NoD: West Liberty's Millstone Monument

West Liberty - Ky.
Millstone Monument - West Liberty, Ky.
On the Morgan County courthouse lawn in West Liberty rests a most peculiar, yet appropriate, monument. So many communities in Kentucky, across America and around the world began where a stream provided the power to turn the mechanisms of a gristmill - turning crops into flour.

The owner of the mill, a millwright, would convert a farmer's crop to flour and would keep for himself some of the end product - a miller's toll. Around these mills, other forms of commerce would develop creating many of the towns we know today. Of course, most of the mills are long gone. But Morgan County has preserved this token of history with a courthouse lawn monument to the millstone.

In 1816, Edmund Wells established his grist mill on the Licking River. This grist mill quickly grew in importance for the area's farmers, and the "Wells Mill" community quickly grew as all roads in the area found Wells Mill as their focal point. To account for his travelers, Wells also owned and operated a tavern in Wells Mill. In 1822, the General Assembly created Morgan County from Floyd and Bath counties; on March 10, 1823 the justices of the newly formed Morgan County, including Wells, met at Wells' tavern to make effective the establishment of Morgan County. The time and place of this meeting was set forth in the Act establishing the county.

West Liberty was established as the county seat upon 39 acres donated by Edmund Wells. He donated an additional two acres for the public square whereupon he was contracted to build the county's first jail and courthouse.

The millstones used in this monument were not, however, from Wells' mill. Instead, they were from the mill of Capt. John T. Williams who served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. After the war, Williams established his own mill on the Big Caney Creek in Morgan County. In 1869, however, Elliott County was formed and the Big Caney Creek is wholly within the bounds of Elliott County.

Capt. Williams' links to Morgan County and to Edmund Wells, however, are strong. Williams' father was squire John T. Williams who, like Edmund Wells, was appointed by Governor Adair in 1822 as one of the first justices of Morgan County. Capt. Williams' father was present at Wells' tavern on March 10, 1823, and it is his son's millstones that forever memorialize the import of the mill in Morgan County's history.

“Acts of the Kentucky General Assembly”, 1823, pages 145-147 [*]
Ancestors of Squire John T. Williams
Kentucky Encyclopedia, "Morgan County"
Plaque at the Millstone Monument