Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

BANK BUILDING ONCE CROWELL'S FLOUR MILL

Morning Star, January 13, 2019, pg. 4

The landmark building in downtown Albion at 205-207 S. Superior St. that was vacated this past week (the final day was January 8) by Huntington Bank was once called the Stone Mill. It was a three-story water-powered flour mill erected in 1845 by Jesse Crowell (1797-1872), "Albion's Greatest Benefactor." It was Crowell who hailed from Albion Township, Oswego County, New York, from whence Albion gets its name. Crowell was president and manager of his firm, the Albion Company. It laid the plat for the village, donated the land for Riverside Cemetery, and gave the land for Albion College. Crowell persuaded the U.S. Government to open a post office here, and became Albion's first postmaster.

The building of the Stone Mill was begun in the spring of 1845. The massive stones used for the structure were obtained from a quarry on the west side of Newburg Road east of town, later known as the Murdock farm. The timber came from Duck Lake north of town, and the iron work came from Cleveland, Ohio. A water raceway to power this grist mill was dug in in the rear, and today this is the alley behind the buildings on the east side of S. Superior St.

In digging the raceway, and unusual discovery was made which gave indications of another natural resource that would later prove to be prominent in Albion's history during the 1950s and 1960s. The Albion Union Herald reported on April 2, 1864, "Daniel Compton, who was employed by Jesse Crowell of Albion, in sinking a tail race for a grist mill, discovered a black oily substance oozing from the sand rock, several feet below the surface of the ground. Mr. Crowell's attention was called to the fact, but he thought the black looking liquid was valueless. Mr. Compton and his comrade gathered two pailfulls of the crude oil and used it in lamps, and it burned freely. But the water was let into the race, and the matter was forgotten."

The Mill opened in the fall of 1845, and built up a flour trade which was known nationwide. It was powered by overshot water wheels, which were used for thirty years. An American Turbine wheel was added in 1876, and the original water wheels were abandoned in 1878 when steam power was added. A year before Crowell's death, the business was sold to W. B. Knickerbocker of Jackson, who subsequently erected a new mill just to the north which was placed in use in 1886. The business was incorporated as the Albion Milling Company, and later became known as the W. H. Nelson, Grain, Flour & Feed.

The Stone Mill was sold in 1916 to the Commercial & Savings Bank, which reconstructed it into their new headquarters. The bank removed the third floor, and installed bank facilities on the first floor at 207 S. Superior St. The second floor was reconstructed into offices at 205 S. Superior St. A textured red-brick addition was constructed on the back of the structure to accommodate banking needs. The bank opened here at its new location on January 1, 1917, and the rest is history (See the November 11, 2018 edition of this column).

From our Historical Notebook this week we present an 1857 lithograph of the Stone Mill. The building in the foreground is the Mill office, located at 217 S. Superior St. When the Mill was reconstructed into the bank in 1916, the nameplate stone of the mill formerly located above the front doorway was carefully removed and placed in the newly-named Crowell Park by the water tower where it remains today. It states "ALBION MILLS 1845." Visit Crowell Park today, and you'll see it there.


Stone Mill, 1857

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