Graham's Mill, a County
by George W. Somerville
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune. June 4, 1956.
The following article is one in a series of histories of mills of Livingston
County. It was written by George W. Somerville of Chillicothe, president of the
Grand River Historical Society and Museum. [Story is illustrated with one photograph]
In the year 1839, about four miles northwest of Chillicothe C. H. Ashby established a ferry across Grand River. At this time Springhill was quite a thriving town, and the northwest part of Livingston County, which now comprises the townships of Jackson and Sampsel, was one of the most densely settled parts of the county. This ferry soon became a very important link for the people of this part of the county to get to and from the county seat, Chillicothe. The traffic became so heavy that in 1866 and 1867 a bridge was constructed across Grand River at this point.
This bridge was soon to take the name of Graham's Mill Bridge from the name of the mill that was constructed here in 1867. This bridge was constructed of native white oak timbers that were cut and shaped in the forests growing nearby. This old covered bridge stood for 77 years and was destroyed by a flood on May 2, 1944.
James Graham in 1867 chose a site near this ferry and bridge for the erection of a mill, known since as Graham's Mill. This site was not only favorable for the construction of a dam across Grand River to furnish the power from day to day added to its importance as a mill site. Not only did the people of Livingston County use this bridge but many of the residents of the counties north and west of Livingston County chose this route to get their produce and merchandise to and from Chillicothe, the shipping point on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad.
James Graham was born on Sept. 27, 1828, in White County, Ill. He was a son of John M. Graham, a native of Pennsylvania, who in 1846 brought his family to Grundy County, Mo. James Graham was a lad 17 years of age when his family moved to Grundy County. His early years were spent working on the farm, and he also spent some time working in a mill. In 1850, he journeyed to California and spent about four years working in the e mines with fair success. In 1866 he came to Livingston County and in connection with his father constructed what is now known as Graham's Mill, formerly called Grand Ricer Mills.
Perhaps Graham's Mill was the best known of the county mills and will be remembered longest. For 20 years it was operated by James Graham and then passed into the control of his brother, Oliver Graham. Oliver Graham was a unique figure with his long flowing whiskers, so long they were rolled into a knot and a hairpin stuck through them to keep them out of the way, and to keep them from getting entangled in the revolving machinery. Oliver Graham was very particular about keeping his mill spotlessly clean. The story is told that one day a farmer was there getting his grist ground. He was chewing tobacco and spit on the floor. Mr. Graham did not say a word but dragged the farmers sack of meal through the spittle wiping up the floor.
The area in this vicinity along Grand River became a very favored spot for fishing and picnics. It is said that on many occasions the floor of the old covered bridge was used for a dance floor.
This mill was originally a stone mill but was remodeled into the roller system about 1890. Information concerning the last years of the operation of this mill is rather obscure. From the best information available it appears that it ceased to operate as a mill about the year 1909 or 1910.
In a later article I hope to be able to give something definite on the last days of this mill, which was one of the outstanding landmarks of this county. Any information on this subject will be greatly appreciated by the writer. [Photograph of Graham's Mill] Chillicothe Constitution Tribune. April 19, 1960.
[Caption beneath photograph reads:] Grand River floodwaters of another year, the time unstated, flowed high beneath two once prominent landmarks of Livingston County, the old covered bridge, a section of which is shown at the left, and the Graham's Mill. The bridge was constructed in 1866 and 1867 to carry the heavy traffic between the densely populated areas of Sampsel and Jackson townships and the county seat of Chillicothe. A ferry had operated there since 1839. James Graham built the mill in 1867. A bridge pier and other remains are still at the site not far from the State Route 170 bridge over Grand River. Harry Rogers of Chillicothe printed this picture from a glass negative found among the photographic effects of the late Clarence Wilson.
[Note: Route 170 was changed to Route 190 in 198?]