Picture perfect, like a scene on the front of a jigsaw puzzle box. A trip to the Cedar Creek Grist Mill in Woodland, Washington lets people walk into that picture. I had no idea what the mill looked like until I drove right up to it. The narrow, woodsy road leading down to the creek crosses an awesome covered bridge and opens out to reveal this picturesque surprise.
The second most impressive element is that the grist mill is still using the Leffel turbine installed in 1886. But, that’s still not the best thing about the grist mill. When the mill is open, visitors can stand inside and listen to the rush of water being unleashed from the flume, see the operator monitor the flow through an opening in the floor, two stories above the ground, as it fills the 17.5-foot pen stock and turns the turbine.
When the turbine begins to move, pulleys and wheels across the ceiling begin to rumble and hum with movement. Water turns the turbine, turning the shaft and turning any tool to which it is connected, but the attention is on the flour coming out of the mill.
A volunteer mill operator scoops grains of corn into the top of the mill where it passes through a hole and in between two massive stones, one gyrating in a circular motion at 300 RPMs over the other, pushed by the force of the water passing through the turbine. Visitors waited eagerly to take a bag of freshly ground flour.
Here, just east of Woodinville, the Red Bird Mill, as was its original name, was built by George Woodham and A.C. Reid in 1876 and was part of the small community of Etna. The area got its name from Adam Reid who was from Etna Green, Indiana. People traveled to the mill, and they camped across the creek while they waited for their grain to be milled.
A dam up the creek helped regulate and channel water to the mill, but it got damaged. Woodham moved on, and the property changed hands. New owner Mike Lynch leased it to Gustave Utter. The original water wheel was removed, and it was Utter who built a flume and installed the Leffel turbine. Once again, the mill drew in people not only for milling but for social gatherings too. Then Gustave moved on, and Gorund Roslund became the next owner. The Roslund family added a shingle mill, a blacksmith shop and used the first floor for a machine shop.
Eventually, the mill was no longer privately owned, having been purchased by the state. Volunteers can be credited with the renovation and preservation of the building. Today it is a working museum and is the oldest building continuing to do its original job in the state of Washington.
Leave a Reply