A Reynoldsburg auctioneer with an appreciation for history went knocking on doors in Gahanna on Feb. 13, letting people know one of the original 1830s gristmill stones from the Gahanna mill was being auctioned online.
At the time, the top bid was a mere $17.
"I was running through parking lots, and I'm a big guy," said Kevin Burchett, auctioneer of an online website. "It must have been a funny scene."
Burchett, whose background is in antiques, said he panicked when the stone was below $20 on the last day of bidding.
"I just knew it had to get to Gahanna," he said. "It came within hours of never getting back where it belonged."
When word about the millstone became known to members of the Gahanna Historical Society, the Gahanna Parks & Recreation Foundation and the city of Gahanna, it became a quick scramble to bring a piece of history home.
Nancy McGregor, historical society vice president, took the lead in bidding on the 41-inch-wide, 11-inch-thick stone that was estimated to weigh about 1,200 pounds. It was near the temple at Broad Street and Noe Bixby.
"I called the Gahanna service department to see if they could move the stone should we win the bid," McGregor said. "Then the buzz of emails and phone calls began. Within about an hour, we had three groups willing to pick up the millstone."
After it was decided that the city could assist with moving the stone, a decision had to be made as to how much to pay for it.
McGregor said the society was willing to pay $200, so she asked city parks-recreation director Tony Collins what to do if the bidding were to go higher.
"He made a quick decision that the Gahanna Parks & Recreation Foundation 'probably' would be willing to go to $500," she said. "All were in agreement that the stone should come back to Gahanna. I really can't tell you how amazing it was to have so many people offer to help and make quick decisions, on short notice, when time was of the essence."
The auction ended at about 10:30 p.m. Feb. 13, with McGregor submitted the winning bid of $370 plus a 10-percent buyer's premium, for a total of $407.
The story behind the stone is that it was moved at some time to Havens Road. In the 1970s, a controlled burn was done at the property, and one of the firemen acquired the stone and moved it to his property at Broad and Noe Bixby.
As of last week, McGregor said, it's undecided whether the historical society or parks foundation would end up owning the stone, but she's just glad it's back in Gahanna.
"Tony thought it would be a great addition to Creekside, near the mill race," she said. "I honestly think it should be placed near the mill race. To me, that's where it makes the most sense. It could have a nice interpretive plaque with a picture of a mill. I think you get a better sense of the stone's use close to its origin and especially near the mill race because it was water-driven."
Burchett said the stone is a foundation of the city and it's unusual when a city takes that kind of pride to preserve its history.
"Whatever the fate of the mill, that miller must have taken his stones to his home," he said. "You can speculate where the miller lived. His house got so old, they burned it down."
When asked about the stone's authenticity, Burchett said he asked if there were stones when the creek went dry.
"There were no stones," he said. "It made it clear. It made the whole story right. That's as close as you get without it being written down."