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Greenfield Mills is the oldest commercial water-powered mill in Indiana. It is located in LaGrange county, very close to the Michigan state line. Today it sells its pancake mixes and other local products (popcorn, maple syrup, etc.) in its store and online. It also provides electricity to a grand total of 11 homes in the neighborhood. The Rinkel family has owned the mills for over 100 years and the fifth generation is now involved in the mill operation.
1832 - 1904
A saw mill was built on this site in 1832. Later a grist mill was added. The mill went through a number of owners before it was purchased by Hery Rinkel in 1904. By this time the dam had been washed out and the mill was being used as a dance hall. In the early 1800s water power was the only practical way to grind flour. By the early 1900s gas and steam engines were available, so water power was no longer necessary.
1904 - 2013
After two years of hard work to bring the mill back to life, it began producing New Rinkel Flour. In 1925 an electrical generator, which is located in the eastern wing of the building (on the right in the photo), was added. Although small power plants such as these were not uncommon prior to rural electrification, they are extremely rare today. Power is purchased from local utility when it cannot be generated by the mill. Under their agreement, the mill must provide two kilowatts-hours for each one they use.
The Mill's 2013 Near Closure
In August of 2013, David Rinkel announced that he would be closing the mill and putting it up for sale. Despite the fact that it had been in his family for 109 years, he said the mill just couldn't make ends meet. Two weeks later, he announced that he had changed his mind and was going to take another shot at keeping the mill open.
During that two week period, customers had cleaned out the mill store of nearly all of the remaining stock, and begged him not to close the mill. A local Scout official said that they might not be able to continue their pancake breakfast fundraisers without New Rinkel pancake mix. One LaGrange County bakery said the had tried five different flours in place of New Rinkel pastry flour without success. Customers in New York and California wanted to stock up on his Hearts of Wheat cereal. The message he got from his customers was that they were willing to pay a little more for his product if that was what it took to keep the mill operating. Rinkel had assumed that any price increase would have resulted in lost customers. As of December, 2015 the mill is still in operation.
Visit the Mill
Greenfield Mills offers tours beginning at 10:00 and 2:00 during the week during the summer, but they do ask that visitors call ahead. Their website can be found at newrinkelflour.com. The closest town is Howe, Indiana. There is a bed & breakfast nearby called Village View Bed & Breakfast.
If you are looking for other things to do in the area, the mill is at the eastern edge of a heavy concentration of Amish. In fact, the courthouse in the county seat of LaGrange has a hitching rail on the west side of the courthouse for Amish buggy parking. The most popular tourist destination is the town of Shipshewana. If you visit Shipshewana, be sure to stop in at the Blue Gate Restaurant.
- New Rinkel Flour Mill
25-minute YouTube video of the New Rinkel Flour Mill
- Greenfield Mills grinding to a halt in LaGrange County - Indiana Economic Digest - Indiana
- 160-year-old Greenfield Mills to stay open in LaGrange County - Indiana Economic Digest
- Town of Shipshewana
The official web site for the town of Shipshewana.
- LaGrange County Indiana
LaGrange County Indiana Travel and Tourism Guide
- Blue Gate Restaurant
Award-winning restaurant in Shipshewana known for family style meals featuring pressure-fried chicken & 3 other meats, mashed potatoes, Amish noodles, sides and 25+ pies.