John Work's Tunnel Mill
A story of industry and determination in Southern Indiana...
Early Indiana pioneer, John D. Work came to Clark County in 1804 to start a new life for himself and his family. In 1811 he built the magnificent brick home that sits on a hill overlooking Fourteen Mile Creek. He was a man of industry and developed many small businesses in the valley including a general store, lime kiln, distillery, blacksmith, farrier, gunsmith, salt works, quarry, and several grist mills. His life’s greatest achievement though was the building of the famous Tunnel Mill. This mill was designed to operate all year long, even in dry weather. To accomplish this, Work made his own gunpowder and began to blast through a high ridge of stone to connect a large oxbow of the creek at it’s narrowest point. It took 650 pounds of gunpowder and five men a total of three years to create the 300-foot tunnel 90 feet below the surface. This tunnel carried water from the high side of the oxbow to the low side, allowing the mill plenty of water to operate and generating an incredible amount of horsepower. Work died in 1832 at the age of 72. The property changed hands several times until in 1927, the mill caught fire and burned to the ground. In 1928 it was sold to the Boy Scouts of America who own it to this day. The majority of the property is used for a Boy Scout Reservation, however, this Southern portion was little used. From 1928-1989, the John Work House was used for the BSA ranger’s residence. By 2010 it had fallen into disrepair and the grounds were overgrown. In that year, the Boy Scouts of America leased the property to Taylor Rose Historical Outfitters, a company specializing in historical re-creation and reproduction, in an attempt to save the property, with a long-term plan of operating an educational historic property alongside the company’s business production. This has given birth to Historic Tunnel Mill, a property devoted to re-creating the past, preserving historic skills and trades, and letting people get their hands into history!
Historic Tunnel Mill is open to the public, Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, every Friday-Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. We are also open during our special events, listed on this site. Tours of the Historic John Work House are free during normal hours.
Please contact us if you are interested in classes or workshops. The house is also available for meetings and other private functions. We can tailor a field trip or merit badge workshop to suit your specific group’s needs. Please call (812)606-1264 or e-mail for more info.