As owner of the mill that gave Edina its name, George Millam is arguably one of the most photographed "founding fathers" of Edina. We have several photos of him in our collection, all taken near the end of his life when the long idle mill was about to be torn down.
Here the 80-year-old sits in his abandoned mill in about 1932. The photo ran in the Minneapolis Tribune.
But those photos don't provide a complete picture of the many decades of George Millam's life in Edina. Thanks to a recent meeting with George's great granddaughters, however, we now have photos from George's life as a young husband and father.
Here the young couple is pictured with early in their married life, with an unidentified daughter, possibly Lillian, who died at age three from drowning in a cistern.
Karen Frederickson, whose grandmother Mary Edna was George and Margaret's daughter, provided additional family photos that help provide a more complete view of the "old miller of Edina." The community called him the miller long after the Edina Mill quit operating due to low water and competition from the Minneapolis industrial mills.
The Millams were among the founding families of Edina. George Millam was one of 47 milling community residents who signed a petition to form the independent village of Edina in 1888. By then, the Scottish immigrant had lived in the community for almost 20 years. He came to Edina in 1869, hired by then-owner of the mill, fellow Scotsman Andrew Craik.
After saving for three years, Millam paid for his sweetheart Margaret Gibb's passage from Scotland to Edina. The couple, married 62 years, would raise nine children, in addition to Lillian. One daughter Mabel would marry Frank K. Willson, from another Edina founding family.
His descendants,along with other families of Edina's founders,will be honored at a Founders' Day program on Thursday, Dec. 12. The community celebration of Edina's Quasquicentennial, or 125th anniversary, will begin with an open house at historic Cahill School and Minnehaha Grange Hall, where the historic 1888 vote took place. The celebration moves across the street to Edina City Hall at 6 p.m. for a social hour and a concert by the Edina Chorale. A 7 p.m. program with short readings and songs that retell "125 years of history in 45 minutes" will be followed by cake in the lobby.
The public is invited to attend all or part of the festivities. The program is a free Quasquicentennial event, sponsored by the City of Edina.
Ella Grimes Eustis wrote a wonderful memoir called "Out of My Mind," about growing up in Edina. Her father Jonathan T. Grimes owned the Edina Mill for a short time during the Civil War. He later had a thriving business, the Lake Calhoun Nursery. Ella describes the years when her father owned the mill.
Ella Grimes' father, Jonathan T. Grimes
In 1858 my brother John was ten years old, and Everett, about five years younger, was nearing school age. The trip to the schoolhouse involved passing a saloon owned by A.A. Ames, later a mayor of Minneapolis. Upon the sidewalk in front of this building sat a keg of beer with spigot and dipper, ready to dispense free beer to all ages – one way of cultivating in the young a taste for stronger drink in the future. This was too much for my mother, who had been raised in the strict atmosphere of a United Presbyterian home, and for my father as well, who was of Quaker principles. So in that year they decided, with three growing boys, to get away from the beer keg. In late 1858 or early 1859 they moved out into the country, where my father had purchased the Waterville Mill (later the Edina Mill) on Minnehaha Creek, along with 160 acres of land, from Richard Strout, father of A.A. Ames’ wife.
In buying this property my father had gone into partnership with a William C. Rheam from Pennsylvania. He was a trained miller and was to run the mill while my father managed the farm. For some reason this Mr. Rheam went back to Philadelphia and did not return, so my father hired a Mr. Allen Baird to run the mill. Father built a new and better dam and made other improvements. This was during the Civil War, and the government requisitioned the flour for Fort Snelling. Father kept the accounts and delivered the flour by his team of horses – practically the only ones left in the county, since the government had also requisitioned all horses fit for army use. The mill ran day and night, and it was not uncommon to see twenty-five teams of oxen there at one time.
Father also sold vegetables and butter at the Fort. His trips there and back –probably once or twice a week – were usually made in one day, and many were the times that the ground was covered with snow and there were no landmarks over the prairie areas to show were the road lay. One winter night he became lost in a blizzard, and as horses will not, if possible, face into a storm, they took refuge in a ravine somewhere east of Lake Calhoun – probably between 31st and 36th Streets, and Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues. [See Minnesota Historical Society image of Lake Calhoun, 1859] Here the team went round in circles for the rest of the night, while my father lay in the bottom of the sled wrapped in Buffalo robes, doubtless sleeping most of the time. When daylight came he was able to see his way home. Mother never spoke of her reactions during that night, but I can imagine what they were.
My brother George Sutherland, who was born April 4, 1859, remembered going to the mill when lunch was taken to my father during those Civil War days. The mill was about three-fourths of a mile from home.
Since it was no longer so profitable after the war, the mill was sold to James Baird, who in turn sold it to Andrew Craik in 1869. Craik had come from Scotland via Canada, and had learned the milling business at Three Harbors, Province of Quebec. He renamed it “Edina Mill” after his native home, Edinburgh, Scotland.
For further exploration: Via one of the software mapping programs (Google maps, Mapquest, etc.), map out Jonathan's trip from the mill site (at Browndale Avenue and 50th Street) to Fort Snelling to Lyndale Avenue near Lake Calhoun to home, near 4200 W. 44th Street. Note: The trip occurred prior to the family building the "new house," which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
For further reading: "Out of My Mind" is available for reading at the Edina History Museum.
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Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
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