Visiting a local historical site

—Lidtke Mill depicts life back in the late 1800s-early 1900s
LIME SPRINGS - If you haven’t visited Lidtke Mill’s complex lately, you may need a refresher course in the birth of Lime Springs. Many toured the Mill on Saturday, June 1, after attending the Lidtke Mill Buttermilk and Buckwheat Pancake benefit.
Lidtke Mill is a precious National Historic Place that was established in 1857. This Old Town of Lime Springs is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. The site is open to the public.
There are two fund-raisers held each year for the mill — the Pancake Breakfast and the Harvest Fest. Money raised is used for upkeep, such as mowing.
Tours are given by six volunteers, and they tell the important story of this historical place. The tours started in 1976, the same year that the mill became a National Historical Site.
Roy Lidtke, grandson of long-time owner Herman Lidtke, said “We are making plans to restore the dam.” There are many stages for the project, but the board is first focusing on stage one, which deals with all the broken concrete. There are ways to help, and all donations are tax deductible. Potential donors can purchase a brick and have a commemorative inscription. Lidtke said, “The dam is part of the mill, and there is no government money available.”
Other levels of donations are buying a gate, a flue water exit or a race water entry way or a person could  buy a linear or square foot of the dam. There is also the option of showing your support by buying an “I Give A Dam” T-shirt or sweatshirt.
The mill and miller’s house have preserved many impressive antique artifacts. Some of the items were donated by families in Lime Springs. There are other treasures from the Lidtke and Davis families.
The tour is interesting as guides tell informative stories about the artifacts and the history of the site. Some stories will make you smile and even laugh.
The ability to look into a different time and to learn amazing new knowledge is truly an opportunity. There are also many unique past life styles that to the present age may seem weird. The chance to learn is always a glorious experience.
The tour consists of the two-story house joined to the three-level mill. In the house there is a living room, dinning room, three bedrooms, and a kitchen. 
Some of the antiques make a person see that today’s world is much the same as the olden days but in other cases times were different. One similarity is the upstairs children’s bedroom with its dolls and small china. The children’s room is so touching with the precious memorabilia.
A difference is the very old, brown wedding dress that was worn for many occasions — not just the wedding.
In one of the bedrooms is a Jenny Lind bed. She was a famous Swedish opera singer who marketed her name for products. We see that a lot these days with famous singers and actors still sell items with their own name.
There is an old sewing machine with a manual foot pedal. In those days, women would sew old flour sacks and turn them into clothes. The “Our Best Flour” company used to have doll toy patterns on their sacks.
Not far from the miller’s house is the mill. Outside, there is an old wagon that is where the grain was weighed. Inside the mill there is an old stamping machine that recorded the weight.
Mills were usually built on a river so the flowing water could be used to run machinery. The water power had many uses for making different products.
Most of the owners had different wants and needs for the mill that changed as the years went by. The mill was used for making lumber, flour and electricity. Those times in history of early settlers, Victorian Era and the modern electrical age all benefited from the water power system of the mill.
The mill site has a long history of different owners. A.D.C. Knowlton in 1857 sold land to Melvin Monroe Marsh. The land that was sold was on both sides of the Upper Iowa River. That year Marsh built the dam and started the mill. Marsh’s goal was to have water power to saw timber.
The early settlers needed wood to make their buildings, and the mill created a large amount to usable lumber. In 1860, Marsh finished the mill and managed the business for 11 years.
The Drake Brothers bought the land in 1871 and turned the place into a wheat flour mill. The business ran 24 hours a day and was known for its great quality. The flour was shipped locally but also as far as Eastern and European places. The buckwheat flour of Lime Springs was known throughout the land. (That’s why the Buckwheat Pancake Day benefit is held.)
In 1878 there was a crop failure, which led to misery to the owners. In the next few years, the mill changed hands multiple times.
The year of 1894 brought more suffering because of a fire, and that year James Sanford bought the land. He used the same foundation and recreated the mill. This time the mill was used to grind feed and to generate electricity.
The mill switched hands again in 1905, with William Frechte as owner, and then D.W. Davis in 1915 became the owner. Davis made the mill bigger and built a new dam. There was also a brick veneer put on the mill’s outer building.
In the evenings, electrical power was used by Lime Springs and Chester citizens. Some mornings for washing and ironing also used power.
Davis’ son-in-law, Herman Lidtke, eventually became the owner and the mill was in use until 1960. The mill is a grand museum that showed exactly the operations of an old-style mill. The mill has been left the same as when it was working.
The mill has working turbines. This site is a special reminder of an old mill, and there is only few left of this kind in Iowa.
After visiting the mill, visitors will proceed outside and see even more building exhibits, including two different styles of jails used in the town of Lime Springs.
Anyone interested in history may want to become one of the volunteer tour guides or help with other maintenance around the complex. Roy Lidtke said, “We always need volunteer help.”
Lidtke Mill is truly a wonder to behold and a national treasure. In the olden days the mill was renowned for wheat, and presently it is a Historical place of importance to remember all the ages.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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