Oldest Flour Mill in Northern Illinois

Green's Mill with house behind

From The Sunday Times-Herald, Chicago, March 27, 1898

OLDEST FLOUR MILL IN NORTH ILLINOIS
Famous Old Structure at Dayton Built in 1830 Is to Be Torn Down
Was Erected by John Green

            Within a short time one of the landmarks of northern Illinois will have disappeared under the march of “improvement” and a most interesting relic of the pioneer settlements will have passed away forever.

This survival of the old regime is the famous flour mill at Dayton, a small village on the Fox River, seventy-eight miles southwest of Chicago. It was known in early days from Fort Dearborn to Springfield as “Green’s mill.” Erected in 1830, while the smoke of Indian teepees yet curled from the opposite bank of the narrow river, it was a rendezvous for settlers within a radius of a hundred miles, and from that day to this, until a few months since, its millstones have ground the wheat of the Illinois prairies.

Its passing is due to the crushing competition of the great roller mills of Minnesota and the country still farther to the west. This spring it will be torn down and a brick building erected on its site, using its present water power to send electricity to Ottawa four miles south.

Settlement of Dayton

            The mill was built by John Green, an Ohio pioneer, who in 1829 with a few of his kinsmen, made the long and dangerous journey to the Fox River and at its rapids, four miles above the mouth, he located the site of the present mill. They were thirty-four days on the road, a distance which can now be accomplished in less than twenty hours. The company numbered twenty-four, nine men, four women and eleven children, ranging from infants up to 16 years of age. Of the men John Green, David Grove, Henry Brumback, Reason Debalt and Samuel and Joseph Grove became ancestors of several of the most influential and respected county families of the present day.

John Green, the leader, was a man of action, and his wife, Barbara Grove, was no less decided. With vigor they set to work on the gristmill, and it was opened on July 4, 1830. That forenoon the flour was ground from which the holiday bread for dinner was baked, and the fifty-fourth anniversary of the nation celebrated with sincerity and patriotism.

Difficult to Erect

            It was not an easy task in those days to build a gristmill hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement. For the millstones the hardest bowlders or “hardheads,” relics of the glacial period from Lake Superior, were selected, worked into proper form, and made to do the work. Later the mill had work for four pairs of “burrs,” and ground all the flour and meal for a wide extent of country. At one time in the early ’30s all the grain of the Fox River settlement had to be brought by flatboat from Springfield via the Sangamon, Illinois and Fox rivers, Ottawa, Hennepin and Peoria being the only settlements between the two places. Some of the Greens conducted this expedition. In 1832 the Indians drove the settlers into Fort Johnson at Ottawa, but did not harm the Dayton mill, although they massacred eighteen whites within twelve miles, the upright dealings of John Green with them undoubtedly saving his property from the torch.

Mr. Green and his sons later built a woolen mill at Dayton, and until 1874 the family ran the flour mill. Then Daniel Green and his sons conducted it until a few years since, when it was bought by M. Masters, who has just disposed of it to an Ottawa man for the power. In 1855 it was enlarged, but is substantially the same as on that July day of 1830 when its first grist was ground.

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