Historic Bowens Mills  
"Its Cider Time Festivals"





Autumn is a season of aromas, a time to taste what the summer has spent creating.   Orchards full of ripe red apples dangling from gnarly, black branches seem to beacon an indulgence of the harvest.

The process for creating sweet apple cider remains virtually unchanged from the time that William Blaxton, a colonial settler, planted the first apple orchard on the slope of Boston's Beacon Hill. The ingredients of real apple cider are simple: apples.  No preservatives, no added colors, sugars or chemicals - just apples, apples and more apples.  Since colonial times, when John Adams drank a tankard of cider every morning before breakfast, cider pressing has been a familiar sight at the harvest festival.

In 1978 the late Neal Cook and his wife Marion  with the help of their children, grand children, family and friends all joined together to resurrect a 19th- century water powered cider press located in an old mill  near Middleville, Michigan.  With great anticipation they watched as the first cider came oozing from the cider blankets and the huge press chugged along. There were big smiles and giggles of excitement as they sipped the first cider that day, and every fall from that year forward the fun continued.  Today the second generation of millers take their turn offering, the sights and sips of cidering through the fall harvest festival time at the old mill. 

A complex mixture of gears, pullies, and belts rumble, clank and rattle overhead as a water-powered conveyor belt marches apples toward a giant, knife-filled hopper; the fruit is chopped into a huge apple salad.  As every five bushels are processed, workers tuck them inside a cotton cloth to keep the skin and pulp inside.  Up to seven layers consisting of five bushels each can be piled on top of each other for each pressing.  After the layers are stacked up, the miller pulls a gear to place the apple pulp underneath a 50-ton press.  Then it is a simple matter of waiting for the water pumps to build up enough pressure inside the cylindrical press to squeeze every last drop of sweet apple cider.

The 12-foot-tall press takes half an hour to press 100 gallons of cider from 35 bushels of apples.  It is powered by the water from Payne Creek, which originates at Barlow Lake, then passes through the mill and continues to Payne Lake then eventually emptying  into Gun Lake. The old press was moved into the mill used over 100 years ago and is still continues to press today for demonstration.

A tasty cider requires a mixture of apples.  The best mixture would be some tart apples with some sweet apples and some acidy apples.  Such a mixture could be MacIntosh, some Spy, and some Red Delicious.  Some people even add pears to the press to give the cider a bit of a bite.  

The process is the same as hundreds of years ago, but the names of the apples have changed from Russet, Pippin, and Maiden's Blush to Jonathan, MacIntosh, Rome and Spy.

Although orange juice is the number one fruit juice today, before 1930 apple juice was more popular.  What's the difference between apple juice and cider?  Pure cider is unpasteurized and has no additives; apple juice on the other hand is heated to kill bacteria and may contain additives.  One six-ounce glass of cider contains only 87 calories along with calcium, potassium, iron and ascorbic acid.  One should prepare your system for apple cider by drinking only a glass or tow a day at first.  Drinking an eight ounce glass is like eating three large apples.

"It’s Cider Time Festivals"  are the last 3 weekends in September and continue through the first three weekends in October. They feature: Cider Pressing and Water Powered Corn Grinding Demonstrations, Living History Encampments, Old-Time Music, Petting Zoo with Farm Animals, and Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides along with many other history related activities. Cider, Donuts, Hot Apple Dumplings, and Good Food are available near the large shaded picnic area. The fun starts at 12:00 noon and lasts until 5:00 P.M.


Live old-time music down by the old mill stream , petting zoo with farm animals, horse drawn wagon rides with Belgian Draft Horses, cider pressing demonstrations on gigantic 100 year old water-powered cider press; and stone- ground corn grinding demonstrations on large original water turbine- powered grind stones along with many other history related activities.

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 that receives no state 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 5 to 15 years old is $2.00. Thank you for your support in helping us preserve history for future generations.


Autumn at Historic Bowens Mills offers more than fresh, ripe apples and cider. It’s a haven of natural beauty with an atmosphere where you, family, and friends can enjoy one another and make memories that will last a lifetime. History lives at Historic Bowens Mills and today, Owen and Carleen are cooking up special events to keep the good times rolling along. When you enter the gates you will experience old time family fun. You will find the horse-drawn wagon ride a relaxing and enjoyable experience as you absorb the sights, sounds and smells of history and the harvest season. You can listen to live music, down by the Old Mill Stream, as you watch the costumed craftsman at work. The memories of grandma’s fresh apple pie will dance through your mind with a visit to the "Granny’s Kitchen" where hot apple dumplings are served with ice cream.

When "It’s Cider Time at the Mill", you can share in your children’s excitement over nature, farm animals, historical activities, and harvest time experiences. Visitors to the Mill can watch cider being freshly pressed on a huge, antique, water-powered Cider Press and hear the rumble of the old mill stones turning as they watch the Corn Grinding demonstrations. Fall is a great time of year to take a leisurely drive in the country to visit Historic Bowens Mills, "It’s Cider Time Festivals" and share in the harvest time season.

The 19 acre Pioneer Park consists of :

   1864 Grist & Cider Mill
The antiquated four-story building’s main floor houses a working Water Powered Cider and Grist Mill and a Museum plus a Gift and Antique Shop. There is a Blacksmith Shop, a Water Powered Machine Shop in its lower Level. The third floor has been transformed into a quaint, cozy living quarters. The top floor is home to Bowens Mills Studios and has a lot of old machinery, gears, and pulleys are still in that area.
  1840’s two-story Plank House, the oldest house in Bowens Mills
   1850’s one-room school house, the oldest 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 & cooper shop.

The Old Mill is located in the heart of beautiful Yankee Springs Township, MI just 2 miles north of Yankee Springs (Gun Lake) State Park. Watch for the huge Grindstone Marker on Briggs Road

Owen & Carleen Sabin

• 269-795-7530 •