Union Mill The Union Mill Cranbrook
Registered charity no.1031879

Ebenezer, Hugh and Caleb Oyler Russell

Ebenezer took over the windmilling business in 1871 but soon found that, beset by increasingly stringent health regulations (what is new?), flour production at the windmill was unprofitable. So it ceased completely and he depended entirely on grist milling animal feed for the outlying farms in the district. He replaced the old steam engine by more modern and stronger engines to do the complete milling process. The wind powered machinery was then used solely as a standby mode of milling for busy periods.

Ebenezer died young, at only 55, in 1883, so he had only been running the business for about twelve years. He had married Suzanna Oyler of Goddards Green, Cranbrook and had four sons, Caleb, George, Sydney and Hugh. His eldest son, Caleb, had been milling successfully in the Ashford area and was now well established at Mersham Mill, which he owned. However, these were all watermills, with which he felt more at home than he felt with windmills. So he was not interested in leaving his flourishing business at Mersham and returning to the Union Mill. Of the other two brothers, George had the wanderlust and, having run away from school, went to sea and washed up on the shores of the United States, where he spent the rest of his life. Sidney did not have the confidence to take on the business of milling so he allowed Hugh to run it while he became the accountant, mechanic and general handyman under his younger brother. He was an engineer and kept the various bits of machinery in good order. Ebenezer's youngest son, Hugh, was married with three children, took over the business on his father's death, it had acquired Slipmill, the watermill in Hawkhurst, back from his cousin, George Russell, junior. Hugh prospered with the business at the two mills, though he did concentrate somewhat on the watermill at Hawkhurst. Then, in 1902, having made a preliminary visit to Perth two years earlier, he and his wife and two children emigrated to Western Australia. (His descendants are spread over the continent, now.)

 

Ebenezer Russell
Ebenezer Russell

Hugh Russell
Hugh Russell

Caleb Russell
Caleb Oyler Russell

Though Caleb, understandably, was very reluctant to leave Mersham, he was prevailed upon to take over the Union Mills business. He left a manager in charge at Mersham and came to Cranbrook. Grain hopper over peak stones Caleb's first action was to move all the work to Slipmill, the Hawkhurst watermill, and he virtually abandoned the windmill. It was actually a shrewd move as the business prospered without the windmill, driven by the wayward wind and expensive to keep in good repair. In fact, he put the windmill up for sale on at least three occasions, without success, fortunately.

 

The windmill deteriorated and was in a doleful state by the outbreak of the Great War. The fantail had to be removed for safety and the sweeps soon started to fall apart. In fact, during his control, the windmill got into the most derelict state it had ever reached. It is surprising, therefore, that it is Caleb's name that is celebrated on The hopper of the peak stone, on the Stone Floor of the mill of which he thought so little! Caleb died in 1918 and his eldest son, John Russell, took over the business in his father's place. He immediately started work on remedying the damage at the windmill, with the intention of returning the bulk of the business to Cranbrook.

Wynn Tremynheere

Russell FamilyTree

The dilapidated mill in 1906
The dilapidated mill in 1906

Go back to John & George Russell OR read about the last miller, John Russell