Because You Asked . . . .    

Movie Theater in K of P Hall - 6 East Cherry in Sunbury

Mill Byproduct Changes Lives

Gas lights had been available in homes and businesses throughout the area for some time.  Gas street lights were used and Charlie Gaylord, who lived just south of the Baptist Church, had the job to light them each night. He had a long pole with a taper and a key on the end to open the valve and ignite the gas. Turning them off required another trip around the square for Charlie.

Soon after 1900, electricity was becoming popular and useful in cities and the Burrer boys (Karl, Parker, Rudolph and Gordon and their father Jakie) recognized the advantages and convenience this new energy could provide if made available in the village. Steam pressure built up in the boilers to operate the Burrer Mill during the day, could not be utilized and therefore wasted after the mill shut down in the evening.

Realizing that this power was already available, they purchased and installed a belt driven 'Dynamo' to make electricity for use in the mill and to distribute throughout the village. A few lights were strung around the engine room and in the mill. Wires were run to the house and across the street to the Methodist Church (then located across North Columbus Street from the mill) which was one of the first customers. Then as fast as the boys could recruit 'knowledgeable' help, lines were extended to other nearby buildings and houses. Wires were extended along the streets and across back lots as more and more citizens determined that electricity was practical and 'here to stay' and therefore they should have it.

"The Blakely-Williams Store at the corner of Vernon and Cherry Streets was the first mercantile building to have the new lights. Mrs. Kimball, the banker's wife, already having the finest gas light fixtures then available had the electricity installed just to run her water pump," noted Carleton Burrer.

Mrs. Carleton Burrer told how Jakie Burrer determined when it was time to turn off the electricity. Each night he would take a page from an old Bible which was coming unbound and head to the mill. When he finished reading the page, Jakie would turn off the electricity for the town.  

This practice was very inconvenient for the Movie Theater in today's Fling Hardware.  Although the movies were silent, electricity was necessary to project the image.  To insure being able to see the end of the movie, someone would be selected to visit Jakie for the evening and keep him in conversation long enough to be sure the movie would finish.

Soon service was provided from dusk until midnight, and if something went wrong, there would be no electricity at all.  When the electricity dimmed or did not work for some reason the cry about town was, "Jakie's belt's a slippin."  The Brurrer men worked to get it running again.

Joe Landon (1893-1979) told that one night when he was just a boy, he had a hot appendix which needed to be removed. The electricity had already been cut off for the night when the doctor knocked on Jakie's door at 2:30 a.m. and asked to have it turned on so he could operate. Jakie fired up the mill and the entire town was bathed in light while the doctor operated on Joe on the Landon's kitchen table at 52 Otis Street. Joe gave Jakie the credit for saving his life.  Imagine the shock in all the homes when the lights came on.  Soon on-off switches were installed in homes.

The first street lights were installed, one on each corner of the square and one at the mill. These were of the carbon-arc type and produce a very brilliant, although flickering light. 

It wasn't long before the need for longer hours of electric service and enlargement of the generating facilities became necessary. The wood fueled boilers were no longer capable of supplying the demand. To correct the situation, provide for future increases and more flexible operation, the steam power was abandoned and two stationery, internal combustion engines were installed. They were natural-gas fueled and water-cooled. One was a 2-cylinder with 25-horsepower and the other 3-cylinder with 35 hp.  This was covered with a poured concrete and steel roof.  The steel was arches were made from a bridge being replaced on Croton Road.  60 hp and later 90 hp engines later replaced these. 

Eventually need for the electricity was too great to be produced in the mill and it closed.  Burrer Electric collected electric bills for Columbus and Southern Ohio until Carleton's shop burned in 1956.

Thanks to Carleton Burrer's account of the coming of electricity to Sunbury which is printed in Sunbury's Part in Ohio History available at Community Library


Burrermill2-600.JPG (80122 bytes)     52-Otis600.JPG (92433 bytes)
Jakie Burrer Burrer Mill
at 46 N. Columbus Street
    Joe Landon Home at 52 Otis Street
in Sunbury
      Burrer, Dorothy Dillenbeck and Horn, Polly Whitney Brehm. 
           Flashback: A Story of  Two Families. Community Library, 1996.

. . . .And Now You Know
by Polly Horn


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(08/26/2016 )

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