200 Years, 14 Families, 1 Mill

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Parke County is full of unexpected gems, that are usually discovered during this time of year.

When the Covered Bridge Festival rolls around, folks from all over have the opportunity to learn about the rich history within the Wabash Valley.

On October 12th, 1818 President James Monroe signed the deed for 200 acres of land over to two millers who began what we now call the Bridgeton Mill.

Mike Roe is the fourteenth owner of the mill, and he prefers to mill grain the old fashioned way, by keeping his nose to the grind-stone, “As you grind it’s friction, heat, stone expands it reduces your tolerances and you start to smell hot flower and you can also hear it grumbling at ya”.

Roe prides himself not only on his ability to keep the mill running with historical accuracy, but also his persistence in making sure it remains a family business. 

“Once I got it bought, the family wouldn’t give me the keys. I said now what’s going on? They said we’re gonna teach ya how to run that old mill.”

Previous owners of the mill made sure they were leaving their property in good hands as Roe made a promise to the matriarch of the family to keep business booming.

“They gave me a test and I passed that test. Then they gave me the keys and out they went. But then they’d come in and check on me once in a while. They didn’t say it, but it was kind of like you did promise Grandma you know,” said Roe.

For over two decades Roe has kept his promise.

If you look hard enough at each bag of grain you’ll find the words, ‘Family Owned since 1823’ and a tiny inscription, ‘Not the same family’, “Thousands and thousands of towns started this way, and this one’s still here. And of course there’s lots of mills. But to have one family owned and running is rare.”

Roe is a skilled multi-tasker who can work and tell stories to those willing to listen, he doesn’t know a stranger.

“Why just read about history? Come out here and visit it. I am the 14h owner of the oldest continually running mill in the Midwest. This is not a reenactment, it’s not make believe it’s real.”

Roe has big plans to reconstruct the water-power aspect of the mill and hopes to have it finished within the next three years.

He is also in the process of writing a book, a collection of the history of the mill as well as how it has changed his life since purchasing it.

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