Darling’s Mill

Darling’s Mill was on the North Fork of the Sangamon River in Clear Lake Township, south of the modern Mechanicsburg Road crossing.

One of the lesser known mills today, Darling’s Mill is actually well documented in the historical record. The mill was located in sections 35 and 36 of Clear Lake Township. John Twist and Ephraim Darling separately purchased property in the two sections in 1829 and 1830, and in September 1829, Twist petitioned the Sangamon County Commissioners’ Court to build a dam across the Sangamon River. Millwright John Boyd began construction of the mill sometime in 1830. According to one account, however, Boyd left the mill site to visit Springfield in the fall of 1830, despite a heavy sleet storm; he was caught in the storm and his body was found the next day.

Construction of the mill was a massive project and required the assistance of men living within a 12-mile radius of the site. The completed mill functioned as a combination saw and gristmill.

Twist died in 1831 at the mill. A year later, Darling purchased the Twist family’s land for $1,600. On March 15, 1832, John Dryer ran an advertisement in the Sangamo Journal in which he offered to take wheat in payment for purchases of fruit trees from his nursery in Springfield. Dryer wanted the wheat delivered immediately following harvest to Twist’s Mill on the Sangamon River. In 1834, William Bennefield is reported to have built a flatboat near the mill, loaded it with 300 flour barrels and floated down to New Orleans.

Darling sold the mill to William Baker in 1835 for $3,120, but Baker sold a half interest in the mill back to Darling in July 1837

Baker sold his remaining half interest in the mill to William Norred in December 1838. However, the new partnership lasted only a brief time, and Darling filed a petition on Feb. 9, 1839 asking for the mill and lands to be divided evenly between himself and Norred. The court appointed three commissioners, who determined the mill site was valuable, but any land independent of the mill was assessed as “comparatively worthless.” The court ordered the mill and land to be sold at auction to the highest bidder and the proceeds divided between Darling and Norred. William A. Bennett bought the property for $3,872, in August, but promptly sold it back to Norred for $3,672.

On Jan. 28, 1847, Norred offered the mill property for sale – 180  acres of land including “a merchant mill, a saw mill, a dwelling house, a frame stable, and fifty acres under fence.” If the mill property failed to sell by March 1, 1847, Norred said, it would be offered for rent. Little is known about the Darling Mill after this advertisement.

Contributor: Curtis Mann

More information

“Watermills of the Sangamo Country,” Curtis Mann, 2004 (Lincoln Library Sangamon Valley Collection)bridge

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