ENTERPRISE, Kan. (KSNW) – Chances are, the flour you use for baking is much different than what our ancestors had a century ago, but a Kansas mill is still making it the old-fashioned way.
“We use the turkey red wheat that came over by the Mennonites in the 1870’s,” said Joe Minick the 84-year-old volunteer who runs the Hoffman Grist Mill. “They brought it with them. That started the hard winter wheat for Kansas right there.”
Grinding that grain into flour inspired Swiss immigrant, Christian Hoffman, to build a mill on the Smoky Hill River in 1869.
“Then pretty soon, the general store settled by it,” said Minick. “Pretty soon, the blacksmith shop, harness shop, and there went the town.”
Hoffman named the town “Enterprise” after the hard-working spirit of the settlers.
For years, his mill was the heart of the economy until it moved to Kansas City. Now, the plant is nothing but a memory on Main Street.
But since the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad brings visitors into Enterprise several times a week, Minick had the great idea to reconstruct the mill and give folks a little history while they’re in town.
The grandson of Hoffman funded the project in 2016.
While some of the machines are just for show, like an 1890 bolter, others at the new mill produce several kinds of flour, from whole wheat to sifted flour, even cornmeal.
It’s all for sale in the general store, adjacent to the mill.
“I just think it’s cool they brought it back to life, basically what used to be,” said customer, Brandon Rein.
“And this is one of the main businesses in Enterprise right now, and I think it will definitely bring people in,” said Stephanie Widler, a native of Enterprise.
Customers can see how the flour is made, right down to the granite tombstone used in one grinder!
“Her name was Maude Herd, and she died in 1958, and she’s still grinding flour,” laughed Minnick. He says Herd’s family replaced her tombstone with a better one.
Still creepy, right? But memorable, and that’s the point!
“Of course, you come to the grocery store and you just see bags of flour, but you don’t understand what all goes into it,” said Rein.
The Hoffman Grist Mill is open on Saturdays and whenever the Abilene train travels to Enterprise.