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Davis Journal

Old grist mill holds history of the pioneers

Dec 02, 2021 01:41PM ● By Becky Ginos

During the excavation of the site in 1984, two original grist mill stones were uncovered. The mill sits on the corner of Orchard Drive and Mill Street in Bountiful. Photo by Becky Ginos

BOUNTIFUL—On the corner of Orchard Drive and Mill Street in Bountiful stands the remnants of a piece of history. The Kimball Mill, built in 1853 after Heber C. Kimball saw a need for a flour mill, played a significant role in the lives of the early pioneers who settled Bountiful. 

“Bountiful was settled just weeks after the pioneers’ arrival to Salt Lake,” said Ron Andersen, Bountiful Chapter Sons of the Utah Pioneers (SUP) President Elect. “Peregrine Session came and planted wheat, so they needed a grist mill. The first year it operated, farmers produced 20,000 bushels of wheat in the area and they would grind it and take it home.”

The mill was three stories high, he said. “East of the ruins the south wall is still standing. It was made of millstone so it was pretty sturdy.”

A pond was created on the south side of the mill where the catch basin is now located, said Andersen. “That’s where the paddle turned to grind the wheat. They used the water that came down a ditch from Millstream in the mountains.”

They would harvest the ice and put it in the basement and cover it with straw to preserve food, he said. “It was also the favorite place to hold baptisms (for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). There are stories of people cutting the ice in freezing ponds.”

Sandy Inman, Bountiful Museum & Learning Center director, spoke to the SUP about the mill’s history at a recent meeting. Inman shared information from the book The City Bountiful by Les Foy. 

According to Inman, when roller mills came along the grist mill became obsolete. “The building was then used for recreation activities. For a time in the mill George McNeil trained bears that he had captured in the mountains above Bountiful.”

He wanted to take the bears through Bountiful and into the United States in a circus type act, said Inman. “The bears were trained to pull NcNeil’s wagon. The bears, wagon and McNeil were not too far from Bountiful when the bears misbehaved, and the act was abandoned.”

The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers erected a replica of the old mill at the site in 1937, she said. In 1950 the property was sold to the Thomas L. Kane Camp of the SUP for $2,500.

“Sixteen years later on June 1, 1966 the Thomas L. Kane Camp signed a 25 year lease with Bountiful City, allowing the city to use the mill property for public purposes, such as improving streets bordering the property,” Inman said. “The lease would terminate on May 31, 1991.”

Plans were made to build catch basins after Bountiful was hit by the floods of 1983, she said. “So in 1984 the Thomas L. Kane Camp sold the property to Davis County in cooperation with Bountiful City and a debris catch basin was built. During the excavation of the site, two original grist mill stones were uncovered, which were in surprisingly good condition.”

A monument was constructed displaying the two millstones and dedicated in 1990. Metal plaques were later mounted on three stone pillars commemorating those involved in the old mill. 

Andersen would like to see the mill site made into a place where visitors can come and learn about the history. “That’s a big mountain to move,” he said. “But I’d like to rebuild it.”

For more information about the SUP, contact Ron Andersen at 801-718-0080. The group meets on the third Wednesday of every month. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2022.