Historic Bowens Mills Civil War
The Last Saturday and Sunday in October
Historic Bowens Mills is honored to host our two day
Civil War Event. It will take place on the
last Saturday and Sunday in October every
at "It's Cider Time
Civil War Days". Visitors can enjoy the
large Civil War Living History Encampment
with both military and civilian camps, along
with tours of the old mill, cider making,
live old time music and horse drawn rides.
The fun begins at 12 noon and lasts until 5
This year's added "special event" will be an evening scrimmage
that will start at 7pm Saturday night.
Admission is $5.00 each. Tickets will be
available at the Gate.
There will be a Battle both
Saturday & Sunday at 3pm.
This Civil War event will be
one of the largest reenactments ever hosted at
Bowens Mills, there will be re-enactors from
Michigan and neighboring states
participating in this event as well as
several Canons. You will see, hear and
feel, what life during the Civil War was
like. Camp life throughout the grounds can
be enjoyed. Artillery demonstrations along
with numerous military and civilian
demonstrations as well as ongoing activities
taking place throughout the Village. Some of
the activities that you may see and/or
participate in are: cooking over an open
fire, lessons in the schoolhouse, cider
making, live music, wagon rides, and many
Historic Bowens Mills is an 1864 Grist Mill
& Cider Mill and pioneer farm village. The
old mill is a working museum that still
grinds and sells fresh corn meal through the
use of the original water-powered mill
The 19 acre Historical Park now consists of
• 1864 Grist
& Cider Mill The antiquated four-story
building’s main floor houses a working Water
Powered Grist Mill, Cider Mill and a
Museum. There is a Blacksmith Shop, a Water
Powered Machine Shop in its lower Level.
The third floor has been transformed into a
quaint and cozy living quarters. The top
floor has a lot of old machinery, gears, and
pulleys still in that area.
• 1840’s two
story Plank House, the oldest house in
Bowens Mills, moved to the mill property in
• 1850’s Moe
School one room school house, moved to the
mill in 1988, it is the oldest one room
school house in Barry County
• 1860’s 11
room Victorian House built by the Bowens
• A Post &
Beam Barn, home of Belgian Draft Horses
• A Quaint
Covered Bridge crosses the Old Mill Stream
• 17 foot
Water Wheel completed in 1999
• “Ye Ole
Craft Shoppe” an artisans woodworking and
Mills Gathering Place” a huge Arts &
Entertainment Center for displays, weddings,
social events, meetings, conferences, &
• Log Cabin
“Fork River Trappers Trading Post” Completed
• "The Saw
Millers Cabin" down by the Old Mill Stream
Restored "Line Camp Cabin" located near the
"Trappers Trading Post"
The Old Mill is a second generation,
family-owned and operated state historic
site with no state funding. The Sabin's
seek community support to help with the
future challenges of this historic landmark,
thus preserving history for future
generations to learn from and enjoy. The
"It’s Cider Time Festival" gate fee for
adults is $5.00, Children 12 and under
$3.00. Festival hours are 12-5pm.
ALL CIDER TIME FESTIVALS INCLUDE: Free Horse
Drawn Wagon Ride with admission, Cider
pressing demonstrations on the 100+ year old
water-powered cider press, stone ground corn
grinding demonstrations on the huge mill
stones, Pioneer Farm with animals, along
with many other history related activities.
The Old Mill is located in the heart of
beautiful Yankee Springs Township in Barry
County just 2 miles north of Yankee Springs
(Gun Lake) State Park. Watch for the Huge
Millstone Marker at 55 Briggs Road,
Middleville, MI 49333. Visit
www.BowensMills.com or call 269-795-7530 for
55 Briggs Rd. • Middleville MI
• 269-795-7530 •
The Past Lives Again
at Historic Bowens Mills
Neal H. Cook
Neal & Marion Cook
Re-edited in 1999
by Carleen Sabin
Montermer B. Martin, a land speculator, came to Barry County and Purchased
land from the government, President Martin Van Buren signing the contracts.
This land was located in the north west part of Yankee Springs Township, parts
of Sec. 8 and 17. The lake which is now known as Payne Lake was included in
course, one of the first things needed in those early days of Barry County was
a sawmill. Soon a Mr. Payne and his son-in-law built a dam and a sawmill where
two creeks joined just north of the lake. It was powered by a water wheel with
a 4 foot fall and they were soon sawing 1,000 foot of lumber a day. The creeks
became known as Payne and Hoag Creaks (Hoag Creek’s Name has since been
changed to Cobb Creek.)
1838, Nathan Barlow, a lawyer, purchased some land which included the sawmill.
Seeing the added potential of more water power a quarter or a mile or so up
the creek, Mr. Barlow relocated the mill to its present location. History
tells us he used many of the original timbers. Ox teams were used to transport
them. Upon building the wooden dam across the creek, the water was backed up
14-feet, making the Mill Pond and in turn flooded the two ponds upstream,
making the lake which was named Barlow Lake.
Barlows also built the house on the east side of the old Mill Pond. It was
there in that house that court was held and legal matters taken care of. The
house is now owned and is being restored by the O’Dells.
1854 the sawmill changed hands again, when Timothy and Franklin Miles bought
it. More and more People were coming to the area and lumber was in great
demand for their homes. Miles wanted to increase his production so he ordered
some new equipment from New York State. His new "Muley Saw Mill" was delivered
by ox team. He could now saw 7,000 feet of lumber a day. O. C. Bates owned the
saw mill for about 1 1/2 years before selling to the Bowens. History dose not
reveal any details of his ownership.
Edwin H. Bowen’s moved to Yankee Springs from Ohio in 1864 and acquired the
sawmill. Bowen and his son William soon added a grist mill with three levels
to the operation. The mill was 24’ X 48’ and housed 2 sets of French Burr
Stones. The Mill and surrounding area soon became known as "Bowens Mills".
Before it was always known as Gun Lake, Michigan. E H. Bowen was made
Postmaster and the mail was kept in a large basket in the family home, where
the farmers from the surrounding country would call as often as twice a week
for their letters. The mail was carried by stagecoach from Kalamazoo to Grand
Rapids, someone meeting the coach at Wayland to carry the mail to Gun Lake.
Later a wooden letter holder was made and put in the Mill’s Office. It is
early 1870’s, rumors were flying around about the railroad coming through
Bowens Mills, going from grand Rapids to Battle Creek. When it did, it would
mean all the more people would be settling along its path. In that case, the
Mill wouldn’t be large enough to handle all the needs. Mr. Bowen wanted to be
ready for it, so the roof of the mill was taken off and a fourth level was
added. When the railway did come, it followed the Thornapple River and never
did come to Bowens Mills.
this same time William Bowen was courting Adeline Richards. They were married
on December 31, 1874, and built the house across the road from his parents
(the old Saw Millers house). This house has been owned by various people over
the years, but was obtained in 1984 by Neal and Marion Cook, and then
purchased and restored by their daughter and son-in-law, Owen and Carleen
Sabin that now own and run the Mill and property.
Mr. Bowen purchased a huge ‘Albright’ Cider press from Burdette Briggs. A room
18 X 24 was added on the side of the mill to house it.
Mills had become famous for it buckwheat flour and old-timers tell of how in
the fall, the horses and wagons were backed all through town with their loads
of apples - waiting their turn at the cider press.
the turn of the century disaster struck the mill several times. The sawmill
had previously been converted from water power to the newest source of power
of the time "steam". Two of the mill workers had fired up the old stationary
engine and were waiting to get full head of steam. The safety valve stuck.
Soon there was a big explosion and they both were killed. Not long after that
the old wood dam went out, taking with it the penstock and causing massive
destruction. The sawmill was washed away along with a portion of the wall of
the lower level of the grist mill. It is hard to imagine the extent of the
damage, even as one views the old photos taken shortly after it happened.
Bowens sold out to a Mr. Lanson Kieney in 1912 and Mark and Mary Richie bought
the property about a year later, owning it until 1922 when Elam and Minnie
(Norris) Springer purchased it.
most of the 37 years that the Springers owned the mill it was a hub of
activity. Grinding flour and grist, making cider and vinegar and also being
used as a pickle weigh station. The Springers even had a little store and gas
winter of 1943 disaster struck again. Muskrats had been digging around the dam
which weakened the wall and suddenly, one cold winter night, it gave way. The
penstock was destroyed and almost all of the stone wall of the lower level was
washed downstream. The mill was left teetering on the two short foundation
walls which were still intact. Most of the contents of the basement were never
found. What a heartache this must have been for Mr. Springer, who was 71 years
of age at the time. Once again, old photos reveal what an awesome job the
repairs would entail. However, Mr. Springer went right to work on it, and by
fall had the old mill all patched up again.
was slow, all the surrounding communities had built up mills and kept them
updated with the latest and fastest equipment. With the modern means of
transportation, many farmers preferred to go where they could to their milling
and their shopping as well in one trip. In 1953 the mill ceased to operate as
a business after approximately 113 years of continual service to the people of
1955 the mill was sold to Neal and Helen Engle. Their primary use of it was to
use its property to raise pickles on its acreage, doing so for about four
seasons. When it became harvest time, the Engles hired migrant workers to help
and the old mill became home to as many as 30 Mexicans for several weeks each
year. They brought their own cots, stove, tables and chairs and used the pond
for bathing. They loved the old mill and were happy there. The sound of their
guitars and singing could be heard far into the night.
Engles also made cider a couple of times soon after they bought the Mill. They
belted up the old press to a tractor. Over the years the power source had been
converted from water, to steam, to an old ‘one -lunger’ gasoline engine.
families bought the mill from the Engles in 1971. They were Gorden & Willonore
Fuhr, Dick & Martha Shaw, Bill & Beverly Slade and David & Carolin Dimmers.
They replaced the windows and doors vandals had destroyed and did a basic
clean up job.
the state erected a marker renaming Bowens Mills a "Michigan Historical Site".
It was opened for tours several times over the 7 years of their ownership.
fall of 1978
Neal and Marion Cook
bought the mill and began the restoration project. As the saying goes, "the
worse use is no use". The mill had set more or less idle for over 30 years,
the water power and grindstones had not been used for nearly 40 years, some of
the foundations were crumbling, various timbers were decaying and time had
taken its toll. Today thanks Marion and Neal Cook with the help of family and
friends and many years of work, all four levels of the mill have been
restored. The old mill is now a living museum dedicated to the early pioneers
of Barry County and their ingenuity. The main floor is open to the public by
appointment May through August. "It’s Cider Time Festivals" begin the second
weekend in September and run through the end of October. At this time the mill
and its grounds come alive as the past lives again. Old time demonstrations,
Civil War camps, live old time music, costumed craftsmen, and blacksmiths are
just a sampling of the exciting things that are happening through the fall
fund raising season.
lower level there is the power section along with a blacksmith shop and water
powered machine shop. This area is open on festival days. The main floor is
open to the public and is a museum with artifacts from the 1800’s and houses
the grist and cider mills. Folks are amazed to see the water rush through the
massive turbine as the grindstones slowly turn, and golden kernels of corn are
transformed into fresh cornmeal, which is still for sale. Every weekend in the
fall the huge old cider press is put into action and bushels and bushels of
apples become gallons and gallons of cider in just moments.
former grain storage and workshop on the third level have been transformed
from a rustic sprawling area, to a cozy home by
Neal and Marion Cook
in 1978, where now the second generation millers Owen Sabin and Carleen
Sabin live. Many of the old beams have been left exposed, which adds a
handsome richness throughout the living quarters. Marion hand stenciled the
walls, a wood stove and the grain elevator shafts add to the quaintness.
The Fourth level is a
recreation of the old workshop along with a cobblers shop. Many of the huge
gears and much of the ancient machinery still remain intact and can be seen
when this floor is open for tours.
In the old days, a
trip to the mill was a big event. It gave the folks a chance to meet friends
they hadn’t seen for a long time and to catch up on all the latest news, as
they waited for their turn to come up. People now come from miles around, to
see and feel the way things were done by their ancestors in the days gone by.
Remove not the
ancient landmark, which thy fathers
have set. Proverbs 22:28
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1864 Grist & Cider Mill
antiquated four-story building’s main floor houses a
working Water Powered
two story Plank House,
the oldest house in Bowens Mills
1850’s One Room School House,
moved to the mill, the oldest one room school house
in Barry County
19 acre Historical Park now consists of :
1860’s 11 room Victorian House
built by the Bowens
A Post & Beam Barn, home of Belgian
Draft Horses and many other farm animals.
A Quaint Covered Bridge
crosses the Old Mill Stream
17 foot Water Wheel completed in 1999
“Ye Ole Craft Shoppe”
an artisans woodworking and coopers shop
“The Bowens Mills Gathering
Place” a huge Arts & Entertainment
Center for displays, social events, meetings,
conferences, & performances plus a Gift and Antique
“Fork River Trappers Trading Post” A
Log Cabin that was completed
Kitchen" Restaurant prepares
Hot Apple Dumplings with Ice Cream, warm Donuts,
Chili, Hot Dogs, Baked Beans, Potato Salad and
Cider by the glass or by the gallon
are also obtainable.
Saw Millers Cabin" down by
the Old Mill Stream
● "Line Camp Cabin"
located near the "Trappers Trading Post
Calendar Consist of:
Celebration of Spring :
The third Saturday in April Live Baby Animals,
Horse Drawn Rides and Spring Photos Open - noon to 5
(no admission fee to Gathering Place) Admission to the Park $5.00 adults
and $3.00 children 12 and under.
Saturdays & Sundays Noon to 5 pm
It's Cider Time Festivals:
3 Great Festival Weekends of Old
Fashioned Family Fun that include: First Cider Pressing, Steam & Gasoline
Engine Show, Mountain Men Encampment, & Civil War Days.
Sept. thru Mid Oct. - Gate Fee $5 adults $3 Children 12 and under
Christmas at the Mill: (no admission fee o the Gathering Place)
Opens after Thanksgiving
Sat. & Sun. till Christmas with Fresh Cut Trees, Photos with Santa and
Horse Drawn Hay Rides. (Free Family Rides with purchase of Christmas
Tree) We are into making family memories here at Historic Bowens Mills
and we hope that you will join us.
School and Group Tours
with horse drawn rides are also available. (Group Leaders, Teachers,
and Clubs may call for special tour arrangements.) Historic
Bowens Mills also offers private parties, family gatherings and small
group tours, the opportunity to create your own “Choose your Adventure”
package. Your package can include choices of wonderful memories like horse drawn rides or snacks by the fire, along
with some of your own ideas to make your party or event "personalized"
and of your own special choosing. Wedding
packages, Company Picnics, Family Gatherings
are also available. Meetings and private parties are offered on
the grounds or in any one of the historical buildings.
Historic Bowens Mills is an
1864 Grist Mill and
Cider Mill. It is a working museum that still
grinds and sells fresh corn meal through the use of water-powered mill
stones. It is a second generation family-owned and operated state
historic site with no state or county funding. The restorations and upkeep depend
upon It's Cider Time Festival gate fees, special events and donations.
The "It’s Cider Time Festival" gate fee for adults is $5.00, Children
12 and under $3.00. Thank you for your support in helping us
preserve history for future generations.
- The Old & Majestic Mill
is located Midway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Near Yankee
Springs (Gun Lake) State Park in the heart of beautiful Yankee Springs
Township, Michigan where people come often. Because - from the first
explosion of colorful wildflowers in the spring to the refreshing
coolness of summer to the fall extravaganza in red and gold to the
stark beauty of snow-covered trees in the winter - each season provides
visitors with a completely different pallet of awesome natural beauty.
- We hope you’ll take the time to enjoy all that there is to see and to
do Bowens Mills. Some find the quiet of the historical park a
welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Others
draw energy and inspiration from the outdoor experience. But all who
come here are enriched in some way by the magnificent beauty of nature
and history when they visit.