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:
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