Positioned approximately halfway between Fort Osage and the town of Independence, Blue Mills was an important center for provisioning traders and settlers on the Santa Fe Trail between 1835 and the mid 1860s.
Name comes from a flour and grist mill built near the Little Blue River. (NPS form)
http://www.santafetrailresearch.com/mileagecharts/sft-missouri.html says there was a gristmill and sawmill.
Santa Fe Trail ran between the mills
Mills played an important role in providing provisions to travelers.
Often served as a locus for settlement and provided valuable goods and services to Trail travelers and area residents,
existing mills represent a tangible reminder of Santa Fe Trail traffic from 1834 to 1865.
The mills were constructed in 1834-1835 along the Little Blue River at a Santa Fe Trail river crossing.
mentioned by Archibald Gamble, secretary for the Sibley Survey in 1825 (fn 8)
Bridge is 1834 or 1837? [RESEARCH]
more general SFT history at this time?
The development of the Blue Mills area was closely tied to several prominent local businessmen
Mills provided advantage to businessmen by eliminating need to purchase flour from the East to resell in their stores.
The mills could provide both flour and lumber, and possibly meat.
Michael Rice [need research]
Samuel C. Ownes [need research]
Aull family [need research]
Original impetus for the mills derived from the prospect of securing contracts with Fort Leavenworth.
In 1834, the Aull firm was defeated in its bid to provide the fort with staple supplies, such as flour.
To ensure that the next year’s bid was the lowest, James constructed the gristmill at the Little Blue River, which would enable him to grind his own flour and reduce costs.
His bid was the lowest and he secured the $6,500 contract from the US gov’t. (fn 16)
“Going to mill” was part of frontier life, but very dangerous
add block quote from history of jackson county book (1881)
The commercial and transportation networks of Blue Mills extended far beyond their local communities
As flour and lumber were particularly important frontier necessities
Flour from the gristmill was shipped to Independence, St. Joseph, and Fort Leavenworth (the owners 14
settlement was precursor to Independence as recognized terminus of trail, but still important because of its proximity. (Hickman, 92)
By 1832, Independence was pre-eminent as the eastern outfitting point on the Trail
The Blue Mills area was well known for several crossings of the Missouri River.
main area crossing was Fort Osage
Started as Owens landing in 1829 (what is best source?)
continued into the 1860s
“countless tons of trade goods bound for Santa Fe went up to Independence from this landing.” (fn 21–find primary source)
As steamboat use moved the eastern terminus of the Trail farther westward to the new town of Independence, Blue Mills Landing took on a lead role as the transition point between water transport and land transport.
Blue Mills Landing was also the transfer point for emigrants heading westward.
steamboat passenger in 1846 reports seeing a group of Spaniards who were attached to a Santa Fe company, along with their wagons, a - group of Mexican Indians, a few French hunters in buckskins, and a group of Oregon-bound settlers. (fn 19)
While we might associate places to cross rivers with modern bridges, river landings were important economic hubs that competed each other.
outline Upper and Lower Independence landings – [more from O’Brien, 46.]
BLue Mills was supplanted in 1853 by the City of Kansas levee as the main Trail landing point (fn20)
Today, the Santa Fe Railroad tracks cover the site; no traces of the original landing remain.
In the 1850s, as landings farther up the river became more popular, Blue Mills began to decline, yet the mills were operated continuously through the early 1860s.
anything else go here? [NEED RESEARCH]
By the early 1920s, the mills were in ruins.22
“In 1923, Mark Siegfried found workmen clearing away ruins of the old mill and getting ready to roll the millstone into the river.”23
Relationship to nearby civil war battle
RESEARCH! (see NYTimes article)
How close was battle?
How much did Little Blue River matter?
How much did Blue Mills Landing matter?
Although now physically degraded, the Blue Mills ruins remains an important monument to the mills’s importance to commercial, communication, and transportation systems.
Because so many mills have not survived at all, any remains remind us of their significance
they also provide archeological evidence about mill construction and use along the trails.