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The Syndicate Mill, 1868


It surprised me to learn that Iowa was littered with water-powered mills in the 19th century; that they appeared even as far west as Kansas and Nebraska. So a flour mill occupying the far, western bank of the Muskrat about the time that Agincourt was platted in 1853 is hardly beyond imagining. Since many of the community’s earliest residents were emigrants from New England, New York, and the Ohio River valley, it also seemd reasonable to foresee further water-based industries in the region’s first decade or two. What grew from that was the Syndicate Mill, an 1868 co-operative establishment powered by the then steady flow of the river—more predictable than the adjacent Crispin Creek.

syndicate mill001

A two-phase project seemed right: A three-story brick-and-stone building of heavy timbered “mill construction” (not unlike our own Renaissance Hall, a.k.a. Northern School Supply) and a projected second unit of identical shape and construction, with a frame entry-office-stair and bell tower (to mark the beginning and end of the work day and also to alert the local fire company of inevitable disaster.

This put me into a quick study of water wheels—under-, over-, and side-shot variants—and a likely course for the water from the mill pond to maximize power. I opted for side-shot wheels located beneath the mill buildings, to avoid icing and extend the milling season. A chance encounter with a black-and-white postcard reminded me that more than fifty years ago I had been at the Old Graue Mill in the far western suburbs of Chicago, a place built in 1852 and an obvious model for Agincourt. Though it’s wheel is under-shot, the mill race is typical and might be a model for development of the Syndicate.

graue mill

Industry is an important (some might say the most important) component of any community’s history. So your ideas and advice on later developments will be very welcome.


  1. […] eight to ten feet of drop — enough to warrant the city’s first Industrial District.  Phase One of the Syndicate Mills could have been mistaken for one on the Merrimack or the Brandywine; with four “side […]

  2. […] The Syndicate Mill looks pretty much like this, only twice as […]

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