The Pope County Museum is pleased to present a fully restored painting of the Lake Amelia Grist Mill. The work was completed with funds from an Arts & Cultural Heritage grant awarded through the Minnesota Historical Society. The extensive repairs to this painting have taken six months to complete. The work was done by professional conservators of the Midwest Art Conservation Center at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
The Lake Amelia Mill was located between Glenwood and Villard at the south end of Lake Amelia on the Chippewa River. It was operated by Enoch West from 1875 to 1888. The village of Glenwood had a small mill, but poor water supply led to construction of other mills in the area with stronger, more reliable water power. The Lake Amelia Mill was an important facility for area settlers and early farmers. It could produce up to 25 barrels of flour per day compared to the 5 barrels of flour that the Glenwood mill produced. There are many stories of early settlers walking or skiing to St. Cloud for flour in the days before local mills.
The Lake Amelia Mill allowed farmers to convert wheat to flour not only for their own use, but also provided a local market for their extra wheat. Before the first railroad came to Pope County in 1882, it was difficult to get crops to market outside of the county. The Lake Amelia Mill and the other small, local mills marked the transition from subsistence farming to a cash crop system in which wheat was king.
Though the artist did not sign the painting, it follows the technique of itinerant artists of the time. Restoration of this painting was a local priority because it is the best image available of this mill. Another unique quality of this painting is its color. Photographs of the 1880’s were limited to black and white. We also learn from this painting the breed of sheep raised in Pope County at that time. The restored Lake Amelia Mill painting is on display at the Pope County Museum during regular hours, Tuesday – Saturday, 10-5.
This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.