Great Places: Butte Creek Mill

Christmas 2015 was a difficult day for many residents of Eagle Point, a 9,154-person city in the Upper Rogue. Townspeople paused Christmas festivities to gaze in horror as smoke and flames overtook the Butte Creek Mill, fondly called the ‘capital of Eagle Point.’ Fortunately, though, the fire is not where the mill’s long and historic story ends.

The Snowy Butte Mill, today known as the Butte Creek Mill, was the last water-powered grist mill, west of the Mississippi, still commercially operating. With original grinding stones quarried from France, the 1872 mill was an “iconic structure”—not only a flour mill, but a center for community gatherings—the “heartbeat of the community,” said Bob Russell, the mill’s former owner. After the fire, the Russell family sold ownership of the mill to form the 501c3, the nonprofit Butte Cree k Mill Foundation, which took on the task of rebuilding, and is responsible for running the Butte Creek Mill today. The community quickly joined the Foundation’s efforts, and through the work of volunteer grant-writers and citizens contributing in-kind services and donations alike, the restoration began.

Since the millstones remained post-fire, along with the basement and part of the Country Store, the Butte Creek Mill was able to keep its status on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the span of six years, countless individuals, proud of Eagle Point’s history, stepped up to support the mill’s rebuild—and continue to. As of 2021, the milling room, packaging room, and basement flour collection system have been restored enough to allow operations. With a food production license from the state, the mill has also been allowed to start a more tangible form of fundraising: the mill can sell its own products again.

Around Thanksgiving of 2021, four thousand pounds of wheat were milled into flour, which was then mixed into numerous products, packaged, and later sold from the Butte Creek Mill’s front porch. The online website even allowed the foundation to sell to customers across the country. (So, if you’re a fan of pancake or muffin mixes, you now know where to shop!)

While the finish-date is based on potential funding, the Butte Creek Mill Foundation hopes to be completed with the mill’s rebuilding by 2023. “The community needs the mill,” Russell added. “It’ll build positive business opportunities when finished.” He went on to talk about the potential for other companies alongside the creek—and the mill’s service to local history and education. Currently, the fundraising progress is at seventy percent: $2.3 million out of $3.3 million!

Even during a world-wide pandemic, small towns continue to draw people in with their hard work and a willingness to preserve their historic assets. The Butte Creek Mill Foundation is proud to acknowledge that such progress is a testament of generosity and support from the Eagle Point community—and from all of Southern Oregon. On the day when the Butte Creek Mill finishes reconstruction, not only will the structure be a symbol of the town’s heritage, but of community dedication and pride.

 

(Strategy 4.4.2.- Diversify Outdoor Recreation Offerings to Include Shoulder, Low-Season, and Off-Season Opportunities and Promote Tourism at Lesser-Known Destinations)

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