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"Grist Mill"

A significant development at Winter Quarters was the milling operation.  Without it, the Mormons were very dependant upon other sources.  The mill continued to be valuable to the community long after the real life chapter at Winter Quarters had been written.

Grain is ground as needed when access to a mill exists.  On long trips, more ground grain (flour, cornmeal) is taken because the luxury to grind at will does not exist.  Upon reaching the Missouri River, the ground provisions were depleted.  Purchases were made when available except there wasn't a lot available.

A portion of the needs were supplied by Week's Mill 25 miles away, and the balance supplied by mills in Missouri, over 150 miles away.  The mills produced a course flour and meal.  Hand grinders and coffee mills were used but these cut more than ground the grain.  Further pounding with a pestle hung from a spring rope improved the results, the process ending with sifting to divide the course from the fine.  The fine was used for bread, the course was used for hominy, cereal, and occasionally chicken feed or for livestock, although the effort expended yielded such small results, all was considered valuable and mostly used for food products.

While the final moving from Cutler's Park was still taking place, the Municipal High Council held a meeting to discuss building the heavily needed grist mill.  On September 22, 1846, the council appointed Brigham Young as supervisor to build a mill at the north end of town on Turkey Creek. *  The water turned a paddle wheel to move the machinery inside.

Construction of the mill started in October, and was operational by March of 1847.  The mill was financed by Brigham Young, the total cost being $3,000, a sizeable amount considering the times.  Hardware was the major costs - two sets of buhr millstone and fixtures cost $800 alone.  The mill was constructed using oak and walnut timbers in the basement portion, and cottonwood above the first floor.  For support, huge foot-square beams were mortised at the joints, held together by wooden pegs to keep the beams in place.

Corn, grain, and rye was brought to the mill to be ground to a fine powder.  The mill was used not only for grinding, but also operated as a sawmill, providing lumber for the community.  The spring and summer of 1847 saw many improvements in the buildings making up Winter Quarters.

Coinciding with the mills completion, church leaders were planning to travel on to the Great Salt Lake Valley.  In anticipation of his departure, on March 25, 1847, Brigham Young sold the mill for $2,600 to John Neff, a fellow Mormon.  John Neff operated the mill until his own departure.  John Neff's son Franklin and his wife Elizabeth planned to operate the mill until it was no longer needed, then dismantle it and take the hardware on west.  There is no evidence that the mill was ever dismantled when the Mormons finally departed Winter Quarters.  The abandoned mill was left to deteriorate.

The Mormons continued to travel through the area after Winter Quarters was deserted on into the 1860s.  In 1856, the same area was being redeveloped as Florence when Alexander Hunter purchased the mill.  Mr. Hunter rebuilt around the deteriorating frame and commenced business.  The products aided not only the new residents of Florence but many Mormons outfitted in Florence on their way west.

In June 1857, Jacob Weber, Sr. arrived from Germany with his wife Amalia.  Jacob worked as a baker until 1858 when he joined Mr. Hunter and his partner Graham working in the mill.  He continued to work at the mill until around 1862 at which time he started farming.  In 1865, Mr. Weber purchased the mill from Hunter, and went back to the milling business.  Mr. Weber formed a partnership with George Haag for a few years.  Later on, the mill was passed on to Mr. Webber's family.  Mr. Weber was followed in the business by his family for three generations.

Chronology of the Florence Grist Mill to present time.

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