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Archaeologists Studying Historic 19th-Century Grist Mill Site
For more information on this story contact:
Email:Marcia Goodrich
Phone:906/487-2343


July 16, 2003--Industrial archaeologists from the Department of Social Sciences began test excavations July 11 at the historic Fallasburg Grist Mill, near Grand Rapids, in hopes of finding clues to the mill's operations on the Flat River.

The old mill is located in the village of Fallasburg, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The village is on Covered Bridge Road just north of Lowell in Vergennes Township. The dig sits on property adjoining the famous Fallasburg Covered Bridge.

In the 1830s, brothers John Wessley Fallas and Silas Fallas migrated from New York state to what is now known as Fallasburg. They soon had two mills operating on the Flat River, one for flour and one for lumber. The lumber mill also housed a chair factory and is considered to be one of the first steps in Grand Rapids' developing furniture industry.

"The grist mill was torn down in the 1910s," said Kerry Schubach, director of the Fallasburg Historical Society. From that time forward, the landscape and the little town remained basically unchanged.

"This pristine slice of anti-bellum history reveals many treasures to visitors, giving a link to the past and a picture of life in an 1840s settlement," Schubach said.

First, the Michigan Tech archaeology team, led by Assistant Professor Tim Scarlett and Professor Pat Martin, will map the site and examine features on the riverbank. Then, in August, they will construct a sandbag barrier around the old grist mill's foundation, pump the water out and explore its foundations.

Researchers hope to uncover secrets of how the mill worked, plus the remains of the water wheel or turbine engines. While the technology is ancient, 19th-century millwrights typically created the machinery on the site, so old mills can be very different.

"The excavations this summer should yield clues on how the miller converted water into power," Scarlett said.

Once the dig is completed, the Fallasburg Historical Society plans to move a similar historic mill onto the foundations in the Flat River, so visitors can better appreciate how the village looked more than a century ago.

If you happen to be in the Fallasburg area this weekend, you can see the archaeological dig first hand.

During a special open house, visitors can walk by the site and talk to archaeologists about their discoveries on Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For directions or more information, call the Fallasburg Historical Society at 616-897-7161 or e-mail Fallasburg@att.net.

The research has been funded by a Community Block Grant and private donations by supporters of the Fallasburg Historical Society.

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