At one time, they were necessities of life across rural Indiana communities. Indiana’s historic grist mills not only processed flour from wheat and cornmeal from corn, but they often served as gathering places and social centers in early rural communities. Most have long been demolished, but across Indiana, Hoosiers can still find a few of these historic mills dotting the landscape.
One of the oldest grist mills in Indiana, Beck’s Mill in Salem was constructed in 1807. George Beck chose the site at the head of the Blue River when the area was still unsettled. The next year, a fort was built nearby. In 1814, the town of Salem formally incorporated. In the heyday of railroad activity in Indiana, the Monon Railroad purchased cornmeal from Beck’s Mill as gifts for its team of rail agents every year.
The current mill building dates to 1864 and continued operations until 1950. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Beck’s Mill is the only extant mill in Indiana that exclusively used a grindstone for its entire milling process. Today, the mill has been restored to operational condition and is open on weekends for tours and demonstrations.
In Cutler, Indiana, John Adams built the area’s first mill in 1831. Located along the Wildcat Creek, Adams Mill quickly became a preferred meeting place for the small rural community. At one time, the post office even operated on mill grounds.
The present mill building dates to 1846. After it had closed in 1951, the mill became a popular local attraction featuring demonstrations of early grain grinding practices. The mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and today houses a museum of rural America.
In Hobart, Indiana, the Woods Historic Grist Mill dates to 1876. It is widely thought to be the first industrial site in Lake County. In 1838, John Woods built a sawmill on the site. In 1839, he built his first grist mill on the banks of Deep River. Both did a brisk business from nearby settlers and farmers.
The present mill is powered by a tube wheel rather than the more common water wheel. Today, the mill sits within Deep River Country Park. The mill is still operational and offers demonstrations of the process of grinding cornmeal from May to October. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Hoosier pioneers relied on grist mills to process their wheat and corn crops into staples like flour and cornmeal. Their importance to early rural communities has resulted in the preservation of a number of these mills across Indiana. With historic mills operating in almost every corner of the Hoosier state, thousands of visitors can experience a bit of pioneer history at these fascinating sites each year.