|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
Carriage Makers 11
Harness makers 14
Shoe makers 23
RR workers 19
Although several weekly papers were published there is no count. Note also, only two
bankers who would lend money, only two barbers to trim beards and rural mail routes
were 20 odd years in the future. The number of carpenters is noteworthy. Trempealeau
and Arcadia had the only breweries we know of. Plenty of lawyers. The blacksmith trade
was a good one in those early days and rural schools seemed to attract teachers. Wheat
was an important cash crop and required lots of help. No grain binders yet, only reapers -
hand fed separators and just a few steam engines for power.
Early in this story there is mention of first settlers walking considerable distances to have a
sack of wheat ground into flour. Later these people patronized neighbors who had
constructed a mill wheel, dammed a creek to furnish power and set up a gear box to turn a
pair of mill stones for producing a reasonably good product, saving time and long trips.
There were several of these small mills around this area, some quite well located on good
st(r)eams and with operators that could produce a fair product.
A considerable amount of water came down the four mile Johnson Valley stream and at
one time wheat and other small grain were ground at four locations in that valley. One can
imagine the havoc raised by heavy rains and high water but it seemed the operators took
that in stride.
Per Hanson Bjornstad lived in section 33 (now the Guenther place) further upstream of
these operations. His mill was not large but the spillway is best remembered because of its
fluted construction that left many trout lying thereon.
Esten Johnson Dahl lived a half mile below Bjornstad and had set up a pair of millstones
soon after settling in 1868. Nothing much was heard about his grinding operation but his
blacksmith shop and forge were well known and much mention was made of a particular
healing salve produced in his kitchen. He was an influential man, housed inumerable
immigrants, served on the Sumner town board and was active in forming the first church
The third mill belonged to the old civil war veteran Sam Hogue and was located
downstream a few rods from where the creek crosses the south line of section 20. He
operated at that place a few years but later purchased land closer to the river and
constructed a large dam and the necessary power equipment a short way upstream from
the present railroad right-of-way which was laid out several years later. This was a fairly
large and stable installation and business continued several years until the Eleva mill, four
miles downstream and the Linderman mill near Osseo secured the bulk of this trade.
Local wheat was not of the desired quality for making good flour, it could not compare
with grain from the more arid western states. How good were the operators? One can only
guess. We do know they filled a decided void in the early communities. A good operator
could mill 25 bushels of wheat an hour on a pair of 18” stones. The charge was usually
one bushel for every eight sent through the mill.
A heavy rain washed out Hogue’s mill and dam. The gears and castings are said to be
buried in the old spillway. The dikes are clearly visable today. Ice was sawed on this dam
every winter for years and sold about the village. Someday somebody will restore this
pictureesque dam, excavate and install a wheel and the gears and save some energy that
might otherwise require a cost.
A very unusual use for a waterwheel by a very unusual man came to light after the list of
stone mill wheels had been completed. A. H. Klick owned land and lived just north of the
railroad right-of-way at the east end of the present air strip. He raised bees and sold
honey, lots of it. In fact Mr. Klick shipped a