Work Family History - Overview

Jackson - Work

Sarah Jackson      age __ ========= age __       Tunnel Mill" John Work
                      (1769-1854, d. age 85)                                                  (1760-1832, d. age 72)

Southwestern Pennsylvania:  Fayette County
then to

Clark County Indiana, northeast of Charlestown
-- across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky - -
Where they built Their Tunnel Mill On 14-Mile Creek,
14 Miles above the falls on the Ohio River

The following story of the Tunnel Mill is compiled from the webpages Welcome to Historic Tunnel Mill The Story of Tunnel Mill

1803:   The two Work brothers Henry Work
(1758-1804) & John Work (1760-1832) and their families left Redstone, Fayette County, Pennsylvania
In 1803, the two Work brothers Henry Work & John Work & their families left their homes in Redstone, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.  They went in search of a better life, which included a stream suitable for milling.

These families consisted of:
Older brother, Henry Work,
age 45
Henry Work's wife Elizabeth Sproul, age 36 (and either pregnant with -- or having just given birth to -- their 9th child)
Elizabeth Sproul & Henry Work's 9 children, ages 18 down to newborn (or almost-born):
(1)  John Work, age 18
(2) Samuel Work, age 16   See Elizabeth Henley & Samuel Work.
(3) Joseph Work, age 14
(4) Andrew Work,  age 11
(5) Henry Work, age  9
(6) Elizabeth Work, age 6  
(7) Martha Work, age 4
(8) Rebeckah Work, age 2
(9) Ann Work, new-born (or almost-born)

- Younger brother, John Work,
age 43 (b. 1760)
- John's wife, Sarah Jackson, age __
- Sarah Jackson & John Work's __ children

 First they went to
the Louisville, Kentucky area
, but did not find a good place for their venture.  

1804, Enroute, in Louisville, Ky:  Death of the older brother Henry Work, age 46 
During their short stay in Kentucky, the older brother, Henry Work, age 46, died of a fever, leaving his hounger brother John to care for both families.

The Work families crossed the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky into southern Indiana Territory

Next, the Work families crossed the Ohio River north of  Louisville, Kentucky into the southern part of the Illinois Grant area of Indiana territory in what is now Clark County.  There John purchased 100 acres of land along Fourteen Mile Creek and built a water-powered gristmill.  He bought the land from John and James Bates and paid a dollar per acre for the property.  There John built the famous "Tunnel Mill"

John Work's "Tunnel Mill"

"By 1814, the mill John had built had been in use for about ten years, and was showing signs of wear and in need of many repairs.  In addition, the water level in 14 Mile Creek was too low during certain times of the year for the mill to operate. Some men would have merely gotten by, but John Work had a plan...

"Instead of fixing the old mill, John Work decided to build a new mill.  John Work surveyed the area and found a good spot where Fourteen Mile Creek curves back onto itself.  To build this mill, Work realized he would have to dig a tunnel for the water to flow through, but this did not deter him, and he set to work. 

"With two other workers, he began to dig the tunnel on January 14, 1814.  Men began digging simultaneously from both sides of the hill.  Work made his own explosives from saltpeter he mined from the cliffs running along the Ohio River.  All in all, he used 650 pounds of explosives to blast the tunnel.  This feat took nearly three years, but in 1817 (or April 14, 1816 as Work’s diary states) the tunnel was complete.  So accurate was the tunnel that the two ends of the tunnel lined up within two inches of each other.  John Work’s diary indicates the total cost of this tunnel was $3,333.33.  The dimensions of the tunnel were 6 feet deep by 5 feet wide by 388 feet long.

"A huge celebration accompanied the completion of the tunnel.  The settlers feasted, made speeches and drank to their heart’s content.  One story relates a man weighing over 200 pounds rode through the tunnel on horseback.

"Yet only half the work was complete.  The mill had not been built yet.  As John Work set to work again, he discovered a serious problem.  The spot where the building was supposed to stand had quicksand instead of rock underneath it.  Work cleverly used large oak timbers to support the building, thinking wood submerged in water would not rot.  History states the mill was fifty feet by thirty-five feet and had a stone foundation and a frame super-structure.  The mill had three levels with an elevator, which transported grain from floor to floor.  There were two great wooden overshot wheels that powered the mill.  Each was twenty feet in diameter, five feet wide, and had twelve four by eight feet spokes.  Indians and settlers alike came from as far away as Vincennes to have flour made at Tunnel Mill.  When Wilfred Green bought the property, he replaced the wooden wheels with two iron wheels.  One of the old iron wheels still stands in place to mark the spot.

1832:  "Tunnel Mill John" Work died in Clark County, Indiana.

"Sadly, on August 1, 1927 the great Tunnel Mill building burned."  John Work's Tunnel Mill land "is now owned by the Lincoln Heritage Council of the Boy Scouts of America.  The Boy Scouts use this land for camping and outdoor activities and call it Tunnel Mill Boy Scout Reservation."

Sarah Jackson and "Tunnel Mill John" Work are buried on the grounds of the land where they had lived -- as are other family members.

"Operators of Tunnel Mill

John Work


John R. Work


Wilfred M. Green


Henry C. Dodd


Shiloh Swango


Henry Murphy


2007-06-08 websearch on “ ‘tunnel mill’ john work “

Last Will and Testament of John Work

“The State of Indiana
“Probate Court March Term A.D. 1832
“Clark County

“Upon this day the last will and testament of John Work, late of the County of Clark, deceased, was produced and proven in open Court by John Simonson, Joseph L. Bowman and Joseph Work, the subscribers to the same. The same is therefore ordered to be recorded and upon the application of Sarah Work and John R. Work the Executors named in said last will and testament the burthen of the execution of the same is granted to them by court. They having entered into bond in the penal sum of Sixteen Hundred Dollars, with Samuel Work and Joseph Work their security, conditioned according to law and took the oath required by law, as such Executors. It is therefore ordered that a certified copy of the said last will and testament of said John Work, deceased, together with letters testamentary, be issued to the Executrix and Executor under the proper seal of the court.

“I, John Work of the County of Clark and State of Indiana, being of sound mind and disposing memory and knowing the uncertainty of human life, do hereby make my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say:

“1st. I am not indebted to any person or persons excepting the amount of One Hundred Dollars to John and James Drummond, which I borrowed of the guardian, John Ferris, nor am I responsible as security for any. I therefore do not wish a sale of personal state generally. It is however my desire that the mare that I have been in the habit of riding and the two colts should be sold at vendue unless John Drummond and James Drummond will consent to take them or either of them at fair valuation to be made by two disinterested persons in part payment of which I owe them, the residue of personal estate (except my surveying instruments) after paying the claim of John and James Drummond, I hereby give to my wife, Sarah Work and my son, John R. Work to be equally divided between them and to be at their disposal after such divided.

“2nd. I devise and hereby give my wife, Sarah Work and my son John R. Work, in conjunction the use of my home place including the mills and all the land I own in No. 140 of the Illinois grant and the proceeds thereof during the time of the natural life of my said wife, Sarah Work, excepting and reserving to my three daughters or either of them the use of the saw mill a length of time sufficient to enable them or those whom they employ to saw timber scantling plank, etc. for the erection of a stone saw mill contemplated to be built at or near the old saw mill in No. 120 of the Illinois grant, and after the accase of my said wife, I give and bequeath the said home place including the mill and the land I owned in No. 140 of said grant with the appurtenances to my said son, John R. Work, to be enjoyed by him and at his disposal forever and I also hereby give to my said John R. Work, 60 acres of land in No. 139 of said grant beginning and bounded as follows, commencing at the South West corner No. 140 and running with the original line of No. 139 South 50 East 60 poles to the line dividing Nos. 139 and 140, thence with sine to the place beginning.

“3rd. I do hereby give my daughter, Anna Read, in fee simple all that part of the tract of land owned by me in No. 139 of the Illinois grant not heretofore given my son John R. Work, and in case it should appear on a fair estimate and valuation by my two sons-in-laws, Stephen Hutchins and John Shannon that said tract of land will be insufficient to make my said daughters Anna's part equal to that received by my other daughter and their husbands it is my desire and wish that the deficiency be made up together out of any of my real-estate heretofore given to my son, John R. Work.

“4th. I devise the residue of my real estate to be valued by my son-in-law, Stephen Hutchings and John Shannon and after the proposition received by them and the proportion received by my daughter, Anna Read and her late husband is ascertain on the amount or value thereof which is to be deducted. It is my desire my said son-in-laws shall divide the same and apportion the same by lot to themselves and my daughter, Ann Read. I desire this same cause to be pursued not only to same expenses but also that the most perfect harmony should exist between them in regard to my estate.

“5th. I have already given my son-in-law, John Farris, and my daughter, Rebecca what I considered their fill share of my estate, but as a memorial of my affection for them I hereby give them Ten dollars to be paid my executors out of any monies due me.

“6th. I have already given my son-in-law, as follows to Joseph Hutchings five hundred dollars, to John Shannon, four hundred and fifteen dollars, and to my daughter, Anna, and to her husband, William Read eighty five dollars and it is my desire said sums should be taken into the calculations in making the division and distribution of the real estate hereby given them in order that each may receive an equal portion and no more.

“7th. I have already stated that I owe debts, excepts the claim of John and James Drummond above specified which must be paid them as above provided. I, however, many years since became responsible as security for one Hugh
Reed of Fayette County, Pennsylvania for a balance of which debt his land was sold by the sheriff and I became the purchaser and paid the debt, I afterwards disposed of the land this purchased for $100 more than I paid purchase money and as it was not my purpose to profit by the transaction but merely to secure myself. It is therefore my desire and I hereby enjoin it on my executors to pay the said Reed or his legal representatives in the case of his decease the sum of $100 to be paid out of the debt or monies due me from John Coombs when collected.

“8th. I here give my son-in-law, John Shannon, my surveying instruments in addition to his part above specified as a memorial of my friendship for him.

“9th. It is my wish to settle my whole estate without an executor or administrator but as I have considered outstanding debts due me in order the same may be collected and divided between my wife, Sarah Work and my son, John R. Work, after the payment of John and James Drummond and the amount to Hugh Reed, I do hereby constitute and appoint my said wife, Sarah Work and my son, John R. Work, my executors of this my last will and testament thereby revoking all other former wills or testaments heretofore made by me. In witness whereof I have set my hand and affixed to my seal this 19th day of December, in the year of our Lord, 1831. John Work (seal)

“Signed, sealed, published and declared as and for the last will and testament of the above names John Work, in the presence of us this 19th day of December, 1831.
John S. Simonson
Joseph Work
J. L. Bowman


“I, John Work, of the County of Clark and the state of Indiana, being weak in body, but of sound mind and memory do hereby make and constitute the following codicil of my last will and testament now in the hands of Joseph Work, to-wit; having bequeathed my land in No. 120 of the Illinois grant to my daughters and my son-in-laws and as there is a sight on said land for a stone saw mill and a quarry of excellent rock and as I am fearful my said daughter and son-in-laws will not improve the same immediately and as my son, John R. Work and my grandsons, John Drummond and James Drummond desirous of building said mill and using said quarry for a time, it is my desire and I hereby give them the use of said quarry and sight of said saw mill together with a sufciency of ground in said No. 120 to carry on the business of said mill and quarry for the term of four years from next April, 1832, in consideration of their erecting and completing said stone saw mill at the expiration of which time said land, mill and etc. is bequeathed as specified and it is my desire and I hereby enjoin the same that my said son and grandsons shall have the refusal of purchasing said land and mill and provided my said daughters and sons-in-law agree to sell the same they giving as much as any other for the same when offered for sale. In witness whereof I have set my hand and affixed my seal this 28th day of December, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and thirty one.
John Work

“The forgoing codicil of the last will and testament of John Work was this day signed and sealed published and declared as an additional or codicil to said last wilt and testament of said John Work in our presence by the said John Work, December, 1831.

“Jacob Teeple
Joseph S. Simonson
J. B. Bowman

(State of Indiana)
(Clark County)


“I, Henry Harrod, Clerk of the probate court, of the County of Clark do certify the annexed to be a true copy of the last will and testament of John Work and that Sarah Work be executrix and John R. Work executor therein names provided the same in the probate court by the oaths of John S. Simonson and Joseph Work and John L. Bowman, the subscribing witnesses thereto and they are duly authorized to take upon themselves the administration of said estate of the testator agreeable to said will. Witness my hand and seat of office this day of march, 1832.

Test Henry Harrod
State of Indiana)

County of Clark. I, John C. Lewman, clerk of the Clark circuit court, do hereby certify that the above and foregoing is a true and complete copy of the last will and testament of John Work, deceased, as the same appears of record and now on file in my office.

“In witness whereof I hear unto set my hand and affix the official seal of the court, this fourth day of January, 1834.

John C. Lewman
Clerk, Clark Circuit Court “

1832:  At the John Work House, Tunnel Mill, Clark County, Indiana:  Death of "Tunnel Mill John" Work, age 72

At the John Work House, Tunnel Mill, Clark County, Indiana:  Death of Sarah Jackson Work, age 85

Burial:  Faris-Work-Faris Cemetery,
Tunnel Mill, Clark County, Indiana
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Webpage by Lindberg-Work Family
Work log
2009-07-31:  page first created

More work
2011:  1/10-11