps of helpers and in the office by his daughters. He has always led a purely business life and is a most fitting example of that old adage that 'The Lord helps those who help themselves.' He has worked faithfully and earnestly at the dusty millers' art since fourteen years of age, a period of forty-three years, with never an absence of over two weeks from a mill at any time. To the young men struggling for success Mr. Heath gives this advice: 'Go in boys. Make a determined stand. Learn your business thoroughly. Keep well posted. Be industrious. Fight every inch of the way. Maintain your ground at all hazards. Keep your word and be reliable. Never give up and say anything is impossible, and may you succeed better than I have done in my art as a dusty miller.' "
photo c. 1896
The Heath brothers, Henry and Roger, were born in Devonshire, England in the years 1834 and 1840 respectively.
Their parents being Roger and Susan Cox Heath.
Henry Heath married Rachel Jane Jonxson and their family consisted of:
Susan Heath, born April, 1859
Lucy, born c. 1862
Bessie Elizabeth born c. 1867
William H. born May, 1870
Henry continued working in the City Mills business many years. but moved to Milton, Indiana shortly
before his death in 1898. Rachel Jane died there only a few years later in 1902.
Roger Heath married several years after Henry. He married Anna Jeanette Constance c. 1864 and they
immediately began their family with the birth of Roger Heath Jr. Their children were:
Roger Jr. born December 1865
Susan C. born c. 1869
Fanny F. born February, 1871
Katherine J. born c. 1874
Anna born c. 1876
William H. born c. 1878
Jeanette G. born June 1879
Bert Clinton born August, 1882
Frank L. born 1885
George Voere born January, 1886
Harry born June, 1888
Another view of City Mills at the time of the Shelby Bridge Disaster
(post card available from the Shelby Museum collection)
The following is a portion of an article that appeared
in the Daily Globe - Industrial Edition - April 2, 1906:
"He (Roger) has more modern machinery in his establishment than in any mill of its size in the state, and his version of the application of new machinery and the results obtained are eagerly sought after by mill machinery men. He has always aimed after quality rather than quantity and has sought to create a demand for his goods, ideas which have proved winning cards."
"He has just lately put in a valuable improvement costing $1750 and is the second miller in the state to adopt it, the results obtained being such as to largely add to the quality of his product. He has made another contract calling for $750 more which will still further increase the efficiency of the plant and serve to make his position in the trade impregnable. This attitude of Mr. Heath in adopting the best things regardless of cost, has placed the old mill in the front rank in quality of goods produced. It is never a question of quality with his customers, because his goods are recognized as standards, but simply 'What can you sell your product for?' "
"The mill brands of flour are Bon Ton, Imperial, Paragon, Climax, and Moss Rose, all of which are well known and are recognized as the highest grade of goods in their class, in the market. Quality is the watchword and the vigilance of the proprietor always sees to it that nothing that is not up to the standard ever leaves the mill. During the years that Mr. Heath has been before the public he has been uniformly successful. His business methods have been such as to create the greatest degree of confidence, and his word is always as good as gold. He has been connected with the growth of Shelby for years and has materially assisited in every endeavor to place the town in a more prosperous condition. He was an original stockholder in the tube works, cycle works, Shelby Foundry Co., automobile works, Land Improvement Co., Shelby Printing Co., Citizens Bank and some minor affairs. He is president of the Citizens Bank, president of a stock company in Cleveland and a director of the Shelby Printing Co."
"He is a member of the board of public works, now in a second term and has served two terms as coucilman for the east side. His standing among his fellow men is such that any man might well be proud of - his bluff honesty, dogged perserverance and fairness under all conditions making him a man respected by all."
"He is assisted in the mill by his son, Will Heath, who is at present more than an ordinary miller in capabilities and will win out. Bert Heath, another son who is on the road to winning his way and making trade and friends and is well liked by everyone."
"The family consists, as Roger puts it of 'the old man and wife and ten children living with one dead, but my wife says the old man is still the King pin of the bunch.' "
Roger was still "in charge" of City Mills in 1910 when the census listed his occupation as: "proprietor of flour mill".
He passed away in July, 1911 and wife Anna J. followed him in 1934.
And finally an item appearing in the November 11, 1911 issue of the Shelby Daily Globe:
George and Frank Heath
Purchase The Interests of Their Brothers In The Heath Mill Property.
"George and Frank Heath yesterday purchased the interest of their brothers in the Heath Mill on Main St. Previous to the sale the property was owned by the five brothers Will, Bert, Harry, George and Frank. The transfer was made yesterday and the property turned over to Frank and George. They have already assumed control of the mill and will conduct the business in the future. Bert Heath who has been the traveling salesman for the company will remain with the new firm for two weeks introducing his brother Harry to the trade and the latter will succeed him in representing the new firm. At the expiration of this time Bert Heath expects to locate in Colorado.
The two brothers who have taken over the property have been engaged in the milling business all their life so that conductiong this thriving business will not be any experiment to them. They are thoroughly familiar with every department of the institution and the large patronage enjoyed by this firm will be given every care and attention. The many friends of the new proprietors wish them every success in their business venture."
The 1913/14 Shelby directory shows that Bert and George were living at the family home at 25 Second Street and were still
employed at the City Mills. Frank Heath and wife Jennie were living at 38 East Main Street.
The November 24, 1914 issue of the Daily Globe has a large article concerning the Heath Flour and Grist Mill.
A portion of the article states as follows:
"Bert Heath, the present owner and proprietor of the mill, was employed in the capacity of traveling salesman of the mill for twelve years, and at the death of his father fell heir with the remainder of his brothers to the business. For five years prior to his going on the road Bert was employed in the mill, assisting his father with the duties of the institution. Robert George succeeded Mr. Heath three years ago, and at the present time he is still employed in that capacity."
Daily Globe - 1914
"Bert Heath bought his brothers interest in the mill and in 1913 became the sole owner and proprietor of the establishment."
"Mr. Heath the present owner and proprietor of the mill, is one of Shelby's popular and prosperous young business men. Since he came into possesion of the mill he has made changes in the institution for the betterment of his business. . . . . He is very active in baseball and football circles and at the present time he is president of the Shelby Blues football association. He is a real live wire, and is one of Shelby's most progressive, enterprising public spirited and representative citizens, one who enjoys to the fullest the confidence of his fellowmen and whose popularity extends to all classes. Mr. Heath is very active in social circles as well as business affairs, and is a booster for the town that does things."
By 1919 the mill was known as The Shelby Flour Mill and the capacity has dropped from that of 1911.
The 1920 census indicates that Bert Heath was a commercial agent, but no indication of where he worked.
Frank and George Heath were living in Highland Park, Michigan where Frank worked as a street car conductor
and George worked in an auto service station.
Roger Heath's wife Anna J. passed away in 1934..
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