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What will become of the historic Benson Grist Mill? Make your voice heard

21 Mar

The Benson Grist Mill with Oquirhh Mountains in the background (photo by Clint Thomsen)

The Benson Grist Mill with Oquirhh Mountains in the background (photo by Clint Thomsen)

Last week the Tooele Transcript Bulletin reported that the staff of the historic Benson Grist Mill in Stansbury Park had been laid off due to county budget woes. According to the piece (the online version of which is behind the TTB’s pay wall), the mill complex will remain closed for a 30-day “timeout” period, during which the Tooele County Commission will decide its fate.

The mill’s temporary closure and uncertain future are alarming to those of us with a passion for Tooele County history, especially those who so diligently restore it from shambles in the 1980s.  I haven’t spoken directly to County Commissioner Shawn Milne about the mill, but I gather he understands the site’s historical value and will do his best to see that it re-opens under capable oversight.

But whose oversight?  Milne reached out to local residents today via Facebook to solicit feedback:

3-21-2013 1-56-35 PM

My take?  It’s a no-brainer.  Assuming the LDS Church is interested in acquiring the complex, it would be the best steward hands-down.  Here’s why:

1.  Private ownership means tax dollars can be used elsewhere.

2.  The mill plays a major role in LDS Church history in the county.  It was built in 1854 by LDS apostle Ezra Taft Benson to serve the predominantly LDS population of the region.  The construction of the mill and the relics surrounding it (including the ruins of the Grantsville Woolen Factory) are archetypical of classic Mormon Pioneer architecture.  Who better to care for these old structures than the organization that originally built it, and whose heritage it so perfectly encapsulates?

3.  The LDS Church very capably oversees numerous historic properties.  And it’s the whole deal, too– preservation, maintenance, public tours, and…

4.  Archaeology.  The mill and surrounding structures are an archaeological treasure trove.  For everything you see above ground at that site, there’s triple that underground.  Tooele County never had the resources to fund true archaeological research at the site (example: in 2008 a portion of the original miller’s residence was accidentally unearthed by a Stansbury Park maintenance crew.  A photo or two was taken and the site was promptly paved over).  The LDS Church, however, has a full archaeological arm.  The mill has been dubbed the most significant historical structure in western Utah.  Just imagine what lies beneath!

I don’t know whether or not the County Commission has approached either Stansbury Park or the LDS Church about taking ownership of the mill, and these are just my initial thoughts spurred by Milne’s Facebook Post.  But I’m obviously concerned about the mill’s future, and given the two choices, this is the best way to go.

What are your thoughts?  Commissioner Milne’s Facebook question was posed specifically to Stansbury Park residents, but I’m sure the Tooele County Commission would appreciate your thoughts regardless of where you’re from.  Contact them via their website here.  I’ll post updates as I learn them.

My previous posts and articles about the Benson Grist Mill:

Historical discoveries still await in old E.T. City area
Preserving History: Stansbury couple’s work provides a look into county’s past
A Glimpse into the Past: Investigating Tooele Valley’s Most Visible Pioneer Relic

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7 responses to “What will become of the historic Benson Grist Mill? Make your voice heard

  1. Chris Sloan

    March 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Seems pretty simple to me…call the Church!

     
  2. Jessica Shaw

    March 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I’m a Tooele city resident, but my kids LOVE going to the events at the grist mill (especially the pumpkin walk). I also think turning it over to the LDS church is the best option, if they’re interested.

     
  3. Emma Penrod

    March 22, 2013 at 7:41 am

    Whoever takes ownership of it, I would like to see it remain a part of local culture and events. I would hate to lose small-town events like the pageant, or the jubilee, or the pumpkin walk, and I could see that happening if somehow the mill became a big-time archeological site or tourist attraction. I’m not saying it would happen, just that it could.

     
    • bonnevillemariner

      March 25, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      I agree, Emma. County ownership of the site was ideal for the events (plays, pumpkin walks, farmer’s market, etc.). I’m not sure how that would work out with church ownership, since most church-owned sites don’t have that component. I assume the County Commissioners realize the mill’s value to the community as a cultural center. Ideally, the events aspect of the mill would remain intact and the same staff that has done such a wonderful job over the years would be retained. Perhaps there could be a hybrid stewardship with the church owning the site and maintaining the structures (I understand this is where the bulk of the budget goes), and the county (or perhaps Stansbury Park) overseeing events. But I will take a stand here– If it comes down to a choice between pumpkin walks and preservation, I’ll take preservation hands down. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

       
  4. kermijean

    April 2, 2013 at 6:02 am

    My question is what is Stansbury Park’s recreation special service district? And do they have the funds to support maintainance for the mill? If not, it would be wise to let the church take over preservation. Of course, I agree that the events at the mill are great but preservation of the mill should be the priority.

     
  5. Jaromy Jessop

    March 4, 2014 at 4:53 am

    Any update on this? I live right down the street but I’ve been traveling so much I wasn’t tracking this.

     
    • bonnevillemariner

      March 5, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      Hey Jaromy, I’ve requested an update on the County’s plans for the mill and am still waiting for a response. I’ll ping Commissioner Milne again and post an update.

       

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