If you haven’t yet visited Beck’s Mill, this is an Indiana historic site you won’t want to miss! It is located along the Buffalo Trace, just south of Salem. Visitors to this site are first impressed by the picturesque setting of a gristmill from days long gone, perched on the banks of a meandering stream, shaded by the forest rising behind it. The stream is fed by the second largest spring in Indiana, which pours from the rocky bluff that forms the backdrop of the scene. Now restored and back in service, the mill has been opened to show the public firsthand how these mills once operated.
The mill also has a shaded picnic area, where visitors can relax and enjoy the waterfall, the creek, or the historic Beck’s Mill Bridge, just in front of the mill. Walking around the paths here, the visitor will undoubtedly notice the unique architecture of the remains from the Beck’s homestead: a footbridge, bench, planter, and greenhouse are each decorated with hundreds of geodes. Just up the hill is Beck’s Cemetery, established in 1840, where many of the family descendants are buried, including George Beck, Sr., the founder of the site.
There are over three miles of trails at this site, built by the HHC in collaboration with the Friend’s of Beck’s Mill. This trail system winds over the property’s hills, passing three more springs, until finally skirting the edge of the high, sheer bluff of Mill Creek below. Springtime visitors are rewarded with thick blankets of wildflowers along the trails, including Wild Geranium, Violets, pink and purple Spring Larkspur, Columbine, and Trillium.
So peaceful and serene, it’s hard to believe this place was once a bustling settlement, built up around the mill, which was operating 24-hrs a day to keep up with the demand. As with most mills in this era, settlers arrived from miles around, sometimes waiting two or three days for their turn in line.
It all started when George Beck traveled west from North Carolina, to settle here in 1807, while Indiana was still a territory. Upon discovery of the large spring, he decided to permanently locate his family at this site and built his first mill, which was a simple box structure no bigger than 15 feet long. In 1825, he replaced it with a much larger one, this time consisting of a one-story framed building. In 1864, he upgraded yet one more time to the two-story structure that occupies the site today.
The mill remained active through the early 1900’s, until the introduction of modern roller-style metal mills. The capacity of the old stone mills could not compete, and Beck’s Mill ground its last batch of flour in 1914. It operated part-time for tourists until the 1950’s, after which it fell into disrepair.
It wasn’t until 2005 that a group of citizens, the Friends of Beck’s Mill, Inc., would recognize the significance of the site, and work to restore it to its original state. Through their efforts, public donations, and a very generous gift by Bill and Gayle Cook, the mill opened its doors once again to the public on Sept. 15, 2008. Even the turbine that turns the mill’s shaft was restored, and will be used on your visit to grind some fresh corn. It is open every Friday-Sunday in spring through fall, and visitor hours and other information can be obtained from their website.
Here are the GPS coordinates of the Beck’s Mill trails, in standard gpx format: Right-click here and select “Save As”.
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