New Rinkel Flour Mill
Greenfield Mills is a very small town in northern Indiana, just a few miles south of the Michigan border. The most notable structure is the New Rinkel flour mill. It was the oldest commercial water-powered mill in Indiana. It is located in LaGrange county, very close to the Michigan state line. Before its 2015 closing, it sold pancake mixes and other local products (popcorn, maple syrup, etc.) in its store and online. It also provided electricity to a grand total of 11 homes in the neighborhood. The Rinkel family owned the mill for over 100 years and five generations were 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 became extremely rare by the late 20th century. Power is purchased from local utility when it cannot be generated by the mill. Under their agreement, the mill had to provide two kilowatts-hours for each one they used.
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.
Unfortunately, the mill shut down in July of 2015. A Facebook post on St.Patrick's day of 2016 stated that it would not be reopening. No explanation was given except that it was due to "uncontrollable circumstances." Definitely a sad day in Greenfield Mills.
- 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