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Flour Mills

The first two Nebraska flour mills were located at the army post of Fort Atkinson and at Mormon Winter Quarters in Florence. The great distances involved in shipping supplies from eastern population centers encouraged their construction.

The first flour milled in the state was produced at Fort Atkinson, where soldiers ground grain they had raised to make their post self-sufficient. Late in 1821 a small gristmill was erected and a set of burrstones and drive works brought up from St. Louis. Draft animals, horses or oxen, were used to power the mill. It was a somewhat crude operation, but was able to grind 150 bushels of grain per day. In 1824 one thousand bushels of wheat were raised at the fort, sufficient quantity to be ground into two hundred barrels of flour. The mill continued operation until July 1825, when it was destroyed by a windstorm. The mill was not rebuilt, and the post of Fort Atkinson was abandoned in 1827.

Twenty-three years later Nebraska's first water-powered gristmill was built by Mormon settlers at Florence, now in north Omaha. Several thousand Mormons arrived in this vicinity in 1846. The governing council of the settlement decided to erect a gristmill in the summer of 1846. Under the leadership of Brigham Young, plans for the mill began and burrstones were ordered from St. Louis. A good waterpower site was located on what was later called Mill Creek.

On March 20, 1847, the mill began grinding cornmeal at a rate of ten or eleven bushels per hour. Two months later, an additional set of burrstones were added to grind wheat. The mill probably utilized an overshot water wheel for power to run the grinding stones. It was dismantled and moved from the Winter Quarters site on June 12, 1848. Although the mill was short-lived, it was the first mill to demonstrate that Nebraska waterpower could be harnessed for milling purposes.

(November 1998)



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