What is an Old Mill?
The Dells Mill and Museum near Augusta Wisconsin
Augusta Wisconsin Dells Mill Historic Article 2
From a magazine article by Eliza Lucinda Cubberley
What is an old mill? A place that is hot in summer, frigid in winter? Or a place where the dust motes dance in the sunlight, the tranquilizing music of falling water comes through the open windows, and the good, earthy smell of grain fills the air? Whatever a mill means to you, and especially if you’ve never been in one, you’ll enjoy the one operating mill in Wisconsin that is being preserved as a tourist attraction.
The Dells Milling Company, or Clark’s Mill as it is locally known, is just off Highway 27 three miles north of Augusta in Eau Claire County. The mill was built in 1867 with massive, hand-hewn timbers that were meant to last. They have, and the mill appears as solid as the rock from which its basement is carved.
J. Frank Clark bought the mill in 1917 and today tours are conducted by a descendant. The mill remained in full operation until May of 1968. It was originally a flour mill but its services later included feed grinding.
Except for the sound of water cascading over the 23 foot dam outside, the mill is a quiet pla while visitors listen to the tour guide’s explanation of how it operates, but the moment he engages the water-powered turbine, the mill comes to life with a thunderous rumble. Three thousand feet of belting are instantly on the move, in and out, up and down, through the various levels of the mill. While the mill is running, 250 tons of water every minute power its turbine. (The water wheel on the outside of the building beside the dam, was put there in the 1960s to show how such a mill would have operated in New England. The overshot waterwheel had become old-fashioned by the time mills were being built in Wisconsin, but it has never lost its charm for mill visitors.)
Visitors who go to the mill on a hot day appreciate nature’s air conditioning on the cave-like lower level, part of which has been hewn out of solid rock. If you care to venture still lower, down a curving rock staircase, you can get down to cool water level. As you climb wooden stairs to the upper stories of the mill, the air gets warmer – in fact, hot in summer – but you get to see the interesting hewn beam and wooden peg construction of this century-old structure. The five-level mill is 75 feet high.
In addition to the mill itself and its machinery there are various displays of tools that were used in and around it in the old days. Especially interesting are the rare grain stencils that are hung on the walls.
But best of all is the pleasant scenery of the mill pond, bordered by water-worn sandstone bluffs which are reminiscent of the Dells of the Wisconsin.
Those dells are the reason why Clark’s Mill is also known as the Dells Mill.
Magazine and date of publication is unknown