Tag Archives: Bow Valley Mills

Lewis Evan Jones Jr (1825 — 1910) — Sagging landmark survives at Wynot

The following is a faithful transcription of a photocopied newspaper page, one of many documents I received from D. L. Bond, of Raleigh, N.C., as part of a collection of memoirs and papers, as well as genealogical information related to Lewis Evan Jones Jr. (1825 – 1910), his antecedents and descendants, and the “Nebraska line” of the Jones family, originally of Dolgelly (Dolgellau), Wales and Carnarvon, Wales. Mr. Bond is a great-great-grandson of Lewis Evan Jones Jr. I have no information what newspaper this article originally appeared in, or the date of publication. If anyone can help me identify this article’s origin and date, please contact me.

B. Paul Chicoine, the “Journal correspondent” who authored this piece, is apparently the same person of that name who co-authored the book Sioux City – A Pictorial History, the Donning Company, 1982. He appears to have also authored or co-authored a number of other historical articles and text books.


 

“Sagging landmark survives at Wynot

Bow Valley Mills

Historic mill – The historic three-story Bow Valley Mill still stands near Wynot, Neb., although sagging underpinnings cause it to teeter toward the spillway dug more than 100 years ago. The addition at the right is used to store farm machinery. (Photo by B. Paul Chicoine, Journal correspondent) (Photo shown above is not original to the article. It was taken by an unidentified photographer at a later period.)

By B. Paul Chicoine
Journal correspondent

WYNOT, Neb. – Time and grazing cattle may be kicking the underpinnings from a massive three-story frame structure near Bow Creek, but the Bow Valley Mill is a persistent survivor.

Perched on the bank of a dried up millpond, Cedar County’s oldest surviving landmark hangs on to the future with slipping fingers – a sad state of affairs for a building which has survived time, technology, floods and efforts by one of Cedar County’s more colorful and industrious families to keep the ancient giant in production.

Situated a quarter mile south of bubbling Bow Creek, a major water course in the north Cedar County area, the Bow Valley Mill is a monument to this family and to the raw, untamed wilderness of the Nebraska frontier. It was founded by Lewis Evan Jones and is part of an industry bloodline which included the Christian Advocate.

In 1857, while Jones, founder of the Advocate, was still plying his trade and papers, he was intrigued by a company of town promoters involved in establishing a prairie city along the Missouri River in Nebraska Territory.

Family accounts and local records show Jones, a native of Carnarvon, Wales, was impressed by the immense acreages of hardwoods which lined the hills in this region and the available water power along its creeks.

Turning publication of his newspaper over to a colleague in St. Louis, he embarked upon a milling career which was to develop the huge mill at Bow Valley.

Mrs. John (Edith) Jones, grand daughter of the mill’s founder, maintains a careful collection of its records. She says the family business survived 100 years of prosperity and disaster by adapting to changing times and needs of Cedar County.

Those needs included making flour for the gold prospectors of Montana and later, generating electricity.

The mill is said to have helped supply the soldiers in the last campaigns against the Indians.

“There must have been thousands of tons of wheat through those old stone burrs,” says Mrs. Jones, a spry and effervescent woman in her 70’s. “A good share of it went to the government for outposts and reservations too.”

Riverboats upbound from Sioux City to Montana stopped regularly to take on fuel and freshly milled flour at the mill’s private landing, located a short distance north on the Missouri River.

Along with processing locally grown wheat and corn, a sawmill attached to the mill’s east side supplied planks, timbers, and framing for homes and farms in Wynot, St. James, nearby St. Helena and Yankton.

With the coming of the railroad and the founding of Wynot, the track’s terminus in 1907, the mill’s creeking side-shot water wheel was harnessed to an electric generator to power the town’s first electric lights.

Built of local hardwoods – maple, oak, and walnut – and mortised and tenoned throughout, Bow Valley Mills shows the work of skilled hands. Its records show the persistence of the Jones family in keeping it alive through three generations.

Wheat, hauled in by pack horse and wagon, was ground on the first floor by water-powered burrs, then sacked and stored in a “mouse-proof” flour house alongside.

Mouse-proofing was accomplished by overlaying walls with tin. The materials were shipped upriver by steamboat.

Water-powered elevators raised wheat to the two top floors for temporary storage.

A quarter-mile millrace delivered water from a rock and log dam across Bow Creek to the south. Later, after floods destroyed the first dam, Thomas Jones, son of the founder, constructed another dam of railroad iron and concrete further west. Mr. Jones recounts that the sheer weight of the second dam caused it to sink beneath the river bank, thus closing the mill for good.

Milling thus ended at the at the ancient landmark in the 1920’s. Subsequent attempts to revitalize the structure failed, ending in the mill’s conversion to Commodity Credit Corp. grain storage in 1939.

Today the giant wood structure stands in silence a dusty gravel road. The sawmill and mouse-proof flourhouse are gone. So is the great creaking waterwheel, and the shafts of machinery it turned. Spilled aots and assorted rubble litter the mill’s huge interior. Below and away a herd of black cattle graze quietly amid willows where head deep mill waters used to rush.

Like most of the Wynot community, Cedar County has voiced no plans to restore the venerable structure which now sags precariously toward the spillway its founders dug.

A local landmark, a Nebraska industrial relic, or just a memory, the Bow Valley Mill stands waiting for another stream of genius to harness its silent wheels.”


Bow Valley Mills — Wynot Nebraska — Edith D. Jones — A Brief Visit to the Past

The following is a faithful transcription of a photocopied page (partial article) that originally appeared in the Cedar County News, on January 29, 1975. It is one of many documents I received from D. L. Bond, of Raleigh, N.C., as part of a collection of memoirs and papers, as well as genealogical information related to Lewis Evan Jones Jr. (1825 – 1910), his antecedents and descendants, and the “Nebraska line” of the Jones family, originally of Dolgelly (Dolgellau), Wales and Carnarvon, Wales. Mr. Bond is a great-great-grandson of Lewis Evan Jones Jr. The author of this article, Edith D. Jones, is the granddaughter of Lewis Evan Jones Jr. If anyone has any information on Edith D. Jones, please contact me so we can share information and I can document the connection.


 

“Circle Tour – A Brief Visit to the Past

Lewis Evan Jones, Jr.

Lewis E. Jones of St. Louis, Mo., came to the St. Helena area in 1858 and helped establish the town. He brought with him a printing press and a saw mill. He operated the sawmill at that place until 1868 when because of availability of water power from Bow Creek, he built the Bow Valley Mill, approximately      1 ½ miles north of Wynot, Nebraska.

Approximately one and one half miles north of Wynot is the Bow Valley Mills built in 1868 Lewis E. Jones as a flour mill. Oak timber from the Henson Wiseman timber was used in its construction – the frame was mortised and pinned with wood pins, no nails used at any time.

A dam was constructed across Bow Creek, approximately one fourth mile south of the Mill. A mill race was dug and water power was made available for running the mill.

On the west of the structure there was an addition called the “flour house”. On the east side was the saw mill equipment, and a scale house was attached on the south. These additions have been removed through the years. The main structure, which contained the flour milling machinery, is standing today – probably the oldest historical mark left in Cedar County today.

For many years flour milling and sawing of lumber were the main activities. The mill ground flour for half a century to feed the pioneers of Nebraska and Dakota Territory. Thousands of tons of flour and feed were ground by Bow Valley Mills and transmitted to the town. Still later this building was converted into government storage bins for scaled corn. Today it is used for storage of grain and farm machinery.

Bow Valley Mills

Bow Valley Mills, late 20th century.

 

Bad Village

A hill, approximately one-half mile northeast of the Bow Valley Mill, was the location of a major excavation by the University of Nebraska in the 1930’s. It revealed an early Indian village. It was unique among Indian Villages because it had a wall built around it. This led some to believe the Indians were hostile, and therefore some traditions say the village was called “Bad Village”. Lewis and Clark speak of this village as they journeyed up the Missouri River in 1804.

School District #1

Private schools were established by the early settlers in many areas. The first public school – before school districts were formed – was built by farmers in 1867 and the first session of school was held in the summer of 1868. At that time, school was held between the time crops were in (approximately May 1) and held until November when corn picking started.

The first school building was a log school with a dirt roof. It was located south and east of Bow Valley Mill and was called the St. James School. It was taught by Anna Schmidt, who later became Mrs. John Felber.*

She was the first teacher in this section of the state and one of the first north of the Platte River.

She had 35 pupils, some as old as she, and some walked as much as four miles. She taught this school two years.

In 1872, a school house was erected northwest of Bow Valley Mill – (approximately one-half mile) and the first teacher was Mr. J.J. Tullass.
On April 30, 1873, School Districts 1, 2, and 3 were organized. This area being in Disctrict #1.

In 1930, a marker was erected by the Home Culture Club of Wynot, assisted by the school children of Cedar County. Since the site on which the log structure (of 1868) stood was in an area which was flooded nearly every spring and fall, the marker was set on the grounds of the first school erected in 1872.

School District #1 was discontinued several years ago – the building was sold and moved from the area.

The marker, a large boulder weighing about 3300 pounds was found near Wynot and moved to the school grounds. This was set in a cement foundation. On the top is a miniature log school house fashioned out of cement and hand carved to resemble real logs. On the face is a bronze plate with the following inscription:

1868 – 1930
Erected to commemorate the first school in Cedar County
Mrs. Anna Schmidt Felber, first teacher.
Sponsored by the Home Culture Club of Wynot, Nebraska,
Assisted by the school children of Cedar County.

Fort Jackson

During the summer of 1864, “The Great Stampeded” took place. It followed the Wiseman Massacre near St. James and the murder of Dr. Lorenzo Bentz northwest of St. Helena. News of an uprising was brought by refuges that the Sioux and Cheyenne had organized an army of 10,000 to clean out all the white inhabitants from both sides of the Missouri river. Hasty consultations took place and settlers fortified themselves as best they could. The settlers at Old St. James immediately fortified themselves in the “Court House” by throwing up sand embankments and otherwise strengthening their position expecting momentarily to be attacked. They also dug a well inside the embankment.

At St. Helena, the mill house (one mile east of the town) was filled with fleeing settlers from up the river and particularly with many Norwegian families from “The Dakota Bottomlands” (across the river). All were welcome as they helped strengthen and fortify the place. Four families, all that remained in the town, congregated to occupy one four room house, the Felber House, one room for each family. They gathered all the arms and ammunition to be found.

The massacre was never carried out but there was good reason to believe that it had been carefully planned.

In the course of a few days, nothing having occurred, the scared settlers began to return home and everything soon quieted down.

Later, during the year 1864, Company B, 7th Iowa Cavalry was sent to protect the settlers against Indian attacks. A part of this Company was stationed at Niobrara and the remainder garrisoned at Fort Jackson to protect settlers of St. James and St. Helena.

Approximately two miles northwest of Bow Valley Mill is a fork in the road. Fort Jackson, named for its captain, once topped the high hill in the “Y” – on what was later known as the Harder farm.

The soldiers remained about a year and it is said the settlers were not sorry to see them go.

Dakota Bottomlands

As we catch our first glimpse of the spire of the St. Helena Catholic Church, it would be remiss if we did not pause at the top of the hill to view the Dakota Bottomlands.

This land, lying along Missouri River and bounded by the James and Vermillion Rivers, is known as “Strike the Ree” land – (land of the Dakotas).

In the fall, when the summer’s hunting ended, the Dakota usually set up their winter camp along the Missouri, near the James. It is here, that on August 28, 1804, Lewis and Clark made their camp.

Struck by the Ree

Struck by the Ree

There is no historical documentation but it is told that an Indian child, son of a head chief, was born that night. When Captain Clark learned of this he asked that the child be brought to him. He wrapped the baby in a U.S. Flag and declared him to be the first “Yancton” Indian citizen of the U.S. He prophesied that the child would become a great of his people. Strike-the-Ree led a life well in keeping with this prophecy. He became a chief of the Yankton Sioux tribe in his…

(continued on Page 15)”**


* John Felber is probably the son of Henry Felber, who traveled to St. Helena in 1858, with Lewis Evan Jones Jr., on board the steamboat Florence, to first settle in Cedar County.

** I do not have the balance of this article included in the papers passed to me from D. Bond. I have contacted the Cedar County News to determine if copies still exist. I will update this article to include the missing material if my inquiry is successful.


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