The Grist Mill - History Con't

increasing wheat production, so James Smith built another mill on the banks of Silver Creek closer to the developing town of Silverton. As in the case of the earlier mill, several different individuals, even bankers Ai Coolidge and Jake McClaine, owned this operation. In 1885, the Oregon Milling Co. purchased the mill, tore down the original structure and built new buildings that evolved into the familiar 4-story red structure we are familiar with today.

Louis A. Fischer purchased the mill in 1900 and proceeded to turn it into a facility that ranked among the best in Oregon. According to a story by Ed S. Woare printed in a 1950 Silverton Appeal-Tribune, the mill stored thousands of bushels of grain to be processed into flour, cereal and feeds. All along Water Street in both directions there would be lines of wagons 3-5 blocks long delivering grain for processing or storing and railroad freight cars moving down the tracks in the middle of the street to carry the flour to the depot at the other end of town. The mill ran an average of 90,000 to 100,000 bushels per month at its peak. Oat processing was added in 1912 and eventually over 125,000 bushels of grain were stored in a large tile warehouse. Water from the creek was diverted into a wooden flume to turn turbines to produce power.

Oatmeal and cereal were shipped all over the world – about 400 bushels of oats a day were packed into 90 pound bags that were then hand sewn shut. Some were put into smaller bags and cartons and the rest went for feed. And Fischer’s was a good place to work - at its peak it employed 14-16 people at a time. After the mill had been making cereals for some time there was a contest to come up with a trade name for the products – the Silverton Appeal published the details and a cash prize was offered for the winner. The name chosen was Silver Flake, with a logo of the Silver Creek Falls on a cream-colored background.

The mill closed in July 1932 due to poor harvests and falling prices and was purchased by a group of businessmen who then sold it to the city for $1.00. The buildings were used by a cannery for a while, but the mill was eventually torn down in August of 1942, with much of the lumber salvaged by the Silverton Flax Processing Company for a building they were planning in the area.

The Silverton Country Historical Society, the Southern Pacific Depot and the Silverton Public Library now occupy the spot where the mill stood, along with the one remaining mill structure. This building, known today as the Fischer Building, was constructed in 1914 and served as the mill office until 1928. After the mill closed, the building was used to store corn before becoming the headquarters for the Ration Board during WWII. From 1946-48 the building housed a liquor store and then, ironically, served as the police station from around 1950 until it was moved to the current City Hall Building. The Fischer Building is built from material called” wonder-block,” made from crushed stone and concrete, each block molded to look natural, with an uneven surface. At the time, many buildings around the Willamette Valley were built using these blocks. The Fischer Building continues to serve the community as a meeting site.

In the spring of 1981 a small park was established on the creek-side remnants of the foundation of this magnificent landmark, the Fischer Flouring Mill.

Sources: Silvertonian Appeal, February 24, 1905; Silverton Appeal-Tribune/Mt.Angel News, June 16, 1983; Silverton Appeal Tribune, March 25, 1971; Ron English interview with Ernst Lau, February 12, 1998.

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