In 1807, the George Beck family left North Carolina. George left his wife and a few of their children in Bear Creek, now called Louisville. George and his two sons, John and George Jr. traveled around Indiana trying to locate a site for their home and ultimately their mill. In 1807, Indiana had no roads, only buffalo trails and numerous American Indians. After searching great distances, the two boys found a cave that was a source of springs. The area around the springs had been cleared by the local Indians. This was the site for George Beck's first home and mill.
George Beck and his sons built a log cabin and mill in 1808. They needed to buy millstones for their gristmill. Their funds were faily depleted so they went hunting and processes the furs. They transported the furs to Bear Creek (now Louisville) and purchased and/or traded for the millstones.
Beck had to create a means in which to build a supply of water from the springs to run his wooden water wheel. He decided to build a wooden dam which initially worked well. It held the mill pond and he accessed the water from the pond into a hollowed out log which was directed to his water wheel. Soon, Beck replaced his wooden dam with hand-carved block limestone.
His gristmill, millstones, small mill building and his wooden dam was functioning successfully. George decided to build a sawmill. Usually, when a new miller finds a new mill site, a sawmill is the first mill that is constructed. Due to the lack of population, he decided the gristmill was his primary objective because he needed to feed his family. As the surrounding region around Beck’s Mill developed, there was an immediate demand for sawn lumber to quickly build the new houses. The Beck’s Mill region was growing steadily and so was George Beck’s business.
By 1825, George realized his small gristmill was no longer able to support the demand. By 1826, George and his sons completed a larger gristmill and by 1827 he had added another attached building for a carding machine. George was an ingenuous entrepreneur. Now he was able to take the wool from local farmers, wash and clean it, dry it, take it through his picker and finally it was ready to process the wool through the carding machine powered by his waterwheel. Once the wool was processed it could create batting for blankets, clothing and spinning for thread.
Power. Power from the multiple springs that fed the water wheel not only supplied the millstones to grind the grain and cut the logs, George had utilized the power to process wool. He and his family accomplished so many applications in which to use their springs.
Beck’s Mill grew appreciably and the entire family worked the business. It again became clear that they needed a larger mill to meet the demand of grain in the region. The current mill building started construction during the 1860s and was ready for business in 1864. This third Beck Mill building is an impressive three level structure with a basement. The basement houses the gears, belts and pulleys that send the power up into the mill’s equipment. The foundation, still exists today, and is hand-carved limestone. Their current mill had its greatest success from 1864 through the 1890s. The mill ran 24-hours a day with family members always processing the grain when needed by the farmers. During the peak of the season, loaded wagons would wait in line for up to 2 or 3 days to get their grain ground.
The 1890s saw the Beck’s business eliminated from grinding wheat into flour. They did not incorporate the newest technology used for making flour, roller mills, in their business and subsequently, just continued grinding corn. Ultimately, the business closed in 1914. There were some special occasions for millstone grinding but for all intensive purposes, the mill remained closed.
The Friends of Beck’s Mill restored the mill and Beck’s Mill reopened in 2008. Some of the restoration included: repairing and replacing corners of the foundation stones, deteriorated wooden beams, rotten roof boards and damaged windows. Silt had filled the pond and cave. The mud had to be shoveled out. Fortunately, the blind fish that live in the cave were not destroyed during the restoration and continue to be healthy.
During the restoration process, The Friends of Beck’s Mill discovered some amazing antique milling equipment. They found: 2 millstones, 2 wool carding machines, 1 wool picker and 1 loom.
Today Beck's Mill is beautifully maintained and is continuing to grind corn and sell it. The steel waterwheel is spectacular as well as the impressive stone dam that is soursed by the springs. The three levels plus the stone foundation (basement) make an inspiring view from the front of the mill and as you wind around the trails up the hill.
(Scrapbook of Beck’s Mill by Dailene Martin Bobbit)