Mills Along Big Creek

“Mt. Pleasant News”, January 26, 1962


Those who remember John G. Abraham (1866-1944), world traveler and local historian, will be interested particularly in this account of old mills along Big Creek, as published in the “News” some 25 years ago. Because of the continuing interest in old mill sites, John Abraham’s account is being published again.

I have been interested in your stories of the old mills of Henry County. So far as the river mills are concerned, most of us older people remember them, but as to the mills on Big Creek, we have nothing but tradition, and at that mostly traditions of the third generations. Traditions at best are very inaccurate and are poor history. As I was raised and lived for nearly 60 years near lower Big Creek, I am familiar with the old mill sites along there, but noting the inaccuracy of the stories told so far, I have lately talked this over with several of the other people along there and I think this story is accurate as far as it goes.

The first mill starting from the mouth of the creek was the “Abbe Mill.” It was built and owned by “Old Man Abbe”, grandfather of Nota Abbe. This mill was located less than a hundred yards above the present “Joe Short bridge.” A log or two of the old dam may still be seen there. This was a saw mill using a turbine wheel and the saws, like all at that time, were of the jog saw variety. The next mill about a mile and a half farther up the creek, was the mill known as the “Beery Mill.” This was the most elaborate of any of the creek mills, as it contained both the saws and also burns for grinding grain. I notice in his story of the mills, Mr. Garretson has been confused on these two mills.

The third mill as we come up the creek was the “Trump Mill.” This was built and owned by Hiram Trump who was grandfather of the present Saums family, and was located on an 80 still owned by this family and was only a mile or so above the Beery Mill. I think they still have, or they did a short time ago, the old cast turbine wheel used in this mill.

The next mill a couple of miles farther up was the “Jackson Mill.” This was located a hundred yards or so south of the present Heroz Bridge on the Boyleston Road. This mill was built and run by A. H. Jackman, one of the Jackman Bros., who were well known in the early days of the county. This Jackman married an aunt of mine and my father as a boy worked in this mill, so that naturally I have heard more of this mill than any of the others. I notice considerable confusion in the published stories of this mill. This is due to the fact that Mr. Jackman later sold this place to “Old Man Loomis,” so that it has also been called the Loomis Mill. A little later the Allsup Bros. had a steam saw mill about a quarter of a mile farther up the creek. This was here for many years and has been confused with the Jackman Mill. After the Civil War, Mr. Jackman ran a steam saw mill on Big Creek northwest of town near the present bridge on the Trenton Road.

The fifth of the water mills as we came up the creek was the “Hill Mill.” This was located just west of the “Bill Loomis place,” on the Boyleston Road, now owned by George Wright. This was probably the best of the mills and was operated a great deal of the fine white oak timber of that neighborhood into ties for the B.B. & Q.R.R. This mill as I understand was run by the grandfather of the present Hill sisters, and I am told they still have in their possession a couple of the old-time saws used there. The old location is well marked, as there is one of the walls of the foundation still to be seen. Because this mill is south of town, it has been confused with the other mill which was “south of town” of which George Thomas has told us and which was located below the bridge on the Webster Road. I know nothing of this mill, but I feel so sure of the five listed above, not only from my own memory, but through the confirmation of others, that they may be put down as history.

I remain yours truly, John Abraham

Resource provided by Henry County Heritage Trust; transcription done by Alex Olson, University of Northern Iowa Public History Field Experience Class, Fall 2022.

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