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Front Page » October 12, 2010 » Opinion » Ideas for Huntington Flour mill restoration
Published 2,325 days ago

Ideas for Huntington Flour mill restoration

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By Therald Leonard
Former Huntington resident Auburn Washington


I have been watching very closely the conversation and debate in the Emery County Progress about the restoration and preservation of the Huntington flour mill. I would like to get involved, and join in the discussion. Most every year after moving to Washington State, I with my family would return to Huntington to visit, and renew old acquaintances. I looked forward to spending time with my loved ones, and sharing tales with dear old friends.

One thing that was on the agenda every few years was a "drive by" of the old Huntington mill. I would have the undivided attention of all in the car. After pulling over where we had the mill in full view; I would relate my latest memory of the old mill.

Toward the end of summer, after the wheat and oats were harvested and thrashing was completed, we would load grain filled burlap sacks onto the tractor pulled wagon and head to the Huntington flour mill. We always had wheat we wanted to sell or exchange for our supply of needed flour. The wagon was parked outside the mill next to the chute and bin where we unloaded the 100 lb sacks of wheat and oats. The threshers had secured the sacks with a special tie that took them just 4 seconds to tie up, and me 3 seconds to zip off. I wasn't sure just where the grain was going, but I knew it was going to come out as "Castle Valley's Best Flour" in white 25 pound, cloth bags.

After the grain was all unloaded and empty burlap sacks neatly stacked, we were allowed to enter the mill. This was a much anticipated exciting event. As soon as I crossed the threshold of the entrance, I stepped into the highly mechanized world of the early 1900s. The sound of the rollers and sifters would not allow normal conversation. There were wheels whirling, it seemed, everywhere, and belts going in every direction including to the upper floors. There were grain elevators moving little scoops of grain wherever the miller desired. The most notable thing I remember was the fresh, pleasant smell of freshly ground grain. This bouquet one only smells in a working mill.

Then without fan fare, out stepped from behind a bin, or getting up from filling a bag from the flour chute, was the master of the mill, miller Willard Sandberg.

Sandberg was very sartorially inclined and chose his clothes very well. That inclination was his choice, but was also outside influenced by his LDS mission to Germany and as a musician in New York City. Even his work clothes were special. He always wore white shirts, white pants and a bow tie. He had his omnipresent cap on with no logos like "Case or John Deer", but simply "feed" stenciled on the side. The only indication he had been working was the slight dusting of flour on this eyebrows and eyelashes, and of course, on his groomed mustache. Most of the time he had a broom in his hand and made sure the mill was impeccably clean. My father would say, "Willard keeps this place so clean you could even eat off the floor with no table cloth." Willard Sandberg was my hero. This mill provided a comfortable living for him and it served the community as well.

Mills form a vital part of our nation's heritage. Thomas Jefferson envisioned the new republic as a nation which would be covered with grist and flour mills. From the very beginning of our history, mills have been a big part of our consciousness. Mills give us a sense of tradition and security. They were structures and business around which whole towns and villages were built. They were, in some cases the anchor for the whole community. Mills also represent a sense of stability and freedom; because only in America could the average person build their own mill.

We must preserve this old mill. It is more than a "vermin infested eye sore"; it is our history and our tradition. It cries out to be resurrected and restored by the people in the community it served so well.

It should be restored not as a static display, but as a working fully functioning, flour producing mill. It could be an active mill that people would want to visit, and experience a very vital part of our history and culture. Schools could have field trips there, and broaden their knowledge of history and industry. Perhaps, even people from other cities and states would come, as there is now a renaissance in interest and preservation of historic old mills nationwide.

After a satisfying tour, one could then go next door or close by to a small bakery and restaurant, and have a big slice of freshly cut, steaming bread made from Castle Valley's Best Flour, covered with thick, clear, clean Castle Valley clover honey, accompanied by a nice cool glass of apple cider from a local fine apple orchard.

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