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Small's Mill

Local historians for almost 130 years, have studied and relied on a book, published in 1883, titled The History of Edwards, Lawrence and Wabash Counties, Illinois.

“Though most of the early settlements were made along the Wabash, a few found their way into the interior, along the Cahokia and Kaskaskia traces and the Embarras river.  On the banks of this stream, about a mile and a quarter above its mouth, in 1805 or 1806 settled John Small. Shortly after this date, he built a frame water mill, which became familiarly known as Small's mill. Small’s Mill was among the very earliest, if not the first frame building in the territory and it is alleged to be the earliest mill in the state of Illinois. The dam was built of hewed logs, supported by rock and earth.  It was a most important economic institution in those early days, and was said to command trade from a wide extent of country.”    p.71

Evidence supports the site of the Small's Mill as being on Location #2, (aka Section 28, T3N, R11W) first owned by Joseph Tougas Sr, then Francis Vigo, then John Small.  John Small's daughter Angeline and her husband Joseph Brown M.D. bought Location #2 from the other heirs upon her father’s death in 1821, which contained the mill site.

An original invoice found in the estate papers of John Small dated May 16, 1820 by Samuel Weatherspoon describes work done at the mill before Small’s death. There is an unsubstantiated story of a fire at the mill and this could be work done to rebuild the original mill or this could be work done on a second mill on the site. Note:  When the deed was transferred from Small’s  Estate to the Browns the plural word ‘mills’ was used as opposed to the singular word  ‘mill.’



Making bottling chest[1]                          12.50

Framing Millhouse                                    7.23

Setting out timber for same                      2.88

Setting out framing rafters                       4.50

Setting out laths                                      2.50

Framing Joists on same                           2.76

Shingling and Lathing for same                4.68

Picking millstones[2]                               1.00

Work done at the log way                        4.00

                    total                                 42.05

                                        //S// Samuel Weatherspoon


At the present it is not known with any certainty what the mill looked like or even what type it was.   But the survival of the millstones is evidence of its once necessity to the survival of the early residents of Lawrence County.


Those millstones from Small’s Mill were originally removed from the Embarras River and placed on the grounds of the  former Lawrenceville Township High School with a Plaque donated by the Lawrence County Historical Society in 1961.


The millstones  have now been relocated to the Southeast corner of the Courthouse lawn. 


[1] The bolting chest was a giant "sifter" that produced much finer flour than unbolted whole wheat flour.


[2] Dressing stones

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