The Beaver Creek Valley mill was constructed 1876 by John Blinn. The substantial brick mill is powered by an arrangement of four different water turbines. Master miller Michael Schech, an immigrant from Bavaria, worked at a large mill facility in Minneapolis. Hearing that the Blinn Mill was for sale, Schech and his family jumped at the chance to work for themselves. Schech’s brother operated the mill until the family could relocate to the Beaver Creek Valley.
The mill is located in southeastern Minnesota; situated right next to Beaver Creek Valley State Park. This section of the country is known as the Driftless Area, a 16,000 square mile area covers portions of Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Noted for its deep river valleys, this area suffers periods of flooding, proving disastrous to stream-side mills.
To say that Schech’s Mill is a hidden treasure is an understatement. You can feel the history oozing from its walls and milling equipment. The mill owner/operator, Ed Krugmire, gives an amazing tour. Having been in his family for 120+ years, he knows every detail about the mill and its history. It is Minnesota’s only water-powered flour mill still in operation today.
I’ve seen all the different kinds of flour in the store, but I guess I never really had given much thought to what the different types where all about. Ed explained it all, and more, in great detail with demonstrations right before our eyes. A sample bag of corn meal and flour are provided as part of the tour too. Cyndie made very tasty cornbread to go with the BBQ ribs we had the following evening – yum yum. This mill was by far my favorite of the two. It was a fantastic tour and I highly recommend it to anyone that visits the area.
Please visit the Scheck’s Mill website for more details.
Pickwick Mill in Southeast Minnesota is located in the town of Pickwick on the banks of Big Trout Creek. Travel a few miles South of Winona on Hwy 61 and hang a right onto County Road 7; you will run right into it.
It took three years to build this mill with construction beginning in 1856 and concluding in 1858. All six floors materialized from locally quarried limestone and timber. This mill is considered one of the largest of its kind in Minnesota. The 20-foot water wheel is still operational today. It is quite a site to see it spin.
The interior is filled with 6 floors of machinery that were used throughout the life of the mill. Antique roller mills, separators and flour dressers can all be view by visitors today.
After supporting the Civil War effort, it went on to serve Southern Minnesota and portions of Iowa and Wisconsin. The mill produced flour and/or livestock feed until 1978. Nearly 120 years of operation, a flood damaged the dam and spillway and the mill itself sustain heavy water damage.
The lighting was difficult most of the time, but interesting non-the-less the entire tour. The sunlight pouring in through the deep-set windows was quite captivating. Here are some shot from our tour.
Months the mill will be open:
Open Weekends during May, September, and October Open Tuesday through Sunday during June, July, and August *Other time by appointment
Admissions: $3 adult, $2 12-18 & $1 Children
This last Saturday (6/23) Cyndie and I headed to Southeast Minnesota to tour two historic mills. The one I have known about for a while and the other we recently learned about from the Innkeeper at the Jailhouse B&B in Preston, MN when we stayed there this past March.
It was another one of those gorgeous early summer days with 300+ miles of back roads out in front of us and a 12+ hour day. Our first stop was at the Pickwick Mill in Pickwick, MN (just South of Winona, MN); the second stop was Schech’s Mill located between Caledonia, MN and Houston, MN. Both offered great tours chocked full old belt-driven machinery. Pickwick was more of a self-guided tour whereas Schech’s was more of an intimate tour with fascinating history and demonstrations from the proprietor.
I am working on the photos from each location and will post soon. For now, though, the following shots are from all points between home, the two mills and back home again.