When Joseph and Henry Clasgens founded the mill, it was a different town and under a different name. An old lease indicates they rented space in a flour mill in Newton on the Little Miami River, in 1855. But the formal establishment of the mill was in 1862. They called it Clermont Woolen Mills after the name of the county.
The same lease contained a provision that should there be insufficient water power to operate both, the woolen mill must close and the flour mill remain open. It restricted the woolen mill to four candles per room for night work. In 1865, the brothers relocated in New Richmond. They sailed down the Little Miami River and onto the Ohio River. The date was Good Friday in April, the same day Lincoln was shot.
They settled in a three-story wooden structure. Initially, there and in Newton, the mill made blankets, flannels and other finished woolens. It became a strictly yarn mill later in years.
Everything went nicely until 1884, when the Ohio River swelled to a depth of 71 feet and overflowed its banks. Normal pool stage was 12 feet. It caused tremendous damage to the town and wreaked havoc in the mill. Much of the damaged machinery was later sold to the state prison.
In 1890 the brothers moved to a three-story brick building on the banks of the Ohio. It was run by steam engines, the coal coming along the river by barge. That same year they incorporated the mill as the J. & H. Clasgens Company. Joseph was President and his brother was Treasurer and Secretary. Henry died in 1893. Joseph died in 1909 and his son, Frank, became President. Henry's son, Charles, became Secretary and Treasurer. The following year, Frank's younger brother, Joseph H., joined the mill as Treasurer, and held that position until his death.
The only real hindrance to continued operations and family managerial ascendancy again came from the unpredictable waters of the Ohio River. The new mill site along its banks was a commanding one but perilous. Twice the river rose and almost washed the mill away.
The first major flood in the new location came in 1913. The river again rose 70 feet and covered the first floor of the mill with 12 feet of water. The second inundation came in 1937. That was the flood they still talk about and it will never be forgotten. It was the worst in local memory. Water coverer the first floor of the mill and then continued to rise until it covered the second floor by eight feet. Most of the carding, spinning, twisting and winding machinery was ruined. Stock was critically damaged. The damage was so bad the mill was almost forced to close.
Joseph H. Clasgens was then President and his was the colossal task of trying to resume operations. The late Alben W. Barkley, who was to become Vice President of the United States, but at that time was Senator from Kentucky, promised the flood victims relief and said the Reconstruction Finance Corporation would issue low interest loans. But nothing ever came of it. Mr. Clasgens ended by paying six per cent to a Cincinnati bank, a higher interest rate than usual. The mill did recover, however, and shortly after went into worsted spinning. In 1962, in the wake of intense competitiveness within the industry and the deluge of imported yarns, the J. & H. Clasgens Company continued its policy of plant modernization, as finances permitted, and is even considered the possibilities of diversifying into completely different fields of endeavor. And as if to do its share to assist in the project the United States Government is constructed an elaborate system of locks and dams as part of a flood control project to tame the Ohio. While not providing absolute control, it did much to alleviate the dangers of inundation and destruction of mill property when it was completed.
In 1982, tragedy once again struck the company. A devastating fire ravaged the mill located on the river, totally destroying everything within. At this time, the decision was made not to rebuild, but instead, to move all operations to the mill located on State Route 132, several miles from the river, thus assuring continued operations without the threat of flood. A new building was added, and it is in that location that the J. & H. Clasgens Company operates today. Joseph H. Clasgens II is the president and two Clasgens daughters assist in managerial positions, along with a granddaughter who has recently come aboard!