Wagaman Mill and the Flood of 1918
In Jasper County, the Wagaman Mill sits on the North Skunk River in Lynville. The mill, initially completed in 1848, has seen many variations; beginning as a sawmill, Wagaman would be used as a carding mill, flour mill, feed mill, and, lastly, an electricity generation station.
Started initially by Lee County resident John R. Spark, the bridge was built when the Spark family moved to then Lynn Grove Township with $25, horses, oxen, steers, two wagons, and ten children. The construction lasted three years after starting in 1845. Initially designed as a sawmill, the final construction was intended for flour production. The mill was initially powered by a mill pond that formed after a dam was constructed on the North Skunk River. Spark’s mill was cherished by the county, producing quality flour that saved residents a three-day trip to Oskaloosa.
From 1871 to 1898, the mill was sold to various families finally ending up with the Wagaman’s. The father, W.K. Wagaman, would eventually pass ownership to his son Fred. The business prospered under the Wagaman’s. At the time of World War I, the business had hit an all-time high. But then a flood in the spring of 1918 destroyed the dam that supplied the mill pond. The power supply was significantly diminished, and the mill required steam power machinery to continue operation. This story would benefit from further information about the destruction to the mill caused by the flood of 1918.
In 1946, Fred’s son, Harris, took over management of the mill after his return to Jasper County from his participation in World War II; he represented the third generation of Wagaman’s to manage the mill. Twelve years after Harris returned, the mill converted to modern electrical machinery as it moved away from water power.
By the 1970s, the mill had closed, and the Jasper County Conservation Board had begun the task of restoring the wheelhouse to its original condition. The idea to revive the mill came from residents who recognized the county heritage connected to this remarkable building. Since the original 1973 repair, the mill was again restored in 1998. In 2007, a renewed interest in the mill was spurred when the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Trails Program constructed a new portage path around the low head dam in Lynnville. Visitors can tour the site and learn more about the old mill.
Sources: “Wagaman Mill,” Jasper County Iowa, 2018; “Water Trails,” Jasper County Iowa, 2018; Black, Dennis, “Wagaman Mill,” Jasper County Conservation Board, 2018; image: Jasper Co. IAGenWeb.