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Water Wheel Mills of Minnesota

Posted July 1, 2020 @ 6:48pm | by Doug

Tour Guide Notes – Visit a stream-powered flour mill...

Nestled among the streams and hardwoods of Southeastern Minnesota are two waterwheel flour mills, each over a century old: both still grinding away, both welcoming visitors.

In Winona County, Pickwick Mill, in the village of the same name, built in 1855, is the older of the two.  It takes its waterpower from Big Trout Creek. It is the oldest surviving water-power mill in Minnesota. 

During the Civil War, Pickwick churned out 100 barrels of flour a day in support of the Union Army.

Its market was extensive. After a short wagon trip to nearby Mississippi River boats, and later trains, its products reached eastern cities, Europe, South America, and elsewhere folks ate bread.

30 miles south and west, on Beaver Creek in Houston County, is Schech’s Mill, est. 1876.  (Pictured)

Several generations of the Schech family have operated the mill since Michael Schech purchased the mill in 1885.  He was a master miller from Bavaria who worked with the St. Paul Roller Mill Co. in Minneapolis but longed for his own mill.  He caught wind that this was up for sale, plopped down the $3000, and it has been in the family ever since.

Ed Krugmire, of the fourth generation Schechs, is now the sole operator.  He says he is one of few people around who knows how to keep such a mill running.  He also sees an encouraging preferential drift away from mass produced flours and toward locally produced and grown, purer products, made this old-fashioned way.

Meanwhile, the water still runs, and the millwheels keep turning and grinding for both Pickwick and Schech’s mills in picturesque Southeastern Minnesota.

Photo Credit: Schech’s Mill in Houston County, Minnesota


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