Northeast Iowa Former Flour Mill Turns 150 Years Old on Turkey River

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MOTOR, Iowa- This year marks 150 years since the Motor Mill began operations in 1869. A group of local investors constructed the mill from limestone mined from a quarry on a bluff over the mill location.

It’s a spectacular limestone building along spectacular stretch of the Turkey River near Elkader. “I think it’s 90 feet tall, it’s 150 years old and still in pretty good shape,” said Larry Stone, of the Motor Mill Foundation Board. “It needs a little tuck pointing and some routine maintenance.”

Stone lives nearby the Mill, and spends time on select weekends giving tours of the Mill. Volunteers have been working on the old mill. They’ve put in some new wooden flooring, and erected signs to help explain how the old mill functioned.

John Thompson was the lead developer, he had two partners one was JP Dickinson,” said Stone. James Crosby was another part owner of the Mill.
The partners never made their investment back.

The Mill was only open around 13 years before it ceased operation.

“Wheat farmers were having some trouble with drought and chinch bugs and that sort of thing during that era,” said Stone. “Farmers suddenly realized they might be better off and make more money if they switched over to raising corn that they would feed to livestock.”

The Mill was purchased by a farm family and used to store hay for some 80 years before it was purchased by the Clayton County Conservation Board in 1983.
The property has a building used to make barrels to ship the flour from the mill. It also had an Inn, and barn.

Floods overtaken the buildings on this ground, doing damage to the Inn.

“We are trying to stabilize those buildings and renovate them and have displays in them, said Stone. “We’re going to try to make the first floor of the Inn resistant to floods, not have anything there that would be damaged by floods, in the upper floors, we have ideas everything from a conference center, to offices to interpretive displays that kind of things.”

For more information on Motor Mill click here.

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