Milbank Mill Built In 1867
by George W. Somerville
Chillicothe Constitution Tribune. August 13, 1956.
[Story is illustrated with one photograph]
Emerson once said, "Every institution is but the lengthened [sic] shadow of a man." Long after the found and directing genius of a business has passed on, his influence is a factor in the continuous progress of the institution. This statement certainly holds true of the first and second generation of Milbanks who owned and operated a Chillicothe mill, George Milbank, the found and sons, John T. and Henry S. Milbank. There is no doubt that the same can be said of present owner and operator, John Palmer Milbank, the son of John T. Milbank. Ninety years of successful operation of a business by one family, one of the third generation now owner and operator, marks a very outstanding business record accomplishment.
George Milbank, the founder of the City Mills, Chillicothe, Mo., was born July 15, 1833 in Essex, England. He came to this country when still a young man. He spent some time at Akron, O., and Evansville, Ind. From 1856 to 1860 he was employed in and around St. Louis. In 1860 he located in Troy, Ill., where he engaged in business for himself. In 1867 he came to Chillicothe and built the present mill, still known as the City Mills. Today, the central part of the building used by the City Mills is the original building constructed in 1867.
When Mr. Milbank arrived in Chillicothe to start construction of his mill, the site chosen was outside the city limits at that time. He mad an opening in the fence surrounding an oats field to get into the plot of ground to lay the cornerstone. Just north of the mill he constructed a pond to furnish the water for the milling operations. This pond also became a swimming pool, a fishing hole, and a skating rink. These activities were determined by the season of the year. The pool was also the scene of many baptismal services.
The early mills of Livingston County were "custom mills." The farmer brought his wheat to the mill and the miller took his toll for the grinding. George Milbank had the foresight [sic] to realize that the operation [sic] of a "merchant mill" would mean almost an unlimited amount of business for his mill and it also would be the method that would make it possible for the farmers of his trade territory to not only grow the wheat that they would need for their own family consumption, but any extra wheat that they could produce could be converted into cash. What a boon to the farmer to be able to grow a cash crop. From the day the George Milbank place that sign on the front of the City Mills, "Cash Paid for Wheat," it did more to increase the acreage and production in this area of Missouri than anything ever done.
Mr. Milbank found a ready sale of is flour and meal in many of the towns along the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, now the Burlington and the North Missouri Railroad, now the Wabash. The City Mills found a market for their products in far away places, they made shipments to St. Louis and even to New York City. The first year that Mr. Milbank operated his "merchant mill" he did not have the cash to pay for the wheat at the time he received it. He would give the farmer a due bill and then at such time as when the flour was ground and sold he would receive his cash payment. This method of due bills was used for only a year or two and from that time on Mr. Milbank would pay the cash at the time when the wheat was received at the mill.
George Milbank operated this mill until 1897 when his sons, John T. and H. S. Milbank, took over the business. In 1933, John T. Milbank, then the sole owner of the mill, sold it to his son, John Palmer Milbank, the present owner and operator.
City Mills has from time to time been enlarged and overhauled, new and up to [sic] date machinery installed. Its methods of processing are the latest, and the same high standards. of its manufactured products maintained that established for it its fine reputation in the early days. This mill has long been and will continue to be one of the important of this community.
The accompanying photograph shows the mill located at the present Washington and Bryan streets, and the Milbank home, now an apartment house.