Organ Springs Mill and David Voyles Washington County Indiana.


Painting of Organ Springs as it once appeared.  Post office and store at right.  Mill at Center.  Blacksmiths shop on left next to keyhole spring.  Potential stillhouse at far left?

This spring drains through the hill from the cave above and dumps next to the mill foundation.  In this video and the one below shot from inside the cave you can hear why John Beck gave the cave the name Organ Springs, not only due to the dripping of the water but because of the “whirring” noice of the water that accompanies it similar to a pedal organ. 

Organ Springs has always been closely associated with Beck’s Mill although information is hard to find and I’ve never seen reference to any distilleries ran in conjunction with the mill, however, it is my intuition that a distillery likely would have been located here, at least on a small scale as every other mill in the county ran one as a service to its customers.  Considering the Voyles were of Welsh descent as well they would have come from a culture very familiar with distilling.  I know much whiskey has been made tax free from the water however as water has been hauled throughout the county from these springs for many years for such purposes.  Here I have collected a few photos and videos for your pleasure, it truly is a beautiful place full of history and I wish I knew more of it, unfortunately the Centennial History of Washington County and the History of Orange, Lawrence, and Washington county detail very little of it’s history however Mr. Horrace Heffron who ran the Salem Democrat luckily had time to set with Mr. David Voyles in the late 1870’s and recorded the information for us in the form of Pioneer Pickings:


David Voyles

Pioneer Pickings # 67 PP. 69

The Salem Democrat September 6, 1876

One of the old men and old settlers of this county is David Voyles. We chanced to see him not long since, and obtained some ancient items, so to speak from him. He was born in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, in 1789, being now 89 years of age. He said he was a descendent of “Imported Stock”. His father was a Welshman and a native of Wales, and his Mother was an Italian, and that the peculiar traits of both nations could yet be seen, more or less, in their descendents. His father died in North Carolina, leaving a widow with 5 children. Seven years after his father’s death, his Mother died, and in compliance with her wish, everything but the farm was sold. The family being destitute of nearly everything, made their living by raising cotton and selling it at Charleston, South Carolina, a distant of 240 miles. After his brother Abraham and himself became of age, they applied to court for a partition of the farm left by their father, and it was divided up between the children. David then concluded it was not good for a man to be alone, so he went to courting around until he found a “bonny lass” to suit him., and whom he afterwards married. 

He remained in the old North State 3 years after his marriage, and on November 2, 1814 he started for Indiana Territory, and arrived on Blue River in Washington County 12-10-1814, he camped on the farm where James McCool now lives. On the Sunday following, a party of settlers, including Voyles rode through the woods in search of water or springs of water either, and finally found a dripping spring where Voyles finally settled, and where he lives now. The Monday morning after, he took his axe and commenced to preparing logs for him a house, and cut enough that day for a cabin 14 feet by 16. He then” betook himself to thinking” of the hardships associated with such a life on such a county and finally shouldered his axe and resolved never to see the place again. He started to see his wife and children but neglected to say where they were at the time, and that night he stayed with one of his father’s old mess mates in the Revolutionary war. He persuaded David to return to his work and finish his cabin, and go on with his work. In the morning he went back and finished cutting his logs. He then hauled them to the proper place and with the help of a few neighbors, had his cabin raised.


Part of the foundation of the mill including the wheel well to the left.


Equipment still inside the foundation of the mill.


Map detailing McPheeters Mill and Organ Springs Washington County Indiana.

He then went for his wife and children and brought them to his cabin and put them into it with out roof or floor. With the help of 2 men he began covering his domicile, battling all the time with a snow storm, which raged furiously, his wife, carrying the clapboards, and trying to protect the children from the pitiless storm. He soon had his cabin in pretty good order, and they passed their time very pleasantly in their wilderness home. Being of iron constitution and strong robust physical frame, he, with the aid of his industrious and economical wife got along splendidly. The country was very thinly settled at the time of his arrival. There was but one house then, where the city of New Albany is today. He only knew of 3 churches in the whole country, a Methodist church at Fredericksburg, a Baptist church where Harrison Denny now lives in Pierce Township, and another in Howard township on Blue River.


Keyhole shaped spring.  I have seen these type of springs many times in conjunction with distilleries including that of Thomas Green.  Although I don’t know where the tradition started or why.

The Indians had been driven away by this period, but the wolves, bears, wild cats, panthers, wild turkey, deer and rattlesnakes were plenty. The bears however had become scarce, but David Voyles and some others tracked one on the snow once, to a cave on the land where Wm. Smedley’s widow now lives in Pierce Township. He then gave a detailed statement of their attempt to capture the bear and also her 3 cubs. They sent for George and John Beck, who got the bear and her cubs. The wolves at that time were very troublesome, and many a hunt did Voyles and his neighbors take for these varmints. They were very bold, coming on the farms and killing sheep by the dozens, and also the young of other stock. He said he knew of no schoolhouse for several years after he came to this country. He is now hale and hearty, says he always was a democrat and always expects to be. He wants to vote this fall for the Democratic ticket and believes that it will be elected, and does not know but that it will be the means of extending his pilgrimage a while longer on this mundane sphere.



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