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The Old Mill

On one of the main roads in Wherever is a little park with an historic marker out front.  Darwin and I have passed it any number of times and we always say, "We need to stop and see what that is," but we never get around to it.  We were on the way to the drug store on a beautiful, sun-drenched, bird-songy day and we were passing the marker yet again.

"Let's stop right now," Darwin said.

So I dodged into the wee parking area and we got out to have a look.  The marker, it turned out, told the story of the Wherever Roller Mill, which was built by three men, two of whom were brothers, in the 1840s and was the center of commerce for the area.  It ground grain and sawed lumber.  The village was built around it and the stagecoach stop, which was part of a two-day journey between Milford and Pontiac, a trip you can make in half an hour today.  In the late 20s, the mill went out of business--larger mills could grind more cheaper elsewhere--and in the late 30s, the abandoned building accidentally burned down.  In 1984, the area was designated an historic park.

Darwin and I wandered into the park to have a look and found the stone foundation ruins.  This was great fun for amateur historians like us.  We tried to figure out where the mill wheels had been and finally decided that Spot A had held the grinding wheels and Spot B had been for the saw.  It was clear from the graffiti and trash at the bottom of the ruins that the place was a teen hideaway that included a fair amount of pot smoking.

Someone had built a pagoda-style covered bridge over the creek.  You could still see where water had once flowed around the mill--it looked like a dry castle moat.  The creek was loud and FAST, and after a moment's examination, we saw why--the remains of two stone walls artifically narrowed the creek bed to speed up the flow of water.

"The main mill wheel hung there," I said.  "The walls sped the flow, giving the creek enough power to turn the wheel.  A system of gears and levers turned the grindstones over there and the saw over there.  Free power!"  Darwin agreed with this. It was cool to see it and understand how it must have worked.

On the other side of the river, a trail disappeared into the woods.  We followed it for a while, and discovered it went a considerable distance.  I called up our location on GPS and saw the park was at the border of the much-larger local nature preserve, which meant the trail went on for miles.  We hiked it a while and enjoyed it very much.


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