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May 11th

Friday, June 11, 2010

First Milling in Lucas County

The following is from hand written notes (author unknown), excerpts from the 1881 History of Lucas County and notes cut from the Chariton newspapers about early sawmills in Lucas County, Iowa.

From the Lucas County Genealogy Newsletter April 2010

Before the first mill was built in Lucas County the early settlers had to go to Eddybille or to the Comstock and Dunham Mill on the Skunk River near Oskaloosa.  This would have been over 60 miles away.  Mr. S.B. Chapman procured a hand-mill, and fastened it to the wall of his house, with which a very energetic man could grind about a bushel an hour.  It was kept in constant use, and people would come nearly twenty miles, very frequently on horseback, to use it.  Mr. Chapman would usually give them their dinner and send them on their way rejoicing without charging any toll.

1848 appears to be the first year any milling was done in Lucas County with the mention of a little water mill on the Chariton River that the Mormons used to grind their scant supply of corn.

In 1849 some early settlers went to Warsaw, Illinois for wheat flour and also Bonaparte on the Des Moines River was a source of milling.

In 1850 there was a mill on the South Chariton River, south of where Confidence is now located.  In the winter of 1848-1849 the snow was 3 feet deep.

In 1851 some early Liberty township settlers couldn't get to Oskaloosa for milling and they lived on hominy for 2 months.

1851 was when the first mill was built in Washington Township by A.G. Kendall and Samuel McKinley.  I remember a great deal of fun was made about the mill.  It was a kind of Noah's Ark affair, a lifesaver, so held by the builders.  The mill was a cheap arrangement.  It did not have the modern roller process, or electric motor power.  But it was a creature of necessity.  Such material as was at hand had to be used.  The mill when complete and ready for business was composed of four upright pieces, seven feet long, eight cross pieces four feet long, a cog wheel, a trunnell head, two cranks and a round rock.  That was the kind of mill that furnished our bread stuff and it was some satisfaction to the builders I suppose to see some coming to the mill to get their grinding done, who had sworn they would gnaw the corn off the cob before they would patronize that mill.

Also, a saw and grist mill was built in Liberty Township by Pleasant Williams and Isaac C. Cain on the Whitebreast.  They constructed a dam across the creek to use water for power.  The mill was a small rudely built structure; the burrs were made of boulders or round rocks.


1856 a saw mill and grist mill was established around Freedom probably on Wolf Creek.  By 1881 this saw mill was in Benton Township.  The corn burrs are still occasionally used and make first rate corn meal.  According to the 1881 history book these mills were in use at that time:
Wheeler's Mill on Whitebreast Creek in Whitebreast Township.
A Steam mill on North Cedar in Pleasant Township.
Thompson's mill on Whitebreast Creek in Lincoln Township, 2-3 miles N.E. of Chariton.


Some very good timber is found along the Cedar Creek and in the south part of the township, near Cedar Creek is a saw mill owned by Mr. George N. Shore, who is kept busy converting saw logs into lumber of various kinds.  Some of the best white oak lumber in the county can be obtained at this mill.  Mr. Shore has also, at the request of his neighbors, attached a corn burr, and supplies the neighborhood with meal.

Many portable sawmills dotted the wooded and timbered area along the streams.  Ottercreek had splendid timber while Union Township had the least timber.

In October of 1908 there was a sorghum mill running full blast in S.E. Chariton.



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