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Lamb fry to benefit Huntington flour mill

The Huntington Flour Mill may again see new life as plans are underway for restoration.

Guest Writer

Eat Lamb, Roof a Mill

Two longstanding Emery County traditions will join together this summer for a worthwhile purpose. The proceeds from the annual Lamb Fry, held in conjunction with the Castle Valley Pageant and the Emery County Fair, will go to benefit the preservation and ultimate restoration of the Huntington Flour Mill.

The Lamb Fry, a popular feature of Emery County community celebrations for many decades, has its roots in the simple but flavorful cooking of the numerous sheep camps that were a distinctive feature of the county's mountain and desert ranges. If visitors showed up at the summer tent or the winter camp wagon, the sheepherder would quickly dress out a lamb and whip up a batch of sourdough biscuits for a supper that would linger long in the memory.

Flour mills are similarly entrenched in Emery County history. A hundred years ago, the local grist and flour mill played a vital role in the economy of every rural community, providing a market for the farmers' grain crops and supplying the basic bread and cereal products that made up a much larger portion of the diet than they do today. Among the many hardships experienced by the pioneer settlers of Emery County, one of the most severe was the struggle to obtain an adequate supply of flour, which had to be transported on primitive roads over high mountain passes that could be blocked by snow for months at a stretch. When their flour supply was exhausted, many families had to resort to the laborious effort of grinding their wheat in hand-turned coffee grinders.

It was a big occasion when the first mill in Emery County began operations on June 17, 1882, built by Samuel Jewkes and sons at a site west of Orangeville.

An enthusiastic community celebration of the event reportedly included the consumption of several barrels of home-brewed barley beer. Over the next 20 years, flour mills were established in other towns. By the turn of the 20th century, at least five mills were operating in the county.

The longest-surviving of these local mills was the Huntington Flour Mill. Established as a cooperative enterprise in 1895, the mill was first powered by a water turbine, then steam power until electric service became available. Following a series of different managers in the early years, the mill was acquired by the Olof Sandberg family in 1917. The Sandbergs operated the mill for 50 years, supplying "Castle Valley's Best" products to customers throughout Emery and Carbon counties. The mill was purchased by Jay Powell and sons in 1969 and operated by them until its closure in the early 1980s.

The last three decades have not been kind to this historic building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A casual visitor, looking at the broken window panes, the vandalized doors and partially demolished wings, might well think the old building is a mere derelict and eyesore.

Yet, a closer inspection indicates that the pioneer builders intended their work to last. The deep, wide stone foundations continue to bear the weight of the structure. The framing timbers, cut from native lumber in dimensions seldom seen in these days, are still sound. Most of the century-old machinery is still in place, together with the intricate system of shafts, pulleys, elevators, and belts that made everything work together from a single power source.

From a historical point of view, it is probably the most significant commercial or industrial building in Emery County, and one of a very few surviving from the 19th century.

A group of interested citizens are organizing an effort to preserve and restore the old mill. The most urgent need is for a new roof and securing the broken windows and breaches in the walls, so that further deterioration may be prevented. The goal of the lamb fry is a new roof for the mill. If you would like to volunteer in this effort, get in touch with Julie Jones at 435-687-9744. The lamb fry will begin on July 29, 30 and 31 and Aug. 3-7 beginning each night at 5-8 p.m. The Castle Valley Pageant and the Desertview Pro Rodeo will run July 29-31. The pageant runs again Aug. 3-7 and the Emery County Fair begins Aug. 4-7. Everyone is welcome to come out and enjoy the lamb fry and support a good cause.

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