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Franklin Creek Grist Mill - Exterior & History Main Page
Franklin Grove IL
Photographs by Franklin Creek Grist Mill Members
Franklin Creek Grist Mill
1893 Twist Road
Franklin Grove IL 61031
Google Earth Map
History of Franklin Creek Grist Mill

by Brenda Krekeler

The original Franklin Creek Grist Mill was completed in 1847 by pioneers Reverend Joseph Emmert and Christian Lahman who came here from Maryland.  The mill was located a distance from Franklin Creek and as such they had to dig a long millrace to access their  water source.  Resources indicate that they wanted their mill to be safe from flooding.  The water-powered grist mill flourished until 1896.  At that time the grist mill’s water supply diminished. Simultaneously, the Lahman Family Windmill in Franklin Grove took the Franklin Creek Grist Mill’s business.   The original mill was removed at some point during the 1930’s.

It was in 1987, the Franklin Creek Area Preservation Committee decided to reconstruct the Franklin Creek Grist Mill.  It was in 1992 that the first construction of the mill began.  It was completed in 1999.  Today the Franklin Creek Grist Mill is located virtually in the same location as the original mill site.  You can also view the original mill race (Google Earth) from the mill site, south on Twist Road.  Just past the Old Mill Road intersection, continue on Twist Road. Immediately on the left (east) side of the road you will find the original, historic millpond.  The old millpond is 100’ to 200’ in width and about 500’ long.  It appears to be a shallow pond but I suspect that it has silted in since it original excavation in 1847.  You can easily identify the old soil dam that still holds the millpond’s water today.  The dam is perpendicular to Twist Road on the north side of the millpond.  It is such great fun to follow the history of Franklin Creek Grist Mill from the mill, to the old headrace, to the millpond and ultimately to Franklin Creek.

The construction workers of Franklin Creek Grist Mill in 1992 through 1999 were a skilled group.  They accessed a water source from a large spring about 2500’ from the mill site.  They implemented a 900’ pipe from the spring to a millpond.  From the pond the builders utilized a 200’ length of the original millrace and placed a pipe inside the race which then took the water to the sluice gate.  The gate can be opened and closed inside the mill and a controlled amount of water can then be directed to the flume.  The flume’s controlled water supply hits the breast-shot waterwheel. 

The newly created 12’ diameter waterwheel has a 5’ width, carries 36 cups and weighs over 8,000 pounds.  The waterwheel can run at 20 horsepower with 10 revolutions per minute. The waterwheel shaft has a 5” diameter.  This unique waterwheel was made of COR-TEN steel.  “COR-TEN steel is known as “weathering steel.”  It is a group of alloys which were developed to eliminate the need for painting and forms a stable rust-like appearance if exposed to the weather for several years.  . . . the steel is allowed to rust in order to form the protective coating.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weathering_steel)  The waterwheel is not only a workhorse but it is also a work of art.

The 5” steel shaft from the waterwheel is then connected to a large power-house in the lowest level of the mill.  The giant steel gears are attached to cogs which redirect the energy to the shaft in the first floor that powers the millstones.  The power-house aka bull wheel is always impressive at any of our historic mills.  This one in not a disappointment.  Designed with today’s engineering and yesterday’s reliable know how.  The power-house is spectacular.

Franklin Creek Grist Mill’s first floor holds a large set of millstones.  It is interesting because the bedstone is positioned on top of the floor as opposed to being inlaid. During construction, the engineers designed a super structure to support the 6000 pounds of millstones.  The bedstone and runner stone has a new stone case. An antique hopper, damsel and shoe are set on top of the stones.  In the surrounding millstone area you will find the hook and crane as well as the mechanics to control the water in the bulkhead and mechanics for the sluice gates from the flume to the breast-shot waterwheel. 

The second floor occupies the Interpretive Center.  Here you can view numerous displays that incorporate the history of the Grist Mill as well as a geologic explanation of the glaciated region and the engorged Franklin Creek escarpment.  Within the Center the 1,037 square miles of Franklin Creek State Natural Area also exhibits beautiful bedrock outcroppings and pervasive flora and fauna. Other exhibits detail the Hennepin Canal and the Green River Recreational Area. The interpretation of this natural area is exemplified with information about  the Parks natural springs, a variety of hardwood forests and an ecological treasure. A unique construct of the second floor of Franklin Creek Grist Mill is a presentation of 43 wooden panels that wall the interior of the room. Each of these panels are various species of trees that are indigenous to Illinois.

The third floor is a large meeting room.  It houses stunning wooden flooring, large wooden columns and beams and a spectacular wooden ceiling/roof.  The height of the third floor encompasses the third level and an attic area making the room very tall.

Only 90 miles east of Chicago, Franklin Creek Gristmill is an impressive location to visit and enjoy.  Resources:  (http://www.illinoiswindmills.org/index_files/FCGrist.htm), http://www.franklincreekgristmill.com/, http://www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/PARKS/R1/Franklin.htm

Franklin Creek Grist Mill Website
Bulkhead. Water drops onto/into the Flume

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