ONE OF REGIONS LAST RELICS OF EARLY PIONEERING DAYS
Boyne City- A water-powered grist mill, one of the last relics of the pioneering days of Charlevoix county, still stands on the south shore of Lake Charlevoix in what was once the thriving Village of Advance.
The ancient landmark, which has been altered considerably since it was constructed in 1868, hasnít milled a grain of any kind since 1924 and the pond of water from Porter Creek which supplied its power has been washed out for many years. But to the older generation who live in and around the village, it represents their last tangible connection with the beginning of the countyís history and they have a deep sentimental attachment for it.
The dam across Porter Creek and the miss were constructed by Harvey Porter, one of the regionís first settlers, and because the nearest mill where grain could be milled was at Elk Rapids, the Porter enterprise flourished. Indians from the Horton Bay district on the north shore of Lake Charlevoix (then Pine Lake) were Porterís chief customers. They made an occasion of their trips to the mill and pow-wowed long into the night along the lake shore just below the mill while waiting for their corn and wheat to be milled. The tempo of their tribal dances varied in direct proportion to the amount of spirits they had been able to barter for at one of the local stores.
In 1869 there was a marked influx of homesteaders into the region and the village of Advance became a backwoods metropolis with a Mr. Hayesí store and a Mr. Newtonís store. There was also a shoe shop operated by Peter Karlskin and a Hellerís Lodging House. Most of the immigrants were from Germany.
Currency was an unheard of item and the miller received his payments by taking one peck of every bushel of grain that was brought to the mill for processing. From each bushel, the remaining three fourths were placed in the hopper above the stones and allowed to drop slowly through a hole in the upper stone. The grain dropped onto a lower stone that rotated in the opposite direction and was thus ground into flour. The farmer took the flour, bran and shorts when they were separated and fed the bran to his cattle; and shorts were used for pancakes and the flour was used for regular baking purposes.
Porter also constructed the regionís first saw mill, a crude affair, with a carriage that moved the logs one quarter inch ahead with every thrust of the saw. This was located alongside the grist mill. Its top capacity was ten thousand board feet per day, which was about five percent of the production of modern mills with a similar saw size.
Within the shadow of the ancient structure a steady procession of trout fishermen have waded the turbulent rapids each summer. In the early days, the farmers for miles around would gather each night dur9ing the spring sucker runs and wade the icy waters of the stream using pitch forks and spears to catch the fish. They were hauled away by the wagon load to be used as fertilizer, or to be dried and canned for winterís food. Between "drives" in the river, the sucker fishermen would huddle around huge bonfires on the bank where they would sing or fight ast their fancy suited while the river was getting filled with suckers for another drive.
The mill, which has had many owners, is now owned by Dr. J.H. Charters, a Flint, Michigan physician who formerly practiced in Boyne City. Although it has stood idle for many years, it could still be used for milling again if the Porter Creek dam were restored. Members of the Boyne Sportsmanís Club are making an effort to have the dam rebuilt and if they are successful the mill may run again. Nor for grinding grain, but just for curiosity sake.