Well, very sad news… this lovely, historic and majestic place burned to the ground on Christmas morning, 2015… The history that you will read below was written and published just over a year ago…….. there are already plans to re-build this amazing place… if you are interested in offering any support and/or assistance, please go to:
E Clampus Vitus currently has 42 Chapters and one Outpost located in nine western States. When Clampers in new territory want to start their own chapter they must petition Grand Council with the blessing of a sponsoring Chapter.
Southern Oregon Clampers, sponsored by the Yreka Humbug Chapter 73, began their official E Clampus Vitus existence in 2004 after being recognized by Grand Council as the Umpqua Joe Outpost. The new organization erected their first plaque at the Butte Creek Flour Mill in Eagle Point, Oregon. During the Outpost’s third Doin’s held in May 2006, the plaque was dedicated on a sunny Saturday. Twenty five Red Shirts and assorted community members witnessed the first ECV plaque unveiled in the State of Oregon. During the last 70 or 80 years, ECV has erected over 3,000 historical monuments.
One of the guiding hands for the new organization was one Leo Champagne. On a trip to Medford to view the historic Hanley Farm he and his wife met Bob Russell, new owner of the Butte Creek Mill. After listening to Bob talk, Leo visited the mill and thought to himself, “We need to plaque this place.” With Bob Russell’s permission, Leo presented the idea to Outpost officers. Wagon Masters Glenn Hearrell and Zeke Van de Bogart approved the project. With the go ahead, Glenn took matters under his control, visited the Mill, did research and came up with wording for the plaque. Since the Outpost didn’t have much money at the time, a low cost solution was required. Glenn acquired 1/16 inch thick brass sheeting, had the wording etched and mounted the plaque on the Butte Creek Mill near the main doorway.
Dedication ceremonies followed a kick off breakfast of mill ground flour pancakes. Speechifyin’ was conducted by Leo, sponsoring ECV Humbug Chapter 73’s Noble Grand Humbug Jim McConnell, Zeke and Glenn. Bob Russell and Clamper helpers couldn’t get the keg tapped behind the old 1885 Placerville saloon back bar, so canned beer a plenty was made available to all dedication ceremony participants. Leo had also arranged for both former and current mill owners, Peter Crandall and Mr. Russell, to speak.
Bob Russell and his wife bought the mill in 2005 from Mr. Crandall. A decorated World War II veteran, Peter Crandall owned the mill for 33 years before selling. At the dedication Crandall spoke about how he came to own the grist mill, his restoration activities, the fight to retain water rights and the value of whole grain food. Local miller Mike Hawkins added to Peter’s discussion by sharing considerations for milling grain into stone ground flour.
Following these speakers, Russell led a tour of the mill. On that May 6th day ECV Redshirts learned how water driven belts and pulleys turn the mill stones as wheat grain dropped from a hopper above. Although the plaque wording conflicts with the actual dedication date, Clampers take that in stride as many of their activities don’t always turn out exactly as planned as noted above. Situated on Little Butte Creek, the mill is the last water powered grist mill commercially operating west of the Mississippi River. Built in 1872 when Ulysses Grant was president, it began its first year of operation almost 150 years ago. Serving as “community hub,” farmers traveled many miles to reach the mill. Waiting to have their grain ground into flour, wagons lined the Old Military Road at Snowy Butte Creek Mill during harvest time. The miller was paid for his services in 1873 by keeping every eighth bushel of flour which he sold in the general store as Snowy Butte flour. Old timers say when the mill operated in the nineteenth century, pitchforks were used to spear salmon in the mill raceway. Local Indians and farmers would drive wagons into the creek and shovel salmon into the back. Little Butte Creek, a major salmon and steelhead fishery, was most likely the source of food for bald eagles in the area, after which the town of Eagle Point was named.
On the National Register of Historic places, the mill has a fabulous web site describing its history, country and antique stores and hosted events. An excerpt from their web site below describes how the mill operates. (See photo of grinding stone on top of Page 32.)
“The Butte Creek Mill is not a water wheel operated mill, rather the water in the millrace flows into a penstock twelve feet deep, where its weight provides pressure to activate the turbine that runs the wheels, belts and pulleys. This movement also turns the large millstones that grind the grain. To reach the grinding stones, the grain is fed into a hopper that in turn feeds it into the “eye” of the stones. In about three hours, it is ground to flour or cracked wheat depending on how the stones are set.
The mill has a basement where water power is harnessed and three floors where grain is received, stored and ground. Architecturally the building is interesting because the frame was raised first. The beams were mortised together and pinned with hard wooden pegs. The walls of whipsawed lumber were nailed to the frame with square nails. Foundation pillars are two feet square and were hewn with a broad ax.”
The turbine discussed above, dates from 1916 and is still in use. The original turbine dating from 1872 is on display on the front porch at the mill.
Majestic Mount McLoughlin rising to 9,495 feet stood sentinel over the weekend Doin’s Clampout. Held at Medford’s Elks Lodge picnic grounds along the Rogue River, Clampers arriving from Oregon and California rolled out their bed rolls and had a grand time. Frolicking friars of yore would have been proud. Dining in the shadow of the snow covered volcanic peak was followed by Bob Russell being “taken in” by the Ancient and Honorable Order. His sponsor, Glenn Hearrell, mused he was probably “taken” by the old fraternal order.
Well worth your time, a visit to the Snowy Butte Mill should be on everyone’s “bucket list” when traveling through the Medford, Oregon area. Allow at least a half a day for the visit. Meet mill owner Bob Russell who is most cordial and easily accommodates on-site tours seven days a week. Learning how grain is ground into flour and the history of this location is a terrific way to spend the day. Walk away with wholesome mill products from the general store, and your visit will be complete.
To visit the Butte Creek Grist mill and view the ECV plaque, take Interstate 5 to Medford, Oregon and use exit 30 east bound. This road is called Crater Lake Highway 62. Travel ten miles to Eagle Point and turn right on Linn Road. Proceed to the first stop sign, which is Royal, and turn left. Their address is 402 N. Royal Avenue in Eagle Point, Oregon. A map and other information can be found on the mill web site: http://buttecreekmill.com.
Check out their Facebook page:
Facebook Butte Creek Mill
Address: Butte Creek Mill
402 N. Royal Avenue
Eagle Point, OR 97524
Phone Number: (541) 826-3531
A terrific booklet titled Historic Butte Creek Mill by Barbara Hegne can be obtained at the Eagle Point Historical Society Museum.