Sunday, September 28, 2008

Atlas Gristmill

From colonial times and into the first half of the nineteenth century, gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities: grinding the farmers' grain with large, circular stones, and levying a toll, usually in kind, for the service.

The founding father of Atlas, Michigan was Judge Norman D
avison, who arrived here in 1831 from Livingston County, New York. He cleared the land and built a house for his family near the river on the site where the Atlas Country Club now stands. He erected a sawmill in 1833 and a gristmill in 1836. The town was first known as Davisonville, and the first post office was started in 1837 with Mr. Davison as the postmaster. (In 1854 the name was changed from Davisonville to Atlas due to confusion with the mail between the town and the Davison Station on the Grand Trunk Railroad. The Atlas Post Office is considered one of the oldest in the state.)

Soon after Davison settled in this location, many more settlers came to the town. The first blacksmith, Enas Rockafellow, arrived in 1837. Fitch R. Tracy started a mercantile business in the late 1830's. Dr. Elbridge Gale started his practice in Atlas in 1837. Due to his interest in tanning, sheep were introduced to this area. With the coming of sheep, Oliver Palmer built a wool carding and stock dressing business. A woolen mill was erected next to the gristmill during the 1850's. The first tavern appeared on the scene in 1840. Noah Hull, as a carpenter and millwright, helped build many of the businesses and houses after his arrive in 1846. Furniture for the town's people was made by the local cabinet maker, Mr. James Shields. Residents could have their shoes repaired or have new ones made by the shoemaker, James Lobban. There were many other settlers who contributed to the prosperity of Atlas.

With the increase of families coming to the area, a school was started in 1837. One can just imagine this small mid-19th century town, how it looked in the early days. Probably very similar to what Crossroads Village looks like today.

Gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities by grinding the farmer's grain into flour. It is operated by water-driven turbine beneath the water surface so the mill can operate in winter if the surface of the water is frozen. The water power turns the large stone wheels used for grinding.

Each granite stone, which were made around 1835 in North Carolina, weighs 1800 pounds.

The Atlas gristmill, during the early days of the settlement, was used for other purposes besides grinding grain. The lean-to of the mill was used as the first school in Davison/Atlas, and the first post office was also located in the mill. On April 4, 1836, the first township meeting was held there.
It remained in operation until 1943, when, due (in part) to WWII, replacement parts for repairs were no longer available.
The mill was dismantled and moved to Crossroads Village in 1975 where it was renovated and then moved, in 1977, to its current location inside the Village.
The sights and sounds of the spinning, grinding wheels give the public a first-hand glimpse of an earlier age. The turning wheels could grind one barrel of flour (whole wheat or buckwheat) or corn meal an hour.
An early portrayal of living history.
It now produces stone-ground flour sold in Crossroads Village.


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