Certainly the most interesting element found in this abandoned Alberta farm yard is a building that was once a wind powered grist mill. Unique in form, with an almost European flavour, for much of its history it was actually a blacksmith and metal shop. Come with us as we explore this unique looking structure and other bits and pieces found on the same property, including a former dwelling and a couple old cars. Wispy clouds and a stunning blue sky this fine day, make the perfect backdrop for this adventure.
We’ll be a bit vague with names and locations in this report, in order to protect the property. It’s private property, but you probably already knew that. Please respect all land owners. We were of course on site with permission, and a big thanks to Tom for allowing us the chance to document the place.
Located in Starland County, the farm here was founded in 1913, shortly after the railway opened up the region to settlement. Of course, people lived the area before, earlier homesteaders scattered here and there, and for eons, those from First Nations, but the train was most responsible for bringing lots of newcomers in.
The first person here worked the the land until about 1918 when it was sold to another. The second, along with wife and kids, lived and farmed here until 1926 when the family of the current owner took possession.
It’s thought the first owner built the grist mill and the nearby house, a very small and unassuming clapboard covered, single level affair. No solid information backs this up however, but in old papers he’s said to be an expert carpenter and most certainly it would take a great deal of skill to construct the mill for one (the house, well, not so much). The steeply pitched intersecting gable roof, those overhanging eaves and that tapered tower, must have been a real challenge and to tackle it you’d have to know what you were doing. This person is also said to have had a part in helping construct many buildings in the immediate area so it kinda fits there as well. He knew what he was doing.
If our hunch is right, this makes the grist mill close to a century old.
Inside four angled beams, heavy and beefy, once supported the mill mechanism. Presumably there would have been a round grinding stone of some sort centred on the interior and driven by a vertical shaft powered by the blades far above. No photos have surfaced showing the mill when in use.
When the current owners acquired the land here it was said the grist mill had not be used for some years prior, suggesting what ever scheme the original builder had must not have worked out. Did he perhaps hope to sell his output to other settlers or did he just want a LOT of flour for himself? A mill of this size would make more than needed by the typical person or even family, so the former seems likely. Maybe it just didn’t work because of the wind? Did it blow enough to work? It was dead calm on out visit.
The current land owner’s uncle and his family lived on the property for some time. This person then converted the mill into a blacksmith and metal working shop where he could repair or even fabricate farm equipment parts as needed.
A large metal drum attached to the outside of the structure, it’s believed, was water filled, acting as cistern to be used in case of fire. It looks like a hose once lead from it, which seems to back that up. No doubt with the building being all wood and all those hot coals and stuff, the risk of burning the place to the ground was great and understandably a huge concern. I’d be worried! A cinder block stand topped by a thick cement slab must have been where the hearth was located.
Scattered about the inside are various racks, storage shelves and hooks to hang what ever from. Old metal bits litter the floor.
It’s suggested the property was lived in until the 1960s with the blacksmith shop perhaps being used for a time after. No one seems completely sure however. What ever the case, everything’s been unused for some time, that of course is pretty obvious.
The current owners still farm the land here as they have done for ninety plus years.
The old house seen is pretty much empty and is collapsing and so is not long for the world. It was a modest dwelling for sure…heck it would be down right cramped if more than one or two people lived in it. Across the yard are some vintage wood granaries. They’re a part of every old farm yard it seems.
Under a collapsed shed is a 1960s (1965-1968?) Mercedes car. Our vehicle IDing skills are hardly sharp but it seems to be a 190, 200 or 230 series, which was the firm’s entry level offerings. It of course has that distinctive Mercedes grill common to the era.
Beside the grist mill and decaying away, is a 1966 Ford Galaxie (should be Galaxy, no?), a giant chunk of Detroit metal, a land barge of extreme dimensions. It seats a 100! Or something close. Both it and the other were once family rides.
Looking at the one in the failing shed they must have had plans for it although it was not said. It appears in reasonably decant shape or I guess did until the building partially crushed it. The other one, and again it was not stated, I’d guess was simply plopped here when it became too old or unreliable. Old farm yards are perfect dumping grounds for unwanted metal. Park it and forget it.
Other bits of machinery are scattered about the property, as is not unusual for places like this. A solitary light pole still stands and once provided illumination for the yard. Off in the distance is a lake, no doubt shallow as those on the prairies often are, and come summer a big giant mosquito factory.
We had a wonderful sky this day with soft nebulous clouds, begging that some shots be done monochrome. But the stunning blues screamed shoot colour. So we did both.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: October, 2015.
Location: Starland County, AB.
Article references and thanks: Thomas H, Larry A, Daniel M, Local history books.
The old farm is on private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.