IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items
updated 06/24/2013

The Village of Forest Mills
& Werhan's Mill

Franklin twp.

Werhan’s Mill, Franklin Township
Werhan’s Mill, Franklin Township
aka the Forest Mills Mill

This was Werhan's mill that my grandfather bought and ran in Forest Mills. The old building still standing.
~contributed by Marcia Harris

Bollman Store, Forest Mills
Bollman's Store, Forest Mills

Ira and Edna Bollman family store taken early 1900's.  It was located right across the road from the Forest Mills Church and school. The ladies are not identified, although I believe one of them may be Edna Bollman.
~contributed by Marcia Harris

Itinerant German Musician Started up Forest Mills
by Madonna Storla

Fields of corn fill the area which once was the village of Forest Mills. The Yellow River flows through the area and beyond the cornfields are wooded areas. First known as Werhan's Mill, the name was changed to Forest Mills when a post office was established in July 1876. This distribution center for patron's mail was in operation until about 1901 when it was closed. William Werhan was the postmaster. Werhan, whose descendant, Lloyd Clark, still farms in the area, came to this site in 1851. He built a sawmill in partnership with P. M. Gilson. They constructed a building 24 x 50. This alliance ended when Werhan bought out Gilson. Werhan was an itinerant musician in Germany. He wed the daughter of a nobleman which caused them to be disowned. Then they emigrated to America.

Lots of maple trees dotted the area and maple syrup and maple sugar were the result of tapping the trees on the Werhan farm. It is said that Werhan walked eleven miles to Frankville, Iowa where he traded the valuable maple syrup and sugar for broadaxes and other tools. In addition to his ordinary business duties, William Werhan was commissioned Justice of the Peace. His duty was to keep strict order in the village and to settle any disputes. He also ran the general store which provided necessities for people who lived close by.

The first waterpowered Jefferson Davis sawmill was built in 1830 and being the businessman that he was, William Werhan's first grist mill was constructed in 1865. At that time the demand for flour was great since it was a basic ingredient in every diet. There was a need for a larger and better grist mill. For younger readers who may not know what a grist mill is, an explanation is in order. Farmers hauled their grain to the mill in a horse-drawn wagons in either a wagon box or sacks. The miller would then grind the grain and charge the farmers for his services.

However, the flouring industry was being overdone. In 1859 there were seven grist mills on Yellow River in Franklin Township. By 1878 there were 25-30 grist mills. This increase was due to the large grain crops in the locality. In time there were many dropouts because there was less demand for their services.

In December 1897 a United Brethren in Christ Church became incorporated in Forest Mills. Actually, the parish had been formed earlier, but the officers had not been named. Trustees of the newly organized parish were:
J.H. Hendrickson
C.W. Bender
Abe Evans
Henry Werhan
L.H. McGee

The United Brethren in Christ Church evolved into the Forest Mills United Methodist Church which still serves the spiritual needs of the community.

In the era of 1877-1902, Tangeman's had a mill in the Forest Mills village but it was severely damaged by a flood. It was then dismantled, moved to Monona and rebuilt. At the turn of the century, the Yellow River area was labeled the river of Lost Mills.

By 1901, 12 people lived in Forest Mills, according to the county records. The need for education was increasing, since many children from nearby farms needed a place to attend classes. A one-room school had been built in 1870 which taught grades 1-8. Later as regulations changed, the kindergarten class had to be added. Teachers provided the tutelage until 1957. No doubt one of the teachers who stands out in the mind of Forest Mills students is the Rev. Curtis Webster. Rev. Webster taught at the Forest Mills School in 1935-1941. From 1941-1953 he taught at the nearby Volney School. He then taught at the nearby Red School in Franklin Township from 1953 and until it closed in 1967. After the closing of the Allamakee rural schools, Rev. Webster taught 6th grade at the Waukon Elementary School until his untimely death four years ago on August 18, 1983 when he was killed in a motorcycle accident. In addition to being a teacher in the community, Curtis Webster became a minister in 1939, and served the United Brethren in Christ Church in Forest Mills. The United Brethren Church changed its name to the United Methodist Church and Rev. Webster continued to serve the Forest Mills congregation and the congregation at the Castalia United Methodist Church.

Forest Mills United Methodist church, 1987
Forest Mills United Methodist church, 1987

Lloyd Clark, a grandson of William Werhan, was generous in sharing family and area history for this article. Having lived within five miles of Forest Mills, Clark is an avid historian regarding Allamakee county, and particularly the Forest Mills area. He has many memories of the earlier days when he was a boy. “I remember holding sacks to catch the newly ground flour which had been sifted through silk cloth. This removed any hulls or unevenly ground grain. In those early days, fifty pounds of flour could be bought for $1.25 but wages were low at that time too.” Clark said. “A good corn husker earned about 3 cents a bushel for picking,” Clark continued. “This meant that an expert at husking corn who would ordinarily husk 100 bushel a day could only collect $3 a day plus his meal.”

In line with the economy before the turn of the century, it cost $1 to haul a load of hogs to Waukon to sell. A team of horses pulled the wagon across all kinds of roads,” Clark remarked. “I made my first money when we moved the schoolhouse across the corner with horses. I made $16.50.”

Lloyd & Marilyn Clark and their daughter, Carolyn - 1987
Mr. & Mrs. Lloyd Clark and their daughter, Carolyn display an antique ledger.
In the background is a picture of the original mill at Forest Mills.

Lloyd Clark, his wife Marilyn, and daughter Carolyn, are family historians as their home indicates. They are the ones who carry on the heritage of the William Werhan family. Walnut articles have been preserved and refinished and make up part of the family history. An antique organ which had been the property of the United Brethren Church in Postville is an artistic piece. A giant wardrobe that has been refinished is a prized possession. Each article has a story behind it. On a tour through their home a group of vintage county atlases, valuable ledgers showing prices years ago and genealogical books make up a collection in an upstairs bedroom.

Carolyn, who has been very active in 4-H is employed at Chet Barr's News in Lansing. She resides with her parents. Three other daughters, Jane Lamborn, Nancy Straate, and Diane Rissman live with their families on area farms. The Clarks have three grandsons and four granddaughters. The Cark ladies are noted for their expertise in quilt making and the actual quilting practice. Many sewn quilts were displayed as well as those which had not been completed. “The girls share designs, ideas, and patterns. When one masters a sewing project, she teaches the others how to do it. I am in charge of a quilt show by remote control,” Marilyn Clark laughed. She has been identified with the County Extension Service and the numerous 4-H projects for many years.

Lloyd and Marilyn Clark are active in the Allamakee Historical Society. Their vast knowledge of the area takes the people of today back to an earlier time and this knowledge provides others with information into the past that has long been forgotten.

~source: Postville Herald-Leader, Wednesday, September 30, 1987
~transcribed by Connie Ellis
~Note: Marilyn Clark died June 17, 1992, five years after the publication of this article and Lloyd Clark passed away on July 27, 2002.

Forest Mills Mill - undated

Old Mill, Landmark, Is Being Torn Down

The old mill at Forest Mills southest of Waukon is being torn down. Serving for many years as a landmark in northeast Iowa, the huge frame structure is being demolished for the material in it.

The mill, built some 95 years ago, served its original purpose until 1932 when the water wheels were stopped. The building has until very recent years been in a good state of preservation. The original mill was a sawmill built in 1854 by William Wearhan*. In 1868 the grist mill and flour mill were built on.

The timbers were hand hewn of elm and oak. One of the timbers was 50 ft. long without a splice -- 10 by 14 inches thick. the main support timbers in the saw mill were 15X24 inches, 20 feet long, hand hewn. Very few nails were used. Even the rafters were put together with wooden pins. The nails that were used were all handmade square ones. the saw was an upright blade that did a very smooth job.

To supply the power, a dam was erected across Yellow river about a mile up from the mill. A mill race was made and the water was let into the race through a flood gate. The water flowed through the race to the mill where five mill wheels (all turbine type) supplied the power for the grinding, sifting, and lumber sawing.

There were four grinding mills, all using groved stones to grind the grist and flour. There were also four bolts or flour sifters. these were large reels, wound with silk cloth, and used to sift the different flours.

The mill was owned and operated by William Wearhan from 1854 until 1908 when George Clark became the owner. He operated until it became the property of the present owner, Floyd Clark. Floyd operated it for many years and did the last grinding in 1932.

The mill was also the site of a post office for the surrounding country. The stage coach left the mail at the mill and people picked it up there. The old boxes or pigeon holes, still bearing the names of many of the old settlers can still be seen in the ruins.

An interesting story, told by one of the relatives concerns grandmother Wearhan, wife of William Wearhan, who built the mill. She collected sap from the maple trees there, boiled it down to sugar, then put it in a large basket and walked all the way to the town of Frankville, where she traded it for the broad ax that hewed the mill timbers. Several of these trips she made trading her maple sugar for tools to make the mill.

The skilled workmanship on the mill was done by Mr. Wearhan and Mr. Gilson, who was a partner in the saw mill for a few years.

~source: old clipping, unknown paper, hand-dated 1949
~transcribed by Sharyl Ferrall
~note: *the spelling from the article has been preserved in the transcription, the surname 'Wearhan' is frequently spelled 'Werhan'.

Apparently the old mill didn't get demolished, Marcia Harris writes that the old building is still standing as of 2013!

Charley Werhan, a son of William Werhan of Forest Mills, who went to Texas about fifteen years ago has returned a full fledged evangelist. He began to preach when fifty years of age. His wife preaches also. Mr. Werhan was a resident of this county for about thirty years. They will hold revival meetings at Forest Mills school house commencing Sept. 26th.
~Postville Review, Sept. 30, 1898


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