Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Review of "Old Mills in the Mid-West," by Leslie C. Swanson

 Review of

Old Mills in the Mid-West, by Leslie C. Swanson

Four out of five stars

A look back at a key industry

 When people began settling in the midwestern area of the United States, certain industrial activities arose rather quickly out of necessity. We commonly think of the village blacksmith, freight lines and trading posts, but one that was generally the first industry was the mill that ground up grain. Crops such as corn and wheat are almost undigestible in the original form, only when it is ground up does it provide significant nutrition.

 Therefore, once there was a population base, significant capital was expended in building large and solid buildings near the only available power source, which was a dammed river or creek. The buildings were made of thick stone, as they were designed to withstand all but the most torrential of floods.

 Since they were often the largest building in town and housed the most important and sometimes only industrial activity in the area, many of the mills still exist. Although they have generally been repurposed for other uses. This book is a brief explanation of the importance of the mill for local farmers, the significant effort it took to build the dam to divert the water for power as well as the building and capital equipment and a listing of some of the most prominent mills still in existence.

 The states covered are Iowa and Illinois and I have toured the Costello Old Mill Gallery in Maquoketa, Iowa. Repurposed as an art gallery and living quarters, you can still see the machinery. If you are interested in how the Midwest was settled and how the people banded together to create necessary infrastructure, then this short book will tell you a great deal.

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