Sunday, June 21, 2015

Huffman's Mill

Huffman's Mill, Oct 8 38.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Notes on the back of this photo suggest it was taken on October 8, 1938.
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.


Until a few weeks ago I had no idea that the site of another historic mill lay only about a mile beyond Wood's Mill. One Saturday at the Hobart Historical Society museum, someone came across the photo shown above, with "Huffman's Mill" scrawled across it, and none of us knew anything about Huffman's Mill. So of course I asked Eldon Harms if he knew where it had been. Not only did he know, but he was able to direct me to the spot where it had stood, as we drove out there together.

Its site was just over the Porter County line on N 750 W, a scant half-mile south of Route 30. The mill had stood on the east side of the road, on the north side of Taylor Creek — which, these days, is a barely perceptible rivulet, marked by no sign, and in fact I had some trouble even learning its name. (Another local historian theorizes that the conversion of surrounding land from wilderness to farmland caused the creek to silt up.) Anyway, it wasn't the creek's direct flow that powered the mill; the creek was dammed to form a mill pond.

Below, I have tried to identify the mill (and mill pond, but that is really dubious) on a 1939 aerial photo:

2015-6-21. Huffman aerial 1939
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of the Indiana Geological Survey, I.U. Bloomington.


For decades before either of these photos were taken, this site had housed a mill operation.

The August 18, 1936 issue of the Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, a special edition in honor of Porter County's centennial, included a history of Union Township compiled by Wheeler High School history students and instructors (transcribed here) stating that in 1861 David Hardesty built the Cascade Mills on this site.

Written in 1882, Porter and Lake Counties (Goodspeed/Blanchard) had this to say about it:
The Cascade Grist-Mills were built by David Hardesty, on Taylor Creek. They were built about fourteen years ago [i.e., 1868], on to a small brick mill which was constructed by him eighteen or nineteen years ago [i.e., 1864 or 1863]. The structure is some 18x40 feet, and two stories high. He put in two sets of buhrs, and, at that time, had the only overshot wheel in the county.
Consulting some of the old Union Township plat maps, we find the mill marked.

For example, here it is in 1876 (and you can see a drawing of the mill circa 1876 here):

2015-6-21. Cascade Mill 1876
(Click on image to enlarge)
From http://www.inportercounty.org/Data/Maps/UnionTownshipMaps.html, courtesy of Steven R. Shook.


The mill is marked on the 1895, 1906 and 1921 maps as well. On the 1938 map, the mill itself is not marked, but the "Huffman Mill Pond" is:

2015-6-21. Mill 1938
(Click on image to enlarge)
From http://www.inportercounty.org/Data/Maps/UnionTownshipMaps.html, courtesy of Steven R. Shook.


The next available map, from 1969, does not show mill or mill pond. The mill building still stood, but it wasn't operating as such. This clipping, from the Hobart Herald of January 50, 1955, shows the building being used for storage:

2015-6-21. img608
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.


The remark about Levi Huffman dying of his injuries in 1900 is probably based on oral history. Here is Levi's obituary from the Hobart Gazette of January 9, 1903:

2015-6-21. Levi Huffman death
(Click on image to enlarge)

He was buried in Mosier Cemetery.


Six photographs of the abandoned mill building were shot in 1981 by Daniel Kleine, who was kind enough to give me high-resolution scans of his photos.

Mill ruins in 1982
(Click on image to view the full set)
All photographs by Daniel Kleine. Used with permission.


I don't know when the mill was demolished. Today there is no trace of it.

2015-6-21. Mill Site 2015
(Click on image to enlarge)
Photograph by Ansel Adams.
… Just kidding. Photograph by me.

1 comment:

LLoyd Puchek said...

Wow, this is quite an interesting story here, love the photos too !