The Turbulent History of Mott Mill

When viewing the site of the former Mott/Roney Mill, it’s hard to believe the location was once occupied by a mill, milldam and millpond covering much of the current landscape.

Water-powered mills were once the cornerstone of every successful community, allowing sawmills and flour mills to provide supplies for early settlers. 
“Mill structures played a critical role in the early settlement and rural development of the county, providing the resources necessary for pioneer survival, such as lumber and ground grain. Given the distance farmers had to travel to the few early mills that dotted the landscape, these sites would also represent important communication hubs and commerce centers in exchanging information and obtaining necessary supplies,” stated Winneshiek County Historical Preservation Commission Chairman Steve Johnson. 

Mott/Roney Mill
When viewing the site of the former Mott/Roney Mill, it’s hard to believe the location was once occupied by a mill, milldam and millpond covering much of the current landscape. Grist mills were the lifeblood of early settlements, allowing for further settlement and early commerce by providing flour, corn meal and other necessary foodstuffs. 
According to local history William Sawyer built the mill in 1865 with native limestone quarried from a nearby hill and operated it for the first several years. 
The mill was run by waterpower from a stream and its first dam was built of logs and earth located south of the railroad bridge. The mill was equipped with four runs of buhrs for grinding and could produce up to 50 barrels of flour a day. The custom grinding was, at times, in such demand that long wagons lines were formed and a day’s wait was common.
In 1870 J. W. Mott purchased a half interest in the mill property and in 1877 a brother-in-law, Albert A. Benedict, joined him in forming the firm of Benedict & Mott. 
As with most mills the greatest hazard to success was seasonal flooding. The first dam was carried away shortly after it was placed and the second dam, built further downstream was washed away on June 23, 1890. 
The mill changed hands over the next decade. After Benedict and Mott came Mott Brothers, then Mott and Roney, followed by Roney who then sold the mill to A.A. Snyder and brother. The last owners built a concrete dam at great cost, but it too was swept away by a spring flood in May 1902.
After the 1902 flood, the dam was never rebuilt. The damage was extensive with both the metal railroad bridge and the wagon bridge destroyed at an estimated value then of $17,000. The immense stone abutments under the railroad bridge, weighing four to five tons, were uprooted and carried away.
At the mill, the engine room  was also flooded and the mill itself sustained damage. After the flood Snyder then powered the mill with a steam engine and later with a diesel engine. 
For a few years in the early 1930s the mill was remodeled and became known as the Old Mill Tavern. Beginning in 1956 the structure served as the Reardon’s locker plant until it was razed in the 1970s in preparation of the construction of a new highway. 

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