History of the mill house at Summers Mill

 

The mill house and dam on Salado Creek, form the logo of our retreat and conference center. Though private property today, our guests love to stop along the bridge to take photos of this beautiful site.

 
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History of Summers Mill

Texas Historical Commission - Historical Marker

Early in 1865, John Myers began construction on a mill at the ford of the Salado about nine miles southwest of Belton on the Holland Road. The plan called for a three-story native limestone structure, timbered with burr oak. The trees were felled in the Leon River and hauled by ox teams three miles to the mill site. A man named Earl shaped the timbers for a monthly salary of $12.50. Jack Burnett, a mason, did the stonework. The dam was originally built of cedar posts. Later, the millers added a limestone facing.

Construction of the dam, circa 1880

Construction of the dam, circa 1880

The first wheel, a Leffel undershot turbine, was hauled by ox team from Houston. Most of the machinery used in central Texas mills, including the millstones, were frequently imported from Metz, France, shipped to Galveston, and transported to Houston.

Myers’ Mill was completed in 1866 and ran first as a grist mill. Business was good and within a year Myers added a sawmill. Later, when cotton became a popular crop, a gin was added and the sawmill abandoned. Most of the mill products were sold locally; however, every fall, freight trains of ox and mule carts made the trip to Houston with surplus flour and cotton, which were traded for store supplies.

The mill thrived. When John Myers died, it passed in rapid succession through the hands of Robert A. Myers, Douglas McKenzie, and D.C. Summers. During the development of the mill, the gin was taken from the main building and a flour mill added to the corn mill. Summers installed a crossroads store and secured a post office at the mill under the name Summers Mill.

In 1884, Summers Mill had a population of 50 people, three churches, a school, water-powered flour and sawmills, and a cotton gin. Stagecoaches ran three times a week to Belton, and the fare was 50 cents. The mail was delivered three times a week as well.

In 1888, Summers sold the mill and store to J.R. Holland, who was credited with having blown the first steam whistle in Bell County at a cotton gin he built on his farm at Old Mountain Home, a few miles southwest of the present site of Holland, Texas. After he purchased Summers Mill, Holland moved there and built a beautiful home. That home is now known as the Holland House and is available for rental through Summers Mill Retreat and Conference Center.

Baptisms at Summers Mill, circa 1880

Baptisms at Summers Mill, circa 1880

At the time he bought the mill, he purchased a 70-acre pecan grove, which was used as a community park. Mention of this grove brings back memories of patriotic and political picnics, camp meetings, family reunions, and moonlight picnics in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Salado Creek served a dual purpose as a baptizing place and a swimming resort. In later years there was an unwritten law that there must be no swimming on Sunday, particularly if there was a baptism.

After Holland’s death in 1912, his son-in-law, J.M. Phillips continued to operate the mill until 1957. Today, the mill is privately owned, but guests are welcome to stop on the bridge and enjoy the historic beauty of the dam and mill house.

 
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See for yourself

See the beautiful mill house in person and all the other beauty the Summers Mill Retreat and Conference Center has to offer.

HistoryMatthew Irvine