When Maps Lie: The Oil Mill

The Oil Mill was locat­ed on Snow Creek Road (KY 1028) in what is now the extreme west­ern end of Powell County.  Snow Creek Road begins at the Clark County line near Log Lick Church and runs east to near Clay City.  From Lulbegrud Creek it is 1.7 miles to where the Oil Mill stood, near the inter­sec­tion of KY 3352.  Oil mills were used to grind and crush flax seed under a pair of edge run­ner mill­stones.  The extract was refined to pro­duce lin­seed oil, an essen­tial ingre­di­ent of paint.

You may won­der why I would write about a place out­side Clark County.  It’s because of a map.  In 1861, Middleton Strobridge & Company of Cincinnati print­ed “Campbell and Barlow’s New Map of Kentucky and Tennessee from Authentic Reports of County Surveyors.”  The map shows Oil Mill locat­ed at the junc­tion of the Winchester-Vienna-Irvine Road with the Mt. Sterling-Kiddville-Vienna Road.  These roads then inter­sect­ed at Walter R. Goode’s place, near where KY 89 and KY 974 meet today.  In oth­er words, the map put Oil Mill with­in the bounds of present-day Clark County, not Powell.  This error was repeat­ed in sev­er­al edi­tions of “Lloyd’s Official Map of the State of Kentucky.” 

The first men­tion of a place called Oil Mill was in 1847 when a Clark County post office was estab­lished there with James G. Broughton as post­mas­ter.  There fol­lowed two oth­er post­mas­ters — Dr. John C. Harrison and William M. Anderson — before the post office closed in 1854.  Broughton and his father-in-law Walter Karrick had pre­vi­ous­ly run an oil mill in Winchester.  The Oil Mill is men­tioned in Clark County court records up until 1850. 

Powell County was cre­at­ed in 1852, and all sub­se­quent ref­er­ences to Oil Mill are in Powell. The above-men­tioned Broughton, Harrison, and Anderson were all res­i­dents of Powell.  That July elec­tion dis­tricts were estab­lished for the new coun­ty and includ­ed one called the “Oil Mill Precinct.” 

Example of a pair of edge-runner stones
Example of a pair of edge-run­ner stones like the ones used in an oil mill to crush flax seed. 

In 1864 Powell County grant­ed Montraville Todd a tav­ern license at “his house where he now resides” and renewed it the fol­low­ing year at “Oil Mills.”  In 1881 Todd sold his land in Powell.  The deed refers to his tract that was “Situate in Powell County Ky on waters of Snow Creek and known as the Oil Mill tract.”  A 1929 deed con­vey­ing a por­tion of this prop­er­ty describes a cor­ner stake “near a pair of old burs,” mean­ing a pair of old mill­stones that almost cer­tain­ly came from the Oil Mill.  One of these stones, mea­sur­ing a lit­tle more than four feet in diam­e­ter, is present­ly on dis­play at the Red River Museum in Clay City.

While it is not pos­si­ble to deter­mine why the map­mak­ers erred, a pos­si­ble expla­na­tion may be offered.  In 1849, short­ly after the Oil Mill Post Office was cre­at­ed, anoth­er new post office was estab­lished.  This one was at Walter Goode’s place, and the post office was called “Goode’s Precinct.”  This is exact­ly where the maps mis­tak­en­ly placed Oil Mill.  Thus, the Oil Mill was locat­ed in Clark until Powell County was formed in 1852.

I am indebt­ed to Larry Meadows of Clay City for point­ing out the error on “Lloyd’s Map” and then pro­vid­ing the evi­dence for the Powell County loca­tion of Oil Mill.

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