Monroe County Library System,  Monroe, MI 48162


Bygones of Monroe:


In the removal of the city mills from the old building to a new home, or The Home of Lotus Flour, there is none of that tragic desolation which one feels that the ordinary razing of land marks at least standing amidst the labyrinth launching machinery and see every luch of the frame and heavy timbers tremble with energy, is a strong reminder that excess of life is tearing down the structure; and that after several years of robust existence, it now controls to burst the limits of original confines, demanding for the garnered health a much larger space than for nearly required. Indeed the mill is like a strong body with a husky constitation required continually by its own inward vitality; a busy, thrifty, wholesome place, like the men who have run and who have worked hard, laughing, eating, drinking merrily and sleeping soundly, became well off doing whatever and passing it over to a successer. Constant reinforcement has, of course, been necessary in a building enduring ceaseless strain; floors are new, the offices have been entirely made over within a few years and engine room is now built of brick in place of the former more unstable material, but the rafters are those cut out by hand in the early days when surrounding forest contributed this valuable lumber. And these being stronger than those supplied by modern times, have been left in place, still forming the frame of the building all around, filled in the patches, mended and padded with material designating the different ages through which the mill has progressed. Every phase of experience through which it is usually the lot of such buildings to pass, has fallen to the mill, even the several fires are testified to by charred places on the inside of the roof and seem a miracle to have been withstood in consideration of the inflammable material and inadequacy of the fire department.

Built in 1836 by Judge Bacon, Ephram Frost and John Burch, who were the crowd of ambitions fights of wooden steps, wooden awnings that projecting that over the board sidewalks, sheltering the inmates or the passers from the sun or rain; together with the peeked shingled roof and dull green shutters covering the many small panes, must have given the village that rustic appearance, that charming surrounding to the Arcadian tales, which in every country lie as the basis of its local literature.

Now the eastern Yankees brought a vigor before which the simple life quailed and, having nothing but its picturesqueness to plead for it, gradually faded as might a delicate Wattean scene under the firmer strokes from the brush of a realist.

From that time came a revival of life or rather an introduction of commercialism, during which Monroe became a thriving western town, due to this rapid growth and improvement similar to that of the past five years. But the story of the old mill is becoming lost in this retrospection and yet is closely woven with it, and so indelibly stamped with the traces of these decades that the visitor sees its history verified in the mass of relics in the site; in one of the old bars or stone originally brought from France with the iron shaft still through it and now lying more than half buried in the rubbish outside; in the old wheel pit, where the race rushed in, for it was formerly a water mill, which to view, one must descend worn stairs, two stories below the level of the street. Here it is dark, dirty and cobwebby and the dust of years has collected inches thick on abandoned machinery and things in the dim light admitted here, half concealing and half revealing what they really were. A peculiarity that impresses one is that the mill has literally risen on the ashes of its dead self, the two lower stories being buried in a debris, rich in such relics, seeming nothing having been thrown away from the date of its building.

Indeed when excavation for the new work begins, it will be worth while to which its other owners owe success, he was soon reaching out after larger schemes and eventually became a wealthy grain dealer. People who can recall this period tell of how the farmers from neighboring places even as far as Coldwater and Hillsdale came bringing the wheat, drawn by oxen, and of how after the long, slow journey, sometimes requiring two days, through muddy roads, dozens of these animals stood lined up outside awaiting the unloading of the cart. French ponies also figured in the scene, but being more ambitions travelers, and moreover bringing a lighter load of wheat in the old fashioned two wheel gig, returned to their stalls the same night, while the ox drivers were participators in the hospitality and merry making going on in the taverns.

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