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Near Kathryn in Barnes County, North Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Walker’s Best / Grinding Away

 
 
Walker’s Best/Grinding Away Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, June 13, 2021
1. Walker’s Best/Grinding Away Marker
Inscription.  
Walker’s Best
The Walker family, Minnesota emigrants, had milling in their blood. In 1879, Hiram Walker established a mill in Valley City. A few years later, his son Myron took over and built a new mill at Oakville—he later bought another mill at Daily. Myron's brother, T.J. Walker, constructed a mill at Fort Ransom.

Myron Walker built a dam here in 1906 with the intention of moving his Oakville Mill from a half mile upstream, closer to the town of Kathryn—and the railroad. The dam was sabotaged, however, during a dispute over water rights, and the mill was never moved. The current dam was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the 1930s. Remains of Walker's dam are still visible today.

Myron Walker marketed his flour as "Walker's Best," and teams of draft horses hauled product to railheads at Fingal and Valley City. Although much of Walker's flour went east to New York City, he also supplied local towns within a 40-mile radius: Eckelson, Enderlin, Tower City, and Griswold.

Grinding Away
Flour mills grind hard-hulled grain,
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such as wheat and rye, into a fine powder suitable for baking. Historically, mills were built on streams, where the energy of flowing water was harnessed to provide power for turning a millstone.

The flowing stream turned a waterwheel, which was linked with shafts and gears to turn the top, or "runner stone" in a pair of millstones. Grain, fed through a hole in the top of the runner stone, was ground against the bottom, or "bed stone." The rotating runner stone forced the ground grain to the outside edge of the bed stone where, dropping into a trough, it was brushed into a hopper and bagged.

Captions:
Small towns often "sprang- up in the vicinity of flour mills, and their fate was often determined by a mill's success. The once prosperous nearby towns of Daily and Oakville, for example, have all but vanished in the wake of the location of the railroad further south.
Grinding grain for the area's farmers was a large part of Myron Walker's mill trade. Farmers came from miles around to have their harvest ground into flour. Trips to the mill provided a much- anticipated holiday for farm families a chance to fish and swim in the Sheyenne River, to pick berries, shop, and socialize!

Basic mill operations A system of water wheels shafts, gears, belts, and pulleys operate a mill. These elements were

Walker’s Best/Grinding Away Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, June 13, 2021
2. Walker’s Best/Grinding Away Marker
often housed in several buildings and connected underground or through walls.
The Walker Mill at Valley City, circa 1880. It was replaced by a larger mi building in 1902.
Millstones are traditionally made from segments of a very hard rock, such as granite. The segments are sculpted to form a circle and are bound together with an iron band. This mill's original stones are believed to have come from Normandy, France.
A pair of millstones working ten- hour days required "re-dressing" about once each month. The constant grating of the stones against each other wore down and flattened their grooved grinding surfaces. Re-dressing was the difficult task of renewing the grooves with chisel-like tools called bills and picks. Millstones, working full time, could last 20 to 25 years.
Dressing tools:
1. Sledge hammer
2. Wedge for supporting upturned runner stone
3. Wooden handle that holds interchangeable bills and picks
4. Mill pick
5. Mill bill
6. Chisel
7. Hand hammer
8. Sharpening file

 
Erected by Federal Highway Administration, Garrison Diversion Recreation Grant, Valley City Food & Beverage Tax Fund and Barnes County Wildlife Federation.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce
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Settlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1879.
 
Location. 46° 40.432′ N, 97° 56.693′ W. Marker is near Kathryn, North Dakota, in Barnes County. Marker is on 51st Street Southeast (County Road 21) near 120th Avenue Southeast, on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Kathryn ND 58049, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A Tribute to Pioneer Living / Building a Hand-Hewn Cabin (within shouting distance of this marker); Wadeson Cabin Historic Site (within shouting distance of this marker); Waldheim Church / Ladies Aid Societies (approx. 0.7 miles away); Kathryn / Sentinels of the Prairie (approx. 1.2 miles away); Standing Rock / Wonderful Wetlands (approx. 3.9 miles away); Standing Rock Hill Historic Site (approx. 3.9 miles away); Native Prairies / Ecosystem Under Siege (approx. 8.2 miles away); An Ancient Sea / Glacial Meltwater Trench (approx. 8.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Kathryn.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 14, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 12, 2021, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 120 times since then. Last updated on July 12, 2021, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 12, 2021, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.

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Mar. 3, 2024