On the south side of Jasper Road, just across from the entry to the Wise Homestead Museum, you will see a dilapidated old metal building. That’s the old privately owned Wise Mill. It was built around 1915 after a larger mill in Canfield, also owned by the Wise brothers, burned down. The new, smaller mill was used by family and neighbors, and was operated by William T. Wise. Sarah Wise remembers going down to the mill to watch the grinding and sometimes visit with the neighbors. The machinery didn’t run constantly, only when someone needed it.
Anyone in the nearby area could drive up with their wagon load of grain, roll onto the scales at the scale house across the lane and be weighed in with their full load. Then they would drive the short distance across the lane to the mill and shovel their grain into the hopper on the side of the building. The hopper would feed the grain into an elevator. The elevator consisted of several metal cups attached to a large belt enclosed in a wooden chute. The cups would carry the grain to the top of the mill where it would flow by gravity to a hopper over the grinder. The grinder consisted of two sets of steel rollers. The operator would adjust the gap between the rollers depending on how finely someone wanted to grind the grain. After the grain went through the grinder, it fell by gravity to another elevator that carried it to the top again to be directed to one of two large hoppers or a chute to fill bags. The customer would drive his wagon under the hopper to load his newly-ground grain.
All this was run by a single large electric motor running a set of pulleys and belts. Though the motor is long gone, the belts, pulleys and buckets are still intact.
The structure on the roof of the mill is a “cyclone”. Its purpose is to separate the grain from the chaff and dust.
Today the mill stands in the way of progress, and will soon be removed. A housing development that is planned for the south side of Jasper cannot move forward until the old building is removed to make space for an easement for future road expansion. The Wise family is in the process of looking for a grant and/or donations to move the mill onto the Homestead Museum property just across the road. For now, the mill still stands in its original spot. Take time soon to drive by and get a good look. It’s a nostalgic reminder of Erie’s past.
The mill is one of the Town of Erie’s first Historic Landmarks and The Erie Historical Society would like to restore the mill as an example of the traditional design and materials. For more information or to donate to their cause, go to www.eriehistoricalsociety.org or call 303-828-4561.