Lamberson Mill to be Razed

Colon Landmark Is Being Razed

August 1941: “The old time waterpower mills which were so closely associated with community life in the pioneer days, are gradually passing out, and only a few of the scores of mills which once stood are left for operating purposes. A few of these mills may be found is southwestern Michigan, but generally checkup reveals that these mills are operated on a much different schedule than in the old days when “flap-jacks” were made from pure buckwheat flour, and the batter known as “starter” was distributed among the neighbors and kept on hand from day to day as long as the weather would permit. Compounds today on the market enable the housewife to prepare flap-jacks in a few minutes and buckwheat is grown on a lesser scale each year. In the village of Colon, besides a river and several beautiful lakes, there is an old mill to which the village owns its beginning. Standing between a quiet mill stream and Swan creek, just on the edge of the business district, this three story structure has been a picturesque landmark in the village for over a hundred years. In the year 1830, Loransi Schelhous, looking for a water power site, found the one here, went to Ohio and manufactured mill irons, and returned to Colon in the spring and damned Swan creek, hauled planks from Brunson and built a saw mill. Two years later, he began cutting lumber. This property was then sold to a Dr. Isaac Vooorhies in 1836. he built the mill which stands today. William Eck came from Three Rivers, dressed the millstones and ground the first grist. The mill, operating on three “run” of stones became busier each year, and in 1875, a fourth “run” of stones was added. In 1877, the Lamberson family became associated with the mill and in the year 1914, Frank D. Lamberson, who had been with the plant since 1888, became the sole owner and continued to operate under the firm name his father had used, C. A. Lamberson & Son. He successfully operated the mill manufactured wheat and buckwheat flour and ground grist until the undermined flume was washed out in 1934.  Operations were then discontinued and Mr. Lamberson retired to enjoy his home where he and Mrs., Lamberson and two sons had lived for several years across from the mill, just between the damn and the mill race. Eli Dane who was in the employ of Mr. Lamberson for many years, died about six months ago. The building has had exceptional care throughout the years and one would hesitate to believe its age,. Built of heavy timbers, some of them from one foot to 16 inches square, and of great length and weight, it took scores of men to raise them into position while workers high in the air fitted the mortised ends and drove the pins which fastened them. The roof rests on a series wooden beams which are heavy and are so rigidly interlocked that there are no signs of sagging despite the 102 years the frame has stood. The elevator is fitted with what is known as a “Dutch” door, something seldom seen in this art of the country. This is a large specially made door, cut horizontally in half and hung so that the lower portion may be kept closed. The reason for such a door was to keep out domestic animals and fowls which were allowed to run loosed in those days. The latch is made to resemble a long iron bar. A conspicuous and interesting feature on the front of the building is a triangular projection, conforming to lines of the gable, under which was the pulley for lifting bags of grain from wagons to the bins on the upper floors. It bears the date of the completion of the building … 1839. Colon residents, both young and old are going to miss this landmark as the building has been sold and the process of tearing it down has already been started. The machinery was sold and disposed of several months ago. Mr. Lamberson has made no announcement as to what will be done with the land site, but after it is cleaned up, there will be some beautiful scenery for the village as Swan creek and the mill stream are surrounded by beautiful weeping willow trees.”  Your local historical society has the peak with the date attached. All that remains except for photos.

The Old Mill; Ralph Clement

      The Old Mill

Written June 28, 1967, by Ralph Clement: “The grist mill and a wooden dam were built in 1839. The building was located just west of the bridge on the north side. My first recollection of the property, about 1887, was the wooden dam with its gates which could be lowered or raised as necessary to keep the proper water level in Palmer Lake.  Gates to the wooden flume and millrace could also be opened and closed, and there were the big mill wheels which were run by falling water.

In the 1890’s , the floodgates were opened and Palmer Lake was lowered and the old wooden dam torn out. The new concrete dam was built under the direction of Aura Tomlinson. It had no floodgates but the water just spilled over the top. It was considered a big job well done.

The firs owners of the mill whom I can remember were Mr. Lamberson and Mr. Hollingshead. Mr. Lamberson had been a farmer while Mr. Hollingshead was a miller. Mr. Hollingshead’s two sons, Elwood  and Elsworth, worked in the mill. I can remember farmers with loads of wheat lined up a block long wait8ing for their “grist” to be ground. A bushel of wheat, 60 pounds, would “mill out” about 28 pounds of flour for the farmer, the remainder of the flour and the bran going to the miller for grinding the grist. After the turn of the century, and with the advent of the automobile and trucks, business slackened at the mill.

About that time, Mr. Hollingshead passed away, and Frank Lamberson came into the firm. Also, they hired I. K. Milland of Three Rivers, and experienced miller, and a fine man. Mr. Hollingshead’s interest in the firm was bought by Joseph (Big Joe) Farrand. Mr. Farrand was not active in the business, but kept close watch of his interest. About this time, Frank Lamberson, who had become manager of the mill, secured a contract to sell flour to a large wholesale grocery firm in the state of Maine. This enabled Frank to buy wheat on the market and keep the mill running at capacity. This connection lasted for many years until finally the wholesaler went out of business. By this time, conditions had greatly changed. Farmers no longer brought in their wheat to have it ground. Frank kept the mill running and ground feed.

However, the day of the country grist mill had passed. The mill was closed, and within a few years was wrecked and the site cleaned up.

Frank Lamberson had started working in the mill as bookkeeper when he was about 18 years old, and he soon became manager. He continued in that capacity until the mill was closed some 40 years later. When the mill was closed, he awarded a pension to several and this they drew as long as they lived. Under his management the grist mill had prospered.