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Mansfield Roller Mill

Updated on December 13, 2015
Mansfield Roller Mill
Mansfield Roller Mill

The Mansfield Roller Mill (1820) is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the finest remaining examples of transitional milling in Indiana. The older mills which used stones to grind grain, produced whole wheat flour. This mill, which used rollers, produced white flour. Since white flour has the wheat germ oil removed, it has a much longer shelf life, which was important to pioneers who did not live near mills. Since whole wheat is in demand again, they now sell stone ground whole wheat flour. If you go around to the back, you will notice the mill wheel is not connected to anything. One of the recent owners decided a mill just did not look right unless it had a wheel. Power is supplied by two bucket turbines which are located under the mill. The large one produces 85 HP and the smaller one 60 HP. Bucket turbines produce power by turning water to the side, and don't need as much vertical drop as the classic water wheel. Because of this, bucket turbines were used extensively in Indiana, which is relatively flat.

The mill had many owners before it was donated to the state in 1995. One of the most noteworthy was Jacob Rohm. He enlarged the mill, converted it to rollers, and installed the two bucket turbines that are still used today. Rohm was very forward thinking, and used many of the innovations pioneered by Oliver Evans. Evans co-authored a book called The Young Mill-wright and Miller's Guide. He also came up with several inventions, including his automatic flour mill. This allowed Rohm to produce a lot of flour and cornmeal with only three people. His products were sold under the brand names Domino and Victory Flour as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio.

At one time in the 1800s there was a saw mill & carding mill as well as the grist mill operating. The town of Mansfield grew up around the mill. At its peak, the town's population was around 300. Businesses included a wagon maker, barrel maker, general store and blacksmith. Mansfield also had a church and school.

Tex Terry

The mill and some of the other buildings in town were once owned by Tex Terry, a Parke county (Coxville) native who became a star in the cowboy movies. He was known as the "Bad man of the movies" because he usually played a bad guy. Tex worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Audie Murphy & Alan Ladd.

His plans to make Mansfield a big tourist attraction called "Frontier City" included staging gun battles in the street, creating a fake boot hill, and constructing the small jail across the street from the mill. His big plans for Mansfield never really panned out. In 1979 he moved back to Coxville & opened Tex's Longhorn Tavern. The tavern was successful, and is still operating, now known as Rock Run Café & Bakery. A flamboyant character, Terry drove a Cadillac decorated with horns from longhorn steers and six-shooters.

Tex Terry & his Cadillac
Tex Terry & his Cadillac | Source

Mansfield Village

Although Mansfield is now home to only about twenty families, its population peaked at around 300 when the grist, saw & carding mills were humming. Businesses once included a blacksmith, barrel maker, general store & a wagon maker. Besides the mill, Mansfield is best known for its covered bridge. At 247 feet long it is the longest of the over thirty covered bridges in Parke County (the most of any county in the United States). It was built by Joseph Daniels in 1867. He migrated to Indiana in 1850 and continued to build bridges until he passed away at the age of 90. During his time in Indiana he built a grand total of 29 covered bridges. A testament to the quality of his work, 18 are still standing, all over one hundred years old.

Mansfield Covered Bridge was built in 1867.
Mansfield Covered Bridge was built in 1867. | Source

Covered Bridge Festival

Every year, starting on the second Friday in October, Parke county has a ten day festival celebrating their covered bridges. The hub for this festival is the courthouse lawn in Rockville. There are several driving routes that take you to the covered bridges in various parts of the county. On the south side of the courthouse, there is entertainment throughout the day. In the other communities of Parke county like Mansfield, there are places to visit and many items for sale. To cap off the day, I recommend taking in a performance by the Parke County Players at the Ritz Theater in Rockville (about a half block west of the courthouse). Each year the festival draws about two million visitors.

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