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Grant to help preserve old mill

Staff writer

A 146-year-old mill in Cedar Point has received one of two inaugural grants from Prairy Foundation to help restore and preserve it as a piece of Kansas history.

Drinkwater and Schriver Mill was built in 1875 by Orlo Henry Drinkwater, a Pennsylvania native and the first postmaster of Cedar Point. He originally marketed it as Wyoming Mills, named after the Wyoming River in Pennsylvania, in the Emporia Gazette and Marion County Record.

It milled flour and cattle feed until the 1960s and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 after data about it was analyzed by Kansas State University’s architecture department.

Dan Clothier, head of a nonprofit organization working to preserve the mill, got involved with it in the late 1990s. He worked with the mill’s owner at the time, a Wichita physician, to form the organization and register the mill as a historic place.

“I stepped back onto the project in 2015 when I saw not much had been done besides it getting put on the national register in 2007,” he said.

Cedar Point’s status as a flood plain combined with the mill’s proximity to the river has been rough on the building. Cracks in the foundation and lichen crawling up the structure are visible from the road.

“The Indians didn’t let the white settlers know that towns like Cedar Point were building in a flood plain,” Clothier said jokingly. “The stone was built on bedrock, and the foundation has been pretty good, all things considered. The instability is in the wooden interior: the flooding and drying has ruined the posts that stand inside. That’s where the problems are coming from.”

Wooden columns holding up the building will need to be replaced with reinforced concrete, and some of the walls will need to be rebuilt.

“The historical society has agreed that that needs to be part of the solution,” Clothier said.

Clothier’s group also wants to build a museum detailing the mill’s history and its involvement with Cedar Point’s creation. Information about local wildlife and the physics of a grain mill also may be included.

“The mill is really a laboratory in physics,” Clothier said. “It’s very interesting not only from an agricultural standpoint, but physics as well in terms of producing a crop. And we’ve got quite a few opportunities for exploring all the flora and fauna around the river.”

An old fire station next door is expected to become a museum.

“We just received the title to the fire station,” Clothier said. “The day after they signed the deed, a tree fell on the roof.”

Money from the Prairy grant probably will go toward repairing the fire station as well as the mill.

Clothier had no estimate for when the restoration or museum would be complete, especially with the uncertainty of COVID-19.

“We’re limited in terms of having meetings and gatherings and promoting interest,” he said. “We hope to do more of that. As the pandemic finally goes away, hopefully later this year, we’ll have more events and more fundraising programs.”

He hopes the mill will last another 140 years when the project is finished.

“It’s a beautiful setting and has a lot of potential,” Clothier said. “I’ve found it attractive since the first time I saw it, 25 years ago.”

Last modified Jan. 6, 2022

 

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