E. G. Mann Mill

By dhowell - Posted on 28 December 2007

No history of Manchester would be complete without a story about the mill which pinpointed the location of this village. The Raisin River furnished the power around which clustered business interests in this northeast corner of the township. When John Gilbert, who platted the area, sold the mill property to Stephen Fargo there was a stipulation. The property was to be used for a flouring mill. This mill was to receive water power from the river.

Emanuel Case and Harvey Gilbert built the first mill, in 1826, with timber sawed into lumber by William S. and Elijah G. Carr. The first millwright was Richard Fogy. In 1842 Charles Noble and Austin Wing were the owners.

The hub of the community was the flouring mill.

It is unique that this mill should stand in the center of the village today, just as it did in the beginning. It has been a deciding factor in the growth of the community-and it was responsible for nearly destroying the town.

About 6 a.m. Sunday, May 1, 1853, the sound of burning timber awakened the settlers. Flames leaped from the flouring mill. The wind fanned the flames to the opposite side of the street and 14 business houses and one dwelling were leveled before it was brought under control. The hotel on the corner of Clinton and Exchange Place was saved. Damage to the mill was $20,000 and the entire loss was over $50,000 according to the Washtenaw County History.

John D. Kief rebuilt the mill in 1854, and it was known as the Farmers' Grist Mill. James Fountain took over in 1866 and sold to George Sedgwick in 1877.

Noah Holt bought the mill in 1896. He was an inventor of milling machinery. He was credited for designing and building some of the largest and most perfect mills in the United States and while here put in some of his new type of rollers. The name was then changed to Southern Washtenaw Mills.

Lonier and Hoffer bought the mill in 1903. Lonier died in 1919, and Hoffer in 1930.

People still talk of the second huge fire which destroyed the mill in 1924. Robert Mahrle, the nightwatchman, discovered the fire Sunday evening, July 22. By the time the alarm was turned in, flames were shooting through the sides.

When the floor burned, the safe and desk tumbled into the flume. Later they were rescued by workmen. The papers were soaked but legible. There was a good breeze blowing from the west. All attempts to save the building were futile.

Flames leaped across the river and threatened Mary Swift's millinery shop (now Knouase barbershop). But the building escaped with little damage.

Across the street to the north several stores were threatened, including Wm. Holt's confectionery, Gauss' barbershop and the G. M. Smart variety store.

The plate glass windows in the Union Savings Bank were broken by the intense heat. Even the windows at Mrs. Conklin's across the river were broken. Several others on Exchange Place and Railroad street were damaged. Burning brands, carried by the wind, were reportedly landed on roofs as far as three blocks away.

A paper reported, "A considerable number of young men were attending a dance at Wampler's lake. Someone telephoned Mr. Nisle and asked him to send them home. It didn't take many minutes for them to get here."

But the mill was rebuilt, this time without the flouring mill-only as a feed mill. Wm. Blaess became the owner in 1930, and he sold to E. G. Mann. Today the mill is operated by Willard and Earl Mann, known as the E. G. Mann & Sons mill.

Three water wheels were installed before 1900. The one being used today was installed in 1896 and came from Springfield, Ohio, manufactured by Leffie Mfg. Co. The wheel is 5.5 ft. in diameter and is one of the last, if not the last, in use in Michigan. Twelve years ago there were a couple of dozen water generated mills but the others have changed to electric power.

The grain elevator was added in 1954 and over 5,000 bushels of grain can be stashed away in huge bins. Later it is ground, mixed, and such things as protein, minerals and antibiotics added to make a complete balanced feed for livestock, hogs and poultry. Bulk trucks, distribute the feed to farmers specializing in big time operations.

The 50' x 50' mill has galvanized steel siding. It opens its doors at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 5:30 p.m. Saturday the four workmen finish at noon. During wartime the mill worked on a 'round the clock basis. World War I period saw the mill recognized for its State Seal Flour.

Five years ago a second feeder grinder was installed to speed production. Now the time is cut in half and the volume of business doubled.

Part of the power is generated by electricity but at least half is water power. When the water has been very low the gates have been closed so that by morning there would be enough water to turn the water wheel for at least a half day.

The mill grinds feeds for farmers for their use and also buys from those who want to sell. This gives the mill needed grain for their custom business with the bulk trucks.