Sunday, July 17, 2011

Visiting the Benson Grist Mill

Benson Grist Mill

If you are looking for a fun excursion sans crowds and costs not far from Salt Lake City, the Benson Grist Mill is a great place.  It rests peacefully just off the road near Stansbury Park in Tooele County, Utah.  The original mill was built in 1854, and was restored in the 1980s.  Other buildings have been added to this pleasant site, making it a worthwhile day trip.

Grounds at the Benson Grist Mill Site

The grist mill is named after Ezra Taft Benson, who was sent to the area by LDS Church leader Brigham Young to find water and oversee the building of the mill.  Several other buildings have been moved to the spot, and this historical interpretive site includes restored cabins, a blacksmith shop, a sheep camp, replica wagons, and a country store.  The mill's original grindstone is on display outside.  It was brought over from France in the 1850s, completing its journey to Utah without the benefit of the railroad.  I don't know how many oxen it took to transport this stone, but it must have been a hefty task.  Those building the mill tried other stones at first, like granite, but found them unsuitable, so they imported a stone from France similar to the ones they had used in the eastern United States.

Original mill stone

Inside the mill you can see the grain elevator, hopper, storage bins for grain waiting to go through the grinding process, and more.  The miller made notations and calculated figures in pencil on the storage bins.  Some of the writing remains legible, bringing the past to life.  My group was fascinated by the machinery and process, all powered by water.  One of my favorite pieces of machinery sported the label "Bug and Dust Collector."

Bug and Dust Collector

This is a very large building for a mill, and you can climb the narrow stairs to the upper floors.  The grain elevator has little scoops on belts that would transport the grain to the upper levels.  I had never seen a grain elevator before, and this was definitely not what I envisioned when I heard the term, so this was educational for me!

Grain elevators inside the mill

Next to the old mill is a new building where you can see a replica mill in action.  I found the mill to be surprisingly quiet after our guide got it running.  She indicated that the noise level would be far different if it were really grinding corn.  A sawmill was built south of the grist mill, and later changed configurations and usages, serving as a tannery, and later, as a wool pullery.  There, residents could process sheep carcasses in order to salvage the wool and sheepskin for sale.  Old foundations remain at the site.

MILL TRIVIA:  Grist means the material found in the mill (grain).

Only one other family came while we were there, making this a peaceful, charming stop on our day trip.  Inside the country store you will find crafts, toys, candies (we tried the honey stix with flavors like raspberry and wildflower).  You may also purchase commercially packaged ice cream bars, soda and water.  Before leaving we were given a booklet entitled "Memories of the Mill."  It contains historical information, a description of how the mill works, biographical sketches of those connected with the mill, and anecdotes from residents.

The Benson Grist Mill was my family's favorite stop of the four places we visited on our day trip.  Stay tuned for my family connection to this site.

The Benson Grist Mill is open from May 1 through Oct. 31, 10am - 4pm.
Cost:  FREE    (donations are accepted)
There are various activities scheduled at this site throughout the summer season including Pioneer Days, a Harvest Festival, and a Pumpkin Walk. 


1 comment:

  1. This was a unexpected surprise and super interesting place to visit. The picnic lunch was great at their covered pavilion. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in old machinery or history!