THAYER MILL, A TRUE PIONEER
By Mrs. J. A. Campbell
In writing pioneer stories one historical place, which is held dear to the hearts of the early settlers, has seemingly been forgotten. Little has been said about the Thayer Mill which has filled a very important place in the pioneer days, and is at present fulfilling its mission, although handicapped by competition on all sides by other mills that have come into existence with the growth of the country.
The early settlers were inspired with the spirit of progress and were alert to the needs of the people and boosted anything that would improve their facilities. As they turned the sod and developed the land into fertile fields, which in time yielded an abundance of wheat, corn and other grains, the need of a grist mill where their grain could be ground into flour, corn meal and other mill products was keenly felt.
In 1878 a pioneer living north of Waco, conceived the idea of building a mill. After an inspection tour, a mill site of twenty acres was selected on Lincoln creek, known as the irregular tract, lot No. 6 in section 25, township 12, range 2 west of the 6th P. M. This was purchased by Mary J. Harrison and her husband, (known as Rube Harrison), from the railroad company which owned every alternate section of land within a certain boundary. This land, as has often been stated, was given to the railroad by the government as an inducement to build railroads through the country.
A millwright by the name of Cougil erected the mill, while others built the dam, which is necessary for machinery run by water power. This required a long time as the workers were not equipped for doing that kind of work. However, the mill was finished and did a thriving business. Wheat was hauled many miles to the mill to be ground into flour. How thrilling to take a load of grain to mill and in return receive your share of flour, graham, shorts or bran or whichever you preferred. What a boon to the country round-about, how the children, chickens, cows and pigs thrived on these healthy products. What a treat to the children to ride on a load of wheat to the mill, and watch them grind, and see the miller all white from the top of his head to the tips of his toes with flour dust.
The banks of the old mill stream have lured many to its invigorating shady nooks for rest, pleasure, fishing and picnics and in the winter time skating parties on the mill pond were a common occurrence. At the present time fishing on Sundays is prohibited as Mr. Tharp believes that Sunday is a day of rest and quiet. In early days a number of baptismal services were held in the mill pond, in some instances the ice was cut in order that this service could be carried out.
The mill has passed through several hands in the following years. Those who became owners for a period of time were Thomas F. Beckord, Kibbler, G. Underhill, Locke, J. Underhill, T. Owens, Halstead, Mosher, Conway, Sanders, George and Frank Miller, Pattison, Hulshizer. In 1904 A. A. Tharp, the present owner, a native of Lynn county, Missouri, and a millwright by trade, purchased the mill and at once made extensive repairs. J. R. Haines became associated with A. A. Tharp in the mill in 1919. In 1912 a concrete dam was built. This took six months to construct and was a great improvement over the former types. The droughts of recent years have reduced the water power to such an extent that a semi-diesel engine is used in the mill. The mill is equipped otherwise with up-to-date machinery and the wheat is cleaned and ground several times, until it is fine and velvety. It goes from one operation to another untouched by human hands, through a purifier, and through the silk baling cloth, into sterilized packers. It is a creamy white, pure, nourishing food, and enjoys a splendid reputation among housewives as well as in the retail trade. There are but few housewives in the community who knows the quality of this flour than Mrs. Margaret Oram living northeast of town, and Mrs. Richard Gruber and her children's families in the Thayer community and the Inbody family of Waco who were among the first to have wheat ground in this mill and have been continual users since.
Ice-cutting from the mill dam was a prosperous business in former years. Teams and wagons would come for mile and line up and wait their turn for ice. Perhaps those who came before sunrise would get loaded by the middle of the forenoon. Those times are past and even the miller uses commercial ice. Many humorous tales are related of incidents which occurred while hauling ice. One is told about a man that fell into the icy water of the dam which was a little over waist deep. He was so frightened as he stood he screamed, as loud as he could, "Help, help! I'm drowning." This amused the bystanders very much.
This is the only mill in York county and all will agree that it has been outstanding in aiding the development and upbuilding of the community and should have a place in the annals of the pioneers.