A blog about a first-time house owner learning to maintain his backyard, and thoughts about nature, science, history, and life.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Freeville History: The Old Mill (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1)

With the success of his grist mill, Daniel White was able to buy land adjoining his property (in what is now the southwestern portion of Freeville).  Daniel White bequeathed this new land to his son, John, who in 1833 built a new dam with a larger, sturdier mill about a quarter of mile upstream of the original mill.  This mill was on the site of the current Mill Dam Park.  This larger mill became an impetus for the growth of Freeville, as it employed more people than the old mill.  John ran the mill for about 20 years.  By 1853, a duo named Ford and Perrigo ran the mill.  It's unknown how large a reach the mill had by this time.

In 1882, a man by the name of Byron Brewer bought the now-near-fifty-year-old mill and modernized it.  The cornerstone of Brewer's mill was a "fancy buckwheat flour" that was known not just locally, but throughout much of the country, including the South and the West.  By sometime before the beginning of World War I, the Ekenberg Company, based in Cortland, bought a signficant supply of the buckwheat flour and other grains from the mill.  From this, they made a new kind of prepared pancake flour known as "Teco" flour.  According to A. B. Genung, "the Ekenbergs arranged with Brewer to install extra machinery in the mill and turn out more raw materials for them.  Finally Mr. Brewer entered into an arrangement with them to manufacture the whole flour here.  This led to an enlargement of the mill and the installation of a new steam boiler and all the necessary machinery for making and packaging Teco flour."  By this time, the mill was employing 30 to 40 people (both men and women).  The railroads brought grain (buckwheat, corn, and wheat) daily to Freeville to be ground at the mill.  Once processsed, the Teco flour was shipped out of Freeville to points across the country by the same railroads.  After the boom of World War I, demand for pancake flour lessened, big mills were built elsewhere, and the Eckebergs went out of business.  The mill returned to grinding grain for local farmers.

But the mill wasn't completely done until July of 1935.  On July 7-8, a series of thunderstorms dumped upwards of 9 inches of rain on the central Finger Lakes region in less than two days.  Fall Creek, and all other streams and creeks across the area, experienced massive flooding, wiping out all dams in its course.  Though this was the final straw for the mill, the dam was repaired in the summer of 1941 - at the same time that the land was acquired for the park.  The grounds were cleaned up, trees were planted, and the area became suitable for the public.  It is believed that in the late 1940s some more cement work was done in the vicinity of the dam.  But as far as I know, the dam as it appears today is very similar to how it looked back in the 1940s.  I'm currently researching the Flood of 1935 - a significant event across much of the Finger Lakes region - and I'll posting about it sometime in the future.

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