Until this year’s March meeting, where I turned the helm over to Cindy Hamilton, I’ve served as secretary for the Fair Grove Historical and Preservation Society almost from its inception. Being the one who took notes, then typed those notes, I’ve done a great deal of records’ keeping — enough to fill three large binders.
While looking through a bit of what I wrote, I came across the Feb. 5, 1987, minutes: Dan Manning gave a report on the Seabees. Judy Post, Dan Manning, Betty Manning and Jerry Thomas met with the Chief Seabee person and it was accomplished that the Seabees would come to the mill in March and do anything they could to help restore our mill.
Roger McKinnis told how the retired Navy group could help with the mill, if contacted. The paperwork was done and the legalities were seen about, and they are to start work in March. It is strictly volunteer work. We should see a lot accomplished.
They have requisitioned heavy equipment from Kansas City, a backhoe and a lowboy. We are to furnish the fuel. They plan to move the heavy foundation stones from the barn of the Joe Thomas farm.
Betty Manning, Judy Post and Betty Kowlowish have several foundations interested in the mill. Money determines what we will be able to do. We will need lots of money. It has taken us 10 years to come this far. It may take us another 30 years to finish our task.
There was a discussion about dismantling the mill and reconstructing it. Blueprints have been drawn up and we could dismantle the mill and rebuild it. It would be a massive project, but it can be done.
We need to build a shed to put the stuff out of the three-story mill into, while the foundation is being worked on. It would need to be a very large shed and it would take lots of lumber and time.
We received a bid of $67,000 to put steel bands around the mill and brace it up, to be raised up and set back down. We could fix the foundation that way. That is a very large structure.
A time capsule was discussed also. It would be built into the corner of the foundation. What Fair Grove people have done and who worked on the mill and who donated and so forth. Some history of Fair Grove and whatever we wanted to put in it.
Judy Post, Betty Manning and Betty Kowlowish worked very hard on the grants for the mill, and they should be commended. Several letters were sent out to possible grant money people. We sent out three packets. We haven’t heard from those packets. The packets contained past history of the mill and what we are doing and what our plans are. They are 13 pages long.
It is estimated it will cost $300,000 to repair the mill. That is the basic structure, not the equipment. We have photographs, floor plans and elevations for anyone that could give us some money; whatever it takes to present our case.
In the May 17, 1988, minutes, it was reported that the Amish raised the north end of the mill about 3 inches. Jerry Thomas and Dan Manning had talked to John Raber. The mill is teetering now on a big steel beam. The beam is holding up all the joist. It is ready for a new foundation, on the north. The mill is stronger right now than it has been for years.
In the June 1989 minutes, Jerry Thomas gave a mill report. The north wall has been biased boxed. The front is almost all sided and the east well is almost completely biased boxed. With each board put on, it just makes the mill that much more secure.
The footing is where a little over half of our money went. Jim Thomas and several people with shovels worked on the wet weather spring under the mill. They put in a drainage pipe and now it’s dry for the first time ever. The foundation wall is pretty from the outside and the inside. John Parks did a great job.
The grants mentioned earlier, the society did not receive any of them. Every penny spent on the mill was donated. The majority of the work was volunteer. It was not uncommon for several young and old individuals to show up and work very hard. The mill as it stands today is a testament to that wonderful group who donated their time and effort to preserving the Wommack Mill.