Sunday, June 26, 2011

A great Sunday experience: Thompson's Mills State Heritage Site

Thompson's Flouring MillsImage by Koocheekoo via FlickrI'm kinda partial to entertainments that you can walk or bike to from within Salem, but there are times I'll make an exception, such as the always amazing Oregon Garden. And this one. Here's what I wrote to a friend after our visit last Sunday to "Thompson's Mills," in what was (briefly) Boston, Oregon.
Went to above named state park yesterday just south of Tangent, Oregon (near the booming metropolis of Shedd, formerly Shedd's Station, named after the station built after the railroad bypassed Boston, causing most of the town to be moved about a mile west to straddle the tracks, leaving nothing but the Mills behind, necessarily unable to move while dependent on water power).

Fascinating tour of the world made by hand. Mill established in 1858, run to produce human food (flour from local wheat) until about 1940 or so (unclear date) then they shifted to making animal feed mixtures and pellets (which uses steam, I forgot to ask what they made steam with). They were processing soy at the end, when in 1986, they converted to making just electricity (100 kW) for 20 years under contract to Pacificorps. The state bought it in 2004 and has made it a park.

They employed 12 men at peak. They first electrified in 1906, when the owner put a generator on the mill so he could run power to his house. The land originally was bought for $50 and the water rights for $75, and those rights essentially made them kings of the valley and enemy of the neighbors during summer months of no rain. It had to have been a hellish place to work in some respects, pleasant at other times. I imagine they were all deaf as posts after a few years.

The millstones were from France, the machines from Chicago and Saginaw and such places. You get the idea that we will soon be looking at those machines the way the south sea natives looked at airplanes, wondering how they worked and what magic we could call on to get them to work again.

With some money, the mill could be rebuilt to work, but the state is selling the water rights to ensure more water for salmon in the Calapooia River, which I didn't even know salmon could reach, since it ties into the Willamette above Oregon City, and I didn't think salmon got above the falls there.

Anyway, next time you come down, you should come down to Salem and we can go see it. It's worth a trip.
Doubtless there is no amount of money you could pay to get the Amtrak Cascades to stop in Shedd -- too bad, it would make a great day trip if you could buy an Amtrak ticket, go up and down the valley and walk from Shedd to Thompson's Mills with your lunch.
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