LOUDONVILLE — Two centuries of milling on the same site likely will come to an end with Ardent Mills’ announcement Friday that it will close its Loudonville flour mill.
Fifteen employees will be affected by the June 30 closing, said Alicia Hassinger, communications representative for Ardent Mills. An company press release said Ardent “is making every effort” to place employees at other Ardent Mills locations or assist with career support.
Kenny Libben, curator of the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum of the Mohican Historical Society in Loudonville, a mill was built in the same location as the current facility on County Road 775 in the extreme northwest part of the village in 1818 by Alex Skinner. Libben said his information on Skinner’s mill described it as a “two-story wooden frame building with two runs of stone burrs. It was powered by a dam and mill run diverting water out of the nearby Black Fork.”
“In 1861 the mill was purchased by August Taylor, who is the person who built the mansion today known as the Mohican Manor in Loudonville,” Libben continued. “Taylor built what was called ‘an empire’ of mills, mostly in Ohio, with the Loudonville mill considered his centerpiece.”
In 1874, Jacob Stitzel, a miller in the employ of Taylor, developed a new type of flour, dubbed Patent Flour, which was entered in and won a blue ribbon at the 1876 Philadelphia World’s Fair. Stitzel’s flour is the same as the white flour in common use today, but at the time was a novelty, as flour used then usually was brownish, with cracked wheat and shells in it.
“So cherished was the Patent Flour at the time that on the wholesale market, it sold for a dollar more a barrel than any other flour, a big profit for the Loudonville mill at the time,” Libben said.
Because of its location on the Black Fork, the mill was flood-prone — often flooded and damaged. In the 1969 Fourth of July flood, the two lowest stories of the mill, including most of the electric motors that replaced water to power the mill, were inundated and had to be disassembled, cleaned and reassembled to get them to work again.
In addition to the recurring floods, the mill that had been started by Skinner and made famous by Taylor and Stitzel was destroyed by fire in 1922.
“It was completely rebuilt, and the rebuilt facility was purported to be the largest mill of its kind in the world,” Libben said. “It could produce 10,000 bushels of flour a day, and had a storage capacity of one million bushels.”
Libben said the mill has changed hands many times, and was acquired by what was known as the Standard Milling Company in 1947. It became Sunshine Biscuits sometime in the 1950s; Con-Agra in the 1970s; and Ardent Mills within the last decade.
The Loudonville mill is one of four Ardent plants being closed. The other three are located in Macon, Georgia; Red Lion, Pennsylvania; and Rush City, Minnesota.
“These decisions are difficult, especially because of the impact on our valued team members. However, this is a critical step to put greater focus and investment on the rest of our plants,” said Dan Dye, CEO of Ardent Mills in a press release. “Our growth plan calls for strategic investments in our unmatched network of community mills; these changes allow us to grow accordingly and better meet customer needs.”
Loudonville mayor Steve Stricklen lamented the closing and loss of jobs.
“It’s unfortunate, [the mill] has been there for many, many, many years. As long as I can remember, ... we certainly need the jobs. We need as many as we can get,” Stricklen said.
Denver-based Ardent Mills will have 35 flour mills remaining across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Times-Gazette staff writer Dylan Sams contributed to this story.