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The grinding wheels will turn again

There’s been a lot of talk recently about rising from the ashes. We glory in the hope that a visual inspires, and we feel stronger saying it out loud.

One month ago, the Almeda and Obenchain fires loosed their fury on our unsuspecting valley. We may look at the lingering rubble and lament that not much has changed. But after a solid blow like that, there’s a time suspension — a recoil. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, the rising takes a lot longer, and our efforts labor on far beyond what was expected. We grow weary of the clarion call. It loses its punch as weeks drag into months or years. That’s when we need the call most. Know that good things are happening where we can’t see — preparation for repairs, replacement and rising.

Such is the case with the dear old Butte Creek Mill of Eagle Point, which burned to the ground on Christmas morning nearly five years ago.

Many of us were optimists, thinking it would be restored to its former splendid self and open for selling spices and pancake mix long before now. We gave money, volunteered time, bought the T-shirt, and cheered them on. But the costs of rebuilding such a unique and historical structure have slowed the progress despite generosity from the public, grants and municipal support. Some may have become impatient or lost heart.

The Butte Creek Mill Foundation has been at work all along. There’s a new board composed of Eagle Point residents with specific areas of expertise required to bring this project to completion and full operation. Board members are Jay O’Neil, John Parsons, Don Blaser and Carolyn Ryder. Advisors are Therese Hoehne, Dennis Godfrey and Bob Russell. They’re grateful for the hard work of the previous board members having brought the project this far. The mill is on the move once again and hope is reignited. According to its website, because of the recent calamity to our valley, “The Butte Creek Mill Foundation is temporarily suspending its local fundraising programs so that collective energy can be focused on where the need is greatest. We thank all those who have supported the mill and who have responded to the urgent needs of our region.”

I visited the mill the other day during an Eagle Point Food Project opportunity and open house, where they collected nonperishable food on the front porch. I viewed the innards of the old girl up close. I saw one impressive French buhr millstone lying there prepped, ready to take up its rightful place, and return to the old grind once again. In fact, they are hoping to reopen in early 2021.

The plumbing and electrical have been roughed in and the insulation installed. Progress, though slow, is winning. This was my first time inside the mill since the fire. They’ve added onto the square footage to allow for a special exhibit room, and it will be worth the wait when they throw the doors open at long last and we celebrate together.

I’ve saved the best news for last. The mill board plans to perform a test run soon. According to board Chair Jay O’Neil, the plan is to grind 2,000 pounds of whole wheat into flour and pancake mix and package it in two-pound bags. If plans proceed, they’ll sell them to the public off of the mill’s front porch beginning Saturday, Nov. 14. Watch for time and specifics on its website and Facebook page. The bags will sell for $15 as a fundraiser and be presented in special commemorative cloth bags with a picture of Butte Creek Mill on them. Flour rising from the ashes.

I spoke with idea man and board treasurer Don Blaser about restoring traditional events like the Vintage Faire, Old Time Fiddlers and Christmas caroling. He shared other possible events to expand and restore the Butte Creek Mill to its former place as hub of the community and to celebrate Eagle Point’s pioneer history. Excitement is afoot.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.