Southern Utah News Articles
Top Stories for September 23, 2009
Millstones return to Glendale
Sometimes it can be a long journey back home. Sometimes it can take deal making and many long years. Such was the case for two millstones that recently arrived home in Glendale, Utah.
In 1865, Glendale, then known as Berryville, consisted of a few families, a stockade and a gristmill. The gristmill was destined to be the new home of millstones that actually started their journey in Toquerville. They were hewn from the gray lava rock of the area, hand cut and rounded with a hole in the center.
Then came the journey to the gristmill in Glendale, no easy task in the days before trucks and highways. They were hauled all the way, some 100 miles, in a wagon drawn by an ox team. Wagon and oxen aside, the weight of the stones, 1,500 pounds each, would have made the journey difficult. Hence the expression “millstone around one’s neck.” That phrase comes from the Bible, by the way, so millstones were actually nothing new, even in 1865.
The two millstones, also called burrs, were installed in what was known as the Harris gristmill, located “across the creek west of Glendale,” according to historical documents. It is not clear whether the millstones were actually used. There is some evidence they were the first to grind flour in Long Valley and conflicting reports they were not used at all. What is clear is their time of service came to an abrupt end.
At some point, the stones were being “dressed.” To dress a millstone is to carve grooves in the stone that produce a shearing action when the grain is introduced. This process actually produces a rather artistic effect, with the grooves in the stone fanning out from the hole at the center of the stone to the edge.
It was during this process the unexpected happened. The top stone fell and hit the bottom stone knocking a piece from it. That was it for the two millstones of Glendale. They were taken from the mill and nothing more was heard of them for nearly 70 years.
It was not until 1940 that Leonard Heaton stumbled upon them. Heaton was the Superintendent of Pipe Spring National Monument on the Arizona Strip and an avid collector of items used during the monument’s pioneer time period. According to his journal, Heaton took a trip up north in December of 1940 and stopped in Glendale to see a Mrs. Smith. He said he had been told she had some items to be donated to the monument. Unfortunately, Mr. Smith was not prepared to part with them at that time. (Apparently men liked to hold on to their stuff even in 1940.) Mrs. Smith, possibly feeling badly about Mr. Smith’s refusal, informed Heaton of a Mr. Black who had the top millstone from the old Harris mill.
“I called on Mr. Black” Heaton wrote in his journal, “and, sure enough, he had it.”
Black agreed to donate his stone with one stipulation. The bottom stone was in the possession of Homer Foote. Black said he would donate his stone only if Foote would donate his. All turned out well this time. Foote agreed, Black followed through, and the stones were hauled, one at a time and by truck this time, to Pipe Spring National Monument. They were put on display in the courtyard of the historic fort at the monument and then eventually moved outside the fort. There they would stay for another 60 years.
In the Spring of 2003, two staff members from the Bureau of Land Management paid a visit to Pipe Spring. Ranger David Mecham and Escalante Interagency Visitor Center Manager Jeannie Linn were in the process of setting up the Cannonville Visitor Center for the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM). The center was going to feature pioneer and Paiute Indian exhibits and Mecham and Linn were visiting other area exhibits to get ideas.
“We realized we needed to go to Pipe Spring and get some ideas,” Mecham said, “and also with the goal of finding temporary exhibits until permanent ones could be found.”
Andrea Bornemeier, Chief of Interpretation and Resource Management for Pipe Spring, showed Mecham and Linn the items in Pipe Spring’s museum storage.
“As we were walking around, the contact station GSENM had planned to build in Glendale was in the back of my mind, and I thought about those millstones,” Bornemeier said.
So Bornemeier showed the stones to Mecham and Linn and said she thought they came from Glendale. Mecham said he did some subsequent research on the stones and discovered they were indeed the Glendale stones.
“I realized those stones would be a perfect fit for the Glendale contact station,” Mecham said.
At the time, the Glendale contact station was still a few years away from being a reality, so the stones remained at Pipe Spring.
In the meantime, Bornemeier and Mecham worked through the lengthy process required to transfer the stones between the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, a far cry from the days when Heaton simply asked for them. Eventually the paperwork was complete and the millstones were finally slated to go home. A maintenance crew from GSENM was sent to Pipe Spring to pick them up in the summer of 2009. With the help of the Pipe Spring maintenance crew, the stones were lifted by tractor and placed on a flatbed trailer to begin the journey home.
Allysia Angus, landscape architect for GSENM, took over from there. She was in charge of the layout of the Glendale contact station. The stones arrived on a day when the fence around the contact station was being put into place.
“Those stones were heavy.” Angus said. “But one of the members of the local community had a large enough piece of machinery to move them.”
They were removed from the trailer and placed not far from the gristmill they had been taken from so many years before.
In the Glendale of today, the stockade and the gristmill are long gone. There are some 100 families now. There are hotels and restaurants and shops. Highway 89 runs through the center of town. Just off the highway, close to the middle of town, is GSENM’s new information exhibit and picnic area. At the center of this pretty and peaceful place, slightly sunken into the Glendale soil, there are two old millstones. They are a little weathered and battered by time, but they serve as tangible reminders of a solid past on which the present has been built. The story behind them serves as a reminder. It is never too late to come home.