Past Beck’s Mill volunteers honored; more needed

By: 
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Print Editor

Volunteers are the backbone of many non-profit organizations and the Friends of Beck’s Mill is no exception. Saturday, members of the group gathered at the historic structure to dedicate a plaque to those members who have died, several in the past couple of years.

Raymond Lee, a Friends member, said the mill’s board of directors wanted to honor the memories of those who dedicated hours to the mill.

“If it weren’t for the volunteers, it wouldn’t be here,” Lee said.

Preservation efforts for the mill began in 2005 as a project of an Awareness Washington County class. Bill Cook, the late founder of the Cook Group and noted preservationist, and his family became involved. The Cooks funded the project with no strings attached.

“We would never have gotten it done without their help,” said Lee. “It wouldn’t have happened.”

Construction began in 2007 and the restored mill opened in the fall of 2008, the 200th anniversary of Beck’s Mill.

On hand Saturday were Joyce Andersen and her son, Tony Andersen. Joyce Andersen is the seventh generation direct descendant of the Becks; her grandmother was Essie Beck.

Andersen has another son, Scott; neither is married. “I’m the last generation of Becks,” she said.

Beck’s Mill was opened by George Beck in 1808; the first corn was ground Aug. 28 that year. In 1864, the current mill was constructed. It operated until around 1950. Beck’s Mill is the only extant mill in Indiana that used only grindstone milling in the entire milling process.

Andersen has vivid memories of her childhood. She attended grades six through eight at the old Kansas one-room school, then went to Salem High School. “I remember giving tours of the mill as a teenager,” she said.

The decades passed. As her family grew smaller and the mill fell further into disrepair, “we were really afraid it would be lost.” Referring to the Cooks, she said, “I’m still so grateful. They did save the mill.”

Andersen said she’s also thankful for the volunteers, whom she described as “wonderful.”

Beck’s Mill is “an important piece of history,” she said. It represents an era that people today never experienced, when farmers would take their grain to a mill which would use the force of water to turn a wheel, powering a huge grindstone, turning the grain into meal or flour.

Carl Huff Jr., another Beck relative, said, “I grew up here. This was the hub of the township; everybody came to the mill.” School children enjoyed a trip to the mill on the last day of classes he recalls.

Today, Beck’s Mill is a learning experience for visitors. Several buildings have been added, including a blacksmith shop. The grounds also feature hiking trails. An antique flea market is open the first Saturday of each month and the Pekin Farmer’s Market plans to operate there this season.

Viewing the beautifully restore mill, which still grinds corn, Huff said, “It’s important we remember history.”

To keep that history alive, volunteers play a vital role and more are needed. Volunteers operate the gatehouse, staff the gift shop and give tours. Lee said there’s a desperate need for volunteers to learn the milling process.

Beck’s Mill is open Saturdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sundays, 1-4 p.m. through October. Admission is $5/adults; children 16 and under are free with paid adult admission. For more information, visit www.becksmill.org

 

Names on the plaque

Ron Ewing

Rob Erwin

Phillip Robertson

Dennis Miller

John King

Harley McVay

Gary Hobbs

Joyce Allen

William Cook

Mark Quinlin

Boyce Goode

Donald Nice

Mattie Richardson

Ben Weathers

Larry Nelson

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